Today – the 68th anniversary of the WW II D-Day invasion of Normandy – a group of elite Civil Air Patrol cadets will be learning about the important leadership decisions that took place that day. It is part of the case study program about leadership that I developed called "One Man Makes A Difference" for CAP’s annual Advanced Training Flight, being held this week at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Albany, Georgia.
I created the program about seven years ago, using historical examples such as D-Day to help the CAP cadets learn about the decisions that determined how history was made, and the impact of the individuals who made them. D-Day was our challenge against the Axis powers, Fortress Europe, in our fight against tyranny. In addition to understanding the battlefield, the tactics and the strategies, the decisions also expressed the value of life and freedom, and the sacrifices those leaders and those service members were willing to make to maintain that freedom. How many people today are willing to charge a machine gun nest? I think that list is very short. I wasn’t there for D-Day, but I have been under enemy fire and I have a greater value of life and cherish life because of it. The case studies help the cadets understand that our values in life can be seen reflected in those who have sacrificed their lives for us.
This competitive program is limited to the top 20 cadet applicants statewide, and now they find themselves in the same classroom and the same barracks, these kids who fought for this position to be in ATF are now fighting to be in the top 3% of the class. At the end of the day with these cadets, I’m impressed that they’re grasping it, and recognizing the importance of their grasping it. Each leadership problem requires a different approach and solution, and their teamwork is exemplary – they’re learning the tactics, project leadership, and how to set the example – and when they get back home, they will be able use this example as part of their own leadership skills. They are going to have the advantage in life because of what they are learning, an edge over other kids their age – because they’re not sitting at home playing video games or entertaining themselves. These young men and women are studying for success, and they will be the individuals who make a difference.
Some people wonder if they ever make a difference in life, and others go out and make a difference. After this case study, the ATF cadets will know who made a difference, and whose example gave us the traditional values that we celebrate today. Learning about the sacrifices of the generation prior to us shows not only a commitment but a goal. Talking about it, learning about it, and listening to the response of the youth to historical events, current events, and their dreams shows an entirely different perspective. The generations are changing, and we need different perspectives to be able to strategize our goals for the future. And while our priorities may be different in the years ahead, we shall not forget their leadership and their sacrifices for all of us.