I can’t help it if I’m a natural-born leader. Sheep need a shepherd, right? When I joined the Army in 1982, I was already 28 years old. I was the oldest “boot” in my OSUT (One Station Unit Training) platoon. I was older than most of the drill sergeants in the battalion, so of course, “ol’ man” became my default title. After sailing through Basic and Advanced Training, I was made an “AT” (Assistant Trainer) while waiting for my security clearance. The drills trusted me enough to show the next group of trainees how to roll their socks and underwear. The Army teaches you to listen to and obey the person in charge. I was sorta in charge for a while.
The definition of leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. The Army has an organization known as The Sgt. Audie Murphy Club. It was created to acknowledge Non-commissioned Officers (NCOs) who have demonstrated a certain level of established leadership abilities far above their peers. I was inducted into this organization in 1994. In 1997 I was tasked to organize a selection process, an induction ceremony, and a club for Fort Sill. I ended up as the first president of the Fort Sill club. I was sorta in charge for a while.
I was a single dad for 16 of my 21 years in the Army. I had custody of my younger son since he was 2½ years old. The older son came to live with me at age 16 after his mom claimed, “He was beginning to act more and more like me.” My third son came to me when I married his mom in 2002. He was 13. I taught all three to listen to and obey the adult in charge. I was sorta in charge for a while.
Back in 1969, I begged my Mom to buy me a drum set so I could join the band that some of us football jocks were talking about forming. It all worked out; I’m still playing drums. Over the years, I have enjoyed creating or reproducing music with over 80 different musicians in four countries. Sometimes I was a “hired gun,” other times I was the band leader. As the timekeeper, I tried to teach the other band members to listen to and obey the tempo I created. I was sorta in charge for a while.
The hard lessons I have learned in life are that certain leadership roles require certain leadership traits. One size does NOT fit all. My most recent lesson came about from a good friend. It was pointed out that I was dictating group direction without consulting other group members. I had been so used to initiating action and directing traffic so often in the past, that I forgot to solicit the input of others. I recognized this error, apologized for it, and resolved to be better about my initiatives. I can still be in charge. However, it will be with the spirit of cooperation, guidance, and input from others.
George Keck is an Army retiree, a drummer, and Lawton resident, off and on, since 1964.