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Lick 'em Tomorrow--Never Give Up

LITTLE ROCK AFB, Ark. -- Several weeks ago at the AETC Commander's conference, we went to the Civil War battlefield at Shiloh, TN to focus on leadership. The combatants at Shiloh would not recognize the tactics and weapons of modern warfare and would be awed by the application of air power, but the leadership required to lead Airmen is just as applicable today as it was on 6-7 April 1862.

Shiloh was among the bloodiest battles in American history with over 23,700 casualties, including 3,482 dead, and resulted in more casualties than all previous American conflicts to date. On 6 April 1862, the United States forces were surprised and routed by Confederate forces near Shiloh church at Pittsburg Landing, TN. At the end of the first day, the outcome was in doubt with many Union commanders recommending retreat and many soldiers having fled the field. When discussing the day's battle with William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant acknowledged Sherman's observation that they had received the "devil's own due," but quietly stated, "Yes; we'll lick 'em tomorrow."

As a noted scholar of Shiloh stated, "This mental tenacity or 'toughness,' often described as 'moral courage,' perhaps was Grant's greatest military attribute as a commander." Grant never gave up and had the moral courage to stand by his convictions despite the distractions of his present circumstances. This lesson is relevant to all Airmen today.

Present circumstances often drag us down and cause us to lose focus on our mission or to doubt the ultimate outcome--an outcome that often depends on our commitment to never give up and stand by our convictions when things look bad. The seemingly "unwinnable" situation in Iraq in 2005-2006--Never Give Up. The decision to do what's right when peer pressure or popularity seem to dictate otherwise--Stand by Your Convictions. The low manning and TCTO issues which have driven FTU on-time graduation rates down--Never Give Up. The character to comply with standards and live our Core Values even when no one is looking and there is no personal gain--Stand by Your Convictions.

Outcomes in our personal and professional lives are often unclear and clouded by current circumstances that may seem overwhelming. Union forces swept the battlefield on the second day of Shiloh, and Grant was "rewarded" by losing his command after a controversial victory. Union victory and Grant's rise to overall commander of United States' forces were still in an uncertain future. Leadership at all levels requires the moral courage to never give up and stand by your convictions. Attitude and results follow leadership.