I've written on here in the past for a variety of topics. My question now is for the guys in the military. Former can obviously comment as well, but I'd like to try and get as many guys as possible that are still in or just recently left, for the sake of contemporary issues, if you will... In addition, officers and enlisted alike please comment, but again, for the same reasoning, I'm a little more interested in what the enlisted have to say...
What have been your overall impressions of your commanding officers?
What things did the bad ones and the great ones do to make them that way? What characteristics did they hold? Any memorable events?
Who would you consider to be the most respected and influential officers in the military today? One example I can immediately think of is General Mattis, USMC. Though he did retire recently, the things I hear about him make it sound like guys under his command would quite literally run into hell ass backwards if he told them to.
Just curious to hear what everyone has to say. Thanks in advance...
Overall, my impression of commanding officers have been positive. Everyone has a boss and shitty days, they are no exception. We want to look for the Patton types as examples of leadership, but the real leaders are running the day to day operations.
General Mattis is a great example, but he is mainly revered for what he did during the invasion of Iraq. In our current overseas situation, I think it is much more difficult for a commanding officer to stand out. Generally speaking, there’s not too much room for innovators.
Along the lines of your question, I would highly recommend Thomas Rick’s book “The Generals." Officers used to be fired and it wasn’t a career killer, it was about finding the right person for the job. Now it basically never happens... unless its a felony.
I was first enlisted then commissioned in the Army. I have had some of the best commanders that you could ever ask for and some so bad you would think that I was making stuff up about them because it is impossible to believe that they were allowed to wear a uniform.
One particularly good company commander when I was a SP4 was a female 1LT. She was very professional and a strapping 6'2". She watched out for us and worked well with the NCOs but, much to our surprise, seemed to be hated and unsupported by senior officers which may have made us more defensive of her. We would have been glad to have her in charge in a combat zone. Her predecessor was not a bad CPT but he wanted to hang out and be every one's friend more than enlisted were comfortable with. Oh and he got caught wearing a Ranger tab that he was not really supposed to which slightly embarrassed all of us.
MAJ "Fitz" was a great Aviation commander and a little larger than life. He is who the actor playing an air cav commander in Apocalypse Now was trying to be like. He had been assigned to our unit when it was deployed to Vietnam many years earlier as a WO1 maintenance officer then received a commission, had 22 years in, and pulled favors to command his favorite unit. He was very paternal and covered for us even on the rare occasion when were actually in the wrong to the point of threatening to put his cigar out in an infantry officer's eye reminding him that "one eye was a 100% disability so he was about to do his Aviation hating behind a great favor." He kept his retirement request in a little glass frame behind his desk with a hammer chained to it just in case he went too far so he was rather surprised to be hunted down for LTC and offered a maintenance Bn command. It might have helped that our OR rate stayed between 98-99% when half the Aviation units could not meet the 70% standard. It was a "work hard, play hard" unit. Can't say enough good about him.
A later commander of the same unit looked very promising but we soon learned that every time he asked anyone to do anything or for their experienced opinions he would "sneak" behind their back and ask someone else. He did not trust any of us so it was hard for us to ever trust him. too bad since apart for that terrible flaw he had the makings of a good commander.
The worst commander that I ever had (I saw an MP LTC that was even worse though) had a terminal little man's disease. Spiteful, mean, snarky, intolerant, rude, couldn't shoot, stupid drunk, and decided to systematically throw enlisted soldiers out thinking that this somehow made him look good to his boss who flat out told him that it was stupid. As a commander of a subordinate unit this put me between my soldiers and him frequently (the other 7 commanders were also usually at odds with him too). Of 16 officers in the Bn 13 of us got out since we could not recover from the train wreck of having him as a commander on our records. Our Bde commander was far away and did not step in to try and help folks until it was too late. The Bn was selected to be disbanded.
Generally I've found my commanding officers to be competent and capable. The Army puts a lot of effort and resources into developing good leadership. Of course there are bad eggs here and there, but the certainly aren't the majority. In my experience most of the folk who go around complaining that they always have bad leaders, are usually dirt bags. If you look around and every leader you've had were a problem, you're probably the problem.
Overall Ive had great experiences with my commanders. The culture of the military is to develop subordinates and invest time into their professional development and education. I believe that, despite the few bad eggs that get through, most of the folks you see in command are top notch. In the next few years as the military draws down this will become more evident. The competition for command slots is becoming more rigorous. Promotions are not guaranteed and review boards are taking a look at officers records.
There are quite a few influential officers out there, and I would prefer to not name the ones I keep close to me. But if you want ideas on who to look to emulate, check Diaries oF U.S. Grant. Great biography of a leader and also describes the qualities that he needs. An important aspect of being a good leader is being a good follower and he brings this up.
My 2 cents, good discussion.