Guardsman Hopes to Make Difference in Africa
(April 20, 2009)
Army Brig. Gen. Roosevelt
Barfield, right, talks with members of the 354th
Civil Affairs Brigade during a visit to the
Medical Civil Affairs Project in Chirmitti
Village, Ethiopia, October 8, 2008. U.S. Air
||CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti,
April 13, 2009 – For U.S. Africa Command's new
deputy director of operations and logistics, the
words “I can't do it” won't cut it.
Not from his soldiers, not
from the people he serves with, and certainly
not from himself.
And this Army National Guardsman, Brig. Gen.
Roosevelt “Rose” Barfield, knows what it means
to be able to “do it.”
Barfield was encouraged by a friend to enlist in
the Army National Guard fresh out of high school
at the age of 17. He served for five years as a
soldier in the Kansas Guard while working
toward his degree at the University of Kansas.
At 21, he found himself with a commission
from the ROTC detachment at Kansas and quite possibly a
whole lot more than he bargained for. |
When Barfield had just 18 months of commissioned service
under his belt, his platoon commander was relieved of duty.
“They said to me, ‘Have we got a job for you,” the general
recalled, “and then I was the only second lieutenant in my
infantry company. That was my trial by fire.”
Barfield was forced to learn on the job, but it's not a road
“Learning on the job is not a good thing,” he said. “What
you don't want your fellow soldiers and leaders to do is to
learn trial by fire. There are enough instances out there
where they will have to do that. You want to remove as many
obstacles as possible. Give them as much information as
possible so they can put their best foot forward.”
Barfield said he believes being a strong leader is about
life's lessons. He encourages his soldiers at every level to
take the information they have and pass it along.
“It's hard to make decisions – genuine, hard-hitting
decisions – if you don't know what is required of the
soldiers who carry out those decisions,” he explained. “I
was on the other end of that for five years. I know what
happens when you have bad leadership. I know what happens
when you have absent leadership.
“Passing that information along – especially the right
information – is an obligation,” he continued. “It's not a
suggestion; it's as obligation. That is what I try to mentor
to any and everybody -- not just my officers, but enlisted
troops and [noncommissioned officers]. I try to pass on what
And information is by no means a one-way street for
Barfield. “At the same time, I get an opportunity to go back
and relearn and reinforce my lessons, or in some cases drop
the lessons I have learned,” Barfield said. “Life is a
constant learning process, and so is the military.”
In his view, the two are linked.
“You learn more about yourself in the military than any
profession out there,” Barfield said. “This is both a
professional and personal. At the end of the day, you should
feel good and believe in what you're doing, or you should go
do something else.”
Barfield is a father of three with a long resume after 31
years of service. His wife, Patricia, is an Army colonel.
His eldest son, Galen, is a senior airman in the Air Force
Reserve, and his younger son and daughter both are in the
middle of promising high school careers.
Barfield has served both as a Guardsman and on active duty,
and his awards include the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star
and the Meritorious Service Medal with eight oak leaf
clusters. He returned from a tour in Afghanistan eight
months ago, and he found one element in particular is key in
“It comes down to one thing – communication,” he said. “I
know it sounds clich�, but it really isn't. One of the
hardest things that we do as individuals – take the soldier
or the military piece completely out of it – is to
communicate. You need to come in with an open mind. You need
to think. ‘What is it I need to learn from the other
services to work with them?' You're not going to learn it by
books, and you're not going to learn it by osmosis. You're
only going to learn it by having one-on-one conversation.”
Barfield said he realizes certain terms and traditions are
unique to each military service, and no one is expected to
lose those when the services work together.
“You're never going to give up those things that are unique
to your service,” he said. “But this joint thing is here to
stay, and you need to work within that. There is plenty of
work for everyone. It's all about managing egos and
expectations. It's all about life's lessons.”
Good leadership yields good soldiers, the colonel added.
“Your enlisted soldiers and your NCOs will do anything you
ask them to do, as long as they have good leadership,” he
said. “In my mind, those officers who were enlisted make the
best officers. I constantly remind myself where I've been,
and try not to lose the perspective that whatever decisions
I make, someone else has to live with it.”
Barfield said he wants to make a difference while serving
with Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.
“There are maybe one or two moments in your life where you
get an opportunity to make an impact that will be universal
and historical,” he said. “And we're here. It's hard for me
to contain my excitement just thinking about it -- that I'm
part of this. ... History is being written, and we are the
author. From private to the general, every one of us has a
piece of that.”
The task force employs an “indirect approach” to counter
violent extremism in the region by conducting operations to
strengthen partner-nation and regional security capacity to
enable long-term regional stability, prevent conflict and
protect U.S. and coalition interests.
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kati Garcia
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa public affairs
Special to American Forces Press Service
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