I’ve met some amazing people over the last 33 years while serving in and around the military. They came in many races and both genders. As we approach this Veteran’s Day I thought I would reflect on two of my favorites. They represent some of the best lessons and influences on me and my character.
Brigadier General John Reppert was the Defense Attaché for the Department of Defense at the US Embassy in Moscow Russia when I was posted there in 1997. General Reppert is a good, honest, and decent man who was also the very embodiment of a servant leader. General Reppert always made time to listen to those who worked for him and attempted to understand their point of view. General Reppert was also Dr. Reppert, and adjunct professor at Harvard University.
In the spring of 1997, during the height of the Kosovo bombing campaign, a delegation led by Ambassador Strobe Talbott came to Moscow for negotiations as part of cessation of hostilities between NATO and Serbia. Russia was Serbia’s sponsor and was eager to see the bombing campaign end. General Reppert chose me as the lead U.S. interpreter for this effort over several senior ranking interpreters that were available. I was honored but also puzzled why General Reppert had chosen me over other more qualified and senior interpreters.
I asked General Reppert after the visit was over why he chose me. He explained that he knew I needed confidence on higher level interpreting assignments, and even if I made a couple of mistakes this time, the experience would give me more confidence for more challenging assignments down the road. He also said he had full confidence that I would not make mistakes, and I would rise to the occasion.
What I learned from General Reppert was to have faith in your employees and be willing to take risks, even in high stakes deals. The confidence General Reppert had in me motivated me to work hard to ensure that I did not disappoint him or the U.S. government. General Reppert also taught me that when your employees respect and admire you, they will go to extraordinary lengths to make you proud.
Mr. Randy Nored was my boss when I was assigned to the US consulate Frankfurt from 2000-2003. Randy is s a retired Army warrant officer who was a great mentor and friend. I learned so many things from watching him interact with mission Germany leadership, the ambassador, and the consul general there in Frankfurt. As part of his training process, Randy would take me to meetings that I would eventually chair and ask me to observe while he led the discussions with a defined agenda. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what Randy wanted from the group and what his vision was when the meeting was over.
Next, he would ask me to lead the meeting, sitting next to me subtly guiding me on those areas that I perhaps had forgotten, or overlooked. Later, he would simply sit in the back of the room while I lead the meetings nodding in agreement when I got it right; frowning when I got it wrong. He always offered advice when the meeting was over and out of earshot of the meeting attendees on what I could have done better and commented on the body language of the attendees. What he believed I had finally mastered a task, he treated me as a fire forget weapon. One of Randy’s greatest strengths was his ability to lead without giving the feeling he was micromanaging. It was more how a coach works with a professional sports team, they do not need help with the fundamentals, and they just need motivation.
Happy Veteran’s Day to my coauthors and all those who wore their nation’s uniform and especially those who supported those of us who wore that uniform. What we did and who we became would not have been possible without the love and support we received at home. On behalf of my coauthors and other Veterans – this day is as much for you as it is for us. Thank you.