In the back of my mind, I can hear Drill Sergeant Grant yelling at me for the hundredth time, “Jesus Christ Freeman! You have to take ownership of your puke!” As a newly minted private in the United States Army, I kept missing the concept. Maybe it was the constant reference to vomit, but I was not understanding what he was trying to teach me. Finally, one day as we were preparing to graduate, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Ownership, as the military would refer to it encompassed all parts of life.

Puke on the other hand refers to speech, and actions. If I haul off and punch someone in the teeth, and then make an excuse, I am justifying my puke. Likewise, ownership is when I state the reason that I punched said individual in the teeth was because I felt like it. In my own life, I have had to take ownership of choices that I have made. Mistakes that have occurred due to my choices. Given the colorful lingo of military members, it is easy to misunderstand the simple concept of ownership.

It can be very uncomfortable when you take ownership. I remember when I first moved to Germany, I was placed in a horrible unit. I had never refueled an Apache helicopter before, and I was still learning the ropes when I made Sergeant. Now, cue a green leader trying to learn his new job, and task them with leading others. It was a horrific nightmare. I backed up a truck one night without a ground guide, to transfer fuel and ran smack into another truck.  My actions caused millions of dollars worth of damage due to impatience. After receiving numerous verbal assaults on my character, my platoon sergeant came out and sat on the berm with me.

When I first made Sergeant he told me the secret to leadership is this: Make a decision. As we sat on that berm under a German moon, he chuckled and said, “Well son, you made a decision. It wasn’t the right one, but you are on your way to learning how to be a leader.” Many decisions has been made since this happened, not all of them good or smart, but the best lessons in life is learned through trial and error. The key to anything is often very simple. Make a decision and go with it. Y’all take care.

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