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Case Study: Impact of Trust on Building a Positive Climate

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Bunnell had to make a choice. Where should he position his three sniper teams to watch over their battalion’s 40-kilometer portion of Main Supply Route (MSR) Tampa to best engage and destroy the insurgents emplacing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along the route?

SSG Bunnell had been with this squad since before the unit deployed to Iraq a month ago. This was the squad’s first mission outside of the forward operating base (FOB) without the team that usually conducted their left seat/suitable seat rides.

Insurgent IED activity had increased in recent days along the route, causing fatalities, injuries, and damaging or destroying vehicles. The squad all listened in when the staff briefed the mission. They paid close attention throughout the brief but paid particular attention when the S-2 updated on the pattern of the recent IED activity and the times she believed they were emplaced.

SSG Bunnell gathered the squad around the map so he could collect their thoughts on selecting the site. His five-person team decided on three different positions, which differed from where he had believed the best position would be. Bunnell had each team member explain why they thought the team should use their selected work.

After each member had discussed their recommended positions, SSG Bunnell showed the squad the positions he had selected. Only one of his positions matched any of the team’s recommendations. Bunnell went on to detail his thought process for selecting each class. Each squad member nodded in agreement at their squad leader’s selected positions and reasons for choosing the sites.

“Why did you have us recommend a position to you if you already knew our sniper positions?” asked Specialist (SPC) Jackling.

SSG Bunnell replied, “Listen, I will not always have time to explain to you why I make certain decisions. Most of the time, I will just direct you to do something and not have time to explain why I chose that course of action. Like this, the situation allows

me to explain my thought process. This way, you can understand why I chose a specific course of action. You will understand how I think and what I look for to determine the best way to accomplish the mission. It is all about trust. You trust me, me trusting you, and all of us trusting the team.”

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