Moments in leadership

By Tony Anderson DLA Land and Maritime Level II Mentoring Program

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As a military retiree, I vividly remember a variety of occasions where I was required to step up and take the lead. One specific incident which I’ll never forget occurred during the beginning of Operation Allied Force while stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Operation Allied Force was the code name for a NATO military operation which consisted of air strikes against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from March to June 1999. Many combatants of this operation were deployed to my location in Italy and it unexpectantly became my responsibility to conduct an on-boarding and intake process for everyone upon their arrival.

Before this process began, I was notified that I would only shadow and assist one of my seasoned peers to gain future experience. Well, after only one day, that plan changed and I was notified that I would run my own shift. Not only did I not have experience, but I also had no plan to pull from and no guidance to refer to. My previous shift only consisted of “prepwork” and a great deal of idle time. So now, I was expected to receive, brief and control hundreds of military professionals to include high-ranking senior members. In addition, my responsibilities also included overseeing the intake actions of other base organizations, making sure that all of the deployers were accounted for and ultimately ensuring everyone was provided group transportation and routed to their end-destination; a hotel or a tent-city location.

If you know anything at all about the military, you know one thing is certain; you must get comfortable being placed in uncomfortable situations. At first, I was extremely frustrated because I felt as if I was being placed in a position to fail. After all, I literally had no training, no guidance and was now expected to stand before a Base Commander and others as an “expert” and provide guidance. Those “others” I speak of included hundreds of servicemen and servicewomen who had just arrived from the United States on 12+ hour flights; naturally they were not in the best of moods.

I truly had to “wing it” a bit until I learned what was going on, display outward confidence and just move forward. It actually worked and I did become the expert; primarily because I had to and failure was not an option. Whenever I have moments of self-doubt, I always call upon this event to reassure myself that no mountain is too big for me to conquer.