FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Most commanders have at least three top priorities at any one time. Some have ten.
But during his recent commander's update brief, Lt. Col. Frank LeDuc hit a new Army record when he issued his 50th number one priority.
“We’d been hung up on 45 number one priorities for a few days,” said Capt. Jack Frontenac, Alpha Company commander. “But the boss came back from meetings up at division and brigade all fired up. We got directive guidance on marksmanship, medical training, fitness and motorcycle safety. Each top priority was more important, more vital than the last."
LeDuc, battalion commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s renowned “Rifle” Battalion in 5th Brigade, is known across post for enforcing a strict “zero defect” policy. “Rifle” Battalion itself is famed for its public, ostentatious struggles against complacency and inefficiency: struggles that take the form of a giant list of top priorities, all tied for number one.
Sources say that before the brief ended, with each commander’s professional attention already subdivided into 49 equally energetic, different, and mostly contradictory directions, LeDuc said “meetings are too important to finger-drill" before adding, "Gentlemen: holding meetings is my number-one priority.”
Other active priorities emphasized by LeDuc include soldier readiness, spiritual readiness, psychological resiliency, CrossFit, combatives, having fun, rucking, taking things seriously, professionalism, discipline, customs and courtesies, the Divisional Say No to Spice policy, dogmatic adherence to written policies, empowering subordinates, and using common sense in order to decipher commander’s intent.
“If everything is an emergency, there’s no such thing as an emergency,” said one captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I think so many priorities are confusing and make leadership impossible.”
Not so, says LeDuc.
“Priorities are good for morale,” he told reporters. “If we didn’t have priorities, how will the men know what’s important? And if things aren’t top priorities, why are we bothering to do them?”