Battlefield lessons from our SOM Veterans

November 10, 2009

After nearly 3 full semesters with my classmates, I continue to be amazed with the stories and experiences they bring to Yale. Today we heard from five fellow SOMers, each of whom served in the armed forces. A member of an elite special forces unit, a Ranger school graduate and platoon leader, a research scientist, an intelligence specialist, and a logistics specialist each shared their perspectives on life in the service as well as lessons they learned while enlisted. From capturing high-value targets during special reconnaissance missions to supplying trucks and managing logistics in South Central Baghdad, from battling the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan on multiple tours of duty to developing cutting-edge satellite technology, even jumping from planes at 25k feet and tracking the movement of Kim Jong Il, the stories from our classmates were remarkable. These incredible stories of valor and service were shared with equally memorable humility. It was inspiring to say the least.Some lessons learned, both in business and in life more generally:

  • Trust and empower your subordinates, decisions are sometimes best made 'on the ground'

  • Flexibility is hugely important

  • Moral dilemmas surface in unexpected ways, answers are rarely black-and-white

  • Teamwork is fundamental in accomplishing goals large and small

  • Establishing relationships, showing you care is crucial when building trust and team cohesion

  • Effective leadership requires both proficiency and hard work

  • Attention to detail can be the difference between life and death

  • Accomplish the mission.

It is with these stories and lessons that we mark a day to salute the brave men and women who give selflessly to serve their country and the world. Thank you K.C., Vu, Harry, Christine and Alexandra.

Alexandra Minor, ’11, US Army Christine Knorring, ’11, US Air Force Harry Park, ’11, US Army Vu Ho, ’11, US Marine Corps K.C. Bennett, ’10, US Army

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Rob Howl