Essayons!

#BranchSeries - Engineer, By Captain Dan Keyser

Why the Engineer Corps?

The U.S. Army Engineer Regimental motto is Essayons! It is French for, “Let us try”. This isn’t a sympathetic, half-hearted try. It’s a statement of confidence as almost if to say, where others failed, we will succeed. I wanted to be an Engineer because I wanted to succeed where others hadn’t yet. I wanted a diverse mission set that required me to be physically fit and mentally sharp. The Engineer Corps offered it all.

This is the sixth of 14 posts in #BranchSeries. To start back at the introduction, click HERE. The Company Leader and Lopez on Leadership are teaming up to bring you 14 Video Interviews with Colonels and 14 Articles from Captains and Majors, all covering 14 Branches. Stay tuned!

The Engineer Regiment has wartime and peacetime missions that appealed to me. They have forced me to continue to grow as well as maintain my physical and mental edge. I wanted to ruck up for miles and lie in the mud with my infantry siblings, but I also wanted to play with explosives and heavy equipment on a regular basis. I wanted a chance to work on construction projects ranging from small tent pads to billion-dollar capital construction projects.

Leading in the Engineer Corps gave, and still gives, me the opportunity to do all that and more. I’ve served alongside some brilliant, passionate and tough-as-woodpecker-lips Sappers and worked with professional engineers who rival the Wright Brothers in their problem solving, ingenuity and fashion sense.

#1 Leadership Tip – This Isn’t About You

This isn’t about you. Everything that you will do as a leader is about your Soldiers. Praise for a job well done belongs to the Soldiers and the inevitable butt-chewing, when fecal matter hits the rotating oscillator, belongs to you. Going through the Sapper Leader Course, you are reminded that you will not earn your own tab, you’ll help your teammates earn theirs and they’ll help you earn yours. When you are feeling sorry for yourself, remember this isn’t about you.

Advice to Cadets

Never forget that you are human and those Soldiers you will lead are also human. Soldiers and leaders will let you down; do not let the shortcomings of others discourage you. You are joining a noble profession and a storied Regiment. Are you adding to the story or taking away?

Expectations of Junior Leaders

  • Engage your brain and be willing to make mistakes, so long as you learn and don’t make the same mistake twice.
  • Talk with and know your Soldiers. This doesn’t mean you’re their friend or pal, you are their leader. You need to know what makes them tick and they need to know that you aren’t just a college kid with a gold or silver bar on your chest. Good leaders can get Soldiers to mow the grass. Great leaders can get Soldiers to take pride in how the grass looks.
  • Work with your peers, not against them. Healthy competition brings out the best in everyone and only makes the unit better. Spot-light seekers are only out for themselves and your superiors and subordinates know the difference, see previous #1 leadership tip.
  • Learn, know and talk doctrine. Its great to be high-speed, low-drag with all of the badges and tabs the Army has to offer, but they don’t mean squat unless you are grounded in doctrine and brilliant in the basics. The sooner you learn, know and can talk doctrine, the sooner you’ll have a seat at the big kids table.

Final Thoughts

  • Enjoy your time with Soldiers. The day you regret having to stand in PT formation at 0630 is the day you need to step back and remember, this isn’t about you. It’s about the men and women who are looking to you for leadership and guidance.
  • Stay physically ready for the fight. Have something other than the Army’s PT standard to measure yourself against, Military Athlete’s Operator Ugly, CrossFit named WODs/Hero WODs, Strength Competitions, etc. The Army’s PT standard is the bare minimum of what is expected of you as a leader. Train your body for the rigors of extended ground combat, your Soldiers lives and your own will one day depend on it.
  • Finally, keep learning, improving and growing every day. Soldiers deserve your best and you’ve got a long way to go before you are the best version of yourself.

The Mission of the U.S. Army Engineer Corps is “to provide vital public engineering services in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy, and reduce risks from disasters”. If that sounds like a mission you want to accomplish with Soldiers you want to serve, join us in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Captain Dan Keyser is an Active Duty Engineer Officer with leadership and staff experiences at the tactical and operational levels. He is passionate about coffee, individual development, physical training and home brewing, in that order.

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