Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leadership 101

Leadership is essential for any organization to survive and thrive. Without solid leadership, it is simply a matter of time before the organization is dismissed as ineffective.

In his just released book, Master Leaders, George Barna writes, “The best leaders see themselves as servants and truly respect other people. These leaders did not perceive a division between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ the indispensable ones and the worker bees… they acknowledged that a leader without a great team gets little, if anything, accomplished.”

Leadership is a trait that is sometimes hard to explain or even to define. People may stumble in attempting to give clarity to leadership and what it looks like, but people usually know good, solid leadership when it’s right in front of them.

The finest military organization in the world is the United States Marine Corps. All of their storied exploits and colorful history come down to one simple common denominator: Leadership. And not only has the Marine Corps established leadership as part of its lore, but it has made it a point of teaching sound leadership continuously up and down the chain of command. Everyone is included, from generals to privates.

What George Barna discovered about leadership could easily be overlaid in the training process implemented by the Marine Corps for the past two-hundred and thirty-four years.

The following is a list of Marine Corps Traits, taught with a passion to every Marine from the moment they have earned the title, Marine.

“The 14 leadership traits are qualities of thought and action which, if demonstrated in daily activities, help Marines earn the respect, confidence, and loyal cooperation of other Marines. It is extremely important that you understand the meaning of each leadership trait and how to develop it, so you know what goals to set as you work to become a good leader and a good follower.”

• JUSTICE. Definition: Justice is defined as the practice of being fair and consistent. A just person gives consideration to each side of a situation and bases rewards or punishments on merit. Suggestions for Improvement: Be honest with yourself about why you make a particular decision. Avoid favoritism. Try to be fair at all times and treat all things and people in an equal manner.

• JUDGMENT. Definition: Judgment is your ability to think about things clearly, calmly, and in an orderly fashion so that you can make good decisions. Suggestions for Improvement: You can improve your judgment if you avoid making rash decisions. Approach problems with a common sense attitude.

• DEPENDABILITY. Definition: Dependability means that you can be relied upon to perform your duties properly. It means that you can be trusted to complete a job. It is the willing and voluntary support of the policies and orders of the chain of command. Dependability also means consistently putting forth your best effort in an attempt to achieve the highest standards of performance. Suggestions for Improvement: You can increase your dependability by forming the habit of being where you're supposed to be on time, by not making excuses and by carrying out every task to the best of your ability regardless of whether you like it or agree with it.

• INITIATIVE. Definition: Initiative is taking action even though you haven't been given orders. It means meeting new and unexpected situations with prompt action. It includes using resourcefulness to get something done without the normal material or methods being available to you. Suggestions for Improvement: To improve your initiative, work on staying mentally and physically alert. Be aware of things that need to be done and then to do them without having to be told.

• DECISIVENESS. Definition: Decisiveness means that you are able to make good decisions without delay. Get all the facts and weigh them against each other. By acting calmly and quickly, you should arrive at a sound decision. You announce your decisions in a clear, firm, professional manner. Suggestions for Improvement: Practice being positive in your actions instead of acting half-heartedly or changing your mind on an issue.

• TACT. Definition: Tact means that you can deal with people in a manner that will maintain good relations and avoid problems. It means that you are polite, calm, and firm. Suggestions for Improvement: Begin to develop your tact by trying to be courteous and cheerful at all times. Treat others as you would like to be treated.

• INTEGRITY. Definition: Integrity means that you are honest and truthful in what you say or do. You put honesty, sense of duty, and sound moral principles above all else. Suggestions for Improvement: Be absolutely honest and truthful at all times. Stand up for what you believe to be right.

• ENTHUSIASM. Definition: Enthusiasm is defined as a sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of your duties. If you are enthusiastic, you are optimistic, cheerful, and willing to accept the challenges. Suggestions for Improvement: Understanding and belief in your mission will add to your enthusiasm for your job. Try to understand why even uninteresting jobs must be done.

• BEARING. Definition: Bearing is the way you conduct and carry yourself. Your manner should reflect alertness, competence, confidence, and control. Suggestions for Improvement: To develop bearing, you should hold yourself to the highest standards of personal conduct. Never be content with meeting only the minimum requirements.

• UNSELFISHNESS. Definition: Unselfishness means that you avoid making yourself comfortable at the expense of others. Be considerate of others. Give credit to those who deserve it. Suggestions for Improvement: Avoid using your position or rank for personal gain, safety, or pleasure at the expensive of others. Be considerate of others.

• COURAGE. Definition: Courage is what allows you to remain calm while recognizing fear. Moral courage means having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault. Physical courage means that you can continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present. Suggestions for Improvement: You can begin to control fear by practicing self-discipline and calmness. If you fear doing certain things required in your daily life, force yourself to do them until you can control your reaction.

• KNOWLEDGE. Definition: Knowledge is the understanding of a science or art. Knowledge means that you have acquired information and that you understand people. Your knowledge should be broad, and in addition to knowing your job, you should know your unit's policies and keep up with current events. Suggestions for Improvement: Increase your knowledge by remaining alert. Listen, observe, and find out about things you don't understand. Study field manuals and other military literature.

• LOYALTY. Definition: Loyalty means that you are devoted to your country, the Corps, and to your seniors, peers, and subordinates. The motto of our Corps is Semper Fidelis!, (Always Faithful). You owe unwavering loyalty up and down the chain of command, to seniors, subordinates, and peers. Suggestions for Improvement: To improve your loyalty you should show your loyalty by never discussing the problems of the Marine Corps or your unit with outsiders. Never talk about seniors unfavorably in front of your subordinates. Once a decision is made and the order is given to execute it, carry out that order willingly as if it were your own.

• ENDURANCE. Definition: Endurance is the mental and physical stamina that is measured by your ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress, and hardship. For example, enduring pain during a conditioning march in order to improve stamina is crucial in the development of leadership. Suggestions for Improvement: Develop your endurance by engaging in physical training that will strengthen your body. Finish every task to the best of your ability by forcing yourself to continue when you are physically tired and your mind is sluggish.

These are the leadership building blocks that make Marines – the ones who fight our nation’s battles. They not only deserve your respect – they have earned it. On November 10th next month, the Marine Corps will be celebrating its 234th birthday. If you know a Marine, or happen to run into one, wish them a Happy Birthday. You’ll make their day!

Happy Birthday, Marines! Semper Fi.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cousin Ardi?

Well, here we go again!

The banner headline reads, “Darwin could only dream of finding this!” What is “this?” It’s Ardi, short for a 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus Ramidus. By the way, Ardi is female and about four feet tall. The fossil remains of Ardi were found in the northern regions of Ethiopia in the Awash Region. Paleoanthropologists have been working in the Afar area for more than forty years. Ardi has actually been uncovered for about the past twelve years. These things do take time, you know. The old girl was in rather poor condition after all these eons of time and needed a lot of TLC. You see, she was in 125 pieces, providing the scientists quite a challenging jigsaw puzzle.

Shortly after my conversion to Christ in 1972, Dr. Richard Leaky discovered “Lucy” (Ardipithecus Afarensis) in 1974. This was another major cause for celebration by the evolutionists. One more nail in the coffin of all those God-fearing, Bible thumping, born-again types. Really? Then why is Christianity growing around the world? Perhaps Ardi will finally silence these pesky Creationists. Ummmmmm – not likely. For nearly one hundred and fifty years, evolutionists have been trying their level best to come up with the fossils that will ultimately prove the case in their favor. Remember the Scopes Trial? In Tennessee? 1926? That was supposed to be the definitive argument which would win everyone over to seeing the world through the eyes of evolution and science. Didn’t happen.

It was my distinct privilege to conduct a radio interview in 1976 at San Jose State University with the esteemed Dr. Duane Gish of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) situated in Southern California. He authored a book entitled, Evolution: The Fossils Say No. It’s a delightful read and pokes holes in the evolutionary theory, particularly regarding the so-called evidence of fossils, such as the Peking Man, the Nebraska Man, etc. All of these evolutionary fossil finds have been debunked by evolutionists themselves, which Gish substantiates in his book. One of my favorite lines used by Dr. Gish when describing the evolutionary process with tongue-in-cheek, is “From fish to Gish!” To read articles on the Ardi story, you might go to: www.icr.org.

Poor Ardi! She now finds herself lauded by the evolutionists as being in the bipedal (i.e., walking upright) chain of human development. Several problems become quickly apparent. First, she was compiled from the bones of at least thirty-five other ardipithecus bipeds. As was already mentioned, 125 bones and portions of bones were used from this mix in bringing her form together. As you may remember from your biology class in high school, the adult human body has 206 bones. So either Ardi is presumably missing a few bones, or she is far removed from our human structure and not likely to be any sort of relative. Second, her hands and feet are not designed for walking, but for climbing – straight up tree trunks. The thumb on the hands and the big toe on the foot are splayed much like a chimpanzee’s. Third, the big toe on the foot is much more a thumb than a big toe. Fourth, she is clearly missing bones in the effort to reconstruct her frame. Thus, a “best guess” approach is used to figure her figure. Go figure!

A telling comment is made by one of the experts in evolution, undermining the argument for Ardi being in the human chain. C. Owen Lovejoy, an expert in bipedality, wrote, “We can no longer rely on homologies (any similarity between characters that is due to their shared ancestors) with African apes for accounts of our origins and must turn instead to general evolutionary theory.” Oops! That’s not very scientific. To use theory, supposition and conjecture is not considered good science.

So where does all of this leave us? You will need to decide for yourselves. As for me, I have always enjoyed the magnificence of nature. To watch birds winging through the skies; trees standing solidly in place, a safe haven for birds, squirrels, and small boys who love to climb trees; the waters of a river meandering toward a lake or ocean, mesmerizing to youngsters with fishing poles in hand; people in motion all day in their endless pursuit of what might be around the corner, wondering how to make the most out of life; and the absolute awe of a baby sleeping contentedly in your arms. Now, tell me again where we came from?

The Bible states most clearly in the opening two chapters of the book of Genesis that God made a conscious choice to create everything that there is. He did this because it pleased him to do so. He made you and me in his image and likeness. That is, we think rationally; we have the ability to decide right from wrong; we are fully capable of loving and being loved; and we can choose to go against our natural instincts. Most importantly, we were made to be in relationship with God, and to worship him. At our very core, we are spiritual beings. We are going to worship someone or something. Just make sure it’s the right God. The God of the Bible.

Ardi has been gone from this earth for a while. But she knows who God is. Do you?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's the Law!

I guess one of the most inane, stupefying statements ever uttered while I was a kid, and there were many of them, was the one that went something like this: “Laws were meant to be broken.” Huh?

Now I will grant you that when our original parents, Adam and Eve were in the garden they blew it by disobeying God’s laws. To the misfortune of the human race we have continued this act of disobedience with no sign of stopping. But to suggest that we can wantonly disobey laws without suffering the consequences is nothing short of insane! No society that tolerates lawbreakers can expect to survive for very long.

Recently renowned film maker, Roman Polanski, was arrested in Europe and extradited to the United States where he is to face charges of rape and sodomy of a thirteen year old girl when he was forty-four. It is not necessary to elaborate on the sordid details of what took place other than to say Mr. Polanski is a degenerate predator who is totally out of touch with civilized society. When asked about his sordid behavior his comment was, “Why should I be in trouble? I didn’t hurt anyone. All I did was act out of my desire for a young girl.” Mr. Polanski was engaged to marry a fifteen-year-old girl just the year before his ravaging of the thirteen-year-old. In a sane and reasoned world, this man would be labeled a pedophile.

It is stunning to hear the defense of this man’s behavior. I don’t mean just from those in the Hollywood set – I’m talking about those who have called radio talk shows – and conservative shows at that! Has our nation lost its soul? Have we forgotten what morality is?

Then we are introduced to the dalliances of late-night show host, David Letterman. This man is a super star in the world of comedians and has been the most popular late night host since Johnny Carson. So when he gave his mea culpa a few nights ago the audience reaction was – laughter. That’s right. The audience laughed. Then came the defenses of Letterman. He wasn’t married when he had these flings with women who worked for him, goes one of the defenses. One problem: He has been in a conjugal relationship with the same woman since 1986, and has a five year old son with her. They married earlier this year. His wife apparently pressed him to come clean on the relationships.

Here are two men who abused their positions of power and influence to seduce children and women. In the case of Mr. Polanski, he has broken well established laws intended to protect children from predatory adults, and which is also meant to protect all members of society from those who prey on the unsuspecting. As for Mr. Letterman, he hasn’t broken any civil laws. But he has abused his power. The argument is given that he was engaged in behavior between consenting adults.

What is troubling to me is the lack of morality that seems to be so prevalent in our society today. One of these men has broken a civil law, while the other has been a boorish cad.

However, both men have violated the law – God’s law. God gave us laws long ago, which if we were to follow, we would spare ourselves enormous heartache and trouble. For most of us, the first thing that comes to mind is the Ten Commandments. If you and your neighbors were to live by these commandments, you could leave your doors unlocked, garage door open, the keys in the car, etc. Don’t scoff at this. Many of you reading this can remember a day when you grew up in such an environment. The 1950s was the last decade for many of us to enjoy the vestiges of a godly America.

The immortal words of Edmund Burke come to mind, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Together you and I can make a difference. We do not have to accept such abhorrent behavior that erodes and destroys our families and nation.

Is the soul of America worth fighting for? I believe it is. Won’t you join me in speaking out against these cancers in society? There are many more of us than you might imagine. Let your voice be heard. Let’s make a difference.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Just Do It!

Where, I ask you, is the courage in our elected leadership? I have never seen such a vacuous cluster of do-nothings and ne’er-do-wells in my life. I’m referring to the issue of the War on Terrorism and the spinelessness of our Congress to support it.

I have been watching with dismal abhorrence for the past several months while these pampered political popinjays parley over whether to send more troops to bolster the war effort in Afghanistan. They readily agree to a Stimulus Bill that presumes many trillions of dollars at the expense of the American taxpayer, but they are unwilling to vote in favor of continued support for the war effort, either in manpower or funds. This is unconscionable! These are our sons and daughters. Our husbands and wives.

I guess what really got under my skin recently on this whole issue was when Congress wanted assurances of victory. Then they might authorize more troops and money. Pardon me? Assurances? If I hadn’t heard this myself, I’m not sure I would have believed it. There are primarily three certainties in war: First, death – and lots of it! Second, destruction – and lots of it! Third, confusion – and lots of it!

Let’s start with this matter of death. The moment you begin to sling arrows at one another, people begin to die. It is inevitable. Our military takes extreme measures to avoid “civilian” casualties. Yet, in the final analysis, it is impossible to completely avoid such casualties when we are fighting against terrorists who dress in civilian clothing and mix in with crowds, or use civilians for cover knowing American soldiers will hesitate to fire when civilians are present. We have refined our weapons to such a degree that we can bomb a building from the air and only destroy that building, leaving the neighboring buildings perfectly intact. The Rules of Engagement (referred to as ROE) for our military do not permit the wanton killing of anyone, even the bad guys if they can be taken alive. This is in keeping with the basic Judeo-Christian teaching that has been a bedrock principle since our nation’s development. We value life – even the life of our enemy. This principle has certainly become highly suspect in our secular national realm – case in point: wholesale abortion. But within the military life is valued.

Now let’s look at destruction. With the types of munitions that our nation has developed over the years we are capable of destroying anything with startling precision and accuracy. What is typically destroyed in combat? Tanks, bunkers and buildings. This is where enemy military are to be found. This makes them a target. In the vernacular of military verbiage, to take out such a target is referred to as “neutralizing” the objective. Though it tends to ruffle our sensitivities, our military is designed to “kill people and break things.” It exists to do this so that you and I can live in peace, and to be free from the fear of enemies who want to kill us and destroy our nation. Here’s something I want you to think carefully about: Without question we are the strongest nation on earth, and we have the best trained military bar none, and we have the most powerful weapons known to man in our arsenal. We have nuclear weapons capable of destroying entire nations, dropped from a bomber flying higher than radar can detect. Because we have these weapons, we could very easily have dropped them on Iraq, or Afghanistan, without ever placing one soldier in harms way on the ground. So then why do we send our troops to these hellish regions of the world to face death and hardship, conditions of war long forgotten by those of us in the comfort of our homes? It is because of a moral code that is engrained in our makeup as Americans. Some of our enemies, such as Iran, would have no such code to hold them back from seeking to annihilate us along with Israel and anyone else they felt like incinerating. Just listen to the ranting of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has publicly stated numerous times that he wants to wipe Israel off the map. And the United States too. Do you doubt him?

Lastly, there is confusion. War and confusion go hand-in-hand. You can plan and strategize till the cows come home, but when the bullets start flying and the bombs and rockets are coming in bunches, most plans go right out the window. The objective then becomes one of completing the mission any way you can. If you need to take that hill from the enemy, then do it. When the dust has settled, and you have successfully won the battle, how it was accomplished may look nothing like what was planned.

We would do well to learn a little lesson from history. The bigger and more powerful army does not always win the war. We learned this sad lesson a mere forty years ago when our military was not allowed to win in Vietnam. Congress refused to continue supporting that war effort then, and it would appear we are repeating the same folly this time as well.

Is this what we want for our nation? To turn tail and run? Remember: Each time Congress pulls the rug out from under our troops, we further emasculate our military. Our enemies will see us as weak and indecisive, ripe for the picking.

So here’s a word for Congress: No more waffling on the war. Just do it!

Psalm for the Day