Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Face of Defense: Soldier Leads by Being Part of Team

During a World War II battle in Holtzwihr, France, a wounded U.S. soldier climbed into a burning tank, took a spot behind a .50-caliber machine gun and fired until the enemy was vanquished.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Oberst watches the soldiers in his platoon conduct vehicle inspections northwest of Baghdad. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. J.B. Jaso III, Multinational Division Baghdad
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

At the age of 19, Audie Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor, and to this day, he inspires military leaders and soldiers – especially Army Sgt. 1st Class Ernest Oberst.

"As a kid, I used to watch the Audie Murphy biography 'To Hell and Back' on TV, and I wanted to be a soldier. He was my hero," Oberst said.

Oberst joined the Army three months after graduating from high school in Gladstone, Mich.

Now a platoon sergeant in Multinational Division Baghdad with 1st Platoon, Company B, 52nd Infantry Regiment, attached to the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Oberst is responsible for the 33 soldiers in his platoon. He takes care of administrative paperwork, leads patrols, makes sure each soldier has the right equipment and takes care of any issues that may arise, whether personal or work related.

"I do anything a mom or dad does," he said jokingly.

Oberst has served in the Army for 14 years, and said he believes the best way to lead his soldiers is by setting an example for them and sharing the load.

"You can't just supervise; you have to be a part of the team," he said. "If my soldiers are out digging for caches, you won't find me sitting in the truck. I'm an able body that can work, and I'll be out there digging with them."

His soldiers describe him as a well-rounded leader who maintains discipline and has the ability of doing the right thing at the right time, every time.

"No matter what the mission is, Oberst is the first one on the ground and the last one back in the vehicle. That's just his style," Army Cpl. Zachary Manuel said. Sgt. Lucas Collins said Oberst will give any soldier a chance to succeed.

"When I came into this unit, I had two blown-out knees," said Collins, a team leader. "In the infantry, you are looked at as done. I was going to be chaptered out, but he gave me the chance to get better."

Three years later, Collins is awaiting promotion to staff sergeant and said a great amount of what he's learned is attributable to Oberst.

"He has shown me that taking care of my soldiers is No. 1," he said. "And if something needs to be done, make sure it gets done." Oberst not only makes sure the job gets done, but also ensures the job gets done right the first time, Collins added.

"He requires the best out of his men and expects nothing less," Manuel said. "For that reason, he gets the best."

Author Army Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.
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