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Leaders eat last

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Tx. -- I recently read a book by the author Simon Sinek entitled "Leaders Eat Last" and as you might expect, the title is based on the military tradition of serving food to the most junior before the most senior. The motivation behind this simple act, which often just happens, is based on a servant leadership approach. Military leaders expect to eat last based on their willingness to put the needs of others above their own. It doesn't stop with food. I would suggest that great leaders at all levels (military and civilian) truly care about those they have the privilege to lead. This got me thinking about why we exist at METC and our mission and vision statement, which must evolve with the environment for maximum relevance.

Does METC exist solely for the benefits of co-location and consolidation, which ultimately saves money and fulfills BRAC law? Although I appreciate the importance of these benefits, I would hope that is not the 'final answer'. An even more important question involves why each of us chooses to serve and for those in uniform, potentially lay down your life to complete the mission. For me, the answer was best summed up during my deployment to Iraq in 2006. We are all a part of something much bigger than any one person, and we are often successful because of one thing...TRUST. Warriors trust that those fighting beside them will not leave them behind regardless of how dire the situation may be. If injured, our warfighters also trust that medics will be there to save their lives and do everything possible so they can return home to their loved ones. That's what we do. That's our culture. 

I would argue that medics are the ultimate servant leaders whose reason for being is the needs of their patient. This applies to all members of the medical team from the emergency room to the logistics warehouse. That means the METC mission is not just teaching and knowing your craft, which is important. METC is also about something more, something more we can be proud of and make clear to all.  METC is about our services' storied culture of service (eating last) that everyone trusts when they go into harm's way. METC is directly responsible for transmitting this culture to future generations of medics that will serve in a variety of disciplines anywhere our nation trusts them to serve. That gets me back to the answer to my original question, why does METC exist. We exist to train medics from all services to complete their military mission and to serve. Our service culture can't be switched off like a light or left on the tarmac. No, it stays with us long after our military service.  It stays for a lifetime. That is why it is important for us to understand that we are actually educating future servant leaders for a lifetime of service. That service is not only to our nation while in uniform, but ideally even after taking off the cloth of our country in service to wherever you may call home. This final point is why I believe it is critical to develop academic affiliations with other institutions of higher learning that may allow our graduates to walk away with degrees and certifications that will allow them to practice their craft in the civilian world at some future date. This expertise is much needed throughout our country and is another reason why METC exists, even if not appreciated by all at present. We can do both and are working hard to make this vision a reality. More on that topic in a future article.

In summary, I believe our mission is clear...to "Train the World's Finest Medics, Corpsmen and Technicians", but we need a new vision statement, one that sees a little farther and a little more clearly. That is the following: "Train for the mission...Educate for a lifetime of service" to our nation, her people, and the communities we call home. That is who we are and why we exist, our culture, both at METC and at the DHA Education & Training Directorate as this noble task applies to both officers and enlisted. We eat last together, like the family we are. Although I understand we have problems to solve and are lacking staff in certain critical areas, it is the challenge we have been given. This is not a competition between services or siblings, although it may feel like that at times. To be honest, I often think about how much easier this would be to accomplish if we were doing this in a deployed setting where trust is ever present. So there you have it. The key to the success of our organization gets back to one thing... TRUST in our services' storied culture of service. 

We must instill trust in those we have the privilege of supporting and those we are training, because we care and believe in our mission and vision. Be proud of what you do, your culture, and your role in the process of creating future servant leaders. Getting back to the book that resulted in my writing this article, be inspired to "always eat last" and having the privilege to serve. When asked what you do at METC be proud to state that at METC, we "Train for the mission...Educate for a lifetime!"