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[from Chapter 1]

I grew up as an army brat. And so, long before I “officially” became a soldier, I always saw the infantry whenever I thought of the Army. My father was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army when I was two years old. So, ever since the age of two, I have always had a relationship with the Army. No other institution has had more impact on my life than the Army. I owe my very existence to the Army as the vehicle that brought my parents together from very different backgrounds. My parents met at Fort Hood, Texas in 1958, and that is where they married in 1961. My mother, Luz Maria Serrano-Fonseca, worked at Darnall Army Medical Center and my father, Allen Anthony Baumann, was an Army legal clerk. Both were enlistees in the Army. In 1961, they married and left the Army after finishing their enlistments. My father took his Puerto Rican wife north to his home in southwest Minnesota. That’s where my sister, brother, and I were born. We’re from a small rural town called Olivia, Minnesota.

My father returned to the Army in 1964 as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery. He earned a National Guard commission through the Minnesota Military Academy, and branch transferred to Infantry after his first tour of duty in Vietnam.

My mother became a schoolteacher and then public school administrator in the Saint Paul, Minnesota School District where she eventually became an Area Superintendent. Though neither had much education when they married and had three children, by the time I was graduated from college, both had acquired significant higher education. My father earned a bachelors degree, two master’s degrees and a Jurist Doctorate. My mother, by this time, had almost completed her doctorate in education administration, which she would complete shortly after I was commissioned. Along with the Army, education was always integral to my life growing up.

My parents proved to be the strongest influence on me and my siblings. Despite living through considerable life challenges as an Army family in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s, we kids did pretty well in life. My older sister became an attorney practicing in Louisiana. My younger brother, Joseph A. Baumann, has held several jobs in banking, real estate and auto sales over the years. I chose to pursue a career in the Army, a lifelong ambition.

I recall with great clarity and fondness the time my family spent at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My father was in the 82nd Airborne Division serving in the Infantry. That’s when, at age 10, my personal ideal of the Army really began to take shape. My image of the Army was of airborne infantry.

Many years later, in 1987, I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery. I was a Lieutenant when I was offered an opportunity to go to the U.S. Army Ranger School. At this school, for two months I learned how to be an infantryman and combat leader under the most demanding conditions the Army could throw at me. Ever since I had started college, I wanted to attend this school that I saw as the epitome of training for a lieutenant. I wanted to prove to the world and to myself that I was tough enough to make it through that rigorous training.

Little did I know then that this training would serve me so profoundly more than 15 years later, literally defining my leadership of a battalion in combat in Iraq. Back then, and throughout most of my career, I knew Ranger training would personally serve me allowing me to truly know the limits of my endurance. I knew too this training would provide me with a general ability to perform well as a leader. But Ranger School actually proved to be so much more valuable. I would always tell my lieutenants, “Everything I ever needed to know about how to lead a unit in combat I learned in Ranger School.” Ranger School is focused not at battalion level but at the squad, section, and platoon level. But the principles, techniques, systems, and fundamentals for leading any organization are all part of the Ranger program. When I was getting ready to go to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for Ranger School, I read some literature about what I could expect. The literature touted a program that “was a course designed to meet or exceed combat conditions” for sustained periods of time.

I was sold and knew it was my rite of passage on my way to becoming the leader I wanted to be. Patrolling was the essential skill necessary to fight along the mean streets of Baghdad. This is where I focused the battalion training and leader development. Instilling a warrior ethos and a cavalry mindset into my soldiers and modeling all we did from the doctrinal designs of Ranger patrolling became my basis for training and transforming the battalion. Ranger training gave me the mastery I needed to truly achieve this within my organization. Of course, that was not all I needed. Thankfully, I had other infantry training to draw upon in realizing our training goals.

During my tour at the 101st Airborne Division, (Air Assault) in 1989, I sought an opportunity to attend another Army branch Officer Advance Course. For my generation, typically, once an officer completed the first three-year assignment in the Army, standard personnel practice was to send officers to their branch’s Advance Course. After that course, the officer was then sent to their next assignment at another Army post serving in another unit. Although my branch was Field Artillery, I petitioned for an assignment to the Infantry Officer Advance Course.

I did this for two fundamental reasons. First, as a Field Artillery officer, one critical position I knew I might serve in was Fire Support Officer for an infantry or armor battalion. A battalion Fire Support Officer works for an infantry or armor battalion commander and is responsible for coordination of indirect fires. Cannon, rocket, missile, mortar, aircraft or naval gunfire are all indirect fires assets that require detailed coordination to integrate into a battle. This is the primary skill set of a Fire Support Officer. I believed an understanding of infantry methods, planning processes, and tactics would permit me to be more effective in that job. In my mind, there is nothing better than an intimate understanding of the branch that I would likely support.

Secondly, I believed this would broaden my knowledge as an officer. The more I understood the intricacies of maneuver warfare, tactics, and processes the more I could add that to my knowledge and experience with planning and directing indirect fires. Theoretically, this would materially expand my utility to the Army. For me, it was not enough to just master my branch of expertise; I wanted to understand the whole picture — combining fires and maneuver — because optimally that is what combat officers must do.

By developing this foundation, there was little I could not do in the world of my chosen profession. I never consciously conceived that one day I would be asked to transform a rocket artillery battalion into a motorized infantry battalion task force. Fortunately, by making some good decisions early in my career, I had the education to do what was needed at a time when the Army was undergoing an ill-prepared transformation.

In the Infantry Officer Advance Course, I went through the professional development education progression of all infantry officers. We mastered company through brigade level operations. I also learned from within the branch the infantry developmental thinking and planning processes. This was highly instructive, grounding me in the fundamentals of infantry operations. As a Fire Support Officer, understanding tactics and operations for maneuver enabled me to refine my ability to apply my primary professional forté. This experience and education allowed me to develop confidence in my ability to apply that understanding and to instruct others on the application of maneuver tactics.

Later in my career, as a senior Captain, I served as the Military Science III Course Director at Texas A&M, where I had the opportunity to teach cadets seeking to become lieutenants in the Army what I had learned about leadership and small unit infantry tactics.

My task as the Military Science III Course Director was to train junior year college students (cadets) in leadership, command, and mastery of small unit infantry tactics from squad to company level operations. During the academic year we would have classes and field time to develop the cadets’ skills and to assess their performance. I had to master and then teach all the intricacies of squad and platoon infantry tactics to cadets who, for the most part, knew nothing about this. This experience forced me to master training and teaching technique.

Teaching cadets small unit infantry tactics was a pure joy and this further prepared me well for what was to come in my professional life: leading and transforming 1-21 Field Artillery.

As the Army was forced to fight in Iraq and utilize so many non-infantry units as infantry, the rocket battalion I commanded had to make the adjustments to become an infantry/ cavalry unit. Additionally, 1-21 Field Artillery needed a mission in which to focus upon all the while, we had to prepare to deploy, fight an elusive enemy in a very challenging kind of warfare, and try to find a way to win in the cauldron of Baghdad, Iraq.

© 2007 Birch Grove Publishing. All rights reserved.

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