Leadership Basics from Gen. Schwarzkopf

Veteran’s Day stimulates recollections that as a young officer I worked for then Major General Schwarzkopf in the 24th Infantry Division (Mech) in Ft. Stewart, Ga., part of what was at the time called the Rapid Deployment Force.

From my view in the cheap seats, “the Bear” was everything he was advertised to be after Desert Storm, a soldier’s soldier who prepared his troops for victory. He did this with genuine concern for his troops and their families’ well-being. As young soldiers in the 80’s we knew that if we were to go to war, we would win decisively and with minimal casualties. And seven years later, that’s exactly what General Schwarzkopf did in Desert Storm.

How did this care for subordinates manifest itself?

General Schwarzkopf fostered a commitment to excellence, from the discipline of the post to the manner in which the 24th trained. A leader can do no higher service to his or her subordinates than to provide a climate that demands a level of excellence and preparation to help to ensure mission success. Our division motto was “First to Fight” and it was embraced by the entire division. There was a confident swagger at all levels that suggested we knew we would be, would be prepared to be, the first into the fray.

High morale was maintained. I was stunned to learn that weekend training was banned, and if soldiers did have to train on weekends, the got comp time. Comp time, in the Army!? Yet with keen attention to discipline and detail at all levels, we trained hard, worked hard, and maintained hard. As a result the 24th ID was the tip of the spear into Kuwait and an integral part of the overall success of Desert Storm.

The pine forests and swamps of southeast Georgia did not make Ft. Stewart the garden spot of military posts for soldiers or families. However our family quarters were well maintained and support services responsive, medical and dental care was first rate, and soldier’s barracks were clean and modern. It was not a bad place to live and work.

General Schwarzkopf’s leadership permeated down and throughout the 24th ID. I was personally influenced by several great leaders there, many of whom went on to much bigger jobs, but the climate came from the top. Many of us were forged as leaders, and as men and women, by the experience of serving under the leadership of “the Bear”.