My family and I returned to the US last summer after we spent a year in Ireland as I attended the Irish command and staff course. Since coming back I have thought about the lessons I learned while there. In the course we studied the interaction of leadership, strategy, and operational planning. Recognizing that I did not have to go to Ireland to take those classes, the value of that year went well beyond my time in a classroom. From my time in Ireland I learned the importance of three things:
- Political awareness
- Understanding strategic impacts
- International partnerships
The lesson of political awareness became apparent to me because the US 2016 Presidental Primary campaigns took place during our time in Ireland. Each morning I was sure to get a question from any one of my classmates about the latest news on the candidates. Many of the questions were based on the candidate’s position and contained a strong understanding of the running platform. I found the level of interest in our political system intriguing. By the end of the course we had attended lectures from some of the Irish government officials to include directors of the departments of energy, health, police, and the chief of staff of the armed forces and at these lectures I recognized the level of knowledge my classmates had about their own national political issues. They all understood the details and the impacts of the decisions that their political leaders made. I originally thought it was a result of their positions in the military. However, one day Pat, our delivery man, pulled up a chair in our kitchen after finishing unloading his crate to talk politics. Unlike my classmates, his job was not tied directly to the political environment. It was at that point that I started to notice that most people in Ireland not only understand, but actively engage in, politics. I take their natural level of interest in politics as a challenge to fully understand the impacts of my voting decisions.
The impact the daily decisions a leader at any level can have on high level strategy was emphasized through the deployment experiences of my classmates and instructors. Based on the size of the Irish military and the national strategy, many deployments consist of units operating as small detatchments. This allows them to spread their influence throughout the world. Based on this strategy, the leaders become national representatives when they are forward and their decisions and actions have an immense impact on how the nation is viewed within the international community. Because these leaders have a good understanding of their impact, it allows Ireland to continue as a longtimeactive supporter of United Nations operations.
Another theme that I picked up throughout the year was the value that is placed on international partnerships. I mentioned the level of participation that the Irish have within the UN and how they are able to extend their influence to many areas in need but it does not reflect how well each of my classmates understood the need for working together at even the lowest levels. When we discussed some of their deployments and their ability to accomplish their mission, I often found that many of them had stories of working with the local village and tribal leaders. I also found that many of their deployments are truly multi-national in that they are working in a foreign country for a direct supervisor from a third country under a mission receiving logistics support by a fourth. While talking to them, I learned that when faced with problems they needed to be able to work with people from all over the world to solve it. I know that those lessons resulted from relationships that were not just superficial but were rooted deeply in a mutual desire for overall betterment.
What actions are you taking today that may have strategic impacts tomorrow?