‘You’re Only Average, Lieutenant Satterfield’

By | October 15, 2020

[October 15, 2020]  Officers in the U.S. military are, at minimum, give annual evaluations that provide feedback on both their performance and potential.  Evaluations are crucial to the career of the officer and impact future performance.  Thus, when I received my very first evaluation, I was upset.  It read, ‘You’re only average, 2LT Satterfield.’

I don’t particularly appreciate being seen as average.  My U.S. Army Infantry Battalion Commander, a senior officer, and an important military officer, sat down with me after making an appointment to discuss it.  In our discussion, I said that I was not an average Second Lieutenant.  With seven years as an enlisted soldier and experienced in Infantry tactics, equipment, and leading men, comparing me equally to new Second Lieutenants would be wrong.

My parting request was for him not to rate me “average” but in the future to rate me either below or above average.  Lieutenant Colonel Don Munch smiled and said he would take it under consideration.  We got along very well after the conversation, even if I might have been perceived as not being too pleased with his evaluation of me.

Colonel Munch had several quips that I wrote down for prosperity.  He was unique as a leader and did his best to care for all his soldiers. Here are a few of them:

  • “To lead men in combat is the ultimate leadership challenge. I will do so with all my soul and heart, and I expect you to do your duty.”
  • “Those who think war should never be the answer, what do you think the Jews at Dachau would have said.”
  • “If you find yourself in a fair fight in combat, you didn’t plan well.” (a modification of David Hackworth’s words)
  • “A coward dies many deaths.”
  • “I expect my officers to lead from the front and to adopt the Follow Me philosophy of the U.S. Army Infantry School.”

I was fortunate to have many long talks with Colonel Munch, mostly about leadership and leading men in combat.  With his war experiences and list of accomplishments were helpful to me.  At least I believe he appreciated those long discussions on topics of great interest to him.

He died of a brain tumor, presumably the result of his exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.  Don Munch was a good man.  He was part of a long list of great Infantry leaders, those who lead men in battle, those who have been tested in war, and who were great patriots.  I fully expected him to make General Officer at some point, but sadly we lost him to a hideous disease.  He never saw me as average again.

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.

20 thoughts on “‘You’re Only Average, Lieutenant Satterfield’

  1. Dennis Mathes

    Good to learn more about you and what it takes to be a good leader!

    1. Greg Heyman

      Ha Ha…. Yes, good also to see what Gen. Satterfield had to face as a junior leader.

  2. Dale Paul Fox

    It is scary to think that your commander thought of you as being average. That is why I might agree with others who suggested this was a method of motivating you (and your lieutenant peers). Leaders motivate, often unknowingly, those that follow them. I also think, IMHO, that leadership is NOT ALL LEARNED, despite what Gen. Satterfield has suggested in a number of his articles. I believe there are inborn characteristics that at least help us be leaders.

    1. JT Patterson

      You have a point but I think many here would disagree.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Dale, there are some scholarly thinkers who have put forward the same thesis. Perhaps I will address the issue of inborn traits at some point in the future.

  3. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    “To those who think war should never be the answer, what do you think the Jews at Dachau would have said.”
    …. nuff said.

  4. Willie Shrumburger

    Leaders know how to push or pull others to follow or lead. Knowing which and how is the trick.

  5. Kenny Foster

    Another excellent article. Thanks. I bet it was a big hit to your ego when he told you, you were average when you knew you were not. An insult? Or, was it a way to motivate you to make yourself better? I think it was the latter.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I agree. This is a major point about leadership and should not be overlooked. I appreciate you pointing it out, Kenny. 😊

  6. Mikka Solarno

    I see that this Colonel Munch guy had his act together and knew how to motivate.

  7. Newtown Manager

    Competition among leaders. Seeing who rising to the top of the pile. That’s the way we do things here in America. Or, you can have socialism where they promote the weakest while the political elite enrich themselves.

    1. Linux Man

      Socialism is a get rich quick scheme (and gain power) for thugs. Most folks are too stupid to realize it. If you’re at the bottom in a socialist society, you have truly gotten screwed.

      1. Max Foster

        Just like British PM Margaret Thatcher said, socialism is the quickest way to destroy any society. Even socialism-lite will destroy the motivation to good things for your community and nation. That is why she campaigned against it. Did anyone ever notice that socialism evolves mostly when things are going well in a society?

      1. Eric Coda

        The greatest threat facing the United States today doesn’t come from China, Iran, or even Russia; it’s the growing number of Americans who believe Karl Marx’s socialism provides the best strategy for making our communities safer, healthier, and more prosperous. But the most significant danger posed by socialism isn’t that its implementation would lead to greater poverty and fewer property rights, it’s that socialism would create numerous moral problems, including the limits it would place on individual liberty and religious freedom.

  8. Randy Goodman

    Must have been a struggle in the beginning as an officer! I’m glad you stuck it out and learned valuable lessons along the way.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      So true, and thank you Randy for making a note of it. Also, I have found that many organizations, esp. large ones, are prone to push a lot in the way of their new up-and-coming leaders to test their fortitude and resilience. Those that succeed, are promoted and rewarded appropriately. It appears that Gen. Satterfield is one of them that succeeded.

      1. Army Captain

        Yes, and knowing how is what separates the good from the less successful leaders.

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