Friday, December 11, 2009

Blue on Blue: Part 12

History repeats itself
Competition brings out the best and worst in people.

From a public relations standpoint, being open and upfront when the chips are down goes a long way in shoring up confidence in the system.

This point cannot be over-emphasized, because I hear that history has repeated itself.

At a time when his battalion has achieved a high-profile with an overseas deployment, a young Commanding Officer will leave his battalion under less-than-cheerful circumstances. Word on the street claims he was tripped up by SOC scores compiled by a certain staff officer and a certain WOSE.

It must be hard for someone who has hundreds of officers and WOSEs under his command to micro manage what a friend of mine likes to call the “five cents, ten cents issues”. [The fact that he wears a star on his chest epaulette is beside the point.]

A Commanding Officer can spell out the commander’s intent and stamp his personality on his unit with the manner in which he talks and interacts with his subordinates. He should also lead by example and never expect his men to do something he won't do himself.

Many people overlook the reality that authority also comes with command responsibility. The buck stops at the CO’s door. This means taking the heat when lapses in commonsense have dire consequences. In life, dire consequences can be career-killers.

During operations, a go-getter competitive spirit, the desire never to let your opponent get one up on you, the spirit to fight on regardless of the odds can make a decisive difference between final victory or defeat.

Seasoned troops have been known to break and run when overcome by tank or shell shock. Conversely, the mere presence of a Commanding Officer on the field of battle can stem a rout and convince troops to stand fast. Several accounts written after World War Two by German generals like Field Marshal Erich von Manstein (Lost Victories) and Major-General F.W. von Mellethin (Panzer Battles: A study of the employment of Armor in the Second World War) underscore the importance of command presence during war.

That presence is essential also in peacetime and during operations other than war.

In 2003, the lapses that resulted in an award-winning story I authored were remedied immediately.

The Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) wielded a confident and open Public Affairs Directorate commanded by Colonel Bernard Toh. He was a Director Public Affairs who commanded tremendous respect from the media and officers who served under him.

Things are so different today.

Let’s see how the story is told, if at all.


goat89 said...

When you want to talk about officers, read up Erwin Rommel's works like his WWI book Infantry Attacks and his biography/journal The Rommel Papers. True leader this man was. In WWI, as a Wuttermberg Mtn Inf officer, he won every engagement he had with the enemy except the last one near the end of the war. HE was a real gentlemen and a true Knight of WWII.

Anonymous said...

Command presence? Manstein? Errr...