Archive for boot camp

A Foundation was Laid on This Day – August 22, 1986

Posted in Core Values with tags , , , , , , on August 21, 2016 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

Known as The Quarterdeck of the Navy, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, in Waukegan, Illinois, is the Navy’s only basic training facility.  Affectionately called Great Mistakes[i] by many who have passed through its gates, Recruit Training Command (RTC) is where recruits begin their Navy experience.  They learn about naval history; become aware of a sailor’s standards of conduct and rights & responsibilities; become physically and fundamentally strong in the lifestyle of a sailor.  After this indoctrination, they’re ready for service as the Navy’s newest Blue Jackets.

It was the middle of June, 1986.  I had just arrived to RTC Great Lakes for basic training.  I was anxious and nervous; excited, yet uncertain.  So many thoughts were swirling in my mind.  After all, it’s a big step for a 17-year-old to take; exiting the safe bounds of home and community into the rigid uniformity and discipline of a military institution.

Navy boot camp is a basic naval orientation designed to transform men and women into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained sailors.[ii]  As soon as one arrives, they are integrated into a diverse group of individuals with whom they will eat, sleep, learn, grow and support as a team until graduation day.  Teamwork is the foremost skill developed during these eight trying weeks.  The recruit company’s chain of command is quickly established, and the ship is underway.  Boot camp provides the opportunity to develop and refine leadership skills that will become vital in the fleet.

Although I felt ready to get it all started, I had to wait a few more days before starting my eight weeks of training; something about making sure I was healthy and fit for the rigors of Navy training.  For the first few days after arriving, we marching back and forth from RTC to Main Side for medical and administrative in-processing.  As I recall, it was more like determining how many holes I can withstand being punctured into my arm and buttocks.  It was also when I received my initial issuance of uniforms, and a clean-shaved head.  This week is known as Processing Week.  We called them P-Days; days that didn’t count towards the eight weeks of training.  Time just seemed to stop.

It rained during those first few days.  It seemed like the rain would never end.  Cold.  Damp.  Dreary.  Miserable.  Amidst the proverbial ‘hurry-up and wait,’ I was eager for the ‘hurry-up’ part to begin.  These early days at boot camp have become some of the more memorable days in my life.  I look back on them fondly.  They were, after all, the days that began to set the foundation for the rest of my life and career.

Today, August 22, marks the anniversary of my graduation from boot camp.  I often reflect on those days, those experiences, those friends (shipmates).  I recall the challenges that strengthened me physically and mentally; trials that built character within me.  I cherish the rewards of achievement and success that came from every push-up, inspection and exam.  Although there were those times where it didn’t seem possible to finish, everything somehow came together.  Somehow our recruit company came together.  And, on August 22, 1986, we assembled to celebrate our collective accomplishments in our pass-in-review ceremony at graduation.

In those short eight weeks, some of the most valuable traits and qualities were instilled in me.  Honor, courage, and commitment, the core values of the United States Navy, were the bedrock principles of my training.

The Core Values of the United States Navy

Honor: When we say “bear true faith and allegiance,” we are promising to:

  • Conduct ourselves in the highest ethical manner in all relationships
  • Deal honestly and truthfully with others
  • Make honest recommendations and accept those junior to us
  • Encourage new ideas and deliver the bad news, even when it is unpopular
  • Abide by an uncompromising code of integrity, taking responsibility for our actions and keeping our word
  • Fulfill or exceed our legal and ethical responsibilities in our public and personal lives 24 hours a day
  • Be mindful of the privilege to serve our fellow Americans

Courage: When we say “support and defend,” we are promising to:

  • Meet the demands of our profession and the mission when it is hazardous, demanding or otherwise difficult
  • Make decisions in the best interest of the Navy and the nation, without regard to personal consequences
  • Meet all challenges while adhering to a higher standard of personal conduct and decency
  • Be loyal to our nation, ensuring the resources entrusted to us are used in an honest, careful and efficient way
  • Have the moral and mental strength to do what is right, even in the face of personal or professional adversity

Commitment: When we say “obey the orders,” we are promising to:

  • Demand respect up and down the chain of command
  • Care for the safety, professional, personal, and spiritual well-being of the people entrusted to us
  • Show respect toward all people without regard to race, religion or gender
  • Treat each individual with human dignity
  • Be committed to positive change and constant improvement
  • Exhibit the highest degree of moral character, technical excellence, quality, and competence in what we have been trained to do
  • Work together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people, andourselves[iii]

The Navy’s core values became the ingredients that transformed me into a sailor, and ultimately the cornerstones of my life and career.  My boot camp and Navy experience culminated in my having the following three valuable attributes:

  1. Highly motivated to overcome all challenges; having the self-discipline to achieve all tasks completely and successfully.
  2. Attention to detail, and being detail-oriented.  Following direction and learning to listen, while having situational awareness at all times.
  3. Pride and professionalism.  To always showcase respect for people and resources.  To carry myself with honor, and to have integrity in all that I do.  And, to always be committed to the team, organization and community I belong.

August 22 is a very important date in my life.  Similar to my birthday, it signifies the day that officially began my Navy career.  It is a day that I am extremely proud of, and I wanted to share it with you.


[i]  Webb, Brandon; David Mann, John (2012). The Red Circle. Macmillan. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-250-01840-3. “… Naval Station Great Lakes (or unofficially, Great Mistakes)”

[ii]  “Recruit Training Command – Mission.” Recruit Training Command – Mission. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

[iii]  “Navy Boot Camp Timeline At a Glance.” N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2016.

Authoritarian Leadership vs. Democratic Leadership ~ The Officer Corps Explained

Posted in Leadership, Toxic Leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2012 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

a.k.a. Autocratic Leadership vs. Participative Leadership

I recently came across a post called “The Officer Corps Explained.” In this post, the author features a series of cartoon screens that depict a Roman military officer having a conversation with what is portrayed as a younger, lower rank soldier. In the cartoon, the officer and the soldier have a conversation that becomes a debate about authoritarian (or autocratic) leadership vs. democratic (or participative) leadership.  In order to understand the context of what I’m about to discuss, I encourage you to visit the blog post “The Officer Corps Explained” before continuing with this post.


Obviously, the cartoon is a satirical view of officership in the military, and military leadership in general. But, there are a few things that should be highlighted from their conversation. I’m not going to dissect this frame-by-frame or word-for-word, and I don’t want to insult your intelligence by defining what you’ve already read and figured out. But I do want to discuss some important parts of it.

First, there is a certain level of respect to be rendered to a commissioned officer, usually in the form of a salute and/or courteous greeting; even before true trust and respect are earned by that officer. And, that is illustrated by the soldier when he said that respect is earned, especially if he didn’t know the officer. But, at the same time, an officer should not demand such respect. In this example, however, there is a military protocol where there should be a customary rendering of respect by the junior soldier; in this case, a salute.

Second, it is obvious that the person posting this cartoon is attempting to express his opinion of how the social status of an officer within a military establishment is harsh and totalitarian. It is quite possible that he has experienced this first-hand in his life as a member of the military. It may not be a true depiction of his experiences, but it seems he has observed or experienced a military officer who was autocratic, domineering and/or rude. But, if we cut through the cynicism and sarcasm, you can obviously see the point of his post. Unfortunately, if it is true that he has seen, or experienced, this type of officer, that is a shame; especially if the officer threatened him with certain punishments for failure to obey or conform. Don’t get me wrong, we have to follow orders, but we must do the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times.

Unfortunately, this cartoon’s portrayal, to some extent, remains a factor in today’s military among those who lead and those who follow. There are a few ego-driven officers and NCO’s (non-commissioned officers) who think they can bully their way, through fear and intimidation, to better performance of their team. Power, titles and rank seem to be more important to a few officers than taking care of their troops and earning their trust; it gets to their heads. So, I won’t sit here and deny that there are leaders like this in the military. Autocratic leadership had been the standard in the military. But, the military has realized, gradually over the last couple of decades, that kind of leadership style is somewhat archaic. It is becoming less top-down and hierarchical leadership structure. As a result, the number of officers and NCO’s who practice an autocratic leadership style is diminishing.

At one point in the conversation between the soldier and the officer, the soldier asks him, “what if you’re wrong about something? Can I question you then?” The officer’s reply is, “only if I let you, and only if you do it like you’re tiptoeing on egg shells.” As I stated on this blog in a recent post, the military is moving more toward the type of leadership organization where it invites participatory involvement in decision-making; where people at every level, from the sides and the bottom, have a voice and a view, and are permitted and encouraged to provide feedback. In the private sector, more leadership organizations will find that transforming to a more ‘democratic’ leadership style, where everyone is a leader, everyone has a voice, and leadership at every level produces better, timely and more successful results.

I resent the notion that many (or most) military leaders conduct themselves in this fashion. Too often, military leaders are painted with a broad brush as tyrannical and authoritarian. Maybe we can thank Hollywood:

Of course, this is boot camp, and those of us who lived the 8 to 13 weeks of Hell at basic training can relate to this, and know that the real military is nothing like it. But, my point of using this video was to illustrate Sergeant Harman’s tyrannical, authoritarian leadership style. He is your typical drill instructor portrayed by Hollywood, and much of what you see in that Full Metal Jacket clip can no longer be done or said in today’s military boot camp; no, not even the Marine Corps. Boot camp, as well as military academies, have become more instructional. An example is at The United States Military Academy at West Point’s R-day (receiving day), the first day of Beast Barracks, where new Cadets (Plebes) are to report to the ‘Cadet in the Red Sash.’ Watch the following video to see the contrast in instruction and interaction between these Cadets, from what you saw with Sergeant Harman.

You can see that the ‘Cadet in the Red Sash’ is giving orders and instructions in a much different tone of voice than Sergeant Harmon. The senior Cadet tells the Plebe what he expects, instructs him how to accomplish the task, and observes his actions. For example, as soon as the new Cadet does not salute properly, the instructor quickly corrects the Plebe in a mentoring fashion, and teaches the Plebe a more proper way of saluting. It may seem insignificant or trivial about how to properly salute, but what is really happening here is the senior Cadet is teaching the Plebe, while establishing trust and credibility. He is not yelling at him; he is not in his face. He is not coming across as the boss, with a “you better listen to me” attitude. He is practicing a more democratic/participative style of leadership, although the Plebe doesn’t have much input in the decisions that are made, nor the way tasks are to be completed. The tone is more professional and tactful, and the senior Cadet is able to get more out of his subordinate. The senior Cadet is quickly establishing the required level of respect and trust necessary to successfully lead his followers. Let’s look at a similar example from the Naval Academy’s I-Day (Induction Day):

What is important, above all else, in these examples is for the Plebes to pay attention to detail and complete the task properly and completely. You can see in this video that the Plebes were not completely following instruction. The senior Midshipmen patiently instructed them until they mastered the task. The Plebes continued to work on getting it right until their senior instructor was satisfied. The group of Plebes worked as a team, and so did the senior Midshipmen in the way they instructed.

Then you have Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, fictitious officer in the United States Marine Corps, from the Movie “A Few Good Men.” In A Few Good Men, Col. Jessep, commanding officer at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, orders a couple of low-ranking NCO’s to haze a weakling in their unit — an unofficial military procedure otherwise known as a ‘code red.’ Unfortunately, this kid dies in the process, and the colonel lets his subordinates take the fall. When Jessep is finally asked to explain his actions, he barks that what he has done might be considered offensive to some — but, ultimately, American soil is a little safer because of his unpopular executive decision. This, again, is an example of an autocratic style:

I think (and I hope) the extremely autocratic, authoritarian military leader gets washed out early in their career before they can damage the morale and effectiveness (esprit de corps) of the troops under their command. There are much more mentor and servant-oriented leaders in the military, and I am certain that the new and improved leadership style is cascading down the ranks to the young officers and NCO’s, and also to the military academy Midshipmen, Cadets and Airmen. The “in your face” style is old; the servant leader is the leader of the future. Hopefully, once the changes in leadership styles take hold in the military, the stereotype of the military leader changes as well.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson


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There are a few online resources that discuss this very topic specifically.  Rather than attempt to echo what they say, and risk plagiarizing their content, I will provide you the various links.  I encourage you to check them out:

“Toxic Leaders” – By Colonel George E. Reed, U.S Army – Military Review – July – August 2004 (pages 67 thru 71) – – Accessed 1 February 2012 – Maxwell Air Force Base (Montgomery, Alabama), United States Air Force Air War College, Gateway to the Internet Home Page –

“Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army” – By Colonel Denise F. Williams, U.S. Army – Report Date 18 Mar 2005 – – Accessed 1 February 2012 – The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) –

“Toxic Leadership: Part Deux” – By Colonel George E. Reed, Ph.D., U.S. Army, Retired and Lieutenant Colonel Richard A. Olsen, D.Min., U.S. Army, Retired – Military Review – November – December 2010 (pages 58 thru 64) – – Accessed 1 February 2012 – – United States Army Combined Arms Center

“Antecedents and Consequences of Toxic Leadership in the U.S. Army: A Two Year Review and Recommended Solutions” – By John P. Steele – Technical Report (2011-3) – Center for Army Leadership – Report Date 30 June 2011 – – Accessed 8 February 2012 – Public Intelligence –

What Does “Command Performance” Leadership Really Mean?

Posted in Command Performance, Inaugural Posts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by Dale Wilson - Author of Command Performance

I came up with Command Performance quite a few years ago as the title for my series of at least two books to be written about the study of military leadership and the foundations of strategy and tactics.  As discussed in my inaugural post, the book is a comprehensive text covering the principled values, virtues and wisdom that guide military and business professionals to victory.

Book one in the series is “Military Leadership – Concepts of Command (The Comprehensive Study of the Leadership Competencies of the United States Military),” which will be on leadership and management.  And, book two, “The Foundations of Warfighting Strategy – Integrating Warfighting Concepts into Force Capabilities, which will be on strategy and tactics.  Although they seem to have a predominantly military theme, the intent is to tie together the synergies shared between the military and corporate environments.

The term Command Performance has many universal meanings and interpretations related to leadership, and the execution of a task or action.  As you will see, these two words capture the entire leadership and strategy thesis of this blog, and my forthcoming books.  I will admit to you that I came up with the title before I ever realized the many significant meanings I am about to discuss.  In this discussion, in most instances, you must interchange the word command for the word lead, when it seems appropriate; command = lead.  You’ll know when this applies, in the proper context, within this discussion.

The common misconception is that command performance refers to the repeating of a great performance; a show that was so good that we need to see it again.  Although this isn’t the most accurate definition, I think it fits nicely into this discussion.  If a team or individual’s performance was a ‘good show’ and successful, we want to see it happen over and over again.  Think of an occasion where you saw a movie, concert, or play, where you enjoyed it so much that you absolutely planned on coming back again; once, twice, always.  The results of our work is no different.  Our leaders, supervisors, bosses want to see us succeed, and they want to succeed as well.  Performing poorly is not an option; especially in front of our audience, which includes our country, our customers, our peers, our company, etc.  whoever we serve, they expect great performances.  Our customers have paid for great performances; our companies pay us to provide great performances.  Figuratively, we are on stage when we do our jobs.  It is absolutely imperative that we do our jobs well, everyday and every time; to keep our customers coming back to us, or to keep our jobs.  When we have exceeded expectations, we deserve a command performance; and one should be anticipated.

But, the actual definition of command performance is ‘a theatrical or musical performance (a play, opera, ballet, etc.) presented at the direction or request of a reigning monarch or head of state (a king, queen, president, etc.).’  Otherwise known as The Royal Command Performance, since the earliest days of the monarchy, both in England and elsewhere, Kings and Queens have maintained minstrels and court jesters, and employed travelling troubadours to provide them with entertainment, and in its broadest sense any of these performances could be termed to be a ‘royal command performance’.[i]  From this context comes the play on words that comprises the many meanings of command performance.

A mistaken belief by many people is that military leaders, or military leadership in general, is an ‘in your face’ style of getting things done.  The vision most people have of the military is of a drill instructor barking out orders to recruits in boot camp; spouting profanity and displaying physical intimidation.  Those of us who served in the military certainly know that this is not true.  But, what is true is that, in the military, when we are given an order or directive to accomplish a task, it could mean the difference between life and death…winning or losing…success or failure.  When our boss demands performance, he/she does so with a determined conviction and authority that is unmistakable.  We know what is expected of us, and we deliver results.

To be commanding does not mean that you should be disrespectfully demanding.  When a boss, commissioned officer, CEO, commanding officer, etc., through his/her achievements and merit, have earned a certain level of respect and authority, and have gained the appropriate jurisdiction to command, he/she will demand performance; they will expect it.  When a leader insists that a job or task be completed, they mandate that there be the appropriate action required to accomplish the mission.  By their tone and determination, they direct with authority and control.  They give orders, exercising a dominating, authoritative influence over the individual, team or organization.  In addition to their authority, they possess knowledge, ability, skill, expertise and mastery.  There is a certain power and influence at the leader’s disposal, and they exercise and maintain the fitness to command.  In the act of commanding, the leader governs, instructs, directs, controls, oversees, inspires, and manages the process.  They take charge…they lead…they demand performance.

Another perspective of the term command performance is that the responsible leader will take ownership and accountability for performance.  Whatever the results of an organization, the leader owns the outcomes, and they are ultimately the individual who is accountable.  A good leader will never say things like, “it’s not my job…I forgot…it couldn’t be helped…”  There are no excuses; only results.  True leadership begins and ends with personal responsibility.  Success, or the failure, of any team or organization is reflected in the leader’s ability to take ownership of the outcomes.

Some of our leaders seem to be bigger than life.  This can come from fame or rank, character or respect, or from the prominence of the organization they lead.  They ultimately have a commanding  stature or persona.  It may not only be people who make us feel this way.  A leading company may have a commanding presence in their industry or region.  Or, a football team, by their dominance in their physical effort or position, has been commanding when they have taken a significant lead in a game.  Their play on the gridiron has been overpowering, and has overwhelmed their opponent.  Another example is the United States Navy.  They have Command of the Seas.  A naval force has command of the seas when it is so strong that its rivals cannot attack it directly.  To be a commanding presence is to possess or exercise controlling authority.  From that position, a person or an organization will earn and deserve respect and admiration.

There are more practical and literal definitions of the word command that require discussion.  A command is a directive or an order issued by one in authority or control of an organization.  A command is a signal that initiates an operation defined by an instruction, and is an action or task performed in response.  When we are given a command or task, we are expected to carry it out without fail.  Our command performance is expected to be professional and complete.

In the military, a Command is an organization (team, department, platoon, company, unit, post, region, district, etc.).  It is a body of troops, a station, or a ship under a the leadership of a Commander.  It may be an organization with a specific function, such as the Strategic Air Command or the Military Sealift Command.  A command’s performance is vital to mission accomplishment, and could make the difference between winning or losing a battle or war; or making a profit, keeping a customer, becoming number one in an industry, etc.

When we talk about Command Performance, we are obviously talking about many things.  No matter if we are the leader, or the one being lead, we are always on stage, and we are always performing.  And, no matter what our work or role happens to be, we always have an audience that we are performing for; our company, our customers, our peers, our family, our country, etc.  The way in which we function (or perform) will either earn us a command performance, or will get us thrown out of the theater.  We need to command our performance to be successful.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson


[i] A History of the Royal Command Performance, Don Gillan (Copyright),, accessed 7 December 2011

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