“Supervisory plans are derived from the plans of higher levels of management” (p 119 Supervision). Within a Command, the Medical Platoon holds a unique position in situations regarding medical care. Within a Platoon, the Platoon Leader is in charge, but when casualties are involved, the medic becomes very important. The Medical Platoon Sergeant becomes very important at Battalion, Brigade levels.
Supervisory planning would become very important to me very early on in my military career. I was in the United States Army for more than 26 years, for the Government for more than 27 years. I literally ran the gauntlet from the very beginning to the very end of my career.
According to the Molossian Naval Academy (MNA), “Military leadership is the process of influencing others to accomplish the mission by providing purpose, direction, and motivation.”
Oh how I would come to know this from personal experience and the importance of “Supervisory Planning”. One of the “Eleven Principles of Leadership” is to “Ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished (MNA).”
I remember a particular Thanksgiving I spent at the National Training Center (NTC) in 1985. I was a Medic supporting B Company, 1st Support, when my Squad Leader came and took my Field Ambulance (FLA) with all my gear in it. I was instructed to hang tight with my Unit that was set up on the side of a mountain range until 20:00. I was then instructed to walk towards the Command Post (CP) where my Platoon would be waiting for me.
I waited there until 20:00 as instructed and then walked to where my Platoon was supposed to be waiting for me. I had my M16 and a canteen of water as I set out for my next location. It was beginning to grow dark when I arrived which did not bother me initially because I was expecting to meet my Squad Leader and Platoon.
I easily found the area I was supposed to be, but nobody was there. They had already pulled out leaving me on my own in the middle of the desert facing imminent darkness. After realizing that nobody was coming, I was on my own. I looked back across the valley searching for my starting position, but when I arrived back, I could not find B Company. I did not know they had already pulled out.
As I looked down the area known as “The Peanut”, it all looked so much the same. I went back and forth across that valley five or six times trying to relocate where I originally took off from. This is when I realized my situation. I was now lost out there at NTC on foot with only one canteen of water.
It was dark. I could not find any sign of light or anything. I kept walking thinking I should run into something somewhere. Off in the distance I could hear tanks barreling down and I certainly didn’t want to be hit by one of those bad boys.
I kept walking, I was sweating a lot as it was still hot and humid even at night there in the Southwest American desert. I kept watching for rattlesnakes as I certainly didn’t want to walk into a nest of those things out there.
It was so dark I could not find anything that had any lights or any camp. I was in real trouble but I kept moving. I was out there all night long. I prayed, I sang, I thought badly of my leadership, I thought of home. Most importantly, I was determined to survive.
I had run out of water hours into my forced foot march. I thought long and hard about how incompetent my leadership was and I swore to myself that I would never do this to any one of my Soldiers. I finally found a camp some 20 miles as the sun was about to wake the day.
I stumbled into this camp that was held by a totally different unit. I was able to give them information so they could track down my Unit to get me back to them. They were shocked to have a Soldier walk in the way that I did. I was so thankful to have finally found anybody out there in that place. What I remember taking from this experience was to never do that to one of my Soldiers, but also to never give up.
Knowing that Soldiers have lost their lives in similar situations at NTC and Fort Hood Texas makes me very thankful that I was in great shape.
This situation would have been easily avoided if my leadership beginning with my Platoon Sergeant and Squad Leader would have utilized good techniques of supervisory Planning.
According to Lisa McQuerry, Demand Media, in addressing the “innovation in supervisory planning,” she states, “To create a strategy where effective and meaningful corporate planning is carried out so it bolsters employee morale, supervisors must be creative, innovative and flexible in their approaches. Planning should consider the diversity of the staff, each of whom have different skill sets, values and approaches to teamwork. This task can be carried out by supervisory planning that incorporates broadly-defined responsibilities and a structured system for giving feedback and evaluation. It’s also productive to place an internal focus on helping employees grow and further their own goals for professional development.”
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to have heard the Command come down on my immediate Chain of Command. What Lisa McQuerry is addressing here is vital for military training as well as the civilian world. In this case, my morale was affected, my relationship and trust for my Chain of Command was damaged.
I was part of the team and I had been terrible overlooked, this could have been dangerous. The Army does “after action review” after each field operation and so this was a great learning experience for me.
After returning back to the United States after being stationed in Germany for 3 years, I had learned a great deal in Germany. Within a year I was promoted to Specialist and received a lateral transfer to Corporal. By my third year I was promoted to Sergeant. This began my leadership in the Army. What a great opportunity this was for me. Responsibility is the best way to learn. I loved the opportunity to lead troops, I would be given a task and it was my responsibility to exercise my leadership style. I was responsible for putting together a counseling packet for my troops. I ensured my Soldiers understood my expectations and received information from them to help know their situations. To know your personal is vital, to know their strengths and weaknesses to motivate them to improve.
In my early days serving the Army, my leadership loved me because I was a strong worker. You need that GP medium tent to be put up; I was called upon to set it up, a GP small, not a problem. You need to camouflage over vehicles, I always had a lot of fun with a good attitude in helping make us the best we could be. I was always competitive that way.
I was awarded the Impact Arcom by a 2 Star General (Major General Krawciw) for saving the life of a German national at Grafenwoehr April 1989. I was lifted up like a real hero. But all of this was made possible because of the supervisory planning I had enacted for this 30 day commitment. I had training taking place at each of the sites I was responsible. I was checking on my troops, I was at the right place at the right time. Sometimes it takes luck.
“Every organizational unit leader reports to and is accountable to a supervisor who is, in turn, the leader of a larger domain umbrella unit under which the sub-unit is nested. The supervisor’s planning responsibilities include both serving as unit leader for the larger unit as well as actively supervising the planning activity of the leader in all subordinate units reporting to the supervisor.”
Coming back to the United States, I was assigned with the HHC 3/187 Rakassons at Fort Campbell and I would learn a great deal more about supervisory planning. Here I would run the full range of authority in the Medical Platoon. I started out as a Squad Leader, became the Transportation NCO, the Battalion Aid Station NCO, and finally the Platoon Sergeant as I was stationed there for nearly 5 years.
During the Gulf War, I was part of the longest Air Assault mission as we went into the Euphrates River valley basin just outside Baghdad. By this time I was working in the Aid Station and was supporting our supply, our treatment of the sick and wounded to include captured enemy of war.
We trained extensively against Chemical attack and heat related injuries. It was reported to us that Saudi Arabia was going to be hot, 130 degrees in the shade. It was the beginning of Fall 1990, that we flew into King Fahd Airport being guided in by F-15′s. There was visibly seen about 40,000 empty body bags stacked near the runway. That was a wake up call. This was the beginning of Operation Desert Shield. All our training was of great value, we had good leadership, for the most part, and the Gulf War went fairly smooth. Upon returning back to the United States, I’ll never forget the welcoming we received with all the people cheering us off the plane at Fort Campbell. It was during this time that I began to become more involved with the Platoon Sergeant meeting and the Company Commander’s meetings. I began to learn to use power point for my presentations for the Commander’s meeting.
I was responsible for keeping the Command informed of our medical status, sick call numbers, what was the main issues i.e. injuries to ankles, knees, to illnesses like colds and flu. Shots and hearing was always important as the unit depended on the information I provided because they would report to higher. We were just the lowest part of the totem pole. Of course, training was vital and so I had to make sure that Solders were prepared for Air Assault School which included the 12 mile road march. So, training Soldiers was vital especially for the medics to have a chance for the Emergency Field Medical Badge. That would be one of the hardest military badges to be awarded.
With all this training, I would have to provide a 90 day calendar of training, what the classes were and who was doing the training. All this was important to the Command as they had to answer to Battalion, Brigade, Division, and Corp…
Being in the leadership position I learned that I would end up wearing several hats, Combat life Savers (CLS) was huge, I trained thousands of Soldiers that Companies sent for CLS School. CLS goes with the Medical section, but there were Safety, PT Instructor, EO, Air Assault, and UMO hats I wore as well.
I really began to develop the type of leader that I would be. I certainly can be an authoritative leader when it was necessary, but I also saw the importance of allowing my subordinates to participate in the process. It was a great training tool for my subordinates.
Certo, S.C. of “McGraw Hill Education” states, “the supervisor allows employees to participate in decision making and problem solving. A supervisor with a democratic style of leadership might have the staff meet weekly to discuss how to improve client relations. When a conflict arises, this supervisor asks the group to discuss possible solutions and select one.”
After the Platoon Sergeant meeting, I would always have a quick meeting with my squad leaders for the daily missions and tasks. Sometimes, we would have those familiar “hay you(s)” as it seemed that the Battalion would come down the night before with a new objective. I always thought they could use that 90 day calendar with a better effect.
I would have a Platoon meeting every week to collect the Soldiers problems, issues, all the details that we are preparing for according to upcoming events and the calendar. Soldiers do much better when they feel that they are being informed to their tasks.
I was out on the range supporting as a live fire exercise, when one morning I had one of my Soldiers replace me. This was a planned event so I could come in to play in the Division/Post Softball Tournament. We did well during the season and we were in for the post cup!
That night, then LTC Petraeus (my Battalion Commander) was shot in the chest by a stray round that was fired. My Medic did a good job responding to the situation, treating for entry and exit wounds, starting IV, and getting him evacuated out of there. As leaders, this is a great example why we need to maintain training as you never know when something can happen. When training events are taking place, for the Medic, it is always real world first.
LTC Petraeus would be flown to Nashville to Vanderbilt Hospital as an emergency medevac, but within three weeks he would be doing pushups in the Hospital. The man is a machine. He started a Physical Training Program we called “Iron Rakkason“.
These were Soldiers who would score well over 300 on their PT test. I would be one of the few that would earn that title. We would go on to win the Post Championship beating our arch rivals from the 502nd Infantry beating them twice to win the title! That was sweet!
I would soon leave the Rakkasons after nearly 5 years of service there. I would reach the pinnacle from being a Senior Line Medic, the Evacuation NCOIC, the Battalion Aid Station NCOIC, and finally as the Medical Platoon Sergeant. I was always proud to have served under (now retired) General Petraeus.
It is important to train your subordinates for the case you might have to go just as I did in the above story. I’ll always be proud that I was General Petraeus favorite medic. He would go to the ranges and find my medics with a training plan and outline and using them. I would go out and check on them.
Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time Available, and Civilian considerations were always central to our military training in the field.
In Korea, I took advantage of putting some of my experience to good use developing a dying Combat Life Saver program. It was a great opportunity as I was stationed on Camp Hovey just 12 miles from the 38th parallel which is the border with North Korea. I stood on Victory Bridge that separates Korea from North and South.
I would be more involved in the Battalion focus because of the threats we faced day to day. Field Operations were seen as important and alerts far more intensive. Supervisory planning was a daily factor in just about everything we did. I was stationed with a Field Artillery Unit which was a different environment I had experienced so there were special challenges from the Command. Medics were not always high on the totem pole of importance.
It was at this time that the dreaded “Anthrax Vaccine” came out and I had to plan and enter into MODS all the shots given. That was a learning experience for all of us.
While I was in Korea, we were hit with the worst Typhoon in its recorded history. Much of Camp Hovey went floating away. I barely went on leave as the Camp Commander had canceled all leaves and I just got out of there in time. I literally escaped riding in the back of a jeep as my Company Commander said “go now!” Water was everywhere but I made it to Soul Korea and the plane was able to take off.
Recently, I was looking at Cadet Craig Miles “Top 20 way to prepare for field training” and I couldn’t help but add a 21st way by letting out the rain clouds a day before we go to the field. “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training” was always an inside joke, it seemed always true.
I like his number 16, ” Remember the 5 P’s. (Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance) in everything that you do.” That is so true. That helps keep you out of the Chain of Commands dirty laundry list. I once was stationed at the New Orleans MEPS and had the opportunity to work with the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. That was very interesting in developing the various training needs of my subordinates.
While stationed at the MEPS, I had a young team of civilian employees and Military personnel who had less than two years’ experience working in the MEPS. I had hired a couple of new civilians and had new recruits PCS into the MEPS. I had been there a year by this time. I treasure that we were one of six MEPS out of over 60 in the United States Military that received an Excellent during the IG Inspection. We received the first Excellent rating in 17 years at New Orleans.
I was responsible for all the Doctors packets making sure that they were all up on their certifications, as well as the Military. I was able to continue learning in my development for supervisory planning. USMEPCOM was a great opportunity and I would be a part of putting together our newspaper, and my wife and I were part of the Family readiness group. This helped me understand the need of working with the computer.
Are mission here were to see Applicants who were looking to join the Military, this required a great deal of competence on our part to ensure that people were in proper order: “Medical technicians will give you instructions on how to complete a questionnaire on your medical history before the physical examination begins. You may find it helpful to talk with your parents about any childhood diseases or medical problems you have experienced before going to the MEPS.”
Doing the Physicals were always a great opportunity, we had over 8,000 applicants who came through our MEPS that would become Americas best.
While I was stationed in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina and Rita hit our area and having to depart the MEPs for higher ground was a challenge, I had to make sure that everyone left the area and was among the last to leave. That was a daunting experience as we traveled bumper to bumper on the high way. My wife and I would be in Houston staying at a Holiday Inn for about 3 weeks until Hurricane Rita threatened the area so USMEPCOM to us to go to higher ground so we went to Missouri where my Mother and family were.
As a result of the two Hurricanes, my wife and I lost about everything so when I arrived at Fort Hood Texas in late December, 2005, we really had to start all over.
I would be assigned with the 2-5 Cavalry, 1st Cav Division which would really be important for my career in the Army. It was between Oct 2006 through January 2008 that we were deployed to Iraq and that took great planning from all elements. I was an important player for the Division, Brigade, and Battalion. I would be given an opportunity to affect the entire war in Iraq.
Early on I was out with the Scouts (PSD) who were visiting to the various villages and on one occasion, when our Platoon Leader was talking with the Village Chief I was called upon to take care of a little girl who had suffered some burns because she poured boiling water on her face and upper chest. By the time I saw her it had been three days and she was healing nicely, so I applied dry bandages and gave the Mother some extra supplies.
Through this experience, I came up with a plan to create a separate medical bag specific for Iraqi people we encounter every day. I went to our Brigade Surgeon and Battalion Surgeon with my idea and I came up with Iraqi supplies my medics would be able to use to help out the people we met. At the time, the Iraqi Administration of Health was nowhere and the people had no place to go. Supervisory planning here was a great tool for me as my medics would have an effect with thousands of missions.
As a result of my planning, we helped change the heart and mind of the younger Iraqi men who were fighting Americans because of their perception of us as the invaders to actually seeing us as there to help. Many of them began helping us against Al Qaeda which saved many American lives. We went from being hit by enemy attacks nearly 200 times in a month to less than 10 in a three month period. I was honored by our Battalion Commander for this effort.
At this same time I was an important asset for our Brigade dealing with the enemy prisoners of war. I developed an important Standard Operating Procedure in handling prisoners of war (POW). Previously, the propaganda campaign by the enemy wanted to attack Americans accusing us of mistreating prisoners of war. Considering that they would cut people’s heads off, I thought that was rather offensive, but I developed a plan for our Battalion that stopped all the accusations. A medic had to be responsible whenever a POW to provide a medical screen with pictures that gave prove that we were not knocking them around. That changed the enemies’ propaganda war machine to nothing.
I would be called upon to see children who were born with birth defects and there was little that I could do for them. But I was able to use American channels to help some of these families. I was able to help families go out of Iraq where Israeli Doctors were able to help them. That was a major thing and this had a cause and effect.
Our Battalion became the main offensive going to the Abu Ghraib area where American Soldiers had not been part of that area. This was a very dangerous mission as we were tasked to set up a Joint Security Station (JSS) in that area. Abu Ghraib was the prison that made international news because American Soldiers were seen abusing Iraqi Prisoners. That did not help our cause in Iraq. We had always made our own sand tables to demonstrate our part in the mission, I was not really aware that people could by such a plan: “Used for strategic, tactical or operational military planning, training and familiarization, Solid Terrain Modeling produces military sand tables for national security, government and public service organizations that need to replicate landscapes, terrain and defined geographical areas. Users can depend on exact scale, distance, terrain, points of view and sight lines.”
This was funny to me that someone would market such an idea, but if it sells, why not. I thought of that with some humor because we have used such sand tables for planning missions once we left the chalk board plan and do a walk through.
With orders to go to the Abu Ghraib area, I was to provide the plan for medical support for our unit that included setting up Landing Zones (LZ) for medevac in case of enemy attacks in this hostile environment. This was a major push coming from Division and so using the sand table, I had to give the outline how we would provide medical support to include all the logistics, routs to the Green Zone in Baghdad. My plan was approved by the Division Commander who observed all of the Leaders presentations.
While out on patrol, I was supporting our F Company element who was tagging along with our E Company Element enroute through enemy hostile territory. We were attacked and the vehicle right in front of me was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The explosions caused a huge blast causing chaos which we responded quickly. With repressive gun fire, I grabbed my aid bag and began treating the wounded.
I made the call to send the wounded once treated to take them by ground to the nearest LZ that I had set up about 5 miles away. The land area was not a great place to bring down a helicopter. I treated and policed the wounded in 10 minutes getting them out of that hot area and called my treatment team at the LZ of the wounded coming. A Black Hawk helicopter was already given the 9 line medevac request and on their way. At the end of the day, the wounded arrived at the Green Zone within 45 minutes and they all lived.
Anytime we were ordered to set up a medical Forward Aid Station, supervisory planning became easier because of the experience and training that I prepared my subordinates that helped made us the finest Medical Platoon in theater! I am so proud of all the medics that served with me.
January 2009 my Unit would be back in Iraq and we were spread out into several JSS locations to include Sadr City. This would be where I would set up our Main Aid Station and my Forward Aid Station was at JSS Ur. At this time we were tasked with closing down many of these JSS locations and we would all end up at JSS Ur, JSS War Eagle, and Camp Taji.
It was a terrible day in June, 2009 when our Battalion Commander was out with his PSD that was hit wounding the Battalion Commander. My medic out on site saved his life till they arrived at our Aid Station. From there we had to medevac the Commander by ground ambulance because the sky was red and we could not use a helicopter.
On route to the Green Zone, another one of my medics saved the Commanders life two or three times as we almost lost him on route. Ultimately, the Commander lost both his legs above the knees but today, he is still in the Army helping other Soldiers who have suffered terrible loss. I am so proud of my medics who performed brilliantly.
One of my Soldiers was recognized as USO’s Soldier of the Year. That is a very prestigious award. Another one of my Soldiers was later awarded the “Daisy” award that usually is awarded to doctors and nurses and so this was a great honor for a combat medic to receive it.
When the 2-5 Cav returned home from Iraq near the end of January 2010, by May I had orders to finish my career with the Fort Hood Medical Company. So I would serve in the hospital for a short time before I would retire from the Army. I would serve in Hospital Operations which gave me the last hurrah in preparing hospital personal for one more EFMB campaign.
I was tasked to be a instructor/grader for the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) lane which was made to be as real as possible for each Candidate for their EFMB Badge. By the end of the week of training, the next week was for all the marbles. I was proud that by the last day, I had 5 members of the hospital personnel still in the running for the badge. On top of that, I still had 6 Soldiers I had prepared from my last unit (2-5 Cav) so I had 11 Soldiers in the running with 90 Solders left in the running.
The Last day was filled with excitement as all they had to do was make the 12 mile road march which began very early, like 5:00 in the morning. It gets hot quick so they wanted to start out early. Of the 90 Soldiers left, only 17 made the task in time and only 4 of my original 11 made it. I went out on the march to support my Soldiers and I ended up having to flag down trucks to pick up those falling out because of heat injuries. The Medics following the march could not be everywhere at once.
That was wild going up and down the line helping soldiers who were falling out after the 6 mile mark. I was worn out after I came into the finish line myself. But I was very proud of my Soldiers who achieved the badge. Some of them literally were stumbling in with seconds to spare. That was my last hurrah after 26 years of being in the Army.
During my time in the Army, I was an active NCO for 23 of those 26 years. 14 of those 26 years I served as a Senior NCO. Looking back, I trained several thousand Soldiers their Combat Life Savers certification, a couple a hundred medics and maintained their national certifications. Working for the MEPS I was involved with over 8,000 Applicants who joined the Military services. During all this time I served the Military, I experienced and learned what supervisory planning was which was key to my success in the Military.
Looking once again at the text book, Supervision (P 120), figure 7.2 presents basic training for each stage of my development as a supervisor making plans. What, why, when, who, where, and how is very basic.
What is the mission, over the course of 26 years; I had thousands of them, some of them very important and vital.
Why the mission? In the old days we did not complain about the mission, but it seems as time goes on, that is all we hear? Why, why, why… It is important for the supervisor to keep their Soldiers informed. Sometimes, that is not always an easy answer.
When is the mission? That could be planned through the 90 day calender or it can be a hay you as the First Sergeant needs a Soldier now. That happens a lot.
Who do I pick? I try to be equal in my choosing, sometimes I may call for a volunteer or I may have to pick someone.
Where is the mission? That can range from Battalion needs a road guard during physical training, to sending a person to the field for a month. This can be quite extensive.
How to accomplish the mission? That depends on the mission, if they need a Soldier to help with police call, they need supplies, to using computers to upload shots in the MEPROS.
As the Supervisor, you have to be in charge of your subordinates leading by example. It is hard to put 26 years of military service as a leader in a 10 page paper. There is so much detail and examples that can be added that you can literally write a book.
What is critical for any leader, military or civilian, is to understand the objectives. What are the directives given by the Division, the Brigade, the Battalion, and finally, the Company? For the Medical Element, there is the Division Surgeon which includes Preventive Med that is part of our leadership.
In this writing I gave my career as an example of supervisory planning, but the principles I was given will apply to any corporate setting. There is a Chain of Command, either as a Centralized authority like the military, or it can be decentralized authority, more like a viral computer company.
Strategies are made to arrive at mission accomplishment. Goals are set that gives a vision for success, short time and long time goals should be part of supervisory planning.
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