Be Your Best Wherever You Are – Army Life Lesson #1
My battle dress uniform was crisp and clean during my first few weeks on deployment in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the winter of 1996. I was only months removed from my graduation from West Point and now it was time to test my four years of training and preparation in the U.S. Army and with professional soldiers in my care.
I flew into Tuzla Airbase and was scheduled to link up with my new platoon later that night. I stopped by the mess hall to grab a bite of hot food before a late night logistical convoy headed out for the long two hour trek to where my platoon was camped outside of Vlacencia, a small village in the Serbian territory.
The mess hall was teeming with activity. Hungry soldiers inhaled their meals and rested in between missions. I struck up a conversation with an infantry major, a polite and soft spoken man from the Midwest. He was cordial and could tell that I was “green” and on my first assignment. He was gracious as he explained the ropes to me and what to expect before I joined my unit.
When I asked him what he did, he explained how he worked on a battalion staff as an assistant S3 (operations). I’m sure he could read my expression as he explained his task on this particular deployment. I had no interest to serve in a staff position. I didn’t spend four long years at the Academy to come into the U.S. Army and serve on a staff. I wanted to lead troops and apply what I learned. I couldn’t see myself working on plans and pumping out memorandums from some nondescript headquarters tent and serving the whims of the Commander. I wanted to be the Commander.
“Listen, Lieutenant, let me give you a piece of advice.” The Major said. “You’re not always going to like your assignment, which is just how it works in the Army and in life in general. If you want to succeed, then I suggest you plant yourself firmly in your assigned position and be the best you can be at that moment. You do that on a consistent basis and good things will follow. Don’t look ahead, be your best where you are and you will succeed in the Army and well beyond.”
I smiled and nodded at the Major. Good luck with that, I thought to myself as we parted ways and I began my military career. It wasn’t until three years later when I became the newly minted Battalion S4 (Logistics) that the Major’s advice rang loud in my memory. I was not thrilled to be in my first staff position, but I took his advice and did my best to serve my unit in the position I was given. In fact, I carried that mentality when I entered into a civilian career in the utility industry. I was not always thrilled with every task I was given, but I continued to heed his advice. I’ve grown personally and professionally ever since. Good things continue to come my way, because of one simple principle I learned several years ago when I first entered the military, “Be the best where you are, and good things will always follow.” And you know what? They have!
Are you not happy where you are right now? Don’t worry, just work hard and add value to your organization and good things will come your way, they always do!