Veterans and Leadership

On Veteran’s Day Americans should honor anyone who served their country in the military. More and more veterans are writing books to speak out about their service and their feelings on how the War on Terror has been conducted. This holiday, it is important to understand how those who served in the armed forces learned leadership skills. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two retired Navy SEALs recently published a book, Extreme Ownership, demonstrating how they used their leadership abilities in the battle of Ramadi, Iraq and then applied them to non-military situations. American Thinker interviewed Silver Star recipient Leif Babin who talked about leadership, U.S. military strategy, and his feelings about the current administration.

Babin told American Thinker he wants Americans to reflect on those who served as he did. “I look at other generations like those who served during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam and realize how humbling my service has been.  I hope people read the book to gain an understanding of veterans.  We are not mindless robots as depicted in Hollywood. The reality is we are free thinking human beings.”

He thinks about how veterans fought World War II and compares them to those fighting the war on terror. In the book, the authors discuss the Laws of Combat as a “key to not just surviving a dire situation, but actually thriving, enabling us to totally dominate and win.” The point to be made is that asking people to risk their lives means that they understand and believe in the mission. He explained, “Lacking of will is not the feeling of the front line troops.  We are ready to execute missions, but need the decisive factor of leadership. People need to understand that there is no way to go to war without inflicting some civilian casualties as was done during World War II. I think any veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan shares a close kinship with the Israeli Defense Forces. They face the enemy on their turf while we faced it overseas.  Even though they show considerable restraint with the escalation of force strategy, they are still criticized for collateral damage. This is not a reality.”

Many veterans today share the same feelings as Babin regarding the current commander-in-chief. They are dismayed by his lack of leadership and how he has no coherent strategy on how to defeat America’s enemies. A quote from the book hammers this point home, “Some of the politicians and most senior military brass in Washington felt that killing bad guys only created more enemies. But they didn’t have a clue… Each enemy fighter killed meant more U.S. Soldiers and Marines came home alive.”

Comparing President Obama to President Kennedy, Babin emphasized that Kennedy being a veteran, was leadership tested, as opposed to the current president who has never served. “Kennedy never backed down and was not pushed around.  He understood what was needed to support those serving. I look back on the Battle of Ramadi fought in 2006 and remember all the American blood spilled to take it back.  It is now a travesty that the black flag of ISIS is flying over this city, which was because of the complete troop withdrawal. However, I am hopeful that untying the troops hands and letting them fight can turn it around. ISIS is not twenty feet tall. If we were committed to eliminating them it would only be a four to six month problem.”

He feels the current administration makes decisions based on immediate political gain and not on long term strategy. He points to the first U.S. soldier killed in action in Iraq since 2011. “Why wouldn’t they use the words ‘killed in combat?’ It’s clearly combat and by not referring to it as such is just a political argument of semantics. The reality is we have approximately 3400 boots on the ground right now.”

In the book Extreme Ownership, the authors often stress how each of their team members needed to have their orders given in a clear and simple way or else that led to interpretation or doubt, which on a battlefield can be disastrous. Another important point made was that great leaders take responsibility and if mistakes are made they own up to it and never point fingers. Leif Babin knows that many veterans and the current combat forces do this; he just wishes their commander-in-chief did it as well.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.