During my time in the Air Force, I’ve been lucky enough to lead two squadrons. Looking back, four years as a commander were some of the most stressful of my life, but also the most rewarding. It sounds cliché, but my job satisfaction really did come from making impacts on the lives of the people I worked with. A military leader can shape the wet clay that makes up young officers, and learn from some of the best senior noncommissioned officers in the business. I definitely learned from senior NCOs, in fact, I like to tell people they “raised” me; more than one of the good ones told me I had my head screwed on wrong at exactly the right times. It might have stung, but it made me a better officer as a result. I learned more from them than I ever did from the generals and colonels.
Field Marshal William Slim, who commanded a British field army in Burma during the Second World War, may not be one of Britain’s most famous warriors, but he was arguably one of its most effective. Slim turned a badly mauled British army into a formidable fighting machine, and routed a much larger Japanese army, marching victoriously into the port of Rangoon in 1945. Even more impressive is that Slim’s army operated on a shoestring budget; Burma was the least of Britain’s concerns during the war.