News: The Duke Brigade Commander talks importance of roots, philosophy, and spirituality
FORT KNOX, Ky. – The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division saw a leadership change last month as Col. Chris Toner said goodbye to Duke soldiers on Fort Knox’s Brooks field. With that change, the Brigade said hello to a new leader, Col. Bill Ostlund.
Recently, the 3rd Brigade public affairs office, along with various local media representatives, had a chance to sit down with Ostlund to find out more about the new “Duke 6.”
Ostlund’s military career and reputation are indeed impressive, as noted by Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, deputy commander for the 1st Infantry Division, during 3rd Brigade’s Change of Command last month.
“If you want to know about [Col. Ostlund] just read [his] bio,” said MacWillie. “He’s a hell of a trainer and a proven war-fighter time and again.”
Ostlund traces his roots to America’s heartland. When asked he claims a hometown of Omaha, but if pressed he’ll admit his true roots are a small town in Minnesota, later moving to Nebraska where he spent the majority of his teenage years (trained ears will detect the unique accent common among Minnesota folk).
Upon graduating high school in 1983 he enlisted in the Army and served with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. In 1987, he extended to make Staff Sergeant and immediately transitioned to the Nebraska National Guard and simultaneously enrolled into college at the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he also pursued a commission through their ROTC program.
Ostlund said the discipline he learned as a sergeant in the Ranger Regiment helped him with college.
“After learning task, conditions, and standards in a ranger battalion, going to college was very simple and very easy,” said Ostlund. “I [finished college] in a couple of years, about 27 months, then I returned [to active duty] as a commissioned officer.”
He went on to graduate as the “Distinguished Military Graduate” in 1990, and was assigned to the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division. Almost immediately after reporting to his unit he was alerted to deploy in support of Operation Desert Shield, and later Desert Storm, a considerable test for a brand new “butter bar.” He then returned to his non-commissioned officer roots with the Rangers as a 1st Lieutenant.
Since then assignments have taken Ostlund to Korea, graduate school at Tufts University near Boston, a West Point professorship, and Italy where he deployed to the Balkans, Iraq, and eventually Afghanistan as a battalion commander in the 173rd Airborne.
Like most commanders, his collective Army experience is what has shaped his command philosophy. According to Ostlund, his philosophy starts with one thing.
“I focus on one thing [overall], and that’s combat readiness”, said Ostlund. “Everything else stems from that.”
He added that his goal for 3rd Brigade is to “make the most competent, disciplined, and combat ready organization possible.”
Ostlund also incorporates mental, physical, and spiritual toughness. He said he believes it is important for soldiers to have spiritual toughness because this characteristic tends to help with ethical decision-making while under intense pressure common in combat situations.
“I’m not the lead chaplain in the Brigade but I am responsible for ensuring that people can touch their religion and [strengthen] their spiritual fitness,” said Ostlund. “Many [commanders] shy away from [talking about] it because they feel like [one’s religion] can be a trap… I don’t, I’ll talk about it.”
He added, “I want people to embrace whatever religion or spirituality they have because I think that goes to having a moral compass.”
Besides spirituality, there is another entity Ostlund wholeheartedly embraces as part of his vision for the Brigade: Fellow veterans, where ever they may be, are an essential ingredient to combat ready Duke soldiers.
According to Ostlund’s own command philosophy memorandum, “Duke soldiers are deeply tied to their roots and foster relationships with their veterans to include those from OIF and OEF.”
An implied task, perhaps, that Ostlund will work to strengthen the bridge between the new generation of soldiers and the living heroes from generation’s past, and leverage the common experiences that only few in this nation share.
One thing is certain. Ostlund’s vision for this brigade, his vision for combat readiness, is to live up to the legacy of a unit that has actively served since 1917.
“The Duke Brigade’s history and combat reputation are well known and envied throughout the Army,” cites Ostlund in his command philosophy memo. “…It is our duty to protect this legacy as we skillfully accomplish each task and mission and preserve the DUKE force.”
To view Ostlund’s full bio visit http://www.knox.army.mil/forscom/3ibct/cdr.asp.
To view the video associated with this story visit www.youtube.com/user/TFDukePAO.
This work, The Duke Brigade Commander talks importance of roots, philosophy, and spirituality, by SGT Toby Cook and MAJ Travis Dettmer, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.