A Baby General and His Professional Development

By | December 6, 2021

[December 6, 2021]  A good friend of mine was an outstanding leader of Soldiers.  He was a U.S. Army Infantry officer, and he was the type of person you wanted to be in charge of troops in time of war.  Bill was aggressive, reliable, trustworthy, and could operate with little guidance or help.  His weakness was that he struggled to keep up with the professional development requirements of the Army.

However, for leaders to be successful, keeping up with advances in your professional field is an absolute necessity.

We were both lieutenant colonels when selected for the U.S. Army War College.1  Not everyone is accepted, and the dropout rate during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was relatively high, so Bill considered that option.  The reason Soldiers join the military is to serve and to serve during wartime in a combat environment is the pinnacle of why we joined.

Both of us were battalion commanders on 911 when terrorists struck the U.S. homeland, yet neither of our units were initially chosen to deploy to combat.  We completed our command tours and then attended the War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a beautiful area with plenty of hills and trees and a place to relax a little.  Bill didn’t want to relax; he wanted to get to war because that’s why he joined in the first place.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle, Philosopher

At the Army War College, they break you up into what is known as Seminar Groups of about 15 people each.  There was a good mix of military branches (Infantry, Engineer, etc.), military services (we had a Navy officer), and an occasional senior government civilian employee for us to draw upon the expertise of others.  Bill struggled throughout the course for many reasons, and at the time, I didn’t think he had his heart in it to finish.  Eventually, we both graduated and took our units to war.

Later after we both retired, I asked Bill about his time at the little town in Pennsylvania where we spent so many days studying strategy and military history.  He told me that the professional development of the War College was, in fact, crucial for his success as a senior commander in Iraq.  The classroom instruction helped expand his thinking about war, but the Defense Department networks he made were invaluable.

A few years after graduation, both Bill and I were promoted at the same time to Brigadier General … also known as “baby general.”  Bill had learned his lesson, and professional development cannot be overlooked as a much-needed asset for any Soldier.  He later became a cheerleader for Infantry officers to attend the War College.  His motto and the motto of the U.S. Infantry is “follow me.”


  1. http://www.carlisle.army.mil/


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “A Baby General and His Professional Development

  1. Dead Pool Guy

    Always fun to read Gen. Satterfield’s blog in the morning. Makes my day. This one was particularly interesting, given that he talks about one of his friends and how that friend had struggles not unlike we all experience.

  2. KenFBrown

    You don’t have to be an expert in college and be the best in your class to be the best leader. There is a relationship to these but the tire hits the road when the best leader is there, and not before.

    1. Arena of Fools

      Yep, another great article to make me think by Gen. Satterfield. Haven’t read many guest articles lately.

      1. Dog Man

        Yes, thinking the same thing. The real issue here is the learning of leadership traits (and characteristics of leaders) and then HOW to apply those traits. That is the real crux of this website on senior leadership. I would suggest that Gen. Satterfield change the focus of his website to junior leaders. That way, more folks would be attracted here and learn more.

    2. Cat A Miss

      Right. Altho there is a link between the two. Why? Because to be the best leader, you also have to be one of the smartest leaders (book smart, social smart, and emotionally smart).

  3. lydia truman

    Formal education is good intrinsically. But those who run and teach at those facilities must be the ‘right’ people, those who understand what works and not use of crazy theory of teaching that fails. Like CRT.

  4. Tom Bushmaster

    Gen. Satterfield tells us that a formal professional development program in any large organization is necessary for the continued improvement of senior leaders. While that is true, let’s not forget that one of the main reasons it works is that it forces social networks to improve. You get to meet new people that you may call upon in the future. When the crap hits the fan, you don’t ask for resumes, you call those you know personally that can get the job done.

  5. Commie Red

    Once again, Gen. Satterfield tells us that ‘merit’ is the determining factor in success of any person or nation. I will once again say that government is the answer, not individual achievement. The reason is that the power hungry, cigar smoking capitalist always destroy people. Submit now.

    1. Wendy Holmes

      It is good to have you here in this forum as a abject lesson why socialism and communism does not work.

      1. Max Foster

        Wendy, let’s be kind to Commie Red. I think it’s important for him to explain his reasoning. That way, we can politely and logically counter those arguments. Look around and compare socialist type countries to capitalist type countries and the answers should be obvious to anyone with an eye and a brain. But, when you are ideologically encased and cannot “see” other perspectives then you can no longer see reality. That is the case with many and why we debate here in this leadership forum run by Gen. Satterfield.

        1. American Girl

          Yes, and that is also why I’m an American Patriot (like also Gen. Satterfield), and why I’m against the creeping communism (really a variant of Marxism) into the US.

    2. Bryan Z. Lee

      Commie Red, your perspective is so encased in a sort of terminal political correctness that you can’t call a spade a spade. Communism has failed everywhere and at all times it has been used. Unless a commie nation has a huge supply of natural resources to prop it up (yes, prop it up), you get failure.

  6. Big Al

    Good one, Gen. Satterfield. I’m sure we could use more of your friends like Bill in our armed forces today. Much better than the woke Generals like Gen. Mark Milley and his bossum buddies.

      1. Silly Man

        Consider yourself lucky that you don’t know him or have to work for him.

    1. JT Patterson

      Our military contines to decline. See Gen. Satterfield’s Daily Favorites today. There is an article on the decline of South Africa but the writer also notes how their military is resorting to opening bakeries to fund them. Once the strongest military in Africa, now they are the weakest. Why? The answer is obvious.

      1. Erleldech

        Right, when you rely on someone’s race to determine who gets the senior jobs, you have a decline in what happens at every level of society. ALL BLACK run countries, cities, and communities are TRASH. Fact. Convince me I’m wrong.

          1. Colleen Ramirez

            Commie, you need to explain yourself here in this leader forum, just name calling does not work and shows to us that you really have no defense or counter point.

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