Everyone Fills Sandbags

By | October 10, 2019

[October 10, 2019]  In late 1944, my uncle “DJ” was a cook with the 2nd Infantry Division in Belgium when the Germans attacked.  The Battle of the Bulge would go down in history as one of the most famous and strategically important battles of WWII.  In his recollections, my uncle was ordered to “grab a rifle and be ready to repel the German panzer.”  He was then told to dig a foxhole and bag it.  When necessary, in war and peace, everyone fills sandbags.

At the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Fort Benning, Georgia, I learned a lot.  As a shiny new Second Lieutenant I could expect to lead my men into battle but that I was also expected to dig my own foxhole and clean my own rifle.  Those jobs were not to be given out to others; they were my responsibility.  Being a good leader means pitching in and doing those dirty, dangerous jobs everyone else does.

Any officer who is present with his men and shares the danger and stresses will develop a great rapport.  You will earn their respect, appreciation, and trust.   When they have a problem, they will come to you.  When they speak to you, it will be honestly and openly.

This means, literally for us in the Army and metaphorically, that everyone fills sandbags.  Everyone shares in the duties required to complete the mission successfully.  Everyone is part of it.  We know everyone’s names, their weakness and desires, their kid’s names, what they like to eat, and their fears and loves.  Any leader who “fills sandbags” with their troops will find that the social bond is as strong, as it is enduring.

“That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. go by, from this day to the end of time, without our being remembered: we few, we happy few, we band of brothers—for whoever sheds his blood with me today shall be my brother. However humble his birth, this day shall grant him nobility.’ – Shakespeare

Over the past week, I’ve been re-watching the HBO 2001 TV mini-series Band of Brothers.  The origin of the term Band of Brothers is from the Shakespeare play Henry V (Act 3, Scene 3).  The meaning is clear for those who study and practice leadership.  It means that there exists an unbreakable bond between those who share in the everyday lives of those who are good people.

In the lives of real leaders, everyone does, indeed, fill sandbags.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

18 thoughts on “Everyone Fills Sandbags

  1. Yusaf from Texas

    Enjoyable article. I never thought of doing this using military terminology.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      A bit of a metaphorical usage, don’t you think? Another good article for my stockpile of leadership insights.

  2. Lynn Pitts

    Based on your article, I’ll be watching the same series from HBO soon. I saw it years ago but re-watching it, I’m sure to pick up on some of the details and learn more about the war. Keep these articles coming.

    1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

      I’ll be doing the same. I never saw it (just too busy at work). My wife and I will be on vacation in a couple of months and perhaps that is when I can see it. For now, I’ll take your word for it that the series is worth watching.

  3. Eric Coda

    Good article, keep up the great works! Recently you’ve been on a really good series of articles that strike at the heart of leadership. Perhaps you could put them into one of your electronic books. That way, we could have the entire collection in one place. Thanks.

    1. Gil Johnson

      I like your suggestion. As time goes on, there are so many articles that I lose track. Putting them into some form that collates like-themed ideas makes for a worthy suggestion.

  4. Wilson Cox

    At first, I didn’t know where you were going with your logic in this article. I was surprised that you meant it BOTH literally and figuratively. Thanks for another article to guide me in my daily life. Much obliged.

  5. Jane Fillmore

    I liked the story of your uncle DJ in WWII. Keep those stories coming our way. This is why I can more often than not remember your post’s theme of the day.

    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Several male relatives of mine served in the war and many before and since. Their stories used to draw me in as a child and my interests led me to a brief stint in the US Air Force. I look back and am happy I joined, did my time honorably, and met some of the greatest people.

  6. Harry Donner

    My grandfather was in WW2 and he also told me many stories about the times everyone, including the officers, did manual labor to prevent being overrun by the “japs” (his term). War is a terrible thing. But the lessons we learn from it can and does carry over to our daily lives. All we have to do is know the lesson and its story and apply it to ourselves.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Spot-on comment, Harry. I agree about lessons from combat being applied to our daily lives. Most folks would, I think, reject that notion. Otherwise how would be become better peoples?

    2. Jerome Smith

      Thanks Harry. I completely agree with you. I must note that many in our colleges and institutions of higher learning (like think tanks) would likely disagree with you and say that they are superior to us (intellectually and morally) and therefore we are just knuckle-dragging morons without a good thought. Dangerous stuff but true. That is why we see so many college educated young men and women who lack the basic skills of leadership and also see themselves as special and unerring.

  7. Ed Berkmeister

    Great article, Gen. Satterfield. I see that you might be a fan of Shakespeare. Only the ‘cultured’ leaders know this. Ha Ha Ha.

  8. Scotty Bush

    Couldn’t have said it better. Everyone helps! If not, then your group cannot compete. Missions fail, task remain undone. This is the way of the world and writing about it just reinforces the point.

    1. Greg Heyman

      Yes, very good article. Scotty, you continue to push the right buttons with me. These articles are short and to the point. 👍

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