The Journey of Military Spouses

Military spouses do more than just hold the fort down while their husbands and wives are away, sometimes for months at a time; they uniquely serve as ground anchors for their service member spouses, providing those leaders the unhindered ability to give their full attention to serving our country. A solid, happy marriage—one of the many qualities these six authors have in common—can make the difference between a distracted, unhappy individual and a focused, positive leader. The six of us knew from the beginning of our spouses’ military careers what sacrifices would be required, and we willingly took on the responsibility. After all, we love our country, too. It was a profound honor to support our spouses as they rose to become leaders in the U.S. Armed Forces.

What did we do to support them? We loved them, prayed for them, encouraged them, understood their difficult schedules, saw moving every few years as an adventure, learned how to be independent, kept busy and happy, tried not to complain or be demanding, attended hundreds of receptions and conferences cheerfully, and, of course, did the lion’s share of household management and child rearing. We also made sure they knew how proud we were of them.

That’s not to say we were always model spouses. We’re as human as anyone, and military life was often difficult and a burden. Even homecomings weren’t always a honeymoon: when your spouse comes home after a yearlong deployment, he or she might forget that you’ve been the one in charge. You’ve been the one getting the brakes fixed, changing the swamp-cooler motor on the roof, attending the kids’ school meetings, helping with homework and science fair projects, doing the taxes, mowing the lawn, cleaning up kid vomit and baby poop, taking the pets to the vet, putting up the Christmas tree, and doing all the shopping—and suddenly they think they’re the boss, and they’re disrupting your finely tuned schedule. It’s tough to assimilate back into home life—for both spouses. We had to speak our minds honestly, but also be kind. The one at home and the one deployed had both had it hard, and we needed to communicate and understand each other. There was no room for resentment.

It has been an honor and a privilege to watch our spouses reach the highest enlisted levels in the military, knowing that we’ve been an integral part of their journey. Supporting our spouses and helping them become the leaders they are today has been our unique way of serving our countr

Are Great Leaders Born or Made?

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Collectively our group is very proud to have had careers as enlisted Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen.  Enlisted personnel comprise over 81 percent of the armed forces of the United States.  Enlisted people are generally the “doers” of the force and we are all very happy to have played a role in the greatest military the world has ever seen.

Make no mistake however, in any organization good leadership is needed at every level.  When we joined the military our roles were initially as followers.  It was not long until we all led small groups which then evolved into larger and larger groups.  As “doers” our early focus was largely tactical but as we conducted actual operations,  gained experience and played a role in senior leadership our focus moved to a strategic leadership level.

In all cases we learned from our experience and used that experience to inform our leadership roles as we moved higher and higher in our respective organizations.

So… while some people may have innate personalities that make some leadership tasks easier the fact is that leadership is really learned through experience, from senior mentors and over time.  It is our hope that Breaching the Summit can provide some ideas that will help you in your leadership task.

We’ve Made the Jump!

We are excited about this book!  After military retirement all of us have successfully made the transition to the civilian world but most of us have never tried anything like this.  Writing this book has been a tremendous experience.  It has caused each of us to reflect deeply on our military service and experiences and identify what leadership practices worked… and what did not.  It has been a humbling yet amazingly profound experience.

We would like you to join us on this journey by not only reading the book but reflecting on your own experiences and how the principles outlined in this volume might apply to you and your world of work.  Use “Breaching the Summit” as a journal and mark it up with your own thoughts and experiences….  And most importantly pass it on to those you lead.  This book shows that the leadership principles that we learned in the military are universal and will improve the performance of any individual or team…. military or not who have the honor and obligation of leading others.