Leadership and Service: Insights From a Smart City Networks General Manager

As we celebrate Military Appreciation Month, Smart City Networks continues showcasing the remarkable veteran members of our team. Today, we have the privilege of sharing the words of David Bachler, the General Manager at the Hawaii Convention Center, as he reflects on his time in the military. David’s insightful and heartfelt perspective resonated deeply with us, prompting us to present his thoughts exactly as he expressed them. In David, we witness the embodiment of leadership, and we extend our sincere gratitude for his invaluable contributions to our company. Continue reading below to delve into David’s reflections on service, the invaluable lessons he learned, and the profound impact it has had on shaping him as a leader and an individual.

Self is Secondary
By David Bachler, General Manager at HCC

Before I share… As a caveat, there is a known axiom within the military of being “the quiet professional”. By extension, sharing about the nature of our service is typically uncommon with those of whom are uninitiated to our culture. This IS and is NOT a factor of trust. The bonds of military members amongst other military members reside somewhere greater than friendship and slightly less-than or equal-to family, sometimes (if you’re lucky) some bonds are greater than family and this is forged through very specific means.

Admittedly, I too am reticent to talk about it.  Moreso on principle. It is my belief that to serve and then expect recognition for the service – inherently negatives the nature of service. My service was not conditional on acknowledgment. What I am rather endeavoring to accomplish here is to just paint a picture. To, hopefully, share in the richness of a widely misunderstood and extremely personal experience that has taught me about acceptance, openness and the power of selflessness.

I served only two years.  Not long enough to gain any semblance of a seasoned perspective, but just long enough to be indoctrinated to the cultural richness of military doctrine. I was a United States Navy Corpsman. Though my journey to becoming a Corpsman was somewhat indirect. I remember a funny moment in basic training, an instructor was grilling me and asked a pointed question, “Why in God’s name did you join the Navy, recruit?!” I answered in the only way I knew how, honestly, “Because the Marine’s recruiting office was closed that day, Petty Officer.”

“You should have waited, son.” He replied with an air of understanding in his voice. I wish it was a joke, but it was the God’s-honest-truth. Like many people who joined, I saw the military as a way to get out of a home situation that wasn’t working. Personally, looking back now, it was probably just lack of perspective on life and youthful hastiness.

Originally, I enlisted under a Navy SEAL contract – essentially all that means is that I had the opportunity to “try out” for SEAL training. Like many 19-year-old men, I think I had romanticized the idea of being a Navy SEAL and was not at all prepared for the rigors of what it ACTUALLY entailed.  I only lasted a couple of months before I realized that I was not ready mentally, nor was my aptitude in the water where it should have been. After I dropped from the SEAL program, I went to reclass (pick a different job). The personnel helping me with my paperwork asked what job I wanted instead.  “Whatever doesn’t go on a boat.” I answered. The petty officer looked at me from under their glasses and asked, “You do realize you joined the Navy, right?”

The Navy Corpsman has a very broad mission-set, we are, in essence, the medical corps for both the Navy and Marine Corps. A large component of what Corpsmen were originally designed for were to be combat medics for Marine divisions. If you’ve ever watched the WWII drama The Pacific, and you see someone severely injured in combat and hear them call out “CORPSMAN!” or “CORPSMAN UP!”… that was us. A central theme of how we are trained is to run towards the danger. That mentality definitely stays with a person.

Fun fact: the job of Physician’s Assistant was created by a former Navy Corpsman. It is now widely regarded as one of the most versatile positions within private medicine and one of the most highly sought after.  

My tour of service was in a naval hospital at Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy. It was support to an adjacent international Joint Forces installation.

My exposure to the military and the philosophical substrate was profound to me. To this day, I am still realizing how much I learned from that world. To take a group of strangers from all walks of life, who probably would never cross paths in the “normal” world, give them a common purpose and teach them that personal differences or ideologies will always fall secondary to the primary objective – it was truly a sight to see. What was undeniably impactful was to witness what happened when you strip away what many regard as the “core” of who they thought they were (where they come from, beliefs, upbringing, etc.) and instead show a person who they are right now and what they are capable of within the dynamic of a team. We realized that we are not so very different from each other. We learned that people who are seemingly worlds apart CAN foster care and respect when common purpose is established, that the core of a person is truly found in their ability to think outside themselves, to focus on the good of the team and the well-being of others. When we help each other, we help everyone.

My hope is that the transferable qualities of this experience are obvious. Anyone who has served and who has honestly taken the time to appreciate how it has transformed them can see that the military gives us tools that are forged in a unique microcosm of existence. Some days I wish that the United States would enact a minimum required service, even if only to provide the opportunity to everyone to experience what humanity is capable of.  Then I realized… the operative factor for this profundity was born out of the virtue that the journey began voluntarily. Perhaps one cannot force people to open their eyes, they must be willing to lay down who they were for who they will become. People must be willing to believe in what is possible.

In closing, I’ll leave the passersby who might read this with this to ruminate on… the two greatest axiomatic beliefs we espoused in the military (in my opinion) were this:

Lead from the front – by example. There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.

It may sound severe in its rhetoric, but we hear it time and time again throughout history. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Being a General Manager is one thing, but to lead people… that is an entirely different adventure to undertake, one that challenges me and entices me every day. It is wrought with constant introspection and rich with the glory of what people can truly do for one another when self becomes secondary.


Always Continue the Mission

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