The Bayonet

Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014

Author says leaders must love Soldiers

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The latest edition of the Combat Leader Speaker Program took place March 19, as author and journalist Joe Galloway spoke to Soldiers from the Maneuver Pre-Command Course, the Maneuver Captains Career Course, the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course and the Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course.

Galloway, best known as the co-author of We Were Soldiers Once... And Young, a 1992 book written with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore that recounts Galloway's experiences while serving as a war correspondent during the Vietnam War, specifically his time embedded with the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

During that battle, Galloway repeatedly disregarded his own safety to rescue wounded Soldiers, actions that would eventually earn him the Bronze Star with V Device. Galloway is the only civilian to receive the Bronze Star for actions in Vietnam.

During his visit to Fort Benning, he recounted his memories of pulling a Soldier from the flames of a napalm fire during a battle.

"My life was changed," Galloway said. "Not one of us left that battlefield the same man he was when he arrived. You can't. You can't go through so violent and horrific an experience where people are dying all around you without it changing you. ... I regret all of it, but I wouldn't change what I did. It was a life-changing experience." He said his actions in Vietnam were driven by the respect he had for the Soldiers he was embedded with, a respect that still stands.

"I counted it a great honor that I was permitted to stand alongside them during the battles of that war, and I'm still able to stand alongside them while they fight different battles today," Galloway said.

It was during his time with the 7th Cavalry Regiment, that Galloway met then-Lt. Col. Moore.

Galloway shared with the Soldiers in attendance one of Moore's primary command philosophies - love.

"It's a shocking term when thrown out in front of a military audience," Galloway said. "(Moore) would throw that out and watch the look on the faces when he told them that of all of the things a leader must have, he must have love. He must love the profession and love what he is doing. He must love Soldiers. If not, he shouldn't be in the business. You have to care for Soldiers and see that all of their needs are met before your own. Moore was the living example of that sort of a leader. It's not something that you put down when you retire."

Galloway also said that the young Soldiers should cherish their time as leaders, especially as company commanders.

"The best job in the whole Army is company commander," he said. "It's the most responsible job in the military or any other place you want to look. You have 200 or more Soldiers and you know them all. You know their names, their wives' names, their kids' names and their lives are in the palms of your hands. Their future is in your hands and how you command and lead matters a great deal. I have seen great commanders at all levels, from company to corps, and I don't envy any of the higher ranks. The further you go up, the less contact you have with the troops, no matter how much you want it to be different.

"At that captain level, manning a company, that's as pure as it gets. Enjoy every minute of it. Spend every bit of time you can spare with your troops seeing to their welfare. Take care of them first, last and always. ... I really envy you. If I were able to come back again, I'd really like to go to West Point and become a company commander."

Galloway also covered the Persian Gulf War in 1992, and has been repeatedly exposed to the Army in the nearly 50 years since his time in Vietnam.

He said that despite future uncertainties, certain aspects of Soldiering have always been constant and will remain so.

"Defending this country goes on," Galloway said. "No matter what the budget problems may be or what the future strength of the Army may be, the training and development of leaders continues. It's constant. We have to be ready to fight the next war and the war after that because we know there's never an end to war."

While Galloway spoke as part of the CLSP, he also attended the National Infantry Museum's Vietnam commemoration events during the weekend.

The events were an example of a nationwide Department of Defense effort, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, that is intended to honor Vietnam veterans.

"Most of them were honorable young men, and the country kind of turned its back on the war," Galloway said. "They served honorably, and they're deserving 50 years later of a welcome home before it's too late. They just need a little respect in their hometowns before it's too late, and that's what the project is all about is urging cities, towns and states across the country to welcome home their Vietnam veterans.

"What happened when they came home to a divided country with different opinions of the war was almost criminal. We've never treated our Soldiers like that in earlier wars. They came home to a country that was divided almost as deeply and badly as after the Civil War."

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