I stood at attention as my company commander yelled. He was extolling our entire unit about the importance of physical fitness. He was emphatic. All paratroopers need to be in tip-top shape. No exceptions…no excuses. Over one hundred of us endured this speech. I was confused about why he kept going on and on. I completely agreed with him. We all concurred. Little did he know at the time that these words would come back to haunt him later. His integrity would become an issue. It was 1991. I was an Infantry Officer in the 82d Airborne Division, home of the All-American paratroopers.
He could not keep up with the pace
A few months later our company was participating in a battalion run. I do not recall exactly how long it was — probably four to five miles. The pace was challenging, but not severe. Our company commander was struggling to keep up. He was sweating profusely. He showed signs of complete fatigue. Several paratroopers of his paratroopers yelled encouraging words. You can do it! Hang in there, sir. He was a Ranger, so I was shocked by what happened next. He quit. He moved to the side of the formation and stopped running. One of my peers took his place at the front and we kept going.
I will never fail a fellow paratrooper. I cherish the sacred trust and the lives of men with whom I serve. Leaders have my fullest loyalty, and those who I lead will never, never find me lacking.
He embarrassed all of us
Officers do not fall out of running formations in the 82nd Airborne Division. It simply does not happen unless you get injured or become physically sick. This run was the first time I saw a commanding officer not measure up. He was embarrassed, and so was his entire company. Afterward, he apologized to all of us. The harsh words from his speech a few months earlier came to mind. He was done as our leader, and he knew it. He probably did not understand it at the time, but he had violated the three hard truths about integrity.