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An Army Commander’s Perspective on IMT

anonymous-interview1. What is randomness? Does it exist? Give an example.

Randomness is a series of events that occur without a predictable pattern. The does it exist question is one that every combat veteran who has lost someone deals with every day. Why, did he get shoot by the sniper, when I was standing next him? It must have been his time, just a chance situation or random event. I deal with this exact scenario every day of my life. When I was a Platoon Leader in Iraq during the surge on 2007. My unit saw a lot of heavy combat in downtown Baghdad. One of my Soldiers had just arrived in country for only a month before our unit conducted a large clearing mission. After the mission was supposedly over and the area was clear. I was standing next to two of the Soldiers when the sniper took a shot and hit the new Soldier standing in the middle of us. The bullet struck him in the jaw, but did not kill him. We dressed him up and evacuated him to the hospital and went looking for the sniper. After that day, I have always wondered why he was shot and not me. I was the tallest of the three. The sniper should have clearly seen that I was an officer and a better target, but by some random chance, he shot the other Soldier. Later after we captured the sniper it was learned he was not a trained sniper and that it was his first attempt sniping at a US Soldier. It was his lack of experience and training that led him to shot the other Soldier not randomness. After watching your videos, I see now that without all the information, I have made a decision that the shooting was random without knowing the true conditions.

2. Can you control others, or are you controlled by others?

Having been in the Army for 25 years now, I have to say as a Leader you are taught leadership is all about control and influencing. In fact as an Officer, I am evaluated or rated on my ability to extend influence beyond the Chain of Command. I have always believed that you cannot control anybody, they are going to do what they want to like or not. I know that first of all I need to control myself especially my composure in the stressful time to show a professional level of calmness over my emotions no matter the situation. This has served me very well and ultimately led to my success as a Leader.

It would be natural to say that in the Army I am on a daily basis controlled by other as they exercise their influence over me as my Leader/Supervisor. The Leadership Manual talks about “compliance-focused influence” and how it is based on one’s position of authority to give direct orders to subordinates in order to obtain compliance of a specific task. I have to say that this type of control does exist as every Soldier is bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice and failure to follow an order could result in some serious trouble up to jail time and dishonorable discharge. However, this control has been an illusion that the Army just does not understand nor will it as a result of its archaic culture.

3. Define influence. How much can you influence others and vice versa?

Influence is at the center of Army Leadership. In fact, it is part of the definition of what an Army Leader is. I have seen influence defined as a power that affects one person, but I don’t scribe to that. I would define influence as the ability to inspire a person to a suggested outcome without outward and direct interaction.

I believe that the amount of influence one can excerpt is dependent on the person in which you are trying to influence. You have to influence up to the tipping point before the person believes that you are trying to control them. One the person believes that you are trying to control them all is lost.

4. Do you try to make more or less decisions? Should a leader make more or less decisions?

I have to say this is a most difficult question to ask as my predecessor was fired for the lack of decision making and I was sent here to make the necessary decisions to get the project back on track. In your videos that I watched you talked about the only way to become efficient is to stop talking and if you have to trust people more than risk goes up. The problem I have is that a lot of the people, companies, and contractors I work for me are incompetent. My business is a complicated business as the construction of hospital requires a lot of knowledge and unfortunately most do not have it. So since the project I am working on is complex. I will need to make more decisions and continue to until the project is complete. I believe that the leader should make an assessment as to the complexity or simplicity of the project and then decide on the decision making process. For me, I will have to continue to make more decisions.

5. Define risk. How does one minimize risk? What causes more risk?

Risk is the possibility of loss as a result of a potential hazard. Risk can be minimized by the management of the risk itself. The management of risk can be achieved by first identifying and defining the risk. Then develop strategies to mitigate the risk, and then implement those risk mitigation measures to eliminate or minimize the risk. The complexity of the event increases risk however, a certain level of risk is always present.

6. Nature or nurture? Does a person create their environment or vice versa? Do birds of a feather flock together?

I believe that you are set with a certain set of genetics that determine your physical and medical attributes. However, by experience I believe that nurture as a result of the environmental factors determine who you are. I grew up in a poor family in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. At a very young age I was involved in matters that would either put me in prison or six feet under. No one in my family had ever attended college, so that was never on the horizon for me. My mother remarried and we moved out of the slums to a large house in a predominate neighborhood. My behavior started to change as a result of my environment. I started to do better in school and had friends that did not want to be a hoodlum like I was in Baltimore, so I started playing sports and enrolled into JROTC where I developed my interest in military service. Although, my grades were not good enough to get me into college I was able to graduate high school; whereas, most of my friends back in the city did not. Once I graduated I shipped off to Army Basic Training to be a Paratrooper just like my grandfather in WWII. It was in the Army that I learned the importance of an education. In the Army I was surrounded by those that had the same drive and motivation to be successful with outstanding coaches and mentors to help me along. As a result I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees, a first for anyone in my family. With no intention on slowing down I am after my second Masters. In the Army birds of a feather most definitely flock together. When I was a Company Commander, I knew the Soldiers that were squared away and the one that were trouble makers because they all hung out together in what I called the bad and good Soldier groups. So, I would have to say from experience you are the sum of your environments throughout your life.

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Every story and individual struggle has a lesson to be shared. The LSA blog, or The Visionary, is a place for all members and readers to share their stories, creative works, or personal reflections.
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