Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I’ve learned so much today.

It all started with a problem with T-Rex but it’s turned into a big opportunity for me. I’ve found a mentor, a leader among men, one that I’ve grown to respect and honor. He’s taught me so much, so far, but there is still much to learn.

I’ve learned that when I started this mission, I had the right intensions. I knew what qualities and attributes I required to become a good leader. The problem is I’ve given up. Sure, at first I was following my duties and taking responsibility. Later I gave up on those duties and responsibilities, mainly because I failed. I quit. I gave up. I didn’t have a good mentor and leader to support me. I fell apart. That’s why the machine broke down.

The Army has regulations regarding military customs and courtesies. These regulations tell us about the respect that is given to people of different rank. For instance, we are commanded to stand at the position of attention and render a salute in the presence of an officer. We address officers as “Sir” or by their rank. Non-Commissioned Officers (Sergeants) are to be addressed by their respected rank.

When orders are given they are to be followed without question, unless it’s an unlawful order.  We are not to question authority.

The problem is I’m not a great leader. I know leadership isn’t something we’re born with, it’s something we learn. My acting squad leader told me that some men have charisma, but that doesn’t make them a great leader.

Earlier, I had to turn in my .50cal for services. My acting squad leader, which I’ll mention as mentor from here on out, told me to get my .50cal in for service. Roger Sergeant. I took the .50cal to the armorer to have it turned in. It would be out for a couple of days.

We’ve been told that we’re not supposed to fire a weapon we haven’t qualified on. Since the .50cal was turned in we were left with the SAW as our crew served weapon. I told T-Rex that he’s going to have to gun since my .50cal has been turned in. He had a problem with that and was looking for all types of excuses to get out of it. Basically, he didn’t want to gun.

I had a problem with that. I could see it coming already. He always manipulates the squad leader and he begins to manipulate me. Well, I’ve seen this and I’ve put up with this for too long. He has to do what he is told and follow orders. He has to maintain a military bearing and respect both NCOs and Officers.

So we got down to the gate to begin our mission. We were getting ready to leave. That’s when I told him that he was going to gun. “No I’m not.” He replied. “What?” I asked. “No I’m not.” I explained to him why he had to gun and not me. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to gun. So I called for the Lieutenant who is our team leader. I told him that T-Rex wasn’t going to gun. T-Rex told him that he wasn’t going to gun and the Lieutenant gave in. So once I explained the situation to the Lieutenant he went ahead and made the decision to leave T-Rex as the driver. I had no problems gunning. My issue was with T-Rex disobeying orders. I didn’t have time to inform from my squad leader and we were getting ready to head out on mission. So I went ahead and carried on.

I figured I take it up with my mentor when we got to our destination. It would have to wait. As soon as we arrived I sought my acting squad leader out. When I found him I told him of the situation. I didn’t get through even a quarter of the situation when he told me simply, “You’re the Sergeant.” It was that simple. That’s all he said, just three words. “You’re the Sergeant.” I stopped what I was saying. I totally agreed and somehow, it was there, I just didn’t know. He’s right. I’m the Sergeant. I’m the first line leader of our truck. I make the decisions. Not T-Rex. Me.

I sought my mentor for advisement and I totally agreed with him. We were getting ready to leave again and go to our next destination. So, I went to the truck and told T-Rex, “You’re going to gun. I don’t want to hear about it, that’s an order.” He took it for a minute. I jumped in the driver’s seat and got myself situated to go. He came by my door and then said, “So, now that you’re moving into your own room you’re all of a sudden going to become an asshole?” I about had it when he said that word. First off, he doesn’t call me an asshole and second, he doesn’t disrespect a Non-Commissioned Officer.

I was infuriated and I tried to maintain my composure. It was hard and it took a lot.   So I yelled at him, “Stand at ease!” and jumped out of the vehicle. Usually I don’t get upset until I’ve reached a point and he touched my button. I told him twice before he got to the position of At Ease. Then I rushed over to my new mentor, Staff Sergeant. I told him that what he had just called me. He was so calm and collective but I could understand that. No one directly disrespected him. He walked over to T-Rex and said “Stand down.” He was very calm about it. T-Rex obeyed. Then he went on to tell him that I am a Sergeant and that he will take orders from me. And that he is not to disobey a Non-Commissioned Officer.

So I went ahead and jumped back into the truck and T-Rex jumped in the turret. The Lieutenant got in as well. “What was that all about?” he asked. “It’s NCO business Sir.” I told him and it was. He understood.

When we got to our next destination I got out and went over to my acting squad leader again. I wanted to tell him everything else. Well, I rode in his truck for the time being so I could talk to him. I told him everything and I wanted him to know. How T-Rex had questioned the officer, how he disobeyed me, and how he called me an asshole.

I sought advice and he gave it to me. “What should I do?” I asked. “Should I smoke him?” I didn’t want to act out of anger because I knew that it wasn’t the answer. “No, you shouldn’t smoke him. Leave it alone for now. Let him go.” He went on to say I need to have a talk with T-Rex about military customs and courtesies, to do a written counseling. Right, he was right. I was thinking about that too before he even told me. I just had to inform him but he also gave me his advise. Right. Don’t smoke him but give him respect as a person. At that time I wanted to give it to T-Rex. I had a plan whip him up but my mentor didn’t agree. So I agreed with him.

“We want T-Rex to become a great Sergeant someday.” T-Rex as a Sergeant, I thought. I couldn’t see it. He was looking at T-Rex’s potential. He mentioned problems that he’s noticed on our team while I was on leave. I knew he’d see them. It’s the lack of respect and the different type of management style of my actual squad leader.

I broke it down to him from there. I didn’t want to ruin the integrity of my team, but I had to tell him and let him know how I felt about my leadership. I spilled the beans. Our actual squad leader does have management issues.

Staff Sergeant mentioned something to me. The problem with some people is that they want people to like. You can’t do that as a leader. If they respect you and like you then that’s great. People want others to like them. That’s my problem. I wanted T-Rex to like me. I would do everything to appease him so he would like me. I shouldn’t be looking for that in him. I shouldn’t look to become liked. That’s where I failed. That’s where I fell apart.

We ate dinner chow at the mess hall and came back to our trailers. It was time to move and I had to do it tonight. It’s been long overdue. An NCO should not be living with a Joe. I think our leadership realized that mistake. It all started Friday. That was the big day to move. Our command made room changes and it would be soon. We had till Friday to assume our new room assignments. T-Rex didn’t like the idea. He was comfortable having me as a roommate but I knew myself that I shouldn’t be in a room with a lower enlisted. An enlisted shouldn’t be boarded with an officer. It’s against Army policy and it’s cause for fraternization. There’s a reason for it and this is why. It’s what broke the team down.

I’m partly to blame. I should have told my leadership but I didn’t see a problem with it at the time. I had feeling about it but I didn’t express them. My mentor saw it the moment he came into our unit. He expressed his feelings about it. I had the same feelings so I told him about it yesterday. He had a talk with the platoon sergeant and the rearrangements were made. I’d be moving out and moving into a room with another Sergeant of equal rank. “How can I be his first line leader when I’m his roommate?” I explained to my mentor yesterday. I didn’t have to explain this, he already knew and agreed with me.

T-Rex was upset about it and was upset that I didn’t tell him. I didn’t have to tell him. He’s not my boss. I figured that his behavior would change in a couple of days anyway. I knew he was upset but I also knew he’d get over it.

There are many problems with living with a lower enlisted or someone of different rank, especially when they are on the same team. First off, I have to watch what I say. If I want to express bad attitudes about our leadership or command it shouldn’t be in front of him. T-Rex has mentioned a few things that create some responsibility on my part to correct. These are such things that, when I’m aware, should cause some action on my part as a Sergeant. If I fail to act, I fail at becoming an NCO. Some opinions about the unit shouldn’t be expressed to me as a roommate.

So I came to the decision to let it go for now. I’m going to give T-Rex a written counseling. We’re going to set some goals, I’m going to express my expectations, and I’m going to give him some duties.

After moving my stuff I went over to see my mentor. I was heading to his door when I noticed a small fire behind the trailer. I approached to check it out and came to find it was Staff Sergeant. He was burning some letters with addresses written on them. “Staff Sergeant” I said. “I just want to thank you.” “Thank me for what?” “Well, I want to thank you for being a good NCO and a good leader. I respect you and I respect what you’ve done here.”

You see, before he came our platoon we had problems. Once Staff Sergeant got here he made some changes. Granted, some of the guys didn’t like the changes but it was because we weren’t following rules and regulations. Staff Sergeant had created some animosity among the platoon. Guys hated the fact that he didn’t want to see Corporals running teams when we had available Sergeants. He didn’t like the fact that there were NCOs living with lower enlisted. He didn’t like the fact that my room was a mess. He saw a lot of things wrong with this unit. I knew there were some problems but I gave up on fixing them. Heck, if no one cares, why should I? Sure I’m an NCO but I’ll just worry about T-Rex and myself from now on. I myself had the wrong mentality.

He sees great potential in me. What I need is proper guidance. He’s right. I need a good mentor to become a great NCO.

Staff Sergeant told me that later, “When guys get old and look back at this they’re not going to remember the NCOs that did nothing, they’re going to remember the ones they respected the most.”

He gave me lots of insight. He expressed his relationship with God. I find that he follows a certain path. He follows orders and is very obedient. He demands and gives respect. He treats people as individuals, everyone is different. “Our country was not made great overnight. We’ve fought many battles.” He said. “You don’t run right away. First you crawl, then you take baby steps, then you walk,” referring to leadership and potential. “It takes time and effort. The mentor has to put in the time and effort just as much as the junior leader.”

I found something in my NCO guide that I’d like to express here:

“Mentorship offers unparalleled opportunities to build a better Army. If you are a noncommissioned officer and are not mentoring several promising young leaders, you are missing an important opportunity to contribute to the Army’s future. Mentorship is the single, easiest way to develop young leaders. But to do so, the mentor must be willing to commit the time and energy necessary to do it right and to set the conditions for success so young leaders will seek him out to be their mentor.”

I hear people discredit the Army all the time. A lot of people think it’s a waste of time. Not me, not ever. Just as they say about kindergarten, you learn everything you ever need to know about life. Well, it’s not everything. I’ve learned a lot from the Army. Who would of thought, becoming a solider helps me become a better person. I’ve renewed my relationship with God just as I had when I was active. God must love the US Army. I’m sure there are many soldiers like me.

Being a Sergeant is kind of like being a Father and these lower enlisted are like children. Learning how to lead them might help me become a better Father.

I’ve gotten off track in life, I admit. With leadership comes responsibility. I’ve done some bad things in the past, things I regret. I can’t take them back. Sometimes I wish I could. But Staff Sergeant has helped me become aware of these things. I knew about them, they’re in the Army Values. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These values not only make a good solider, they also make a great individual.

You plant the seed and watch them grow. Sometimes weeds grow and we have to pluck those weeds. We build deeper roots so our tree grows up healthy and strong. The same applies to Joes and children. When there are weeds we have to pull them out. Problem is I’ve gotten tired of pulling. I didn’t have a mentor to guide me and I had given up. He told me that I shouldn’t have given up. I quit because I saw a lack of leadership, until now.

There are three things we have to feed in life, our body, spirit, and soul. Staff Sergeant told me that we feed our body with food. We have to watch out though because some food is junk. Problem is people eat too much junk and that’s bad for their body. The spirit is fed by socializing, listening to music, movies, reading, and playing. You feed the soul by praying and spending time with God. With those three things we have to moderate. He couldn’t be truer.

The problem is that I haven’t been given a good mentor. I’ve found one. Unfortunately he won’t be my direct line leader for long.  I’ll pray to God for good leadership and guidance.

As Staff Sergeant, my mentor would say, “GO FORTH AND DO GREAT THINGS!” Amen to that. God Bless.


Blogger katiescarlet said...

Wow, you are really soul searching here! And coming to some great realizations.

I will pray too, that when the Staff Sgt. leaves you get a new mentor.

You are right,God loves the soldiers in the US army.

God bless, stay safe.

3/15/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger Pieta said...

Thank you for the unflinchingly honest sharing of your soul struggles with us.... We are privileged to witness the incipient noble growth of a man, a warrior and a leader of men.

God's grace and blessings on you and yours always.

3/18/2006 12:21 AM  

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