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This Month in NCO History: Jan. 30, 1944 — Riding a tank to victory at Bougainville

When Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post. Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.

On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.

The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation. It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.

A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring company launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions. The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded Soldiers from the neighboring unit collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover. After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and … a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”

The dire situation didn’t deter him. Drowley directed another Soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded Soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew. He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire. As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox. He was shot again, losing his left eye and was knocked to the ground.

But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well. With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment. When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.

Drowley was awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 6, 1944. After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years. In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.

“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”

Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars. He was the first Americal Soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II. While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.

Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa


Post-military employment: the final collective task

Special to the NCO Journal

More than 200,000 servicemembers are projected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to leave the active service annually through 2019. Data from the U.S. Department of Labor shows that recent veterans from 18 to 34 years of age have a higher unemployment rate than non-veterans in the same age range. Veteran hiring programs and initiatives have been shown to contain value. However, unemployment and post-military job retention problems among recent veterans persist.

Many public and private sector employers have undertaken initiatives to attract and hire veterans transitioning from active service. Ultimately, however, the primary responsibility for obtaining post-military employment rests with the individual Soldier. Thus, an NCO’s duty to care for a Soldier’s well-being is fulfilled once the individual leaves active service — or is it?

In contemplating what additional steps may help Soldiers establish productive post-military careers, NCOs may consider employing a “TripleA strategy,” where the three “A”s stand for Acceptance, Assistance and Accessibility.

A leader must first make a conscious commitment to accepting responsibility to support a Soldier entering the civilian workforce. It is purely a personal choice, but acceptance of this responsibility involves taking a proactive position, or mindset, that indicates a willingness to help the Soldier beyond mandated transition requirements.

Once a leader decides to accept responsibility to aid a transitioning Soldier, the second step requires leader assistance during the Soldier’s job-search period. The period occurs while the Soldier is in uniform. However, it is common for Soldiers to begin their job search on their own before entry into formal transition programs or after they leave the service. This aspect of the Soldier’s transition requires that the leader has a basic understanding of the civilian hiring process.

The NCO should understand that though there are differences in specific hiring procedures among private sector employers, as well as among federal and other public sector employers, the overall hiring process follows a general pattern. First, consider and identify the type of employment the Soldier desires after military service. When the Soldier shares his or her post-military employment plans with his or her leader, the leader, in turn, is better prepared to assist with and monitor key points in the hiring process.

It may be said that a Soldier’s relationship with an organization begins when the Soldier applies for the desired position, commonly through a company’s website. The individual is viewed as an applicant once their application is entered into the organization’s applicant tracking system for prescreening analysis. Depending on the system used, even highly qualified candidate applications may not make it beyond this stage of the process if the resume is not formatted to match the essential job functions of the position closely. It is vital that applicants read the position description carefully and ensure that their experience, knowledge, skills and abilities align with the specifications of the job — without copying the job description word-for-word into the resume.

Although it may initially appear as simple as uploading one’s resume, the application process often involves both uploading a formatted resume and manually entering the same resume information into specific fields on the company’s ATS. The applicant should have an electronic copy of the resume opened and be prepared to copy and paste information from it into the company’s system.

After the system has identified what its algorithm suggests are highly qualified candidates, applicants are selected for initial interviews. The interview validates information on the resume and further determines which candidates best meet the organization’s specific needs. As many Soldiers’ immediate supervisors are noncommissioned officers, the next step is where the NCO plays the most critical role: accessibility. After an interview, the remaining applicants may undergo testing, which may involve measures of aptitude, physical ability, personality and other pre-employment assessments.

Many employers also conduct background and reference checks of candidates they are interested in at this point. The leader should be accessible not only to their former Soldier but also the potential employer. Therefore, it is vital that applicants obtain and maintain accurate contact information (e.g., emails and phone numbers) of their former leaders or immediate supervisors. It is essential to establish a reach-back point of contact before transition between the Soldier and leaders who have something positive to say about the Soldier.

In the final stages of the process, companies often have narrowed the list down to a few candidates, sometimes holding a second or third round of interviews with additional company personnel present — potential supervisors or co-workers, for example — before making a conditional job offer. After the conditional offer is made, companies may sometimes require the candidate to undergo a physical exam or other post-offer assessments, making the job contingent on passing any final requirements. After that, the final offer is made. The final offer period is where many companies negotiate salary and benefits packages with the selected candidate, and presuming that there is agreement, the candidate is hired.

The current generation of veterans are the beneficiaries of unprecedented levels of collaboration between public and private sector entities in efforts to utilize the skills, knowledge and abilities that service members bring to the civilian workplace. Leaders who understand the selection and hiring processes are better able to predict where and how to assist Soldiers in their search for employment. For their part, transitioning service members who equip themselves with knowledge of civilian employment practices are better prepared to navigate paths toward obtaining the job they desire. Through effective communication between the transitioning Soldier and the leader, they can ensure that the final objective is successfully achieved.

Dale Williams is a performance consultant with a Central Texas consulting firm that specializes in providing evidence-based integrated solutions to small businesses that increase efficiency, strengthen employee knowledge and abilities, improve leadership, and attain business goals. In addition to business-related consulting, he has worked with service members pro-bono for more than 10 years on numerous aspects of transitioning into the civilian work sector.

This Month in NCO History: Dec. 19, 1899 — A significant month for two brothers

The month of December held a certain significance for the Gaujot brothers. That meaning didn’t come from holiday fervor in their native Eagle Harbor, Michigan, or because the younger Gaujot’s birthday was Dec. 12. It came from history.

Antoine August Michel Gaujot and Julien Edward Victor Gaujot are one of eight sets of brothers who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, and they are also the only siblings to receive the nation’s highest military honor for actions in separate wars. Julien Gaujot also holds the distinction of being the only Soldier to be awarded the medal for actions of a peacekeeping nature.

During a skirmish April 13, 1911, along the Southwestern U.S. border between Mexican government troops and rebel forces, stray bullets caused American casualties in Douglas, Arizona. Julien Gaujot, at the time a captain with K Troop, 1st U.S. Cavalry, bravely rode through the field of fire into Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora. He was to obtain permission from the rebel commander to receive the surrender of the surrounded federal forces, together with five American prisoners, and escort them to the American border. Gaujot succeeded and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Howard Taft during a ceremony at the White House in December 1912.

The honor came 13 years after Antoine Gaujot’s gallantry while an NCO during the Philippine-American War. The younger Gaujot was a corporal in M Company, 27th Infantry, U.S. Volunteers. On Dec. 18, 1899, the unit joined with others to follow Maj. Gen. Harry W. Lawton along the Marikina River toward San Mateo in the present-day province of Rizal. The American forces were on a punitive expedition, hunting for Brig. Gen. Pio del Pilar’s force of 1,000 troops, who had attacked the Marikina waterworks and the Manila wagon road to the north.

The following day, the forces made for San Mateo, approaching the Filipinos in the early morning hours as rain fell in torrents. As they neared San Mateo, they came under enemy fire from the Morong Command battalion led by Gen. Licerio Geronimo. The Filipinos forced Lawton’s Soldiers — Antoine Gaujot among them — to scramble for cover in the surrounding rice fields. Lawton walked up and down the line, rallying his men as they regrouped when he was shot by a sniper. He became the highest-ranking American commander to die in the Philippine conflict.

With their leader gone and unrelenting enemy fire peppering the paddies around them, the situation seemed bleak. The Americans also had to deal with the monsoon conditions that quickly made the river they were walking along nearly impassable. That’s when Gaujot leaped into action. According to his citation, “he made persistent effort under heavy enemy rifle fire to locate a ford in order to help his unit cross the swollen river to attack.”

Gaujot was unable to locate a safe passage. So he and another NCO, Sgt. Edward H. Gibson, made the fateful decision to swim across the rapidly rising river “under fire and against a dangerous current.” Upon reaching the northern shore of the Marikina, the two men located a canoe that belonged to the enemy and returned with it to the friendly side of the river. The seemingly innocuous effort to keep enemy forces from reaching their position would prove fruitful.

As rifle fire from the Filipino side subsided intermittently, American forces were able to use the canoe to move north. Eventually, the entire American contingent materialized on the enemy side of the river nearly six hours after first encountering resistance. Filipino forces, weary from inflicting minimal casualties after seemingly having the upper hand in the fight, retreated. They were eventually driven from San Mateo by the galvanized American force.

Antoine Gaujot and Edward Gibson were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. Gaujot received his medal in February 1911 via registered mail. The hardware drew the admiration of his older brother.

“He wears it for watch fob, the damn civilian,” Julien Gaujot jabbed at his brother after the medal was issued. “I got to get me one them things for myself if I bust.”

Two months later, Julien was involved in the action that would earn him his medal during another celebratory December nearly two years later.

After his time in the Philippines, Antoine Gaujot was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard and saw service during the Mexican Border Crisis and in France during World War I. He died April 14, 1936, at age 57 in Williamson, West Virginia. He was buried in the city’s Fairview Cemetery.

Julien Gaujot retired from the Army in 1934 with the rank of colonel. He worked as a firefighter and a civil engineer. He died April 7, 1938, in Williamson. He was 63. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

The brothers both attended Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. A cenotaph at the university’s War Memorial Court bears their names along with the five other alumni who were awarded the Medal of Honor.

— Compiled by Pablo Villa


Keeping the standards on APFT

Special to the NCO Journal

The following is a editorial submitted to the NCO Journal. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the positions of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense or the U.S. government.

“Now, an army is a team. It lives, eats, sleeps, fights as a team. This individuality heroic stuff is a bunch of crap.” — George S. Patton Jr.

I read with keen interest the NCO Journal article by Maj. Jeff Jager and Aaron Kennedy, published Oct. 26. Several important “sweeping generalizations” from Soldiers and the article, “Is Physical Fitness Overvalued in the Army?” came to light.

  1. “Acceptable fitness is possessing the physical strength, endurance and mental toughness to overcome the stress of harsh, austere environments, as well as the physically demanding tasks associated with full-spectrum combat operations.”
  2. “Well, I think the purpose should be to gauge a Soldier’s ability to perform his or her job in combat. But in reality the Army PT test is more about ease of administration, maintaining appearance — a very narrow subjective view on what it means to be physically fit.”
  3. “The APFT is a horrible metric, and there is too much stock placed in it. Neither the pushup or situp has ever helped me out in combat, and although I can run sub 13-minute 2-mile, I am certain I will never outrun any caliber of round. The APFT does not translate and cannot assess a Soldier’s ability to fight and win in combat.”
  4. “The subjectively defined ‘physical fitness’ has resulted in disproportionate focus on ensuring that Soldiers are able to pass APFTs … This disproportionate focus has created an approach to physical readiness training in which individuals and units ‘train for the test’ instead of ‘training how we fight.’”

I believe that comments such as these reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of what the APFT is for, how physical fitness fits in with overall training and how a comprehensive approach to standards-based training is part of unit readiness.

The objective of Army Physical Readiness Training is to enhance combat readiness and leadership effectiveness by developing and sustaining a high level of physical readiness in Soldiers as measured by strength, endurance, mobility, body composition standards, healthy lifestyle, warrior ethos and self-discipline. As outlined in the index G-9, AR 350-1, the objective is never listed as an individual goal; rather, all physical readiness training has as its fundamental objective to enhance combat readiness.

In this context, let me posit a sweeping generalization of my own: Any unit may rise to have a small percentage of their Soldiers get over 290, or even 300, on their PT test. We see this in the Army all the time when small unit leaders/commanders set up some arbitrary or capricious APFT standard, and we usually high-five ourselves as our PT studs finish running a sub-13-minute 2-mile run. But this exceeding the standard is meaningless to overall readiness of a platoon or company, because in many of these same units we see a significant percentage of Soldiers who cannot pass the minimum APFT standard. What we should be celebrating is the company command team that consistently gets 100 percent of its Soldiers to pass the APFT. And though accomplishing this standard is impressive, it is fundamentally part of a much bigger standard.

The higher standard is the overall readiness, which is outlined by hundreds of different “readiness” standards. Show me a platoon, company or battalion that consistently meets “every” standard, and I’ll show you the best unit in the Army. Said another way, show me a unit who is a flash-in-the-pan PT stud unit, and I’ll show you the same unit that consistently fails to meet medical readiness, vehicle/equipment readiness, property accountability readiness, crew/collective training readiness or a host of other critically identified Army readiness standards.

In a sense, this discussion, the surveys and article on APFT becomes a very shallow discussion if not taken in context with what Gen. Mark Milley, the chief of staff of the Army, has been hammering home to our Army for more than a year. Readiness is much broader than an individual APFT; it is a part of a collective and comprehensive view toward physical, social, spiritual, emotional and family resiliency for individuals.

But more importantly, standards outlined principally in AR 350-1 are not designed for individual Soldier fitness, but rather for Army organizational readiness. Every unit commander/first sergeant team in the Army today is busy and simply must risk compromising some aspects of training standards to best meet its readiness mission.

Finally, the authors conclude the article with a superb recommendation about the misplaced focus on high APFT scores and how this has turned selection and promotion boards and process into a breeding ground that places an overemphasis on PT at the expense of leadership and intelligence. To that I say, “Spot on.” A true test of intelligence and leadership at all levels is how creative, adaptive and inspirational leaders balance getting after the top goal — readiness.

Show me the leaders at any level who can meet all of the standards rather than a handful of arbitrary standards, and I’ll show you a command team that is truly ready.

Retired Col. Michael C. Sevcik served in the Army for more than 30 years and has commanded at the company, battalion and brigade level. He teaches at the Army’s School for Command Preparation, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Cyber’s impact on military strategy

782nd Military Intelligence Battalion

Within America’s military “cyber” has held status as a powerful buzzword for many years. At all levels of military planning and operations, leaders of units have tried to get a piece of the cyber pie and integrate its concepts into their operations. One of the central questions that has persisted around cyber is how and to what extent will cyber conflict require a reconsideration of strategy. The military exists largely in two broad areas: the strategic level of long-term and large-scale planning, and the tactical level of smaller-scale, short-term operations. Cyber will undoubtedly have an effect on both of these operational domains.

When examining both domains, cyber’s effect on strategy can be examined from a short-term and long-term perspective. The military’s strategic level deals with long-term plans crafted at high levels of leadership. Strategic plans tend to address questions dealing with conducting entire war campaigns. From this perspective, in the short term, new cyber capabilities will require little reconsideration of the basic strategies the military employs. The Department of Defense’s mission is overall national defense, primarily from foreign adversaries. That has not and will not change. Even in the 2015 release of the DOD’s cyber strategy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter compared challenges posed by cyber to old Cold War challenges. The reason for this is that, initially, new technology is viewed from the perspective of what is familiar to the user. The military as a whole simply took cyber and used it to optimize its existing strategies and methods. Cyber has been used in new avenues of foreign intelligence, it gives commanders new ways to view battlefields and it has been integrated into weapons systems. But the base strategies the military employs have yet to really change. The most notable short-term change comes from the military’s job to defend the United States. In the past, attacks on U.S. soil and U.S. infrastructure the military needed to respond to were few and far between, with 9/11 and Pearl Harbor being prominent instances. But with the ever-increasing worldwide connectivity in the digital age, American infrastructure, government and industry are constantly open to attack from foreign entities and governments. The result is that for some military components, actively defending the United States is a full-time job.

Long-term changes, on the other hand, have the possibility of prompting a massive change to military strategy. The world has already seen hints of possible cyber strategy for the future. Between 2011 and 2013, Iran initiated cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure, including banks, dams and educational institutions. Although the attacks were minimized, they showed the potential for damage to the nation. One bank, Zions Bancoporation, lost more than $400,000 while its website was down for only two hours. If larger institutions or a large number of financial institutions were targeted for long periods of time, the financial damage could be upward of millions or billions of dollars. Iran targeted infrastructure that could cause physical damage as well. The Bowman Avenue Dam in New York was breached by Iran hackers to the point where they could have controlled sluice gates that hold back water. Luckily, the controls had been manually disconnected for maintenance around the same time, which prevented the Iranian hackers from actually having control over the dam. More devastating cyber attacks were seen in 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War. Russian cyber attacks were coordinated with the Russian invasion of Georgia. As the Russians advanced into the country and fighting ramped up, so did the cyber campaign. Given that it was 2008 and Georgia had a relatively basic technology infrastructure, the Russian attacks were mainly designed to cause confusion during their ground campaign. But given the current situation in the Ukraine, the Russo-Georgian War seems to provide warnings when examined in hindsight. The question for the future is how advanced and efficient these techniques can become. Will we see the capability to shut down entire power grids, communication structures, water systems or dams? If so, and if we do not maintain the ability to defend them, the devastation from such cyber attacks could start and end wars before any ground troops are deployed or kinetic weapons are fired. At the very least, cyber capabilities will become more integrated into strategic plans as the world continues to become more reliant on technology and digital communications.

The tactical side of the equation is relatively stable. In the short term, the strategies employed by ground troops in their operations will remain the same, while new cyber-based capabilities are employed to support those operations. One of the most visible integrations we see today is the ability to quickly and accurately locate targets. Especially given the often chaotic state of urban warfare — where a mix of friendly, hostile and neutral elements are all intermixed — the ability to quickly and accurately characterize all three groups is vital. In reality, the military has been integrating these capabilities into ground operations for a while, but incorporating them into the everyday unit on a large scale is the new challenge. In October of 2015, the Army tested these capabilities on a large scale with a cyber validation exercise that occurred at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade provided cyber capability support to the 2-2 Infantry Division and the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade. Traditional military units were able to provide adequate support and protection to the cyber elements that aided in target identification and verification. This type of cyber support is used in many other instances, such as drone targeting, and has been used not only for identification of high-value targets but has also aided in identifying and tracking hostages. None of these ideas or strategies are really new, but cyber is accomplishing them in new ways and, at times, accomplishes them more accurately, making ground troops’ job easier and safer.

Long-term changes are dependent on the type of technological changes that occur in the future. The drone program has become one of the most visible — and for some, the most concerning — use of modern technology in military operations. Currently, the drones are just planes with no physical cockpit, and the actual act of targeting and firing upon targets is controlled by humans. But many are already talking about the possibility of letting drones be fully controlled by computers. These drones would draw on intelligence sources, verify targets, make decisions about risk and decide whether to fire, all without a human’s direct input. These weapons are actually pretty easy to make and have been made already. The questions about implementing these into normal everyday operations come down more to ethics than capability. Should computers be deciding who dies? Are computer databases of laws and treaties good enough for a computer to cross-reference and then decide if international law can be breached? Who is accountable if the computer makes a mistake? At this point, the consensus is that this is a terrible idea. An open letter was presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in 2015 warning of the dangers of weapons under the control of artificial intelligence. This letter was endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and more than 40 robotics researchers from around the world.  Even the DOD decided to address this topic years ago with DOD Directive 3000.09, which stipulates that all weapons systems must be designed to have “appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” From this, it seems that in the future, cyber will not replace or eliminate the need for human ground troops. How extensively cyber gets integrated with tactical operations has yet to be seen.

Cyber, like all new forms of technology, has affected all aspects of our lives, and the military is not immune from its influence. Computer technology has been integrated into the lives of everyone from the commander in chief all the way down to the enlisted Soldier on a patrol. How far this integration goes in the future is really up to the imagination of technology inventors and innovators. For now, cyber seeks to make the lives of Soldiers easier, more efficient and safer.

U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)