[April 10, 2019] Operation Desert Storm was a quick and decisive war against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi army. Ejecting them from Kuwait in 1991 was to be the first foreign crisis since the end of the Cold War. But in the end, units came back to the U.S. broken. Many commanders had failed in their responsibility to properly lead their troops, and that is where I first saw that opportunity awaits when responsibility is abandoned.
I was a Battalion Intelligence Officer in an Engineer unit during the war. As our units began coming home, our soldiers were happy to be back, but in a few units their equipment was in terrible disrepair, and their paperwork was in disarray. In my battalion where there were five company commanders, two were relieved of duty for failing to properly care for their soldiers and equipment.
Our battalion commander came up to me and asked if I were willing to take over one of the units back in the U.S. Of course, you never say “no” to any command position in the military. If you refuse, you just ended your career (although they will never admit it). I readily agreed.
Psychologists often write about leaders who abdicate their responsibilities. What happens is of interest to them. For me, as a young Army Captain, it was an opportunity to prove that I could handle the stress and responsibility of the job of company command. Psychologist Dr. Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto is fond of saying that the more responsibility we have, the better our lives will be experienced.
“Adopt responsibility for your own well-being, try to put your family together, try to serve your community, try to seek for eternal truth … That’s the sort of thing that can ground you in your life, enough so that you can withstand the difficulty of life.” – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Professor of Psychology
True to his writings, Dr. Peterson was right. The Engineer company I took over as its commander was extremely difficult to get it back on track; to fix the equipment and paperwork. However, it was immeasurably satisfying personally and professionally. The soldiers were great. The battalion staff was helpful, and our higher commander had nothing but good things to say about us. A valuable lesson in life was learned.