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Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Leadership Enhanced by Global Communication

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31, 2002 – Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has watched the military evolve over the past 35 years. During a recent interview with American Forces Press Service, Pace talked of the changes he's seen and of the changes yet to come. Here is the third in a three-part series on the general's views.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace (left), vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is congratulated by his son, Marine 2nd Lt. Pete Pace, at an Oct. 15, 2001, welcoming ceremony at Fort Myer, Va., in honor of the new vice chairman. The general is the first Marine to hold the vice chairmanship, the second-highest uniformed position in the Defense Department. DoD Photo by R. D. Ward.

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Many things in the military have changed over the past 35 years, but leadership is not one of them, according to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Leadership is still leadership, but the tools that you have available to exercise that leadership have changed," Pace said. Leadership principles have remained constant from Roman times through World Wars I and II to today, he said. "Now we have the opportunity to get our message out much faster and to many more people."

In the past, a commander would pass information to his top officers, who would then pass information down the chain of command. Today, Pace said, a lot of the military planning is done at the leadership level using video teleconferences. Instead of just a handful of officers getting the word straight from the commander, hundreds of people can now absorb the information at the same time.

"That kind of impact is huge and it can be 'huge positive' or it can be 'huge negative,' depending upon what's being said and the individual leadership style," Pace said. "If you are a caring, thoughtful leader, in addition to your immediate subordinates, the other 500 guys watching know that. If you're less than that, they know.

"Body language on a video teleconference says a lot of things," he noted. "The exact same things that have always been important (still are), but they're magnified multiple times because of the ability to hit a large audience."

Video teleconferences give commanders a "powerful ability to quickly get the word out globally, good, bad or indifferent," he said. "But leaders are still going to be judged by their professional competence, and by the way they do or don't take care of those in their charge."

The advent of the Internet and e-mail has also broadened the scope of service members' knowledge of global events.

"It is possible now for a member of a rifle platoon to get on the Internet and see what the national policies are, what the regional policies are, or the regional events that are going on and how that impacts their missions," Pace said.

"When I was in Vietnam," he recalled, "my mail took about three weeks in one direction. By the time I got it, whatever the problem was or wasn't, was already finished. Now, e-mail goes back and forth all the time."

Rather than doing business in a news-free "bubble," he said, troops today are aware not only of their immediate environment, but that of the world if they want. "The vast majority of the force is plugged in 24/7 and can, if they want, educate themselves on a vast amount of information that otherwise would not be available. It certainly was not available to me 30 years ago."

"It amazes me," Pace said, "when my son or daughter says, 'You said this.' And I ask, 'How do you know that?' and they say 'I got on the Internet and punched up your name, pushed enter and the last three articles that quoted you came up.'

"My own kids are tracking me. If (people) in the organization want to do that, they can. I think it's good. It's powerful. Knowledge is a good thing. What it means to the leaders is, that you need to make sure the messages you're putting out are the messages you want to put out."

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Related Articles:
Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Exploring New Ways of Operating
Marine Gen. Peter Pace: Witness to Change

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCoalition forces talk with U.S. Gen. Peter Pace (right), vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a refueling point at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. Photo by Lt. Andy Sullivan, USN.  
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