Published: 8/9/2012 5:18:38 PM
Train as we fight and doing what’s right
I am so grateful to Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn for asking me to be his airborne Ranger buddy once again. I first met him at Fort Hood, Texas, “The Great Place,” when we were in command and responsible for the Soldiers and Families of the 1st Cavalry Division. We took our division to Afghanistan to lead Regional Command — East in 2011 and returned in April. Thankfully our Families are as agile and adept at planning and executing large-scale movements as Lt. Gen. Allyn and I are, and I want to personally thank my wife, Missy, and our kids for indulging me for a new adventure.
I must say it is long overdue that the Army saw fit to bring me to the Center of the Universe, a.k.a. Fort Bragg. I have been part of the airborne community nearly as long as I’ve been in the Army, but this is my first time here. I am a rarity for sure, but I think it is good for the Army and my personal and professional growth to experience other places and command cultures to bring a fresh perspective.
On Aug. 1, I led my first sergeants major run and senior non commissioned officer professional development session. I told them then and will reiterate now, that I am committed to forging relationships with commands at every level – downward, upward and sideways – to build one Fort Bragg team. I will be more than a figurehead or face on your headquarters wall. You can expect to see me in your area at some point in time. I believe in leading by example, but that would not be possible if no one can see my example.
I want to share with you the benefit of my experience, and part of my story is the devastating loss of my eldest son, Pvt. 1st Class Timothy Vimoto. Like many parents, especially ones in our military, Missy and I had misgivings about Timothy’s enlistment. Unlike other Family businesses, a lot of us veterans hope our kids will choose another line of work. But Timothy was his own man and wanted to be a Soldier like his dad. We were so proud of the man he was becoming. Little did we know that he would be assigned to one of the platoons within the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which was set to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. As difficult as it was, we thought positively, and Missy made me promise to look after him. But on June 5, 2007, our worst fears were realized when our first born was mortally wounded during an insurgent attack in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan.
It was years before I was comfortable speaking openly about this, but I offer this bit of personal history in the hopes that it will teach and inspire Soldiers and Families that there is life after loss and remind you how precious and fragile life is. I am grateful to God that I had caring leaders like Col. Charles Preysler and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel who grieved with me and helped me break the news to my wife and kids back in Italy. After we buried Timothy, I returned to my other sons and daughters still in Afghanistan who helped me heal.
The news in the Fayetteville Observer and papers from other military communities are replete with casualties from the war. But most of the news reports are about suicides, abuse and maltreatment of troops, and senseless accidents caused by negligence or lack of training. It is a tragic waste of human potential and a disservice to those like my son who did not want to die on the battlefield. My 31 years in this Army tell me we have got to get back to basics — leadership.
All too often I hear or read Soldiers and leaders across our Army use the excuse, “That’s the way we do things here,” or, “I sensed something was wrong but it wasn’t my responsibility.” We cannot accept this logic any longer. We must live by and imbue the Army values into the hearts and minds of every member of our force. To echo Lt. Gen. Allyn’s sentiment, I want to paraphrase good advice attributed to several famous philosophers: Do not take counsel in your ignorance and fears by merely traveling the path already known; blaze a trail and pave the way for others.
Airborne! All The Way!
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