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Lessons from the Field

Today I watched my Brave Ole Army team lose a well fought game to the Air Force Academy high up in the clouds of Colorado Springs. It was a game where Army succumbed to the pressure put in motion by crushing consequences.

Had the Army kicker made the extra point, the game could have had a different ending. But more significant was the most unintentional intentional hit by the Air Force player that took out Army’s quarterback in the fourth quarter. It’s a case of consequences.

Standing well over 6 feet tall, the AF player easily barreled into the 5’8” cadet. I do not believe his intent was to hit him in the head and take him out of the game. But that’s what happened. And in doing so, not only did Army lose their starting quarterback, they lost their steam, their momentum and ultimately the game. The AF player was charged with an intentional hit and ejected. It was his consequence.

What the Army team does next as they return to the barracks, their company, their peers, will be the mark of their individual leadership. Even if our intensions are good, the situation can play out very differently. It takes character to take responsibility, devoid of intent, and re-earn credibility.

In 1984, one of the all-time best players during the Army season was cadet Nate Sassaman. He captained and played quarterback in which he helped the team achieve one of its best records, exceeding all expectations with an 8-3-1 record. In a heralded victory in the Army-Navy Game, Sassaman ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and later led Army to a rare post-season appearance with a win over Michigan State in the Cherry Bowl, and reportedly, for much of that 1984 season, Sassaman played with three cracked ribs. [1]

Twenty years later, serving in Iraq as commander of the Fourth Infantry Division‘s 1-8 Battalion, an incident occurred in which some of his troops forced two Iraqi civilian detainees to jump into the Tigris River, one of whom allegedly drowned, leading to a reprimand which then effectively ended his brilliant and celebrated military career and he retired in 2005. Since then he wrote a best selling book and found leadership roles in the civilian world. [2]

An incident with devastating consequences led to the retirement of a brilliant officer; a career that on another day could have had a drastically different outcome.

What we saw in Sassaman and what we hope to see from the Army team and the AF player that was ejected from the game, is both an acknowledgment that some things have unforeseen consequences and a positive direction forward.

How we deal with setbacks and circumstances out of our control is what defines our ability to lead. How we handle shifting winds in combat and in the boardroom is how our character is displayed. It’s being able to pick up the burden and continue the march.

Occasionally, in our darkest times, there are things in life that seem out of our control. The leadership challenge is engaging the spiritual muscle of hope and faith, staying focused on the mission and goals, and soldiering on. “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” [3]

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  1. ^ Filkins, Dexter (23 October 2005). “The Fall of the Warrior King”. The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2013.

  2. Jump up to: a b Filkins, Dexter (2008). The Forever War. New York, NY: Vintage. pp. 161–165. ISBN 978-0-307-27944-6.

3. Romans 5:3 NIV

#Armyfootball #setback #faith #hope #character #development #leadership

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