At basic, one Marine receives best leadership advice

I was a brand new Marine 2nd Lt. on the first day of The Basic School (TBS) in 1973. Our company commander, Capt. Rocky Toyama announced that we were to make an "acclimatization" hike, and to fall into formation with all the gear we had just been issued. He randomly chose acting officers and non-commissioned officers for this first field exercise. I was picked to be the acting company commander.

As a recent graduate of the Naval Academy, I was familiar with the marching commands and got the company moving in the right direction without much trouble. However, after about a half hour of leisurely walking down a path in the Quantico woods, we came under simulated fire. All hell broke loose in "my" company. New lieutenants were running amok and firing their M-16s randomly and with no fire control whatsoever.

I just stood there dumbfounded.

After about a minute (although it seemed like an hour), Toyama looked at me calmly. "Do something, lieutenant," he said.

To this day, I have no idea what I did or if it was the right action. I do know that I learned that action beats inaction every time. Since that day, when I have been confronted with a situation that is confounding to me, I still hear Capt. Toyama calmly saying, "Do something, lieutenant."

« Previous story
Next story »