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"Who's Garcia?" Timothy R. Gossett, USMC (ret), stresses the value of professional reading...

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

When I look back on my career of approximately 47 years; as a U.S. Marine, civilian police officer, and college instructor, I can’t help but think of all the reading I did as part of my education. I’m not talking about “social” reading, I’m talking about “professional” reading... making yourself the best you can be in your chosen/assigned position of responsibility.

Five and a half years enlisted led to reading various military manuals, general orders, special orders, etc., then on to Officer Candidate School and all the follow-on schools expected of a professional Marine Officer; The Basic School (TBS), Amphibious Warfare School (AWS), Command and Staff College, etc., etc. At each level readings were assigned to all the young men and women attending such schools, in order that that may learn from them and become better leaders of Marines.

In particular AWS was of greatest interest and most educational. From the many military manuals, we received to Lee’s Lieutenants and beyond, there was no shortage of material to read! But, in particular, it was one little book that stood out over all the rest. From front cover to back cover it was only 32 pages in length... but the message was loud and clear. That book was A Message to Garcia, by Elbert Hubbard. According to Mr. Hubbard’s apologia, at the beginning of his book, it was written on February 22, 1899, in one hour. Yet the lesson learned from that book is time immortal and weighs as heavy (perhaps even more so) today as it did in 1899. The book and its message have been taught and used, throughout history for military personnel, in most countries around the world to understand work ethic and leadership!

The book briefly states that at the beginning of the Spanish-American War President McKinley gave a courier, by the name of Rowan, a message to be delivered to the leader of the insurgents in Cuba, by the name of Garcia. The whereabouts of Garcia on the island of Cuba are unknown, there are no radios nor any other method by which this message may be sent and received and, being an insurgent leader, Garcia cannot just walk into public and interact with anyone! Rowan takes the message and without question or debate leaves for Cuba, is secretly dropped off on the coast, walks through the jungles and ultimately delivers the message to Garcia.

The point of the book is this; Rowan simply was given a mission and accomplished it. The author goes on to discuss how “employees” today may respond (remember, his “today” is 1899). It is hard not to imagine how today's (2019) employee may respond... attempting to debate the why’s and how’s to accomplish any particular mission/assignment.

This book was/is used for military leadership, but it is just as applicable (again, maybe more so) to the civilian world as it is the military.

I would recommend to Marines (or any military member) exiting the service to enter the civilian workforce, that the message of this book be remembered and practiced. If you are an employee... do your job as effectively and as thoroughly as possible. If you become a manager/supervisor or any other position of leading/supervising others... teach/train them to do the same.

Timothy R. Gossett is a “mustang” and retired from the USMC as a major. Post military life included serving as a civilian police officer and as a college professor. With a degree in Forensics, he still gives valuable guest presentations. Tim enjoys golf, reading, and a little guitar. Printed with Tim’s permission.

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