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Face of Defense: Soldier Uses History for Motivation

By Army Pfc. Andrya Hill
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan, Oct. 5, 2009 – The Army is rich in history and legacy, and most soldiers can answer questions regarding basic knowledge such as when the Army was founded. But a 25th Infantry Division noncommissioned officer here takes historical knowledge a step further to draw motivation for his daily responsibilities.

Army Staff Sgt. Tyler Fosheim, a paratrooper, considers himself a history buff. He said he uses common sense and the Army’s legacy for insight and inspiration in his NCO duties as a platoon sergeant for Company D, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.

“My great inspiration in life is probably my father and my grandfather,” he said. “My grandfather was in World War II, and [was] a very kind man. He brought home weaponry that my dad inherited: German helmets, old mortar tubes. Then my dad, he really gave me my love of history, and that’s why I wanted to join the Army. I wanted to live history, make a difference, and really find out what it’s like to be in the fight.”

Fosheim said he tries to instil an appreciation for history and Army values in his soldiers because he believes it is important to understand what America’s forefathers endured to fully grasp the Army experience.

“How can you know about the Army and how can you appreciate the Army if you don’t know the history of it?” he asked. “If you don’t know how hard your grandparents had it, and their grandparents, you can’t compare the conditions in World War II to what we have now; it’s just impossible. We can’t imagine not having a [morale, welfare, and recreation facility] and only being able to write letters, and living in a foxhole every day for a year. So I just like to impress that upon my soldiers.”

Fosheim said he draws encouragement from historical figures, and models himself after great men of the past, such as Army Gens. Douglas MacArthur and George Patton.

“They were audacious,” he said. “They basically had no regrets. They did what needed to be done to win the battles and to win the war, and sometimes they did first and asked questions later. As Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Instead of letting Congress debate the canal, I built the canal and let Congress debate me.'”

In addition to his historical motivation, Fosheim said, he has a strong understanding of the NCO Creed and strives to exceed standards.

“An NCO is someone that trains and leads soldiers, but it’s a lot more than that,” he said. “It’s someone who makes sure all their soldiers eat before them, makes sure they are taken care of. Someone who makes sure that before they move on to personal stuff like the MWR or calling mom and dad, their weapons are clean, everyone knows what’s happening during patrol, and it’s been rehearsed. [An NCO is] someone who puts the mission ahead of himself.”

Fosheim has an aggressive approach to leadership, and insists on maintaining standards and integrity. His soldiers said they were leery of him in the beginning, but have developed a healthy respect for him.

“I came to this platoon with a reputation,” Fosheim acknowledged, “because I was one of the graders at [expert infantryman badge testing] and I adhere to the standards, so people got ‘no-go’s’ at my station. A lot of them had a prior conception of me. … So, when I came here, they weren’t too happy at first, but now they see who I am, what my leadership style is, and that I’m proactive.”

Army Spc. Paul Nichols, one of the infantrymen who received a no-go from Fosheim during his EIB testing, said his opinion has changed since Fosheim became the platoon sergeant.

“It’s strange how things work out,” he said. “It’s different now that he is with us. He’s pretty on-the-ball. He knows what he is doing. He likes to spot-check people, look for mistakes, and correct them. He expects everyone to know their job and the next job up. But he is pretty cool. He’ll talk to me about family, and just how it’s going.”

Leadership styles take years to develop, and Fosheim said he has matured over his course as an NCO, learning immensely about himself in the process.

“I learned that I can have patience,” he said. “As a junior NCO -- [as] a sergeant, and especially [as] a corporal -- I was very short with soldiers. I was a loud NCO, not yelling for no reason, but when the opportunity came, I would use corrective training as a tool. I find now that I have a lot more patience, or try to.”

Fosheim balances patience and discipline with a mix of professional at-ease, allowing his soldiers to relax when not under pressure.

“I come across stern at first, but once the soldiers learn that I’m being serious when I tell them things, then we can kind of relax the atmosphere and joke around a little bit, but we always keep it professional,” he said.

At the end of the day, Fosheim said, he simply tries to lead his soldiers, inspire his fellow leaders and continue his personal development as an NCO in his quest to affect modern-day history.

“I strive to take care of my soldiers, remain tactically and technically proficient, and to mentor my NCOs to share the same values as I do: ‘Be, Know, Do,’” he said. “I lead by example. I would never ask a soldier to do something that I haven’t done myself, or that I wouldn’t do.”

Whether inspecting soldiers’ weapons and gear, teaching them something new, or challenging them with a pop question on Army history, he is constantly involved in their personal and professional development.

“He asked me the other day who the youngest president was. I didn’t know,” Nichols said. “It’s Theodore Roosevelt,” he added with a smile.

From patrols to routine missions to down time on the base, Fosheim said he hopes he can be counted on to be a steadfast leader. Through history, Army values and a desire to leave a legacy, he added, he strives to be the best NCO possible for his soldiers, for himself, and for his wife and three daughters.

“My daughters, they are everything I have to live for,” he said. “That is why I want to make the world a better place.”

(Army Pfc. Andrya Hill serves in the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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