Recently, I had the opportunity to visit 3rd Brigade, 98th Training Division (IET). I had a great trip meeting the staff, gaining a better understanding of the unique challenges faced by the brigade, and meeting with the 98th Alumni Association at their monthly luncheon.
An unexpected highlight was having dinner with the 3rd Brigade G-3, Lt. Col. Bob Guagliardi. During dinner, we discussed many items related to the brigade as I expected. However, at one point in the conversation, Bob asked me if I had ever read “A Message to Garcia.” I had not, and he took the time to explain the history of the book and its author, Elbert Hubbard, who is from the area.
At the end of dinner he surprised me with a copy of the book, which was originally a magazine article written in 1899 following the end of the Spanish American War in Cuba. It is a very easy read, and I encourage everyone to read it. (Bob, thank you for this little gem.) The premise of the article is that the President needed to send a message to General Garcia, the leader of an insurgency group. A man named Rowan was suggested and when tasked to take the message to Garcia he took the message and went. He never asked a question, as one might expect. The author remarked how rare a person like Rowan—accepting the task and executing it without a question, and with only a clear understanding that it was his responsibility to make it happen.
There is a similar incident involving a newly promoted Brig. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George Marshall. Marshall called for Eisenhower and told him, “The department is filled with able men who analyze their problems well, but always feel compelled to bring them to me for final solution. I must have assistants who will solve their own problems and tell me later what they have done.”
Eisenhower stated, he resolved then to only bring issues to his higher if they were necessary, or when the General sent for him. Later, Eisenhower needed to send a division to Australia but did not have an escort. He determined to send it without the escort as the risk was relatively low. The troop ship with 15,000 Soldiers was spotted by an Italian official in Brazil during refueling, and there was reason to believe the Italians would relay the information to the Germans. Eisenhower decided to send the ship on and accept the risk. Once it arrived safely in Australia, Eisenhower reported he felt so good that he took time off to directly report to Marshall, at which time, Marshall told Eisenhower they had received the same information and had known all along. Marshall had placed trust in Eisenhower and allowed his decision to play out.
As the Army looks at the conditions we will likely face in future conflicts, such as peer and near peers with equal or better technology, anti-access area denial weapons, lack of initial air superiority, GPS jamming, cyber, and the rapid pace of combat, it is very possible that time and ability will prevent us from planning or communicating and mission command with commanders intent will be critical for success. We will need leaders who are creative, innovative, and critical thinkers. We need to develop those leaders now. Waiting until the point of need, is too late.
We have a great opportunity to develop these leaders in our Division as we focus on producing drill sergeants. The requirements and conditions for recruiting and producing a drill sergeant in New York City are vastly different than the conditions in Montgomery, Alabama. Each unit has leaders and Soldiers with different skill sets and abilities. We need creative, innovative, and critical thinkers now to solve the unique challenges at their level. A division solution is almost guaranteed, not to meet the diverse needs of companies across our wide geographic and cultural footprint.
I want leaders, at all levels within the 98th Training Division, to understand that I trust you, I will support your efforts, and I fully understand that as we try new approaches, not all will work. We will have to adjust some, and abandon others to try a different approach. Failing to act is not an option. Leaders at all levels should be solving their unique challenges.
My Dad once told me as I was watching him do some hard physical work, “If you aren’t going to do anything, don’t do it here!” In other words, everyone has to work toward the goal. We need leaders who are confident that they will be supported in trying something new and who trust that their leaders support them. I trust you and support you. I need leaders who will take “A Message to Garcia.”