Thursday, February 26, 2009

Into the Twilight

Attaining the grade of lieutenant colonel is often considered to be the hallmark
of a successful career, although each officer defines success differently.

DA PAM 600-3 (11 December 2007)


Having recently attained the grade of lieutenant colonel, I am generally (no pun intended) in agreement with that statement. But the later part of it did catch my attention. Is the mere attainment of a certain rank enough to say "I had a successful career"? I don't think, in my case it is.


I came very late into what I would consider my full stride as an officer. Two years as an enlisted man had given me a decent and down to Earth experience before accepting a commission. But I was still no more than an average junior officer.


Something happened somewhere between Captain and Major to open my eyes, so to speak. War. To use a sports analogy, I guess that I was more of a game day player than a practice player. Somehow I had absorbed enough through the military education system and experience to be able to do the job when it counted. My luck had it that I served with terrific examples of leadership and steady professionalism all around me too. I would have to say that I would define success for myself as having twice gone to war, and been able to come home and honestly say that I was able to accomplish what I was sent to do - when nothing in the preceding 19 years had not strongly indicated anything other than the ability to muddle through.


"More men worship the rising than the setting sun"
attributed to G. Pompieus Magnus


My sun is not set just yet, but it is starting the slide toward the horizon. Twilight approaches. I will almost assuredly not make the next rank before I retire. My number of years in the service has reached 24 and I am not the future. However, I am still the present. As I enter the twilight of my military career, I think I will be able to call it a successful one when it is all said and done.

12 Comments:

Blogger Eagle1 said...

Congrats on the silver leaves.

You "late start" is not uncommon - sometimes it takes finding the right hole for a square peg in what had been a round hole world. Sometimes it's that at a certain point, you see a bigger picture than before.

U.S. Grant and Eisenhower were late bloomers who did okay.

Thanks for your service. Be the inspiration for those who follow.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am proud to have watched your life and career. Well done soldier and son.
Dad

10:19 AM  
Blogger Inner Prop said...

Ya think?

Congrats! When is the part sir?

11:33 AM  
Blogger Inner Prop said...

The PARTY, I meant the party.

11:33 AM  
Blogger CDR Salamander said...

Well put.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

John,
Thank you for your service and congrats on your LTC. If I see you at Jeff's little gathering two months hence, I shall be proud to buy you a drink.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Brine said...

Congratulations sir, and as you've hit your stride, I hope you continue on. As with the others, when and where is the wetting down I'd be glad to buy any common sense writer a round.

4:31 PM  
Blogger BostonMaggie said...

Congratulations! When is the party?

11:56 PM  
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

1. Everyone reaches a terminal paygrade.

2. If you're not having fun, quit doing it. But if you are, why stop now?

3. The financial incentives to stay longer stop at 30 years, not 24. Until then, the annual incremental bumps in retired pay pretty well keep pace with the creep in the actuarial tables on when you're gonna die - you're not losing money by staying.

4. In these parlous economic times, the job you've got now may well be better than the job you might get on the outside (and would then spend great effort to keep).

5. It's a one-way exit.

7:34 AM  
Blogger LTC John said...

Rubber Ducky - this is not a lament, it is a reflection. I am going to stay in because I am a good (not great, but I am good) Soldier and I am doing something I feel is important. I would NEVER do this if it was a purely economic decision - that doesn't lead to very good soldiering...

7:56 AM  
Blogger Rubber Ducky said...

LTC John: as a former detailer, I've found it good to get the economic argument out of the way and let the constituent make decisions for precisely the reasons you state.

As to the good/great dimension, I though Herman Wouk best put that in context in his description of Pug McCarthy in The Winds Of War. Doing hard things well is plenty good.

FYI, I stayed for 37 years. Poet Robert Creeley describes 'a small boy's notion of doing good.' That captures it pretty well.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous virgil xenophon said...

Late to the show, here, but just this:

When I was a young 1/lt fighter pilot in Vietnam I always thought the truly "heroic" guys were guys like you, Sr LTCs pulled away from their desk or flying transports, etc., who were never going to make O-6 unless via the terminal "black bird" route, but uncomplainingly strapped on a G-suit to fly an unfamiliar aircraft in what was probably their terminal assignment (no pun intended, really) What I did as a single guy is one thing--war is made for 24-yr old fighter pilots--but I really don't know how I would have held up with a wife, kids and Grand-children and all. Those guys were almost all totally professional and gave it their best.

Got nothing but admiration for you, colonel--you're one of the long-laboring, unsung but necessary heroes that make it all possible in every era.

6:06 PM  

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