Basic Camp

Getting to a Position of Relative Advantage: Gen. Perkins on Effective Leadership

By Mariyah Wojcik

Gen. Perkins explains the importance of leadership doctrine to cadets from CLC Regiment 10 and CIET Reigment 9. U.S. Army Photo by Connie Lee.

FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY (August 10, 2015) – In one simple, humble act, it is possible for a four-star General to change an entire audience’s paradigm of how the U.S. Army is exceptional. No orders or signatures required, Gen. David G. Perkins, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), removed his Velcro rank from his chest and placed it upon a cadet.

More than a comical surprise, this action symbolized the reality of an officer’s dedication to the Army, as all would be willing to start from the bottom of the rank structure once again if it meant being a part of the greatest profession of this nation.

“The U.S. Army is a leader-centric command organization,” said Perkins. “It’s all about you. People say leadership is not all about ‘you’ but it is all about you. You are the point of failure or success if you are a leader in the U.S. Army because we are banking everything on you. Not tanks, not Apaches, not artillery pieces. We will give you those to enable you to get to a position of relative advantage, but we are putting all the rocks in the leader’s rucksack.”

Cadet Roman temporarily receives Gen. Perkins rank as an example of the dedication of U.S. Army Officers. U.S. Army Photo by Connie Lee.


Reading doctrine manuals may not be the favorite pastime of most Soldiers, but many in the audience agreed that Perkins’ explanations of the main topics covered allowed the rhetoric to lift off the page and become a part of their lives as never before.


“I learned that in order to be a successful commander you have to empower others instead of just telling them to do something,” said Cadet Jordan Noffsinger from Missouri State University. “That is the best way to get work done. There is a hierarchy structure to the Army, but if you work together from the bottom up, that is how success is made.”

Similarly, Cadet Jacob Jasewicz of Norwich University found that his understanding of what it truly means to be a leader has increased dramatically.

“Everybody needs to work together to accomplish the mission,” said Jasewicz. “I know we’ve discussed mission command as a concept in class before, but honestly I didn’t really fully understand it until this talk.”

Perkins began his career at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and most recently served as the Commanding General of the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas before taking his current position at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.

Gen. Perkins explains the pillars of effective leadership. U.S. Army photo by Connie Lee.


“You’ve got to come up with the skill sets to figure out how you can inform and influence people that aren’t even in your organization,” said Perkins. “You know one of the ways to do it? You describe your visualization of the problem in a way that resonates with them so that they have a common understanding of the problem. You want them to say that your visualization seems to be in synch with their understanding of the problem in order to be successful.”

Although Perkins has many glittering achievements to display as a result of his actions during his 35 year career, the future of the Army he sees before him makes him swell with pride. In the Army, where seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative is everything, the future army officers of ROTC Cadet Summer Training (CST) are well equipped to tackle all challenges that lay before them.


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Mariyah Wojcik

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