Sgt. Eversmann found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place; a man down and bullets flying. Eversmann is the appointed leader of Chalk Four, a squad sized element with specific tasking in the operation Battle for Mogadishu. Eversmann was appointed squad leader for this mission due to his previous experience in Somalia operations. When faced with a decision on how to move the downed soldier, Eversmann froze up. He felt he had no idea what to do, like he had not been trained for this situation, not prepared.
Usually a leader is chosen among their peers because they have elements that stand out for keeping others in-line. The ability to maintain structure and coordinate an attack among many men is no simple task, and is why those who contain that skillset rise among the ranks. However, does this ability to keep men focused translate to an ability to form a complex battle plan that’s foolproof? Most of the time that is the case, and an operation, mission, or task will go smoothly based simply on the focus a leader can put his men to. But what happens when moral is broken? Focus lost? An unprecedented outlier comes into play? Casualties.
This is exactly the situation Eversmann found himself in, unprepared and caught by surprise at a sudden change of events. Ultimately, this would lead him to rush into a risky move, sending multiple members of his squad to escort the stretcher with downed Pvt. Blackburn. This removal of vital assets caused his Chalk to fail in moving to their objective and providing security for other U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force in the area.
When a U.S. Army soldier dies, to the U.S. Government, a highly trained asset is lost. Due to this high risk, the Army tries to appoint leaders who will minimize that loss, but in their tunnel vision, they seem to have forgotten a large piece of leadership that isn’t experience; intuition. A leader who is able to make a plan based off of personal experience is good, but a leader who can do that and react to unforeseen circumstances is great. If the former is in charge, however, a situation can turn south very quickly due to their inability to adapt.
The decision to appoint Eversmann a leader of a Chalk based off of his previous experience rather than proven and trained success was a failure by the U.S. Army command. Due to Eversmann’s hasty action, Pvt. Blackburn suffered extensive internal bleeding, and lost vital signs before corpsman were able to attend to him. In post operation analysis, it was concluded that if Eversmann had secured his position and focused medical attention on Blackburn rather than moving him, he would have survived. This loss of life was due to a lack of leadership training for Eversmann. Ultimately, this could have been avoided if Eversmann went through a proper leadership program.
Sun Tzu said in The Art of War: The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness. To be successful in leading men through any situation, Sun Tzu believes you must have all of these traits. From an interview with SSgt. Williams–a U.S. Army Airborne soldier–”My leaders weighed heavily on strictness and courage, but lacked in sincerity and benevolence.” He explains how he felt his superiors emphasized their authority to influence soldiers to follow orders, however, he felt they lacked the inspirational qualities that soldiers seeks in a leader. “Wisdom always came freely from my CO(commanding officer), he always sought to teach us a lesson, which I admired.” Williams recounts many times he felt inspired by his CO, but wished it was universal among all of his deployments. “I found my leaders to be super varied in ability, and some had pros that others didn’t and vice versa. However, I never felt I had a good well-rounded superior that could lead us through anything.”
Soldiers risk their lives every day to keep our country safe, and each one that pays the ultimate price is a family member lost, a father, a brother, and uncle. It only seems right to make sure these men who put themselves in harm’s way are lead by the best and brightest, not just the most experienced. Properly preparing our leaders for every situation will not only save lives, but it will push our armed forces toward a quicker, more efficient machine.