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The Unruffled Battalion Commander—First Day of the Battalion IG

The Unruffled Battalion Commander—First Day of the Battalion IG

By Tom Rozman

The aide-de-camp, an infantry  1st lieutenant, confirmed that the Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver’s driver and jeep were outside the division headquarters building.  Jeep and driver were ready—the driver had been a private in the infantry platoon the lieutenant had commanded before becoming an aide.  He had been one of the last men to be drafted in the Viet Nam era draft before the Army went all volunteer.  He’d received his draft notice immediately after graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont. A mature and exceptional soldier, the aide had identified him to be the replacement driver when the previous driver finished his tour of duty and returned to the United States.

As the lieutenant had come to expect, driver and vehicle were in place and in perfect order.  The vehicle and the driver presented exactly as the occasion demanded.  The aide also checked all other aspects of schedule and readiness for the drive he and the Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver (ADC(M)) would be taking to the northern side of the installation where the infantry battalion of the division’s 1st Brigade was billeted.

The brigadier general’s briefing book was complete and the general’s clerk was fully briefed on the schedule for the day in the event the visit to the infantry battalion became extended.  The general could be contacted on his jeep radio and, while in the infantry battalion’s headquarters, by phone if a situation developed.  The aide after reviewing the schedule and communications with the clerk positioned himself in the office to receive any final guidance from the general before accompanying him to the jeep.

It was a short 10-15 minute ride to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry’s cantonment at Camp Casey, an installation that sat adjacent to the South Korean city of Dongducheon, both astride north south running Highway 1.  The battalion was a standard infantry battalion then brigaded with two tank battalions, not a typical divisional brigade organization in the Army.  The general’s jeep would be pulling up to the battalion headquarters.

It was a beautiful early morning, a sunny day in the mountain valley as the ADC’s jeep arrived at the battalion’s headquarters, a metal frame corrugated metal sheeting sheathed structure.  The jeep parked outside the right end of the elongated building.  The battalion commander received the ADC(M) in the parking lot of the battalion headquarters.

The battalion commander was a tall well built athletic and handsome man in his late middle 30s.  He exuded confidence but in a quiet understated way.  He was not flashy.  But he never seemed to be other than in control, no matter what the situation was.  His parents had immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and his developing story in the Army was one even the aide was aware of.

The purpose of the visit was the initiation of the battalion’s annual inspector general’s inspection or IG.  This was a week long and grueling examination of all of the battalion’s systems—combat, logistics and administrative.  It was a grueling right of passage for the commanding lieutenant colonel—one that could continue to make or possibly break the officer’s career.  There would be a report out at the conclusion of the inspection.

For most competent officers who had been diligent in their command prior to the inspection, the inspection endorsed the effectiveness of the officer’s command.  On the other hand, the inspection had identified commanders whose stewardship and leadership were not up to the job.  Reliefs of officers so recognized had occurred.  One battalion in the division had experienced issues.  So, the inspection was not a rubber stamp and the IG team leader, a lieutenant colonel, was known to be a straight shooter.

After being received by the battalion commander, the ADC accompanied by the aide followed the commander into his office.  Several other officers were in the group.  It was a small group and on entering the commander’s office were offered chairs and were seated.  The ADC’s intent was a short meeting with the commander at the initiation of the inspection.  The format was informal and businesslike.  The ADC was getting a final estimate by the commander of the unit’s condition.  From much previous interface over the preceding  months, the ADC already had a strong sense of the battalion’s condition.

What struck the aide at the outset and during the meeting was the battalion commander’s manner.  He was in control, measured and gave no hint of nervous anxiety.  The “pressure” of the coming inspection was acknowledged in comment but the commander seemed in full control and confident of what the battalion would show.

As any officer would be in the circumstances, he was on task and alive to the moment—even the most able may confront the unforeseen in such an inspection.  One cannot assume anything and over confidence is not wise—but there is a balance where the commander is correct to show presence appropriate to role and communicate that level of confidence. As well, an observer looks for an alertness to any developments that occur such that the take away by the observer is of a commander who thoroughly knows the unit, its systems, and people.  A commander who is confident in subordinate leaders and has developed effective and responsive relationships with those leaders such that the outside inspector gets a snapshot of a unit that is functional and fully capable of executing its mission and sustaining its operations.

The opening inspection meeting between the ADC(M) and the commander concluded.  The sense was positive with the usual guardedness most long serving officers have about events of the type…one has learned to wait for the event to run its course and in this case report findings.

In the event, the inspection proceeded and the findings were reported.  The battalion did well.  But the demeanor of the commander remained firmly in the mind of the aide.  The officer exuded quiet confidence and was not intimidated by the developing event.  He communicated that sense of being and order in a way that impressed on the observer that all was under control and proceeding as it should.  The leader exuded confidence and it translated to subordinate leaders.

The aide retained this sense of the officer through his remaining time in country.  This sensing would be validated.  The battalion commander in later roles would amply affirm these traits of leadership.

Years later as verification of the aide’s sense of the battalion commander, the commander would apply his manifest leadership skills in two particularly challenging roles.  One would be as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other would be in a civilian capacity after retirement from the military service as the U. S. Secretary of State.  But he never lost his human quality as the following photo indicates.

General (Ret) the Honorable Colin Powell in December 2012 at a book signing at Bolling Air Force Base, District of Columbia—the little girl is my granddaughter. Photo taken by then Air Force 1st Lieutenant Joseph Migliuri.


2nd Infantry Division

Tom Rozman

Tom Rozman graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, the University of Massachusetts Graduate Business School, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He served in the U.S. Army for 27 years with a last assignment as the director of the Collective Training Directorate, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

Tom then continued his career as a member of the Virginia Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Labor and Industry, retiring as a director in the latter. He served for three years on the Department of the Army Armored Family of Vehicles Task Force.

He exercised instructor privileges at the University of Massachusetts, Western New England College, and Westfield State College for over three years as an assistant professor.

He has published 45 articles in U.S. and foreign military journals and more than 30 manuals, papers, policy documents, and reviews. He has been a valued contributor to e-Veritas since the summer of 2016.