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If, at first, you do not succeed, try doing it the way the Chief told you before you started is one of the lessons featured in Grey Feathers.
Look at you, all shiny and brand new, right out of your introductory officer leader course, hard-charging to take over your first platoon. Behind that brash exterior, you are probably confused as all get out. After years of training in a military academy or ROTC, you have finally reached the moment where you are going to lead troops. You may have observed that while the Army did an excellent job teaching you tactics, there is more to the day-to-day life of being a platoon leader that you do not know.
These simple steps offer guidance as you navigate your first assignment as a troop leader.
Know Your Doctrine. As a butter bar second lieutenant, you will not be expected to know everything. But you damn well sure are expected to know where to find the answers. And for that, the Army has Doctrine with a capital “D” because it will control their lives for the rest of their careers.
Know Your Role. All of this matters if you know your role in the organization. It is simple: you plan and supervise training, own the platoon’s failures and successes, take care of your soldiers, enhance your squad leaders, and accomplish the mission. Simple, huh? But more is needed. Yes, you know you joined to lead troops in battle, but guess what? 70% of your job is now paperwork.
Know Your People. You will learn much about the “human terrain” as you advance your career. Dealing with individuals will be about 90% of your job. So remember to read people early on. Learn your platoon sergeant’s strengths and weaknesses and what encourages them to come to work every day. Identify your rock stars who need some improvement down the lane. Generating this snapshot of the platoon will go a long way toward your success as a manager of people.
About the Book: Grey Feathers Led By Love Of Country
In 1967 during the Vietnam War, the 3rd battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, dubbed as “The Braves,” was transferred to the border area of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The book is about a combat platoon leader’s role and responsibilities in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam from 1967 to 1970. The unit’s main supply route was a road with the most frequently ambushed and mined to hamper re-supply efforts. The term Grey feathers were given to each man who served unselfishly in the unit because everyone needed to watch each other’s back during the conflict. When an Indian brave man did a great deed, he earned a feather, which symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, and freedom. Tribe members significantly cherished it. Battalion members also earned their grey feathers when they performed a great deed. This remarkable book, authored by Daniel M. DeWald, describes the actual events of that difficult time and shows how this brave unit responded while overcoming the overwhelming odds against survival. It also shows the difficulties of split-second decision-making under fire.
This thought-provoking, captivating, and engaging Grey Feathers: Led by Love of Country is a must-read non-fiction book. The chilling accounts and harrowing details the author delved into made this story feel both haunting and honest. The way the author captured the soldiers’ dedication and service while showing the struggles and hardships made for a memorable and worthwhile read.
Daniel M. DeWald was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and served in the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division from August 1969 to August 1970. He was 1st Lieutenant and served as a combat platoon leader. As a result of the war, he received commendation medals. He received the Bronze Star for Valor (BSV) for saving the company commander and four others under hostile fire conditions by conducting an orderly withdrawal from the conflict. He also received a Silver Oak Leaf Cluster during a joint operation with ARVN (Army South Vietnam). In addition, he received the Air Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s badge, and others.