One of the best soldiers I met during my time in the Army was First Sergeant Zackary.
He was my First Sergeant during our deployment to Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
I’m sure you remember when we invaded Afghanistan and then, a short time later, we declared war with Iraq.
My unit deployed the day we declared that war, March 19th, 2003.
This story takes place during the 3 weeks that my unit had from notification of deployment up to the day we actually deployed.
As the commander of this unit, I can share with you the kinds of things that go through soldiers’ minds during a time like this.
The first thoughts for most were reminiscent thoughts of the first Gulf War, which was fought to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi oppression, back in 1991.
That war was essentially over in just a few days.
Our soldiers, now, started thinking about the awesome power of the M1A1 Tank and how fast it was able to command the battlefield.
This brought a feeling of security, superiority and some form of ‘machismo’.
Then, reality of the deployment started to sink in.
The idea that we were going to be away from our families with no communication for some unknown time started getting heavy.
The only thing they would know about us is what they would see on the news.
Then we started getting our deployment issue equipment, which included: First Aid Kits, Gas Masks, Chemical Suits, Anthrax Vaccines and Bullet-Proof Plates for our vests.
As we went through the cattle-line to get our equipment and shots, the reality of war was clear and present.
Getting this equipment and going through all the pre-deployment briefings made us start understanding some potential ugly realities.
We started realizing the biggest difference between this war and the first Gulf War.
Back then, the dictatorship knew that we were not going to attack him, rather, we were just going to push his troops out of Kuwait.
This time, he knew we were coming for him.
We all believed that he had chemical weapons and, at this point, he had nothing to lose by using them… liberally.
Images of WWI soldiers tangled in barbwire, suffering the inhuman effects of mustard gas flashed through our minds.
Keeping my unit’s imagination in check, dealing with multiple family issues, getting our vehicles and payload equipment to deployment readiness, receiving and conducting strategic briefings, setting up systems for the families in case the worst happened to their solider and creating/conducting wartime readiness training made things a bit chaotic.
As I was driving at full speed in circles, First Sergeant Zackary came to me and said, “Ya know, Sir, I had a good friend in Special Forces. He always said that when there were too many things going on at once and things seemed to be getting out of control, he would stick to their motto, ‘Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.’”
As a good Sergeant does, he always had the right words at the right time.
First, I slowed down the hurricane of thoughts whipping through my mind.
Then, I determined what the priorities were.
Finally, I was able to give a detailed priority list to my troops.
It was amazing to see how my unit changed from being a hive of busy bees to a well-oiled war machine in just a few days.
The one qualification I’ll make is that I had a unit of well-trained soldiers, who knew how to do what needed to be done.
First Sergeant Zackary and I had created an environment where they had a lot of autonomy and trust.
Once I stopped trying to make everything perfect, everything started moving much faster.
I did what my job required, and I did it well.
Then my troops stepped up to the plate and did the same thing.
I was amazed at how much faster things went, when I slowed down.
The rest of the pre-deployment and deployment went very smoothly.
First Sergeant’s cool demeanor was a great asset to the unit.
By slowing down, it was far easier to get everyone focused on opportunities rather than the question, “What’s coming next?”
What’s going on in your life, business, job, marriage, etc.?
Is there any place that seems like too much is going on or is just out of control?
Some place where you just can’t get things done that you want to get done?
Make things smooth!
This will make space for ideas. Use that space wisely!
Don’t use that space to just ‘stay busy’.
If you can find a good source of blogs, books and associations, you’ll be amazed at the ideas that you’ll find to implement in your business.
You’ll be amazed at how that will speed things forward in a far more predictable and controllable way.
A graduate of West Point Academy, Kevin served six years as an officer in the U.S. Army Field Artillery. He held a combat arms leadership role for his entire career, except one staff position, during which he obtained a Master’s Degree in Leadership and Management. He also served in Iraq during “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Since the military, Kevin has worked for Honeywell as an earned-value analyst in the aerospace department, in Phoenix Arizona.
He started testing his leadership skills in the entrepreneurial world by starting several companies, to include a real estate company and a business mailing-address company. Kevin loves to serve people who have a yearning to create a better life for themselves and others. He is passionate about teaching people the importance of something that most take for granted: relationships.
Kevin lives in Phoenix with his wife and two daughters. Read and subscribe to Kevin’s Warrior Blog here.