"Never take counsel of your fears"

  • Published
  • By Col. Richard McComb
  • Joint Base Charleston commander
In times of rapid change and uncertainty, it is human nature to get distracted and to perhaps even become fearful. With the dynamic changes occurring in the Department of Defense, some of you may be feeling somewhat rudderless in predicting what lies ahead for you as an individual and as a military professional.

The often-used quote, "Never take counsel of your fears" having been attributed to two great military leaders of the past, Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, and Gen. George S. Patton, Commander of the Third Army in Europe during World War II, still represents sage advice for our modern military leaders and those they lead. Although the nature of the challenges and uncertainty faced by "Ole' Hickory" and "Old Blood and Guts" were of a different era, I'm confident that the magnitude and complexities seemed no less daunting to them than ours may now appear to us today.

We all recognize that fear of the unknown can be distracting, but what practical advice can we give as leaders to help our military members and civilians navigate turbulence, both great and small? In short, the answer is understanding and concentrating on your mission. Leaders must be able to articulate the importance of individual and team tasks and how the completion of these tasks relate to greater mission accomplishment at the unit, higher headquarters, and eventually, the department and national levels. A clear understanding of the unit mission enhances our military members' sense of belonging to the group and helps to develop a greater sense of purpose, both key contributors to an individual's resiliency, the ability to rebound in the face of adversity.

I'm often reminded of my expeditionary command experiences, where Airmen, in these cases, were motivated by and keenly focused on the mission at hand despite the continually changing physical and political environment in which we operated. Fear and uncertainty were thankfully in short supply because our personnel were mission-focused. Why should this be any less the case in the garrison environment, including right here at Joint Base Charleston? JB Charleston is distinctive in the diversity of organizations executing missions vital to the warfighting capability of our DoD and the nation - strategic airlift, strategic sealift, Navy nuclear propulsion training and U.S. Army prepositioning stocks, just to name a few.

So, whether your job entails operating or maintaining the U.S. Air Force's largest fleet of C-17s, training Sailors for the nuclear fleet, ensuring warfighting equipment is prepositioned around the world or providing installation support to those that do all of the above, a mission focus will serve as an effective and certain guidepost in these turbulent times.

Our senior leaders at all levels have stated that we will unquestionably have to change how we operate as a department in order to remain a fiscally-sound and relevant fighting force for the future. However, to this statement they also add that our respective services and the joint team will without question continue to remain the most effective military forces in the world, due in large part to the motivation, skill and professionalism of our officer, enlisted and civilian corps.

So, do not take counsel of your fears. Instead, focus your energies on the key missions you accomplish as individuals and teams and take pride in knowing that your efforts are in fact helping to ensure both the certainty of our military and the security of our great country.