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More than a half-dozen books have been written about the “Draftee Division.” The 88th Infantry Division was the first unit to enter combat that had a draftee population under the leadership of a Regular Army cadre. One book I read, Combat Soldier, was written by James Fry, who had been the commander of the infantry regiment in which Dad served. That book told me volumes about where my father started to develop his leadership style. Colonel Fry always led from the front. He worked to limit the number of causalities in his regiment. He fought for the necessary creature comforts whenever possible. He also mourned the loss of men that any war requires. Fry later served in the Korean War and retired as a major general. I believe his actions had an impact upon my father.
Just what did I see in the pages of that book? A leader who shared the hardships with his people. He ate the exact same meals as they did, so that he would understand how they felt, as well as what their energy level might be. And he ducked away from the same bullets that were being shot at his men.
Having read that book, I can now imagine the example that led my father to the analogy of the warm blanket and a hot cup of coffee. It was apparent to me that Dad saw the success of a combat infantry leader who lived by that motto through some of the worst fighting in the Italian Campaign.
Think about how that sort of caring and concern can help you to succeed as a chief-level officer in your fire department. That’s how it has been for me. On those occasions when I forgot about the men who worked for me, they took great pains to remind me of my failing. Let me assure you it can take a long time to regain their trust.
The message here is quite simple: If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. Create an environment wherein much is expected, but also give much in return. When your troops know you will go to the wall for them, they will move mountains for you.
Stay with me, gang. I really want to help. n