An Army legend spoke to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, about leadership and motivation Friday. Retired Col. Ralph Puckett, who earned a Distinguished Service Cross in Korea in 1950 and then again in Vietnam, two Silver Stars and five Purple Hearts, began the discussion with a quote from Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower: “Humility must always be the portion of any individual whose acclaim is earned by the blood of his Soldiers and the sacrifices of his friends.”
Puckett, who was part of the inaugural Ranger Hall of Fame class in 1992 and received the Doughboy Award in 2007, told the attendees this discussion was about leadership and the platoon trainer’s responsibility.
“The objective of the Basic Officers Leader Course is to prepare lieutenants to lead a rifle platoon or an Infantry platoon on a field of battle — on a field that is lethal and unforgiving,” he said. “Their job is to lead an Infantry platoon on a field of battle. Your job is so that they will be able to lead effectively. Keep that in mind, your responsibility does not go (directly) to the Soldier on the battlefield. But it goes through your second lieutenants. That will be your legacy — how well those Soldiers do on the field of battle, how well those lieutenants lead them and the job that they do will be determined in large measure by the impact that you have on them.”
Puckett said it is important to go beyond the minimal standards in everything Soldiers do.
“I think that one of the things you have to do in this course is go for higher standards — not just the standards that are required to graduate,” said Puckett, who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1949 and retired from military service after 22 years. “You don’t want to be in an equal battle on the battlefield, at least I never did. I wanted to be overpowering in anything that I could do in my unit. I didn’t want to have a fair fight — I wanted to be better than the bad guys. I always wanted to have the advantage. Your job, platoon leaders, is to prepare, motivate your students to be all that they can be.”
2nd Lt. David Roisen said Puckett’s experiences and words were inspiring to him.
“(Puckett) was fresh out of school and chosen to be company commander, which is normally reserved for a captain and he was just a second lieutenant,” Roisen said. “He’s walked the walk and that’s the big takeaway. When he talks, we listen.”