By Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – All leaders have their unique thoughts on what it is and means to be a leader. One "Strykehorse" Soldier explained what being a leader is to him recently.
"Leadership is being that guy," said 1st Sgt. William Burford. "Everybody likes a professional Soldier. Even if you disagree with him, you admire the principles he stands on."
Burford, a native of Slidell, La., and first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarter Troop, 2nd Battalion 14th Cavalry Regiment "Strykehorse," 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Warrior," 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad joined the U.S. Army in 1987 as a tanker, and although it was years ago, he remembers what it's like as a young Soldier in the Army and learn from his leaders.
"I wasn't born with this first sergeant rank," he said.
Burford said he is where he is today because of the experiences he has as a young Soldier. Those experiences, he said, are the same ones young Soldiers go through today.
"I was the married private first class with two kids who paid all his bills and had seven bucks left to last me two weeks. I remember when dinner was red beans and rice for a week straight because we didn't have any money."
Burford attributes his success to his second platoon sergeant, "the greatest [non-commissioned officer] I've ever served with," he said.
"He was standard and he never had to tell me how to do something unless it was brand new to my job. All he had to say was 'Is that your standard?' and I would know immediately what he was talking about."
Burford recalls that this platoon sergeant was a non-smoker and didn't like cigarettes. The punishment for throwing a cigarette butt on the ground was to dig a six foot "grave" and bury the waste.
"To this day I will not throw one on the ground because if he sees me I'll dig," he said as he opens his side pocket to reveal the cigarettes he'd smoked that day.
Digging those two and a half "graves" were lessons on leadership he said he'll never forget, and though he doesn't make his Soldiers dig, he teaches them those lessons he learned from that experience.
As a first sergeant and senior NCO, Burford is responsible of accomplishing the mission at hand and taking care of his Soldiers no matter the circumstance.
Because of his mentoring and success, his Soldiers admire him and evaluate his tactics daily to develop knowledge.
"I've learned a lot about working with people as well as how to relate to them," said Staff Sgt. Rickey Mitchell, a native of Pleasanton, Texas, and troop operations sergeant with HHT, 2nd Bn., 14th Cav. Regt. Mitchell has worked with Burford during the past five months.
Burford has developed a bond with his Soldiers, but maintains professionalism. He believes a key element of success is laughter, "I laugh to keep from crying," he jokes. "But really, you can be top notch at what you do and still have the ability to laugh."
This work, Strykehorse leader leads with laughter, by SSG Lyndsey Prax, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.