Celebrate Armed Forces Day

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 13, 2002

As we approach Armed Forces Day, I want to tell you of just one very good reason for observing it next Sunday. "Our soldiers are good": they are professionally responsible, dependable leaders, and reliable defenders of our nation. They deserve our respect and gratitude, and Armed Forces Day gives us the opportunity to demonstrate it.

Part of my thesis statement above is enclosed in quotation marks, because it is a current observation made on the ground in Afghanistan: "Our solders are good." I use "soldiers," simply because the report does, coming as it has from a researcher/observer with the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL).

Similar observations can be made concerning sailors and marines in the Navy and airmen and airwomen in the Air Force. The U.S. Coast Guard, though part of the Treasury Department, also serves in a military role during war time and quite regularly as of late.

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"Our soldiers are good," the observation states. They are good, among other reasons, because they are responsible for mission accomplishment whether as units or individuals. Their leaders lead effectively to the point that every private is capable of leadership and assumes it when necessary.

One piece of evidence offered by the report is written in the personal diary of a Chechen commander. The diary came into American hands when the Chechen was killed in combat and it was removed from his body. This commander had earlier fought the Russians for several years. When the Chechens killed a Russian leader, he wrote to himself, the unit's operations came to a complete standstill, and everyone stood still until the leader was replaced by higher authority.

In the words of the American army officer who read the diary, the Chechen commander "… added that when you take out a U.S. leader, somebody always and quickly takes his place with no loss of momentum.

A squad leader goes down, it may be a private that steps up to the plate [even] before they can iron out the new chain or command."

Then, in language not surprising from an excited observer in an unofficial post script: "And the damn thing is that the private knows what the hell he is doing."

The report from this observer contrasts the professionalism of American soldiers to that of the Russians, and the contrast is not only striking but ought to be a great reassurance to Americans. I contrast it, as well, with the typical civilian situation. When the foreman leaves the job site sick, does one of the "private workers" immediately assume supervision? Has any been trained to do so. Do the workers work? Such is so rare in civilian industry, many employers are intentionally and seriously seeking military veterans and retirees specifically because of the sense of responsibility they have developed while serving and the leadership skills they are acquired.

With such background in the armed forces, they return to civilian life and enrich our society and communities by their responsible participation and outstanding leadership.

Armed Forces Day is observed each year on the third Sunday of May. We should anticipate it and find ways in which to express and demonstrate both respect and gratitude to those now serving on active duty and on reserve duty.