Officers can pick up brass too

This past weekend was weapons qualification for our unit. Easily one of my favorite things is spending a day on the range putting rounds down. I remember to this day my first time on a range, the smell, the sweat, the excitement and the frustrations. And you know what 10.5 years later it has not changed. What has changed is my rank and position in the Army.

“Sir, you are the first officer I have ever seen pick up brass.” Is what I heard over my shoulder Saturday as I was digging through some good ole Fort Jackson dirt looking for expended rounds. You live by a code in the military. Leave it better than you found it. So at the end of every range we pick up all the “brass” (expended rounds) and turn it in.

As I looked back and acknowledge the Specialist I saw the Platoon Leaders and Squad Leaders all on their hands and knees, picking up brass, moving sandbags. It was an incredibly humbling experience to see the individuals entrusted with the shaping the soldiers of the company I get the honor of commanding doing work that someone said a long time ago was above them. Now, before you go flying off the handle I get the point of having Privates pick up brass. There is a rank structure in the Military it is to be honored and respected. Details are made for soldiers while leaders execute planning. There are plenty of times when you can not do some of the things that you want to. There are things that you have to do so that there can even be a scenerio where you “pick up brass” I get all of that. But I am talking about the bigger picture. I also know first hand you have put in the work to earn the benefits that come with your leadership role. I have held every rank from E1-E6 and had my military education by way of the infantry. But, remember that there is no benefit that can take the place of earning the trust and respect of your soldiers who will one day be ordered to follow you into battle or simply to attend a medical appointment.

Ask yourself. Have you fostered an environment where they want to respect you and not let you down? Will they go willingly or not?

Leadership styles vary with every person. Great leaders understand that actions speak far louder than words.The one constant among all great leaders is their ability to understand and communicate with their subordinates. I have learned from some of the finest leaders in the military and the one thing that they had every single time was the ability to communicate in a way I respect. (NOTE: this varies by soldier, it is up to you to figure out what works best for your style) When you are in combat communication is a top tier priority and it is no different when you are a leader. Leading by example is the best form of communication that we have in the military. As leaders it would behoove us, and I am just as guilty of doing this once or twice in my career, to stop taking a POV to grab food at night. Instead grab an MRE and sit with your soldiers. Show them that you are there. Remember that at one point you sat in the same circle wishing….. With rank comes responsibility and benefits, use them, you earned them.

“Picking up brass” does not mean you are disrespecting your rank or position. It means that you respect it so much that you are willing to put aside pride to truly be a great leader. To represent the “BE, KNOW and DO.” Be a great leader, know your job and the the soldiers you are charged with and do everything in your power to give them the best mentorship and experience you can. They joined the military not only to serve their country but also to hold you accountable to truly lead them.

So I ask, will you “pick up brass.”

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