From the 98th Training Division (IET) Commander

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Our Army needs victors, those who are focused and know how to succeed. I recently had the opportunity to tour the National Infantry Museum again, and I spent some time in the Hall of Heroes, a display of Medal of Honor winners from throughout our Nation’s history. If you ever read the citation for Medal of Honor winners, it is clear that though faced with dire circumstances, these Soldiers and Servicemen took action in the face of adversity and made a difference. 

What leads someone to take heroic action at great risk to themselves? There is something different about these heroes. They are clearly victors, not victims.

Our culture has unfortunately fostered a climate of victimhood. Regrettably, this negatively impacts how we look at difficult challenges. A victor says, “I will take action.” A victim says, “someone needs to take action.” The Army needs victors!

Our culture also has a critical thinking crisis. We are often conditioned to wait for someone else to solve problems. For us in the Army, that is not an option. We may find ourselves on a future battlefield with little communication or support, and we must be able to act with the information we have. In order to be able to execute under those conditions, we must train for it and train now. Archilochus, a Greek Soldier in 650 BC, stated, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.” We need to develop critical thinking in ourselves and our Soldiers now. This is hard work, and thankfully, we have the opportunity to critically think about everything we do.

For me, a key is to create time to think. This is why I have focused so hard on priorities. Our culture and the Army have so many priorities that it is difficult to focus and think. We also need to ask difficult questions, the ones no one really wants to ask. We have to determine the root cause of problems and what actions will offer the best outcome. In many cases, we deal with wicked problems that have no good answers. However, we must still plan and act.

Look at everything we do as an opportunity to develop critical thinking and leadership skills. Each unit, down to the company level, is required to have a recruiting and production campaign plan. Did we actually think about this, or did we simply pull out the three or four things we have repeatedly tried that have never produced good results? COVID has given us a great opportunity with Virtual Battle Assemblies. Have we capitalized on the opportunities to get after metrics or conduct virtual recruiting? Have we looked at creative and innovative ways to solve problems, or are we simply trying to survive? My absolute goal is that we not merely survive, but that each of us thrive. That takes bold leaders who are not afraid to act, not afraid to try.

Fear leads to a failure to act. While fear is a normal part of life, we must be able to get past the fear and see the potential and possibilities that exist in any given situation. Our Soldiers deserve this. They deserve the best chance for success. They deserve the best leadership. The question we must ask ourselves every day, is will we be a victor?

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