...This rings true to me. I was a Marine lieutenant back then too. One of the things we were taught in basic school was that we should not carry a rifle, because that was not our job. Our job was to lead and if we got into a situation where we needed a rifle, we could take one dropped by a dead Marine.
Pace said the cadets who go into combat will know fear. "There were times in my Marine Corps career in Vietnam that I wished that I could've crawled up in my helmet and waited for my mom to call me home from the schoolyard," he said. "If you feel fear, it is natural."
But the cadets must remember they "are in the world's best Army" and will have the best training, equipment and troops in the world. "When you look to your left and your right and you see your soldiers looking back at you for leadership, you will instinctively know exactly what you need to do right then," he said.
Pace said the soldiers want to follow their leaders. "They want you to be good," he said. "They will cling to leaders who care about them."
Pace said the worst thing a new lieutenant in combat can do "is get yourself killed."
He said getting killed "is the easiest thing to do" in combat. "As a leader, you will have to decide who does what in life-and-death situations," he said. It is easy for a new leader to just do it.
"It's easier to do it yourself than to send one of your soldiers out and watch him get killed doing what you told them to do," Pace said. "But you've got to worry about more than one soldier and all of your soldiers are looking to you for leadership.
"They will do whatever you tell them to do," he continued. "They do not want you to do it for them. They need to have you, lieutenant, on the radio calling in the fire support, giving the direction, telling them what to do. They'll go do it. They understand the risks."
If a new lieutenant gets killed then "you have taken away their leadership and in thinking that you were being self-sacrificing, you have really done damage to your unit."
Pace said he has remained on active duty because of the debt he owes to Marines he served with in Vietnam. Pace arrived in Hue City, South Vietnam, and became a platoon leader in Golf Company, 5th Marines. There were only 14 Marines in his platoon. Of the 158 Marines in Golf Company when he arrived, only three - including himself - were not wounded.
Finally, the general spoke about the duty and "sacred trust" to take care of soldiers. "As I look back on 38 years, my desire to take care of my Marines was sincere," he said. "I didn't always do as well as I could have, or should have, but I tried."
And his Marines sensed that and responded to it, the vice chairman noted. They knew they could trust him and "because they knew I cared, they performed at a level beyond anything I ever could have demanded from them."
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome it and do your job. If someone says that they did not experience fear in a combat situation, they are either being untruthful or were not rational at the moment.