Story by Spc. Brandon Dyer:
The Executive Officer Fourth Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Maj. Lee Spencer Wallace arrived at the Army’s premiere memorial and ceremonial unit in July of 2015.
Wallace has an incredible amount of experiences throughout his military career to draw upon.
Over the course of his career Wallace has deployed twice to Iraq and four times to Afghanistan.
As a battalion executive officer some of his responsibilities include managing personnel and logistical challenges as well as supervising and mentoring company commanders.
Wallace is well versed in developing leaders and building teams.
The Old Guard is the ninth infantry battalion he has been assigned to.
Wallace first began his career as a Specialist in the Mississippi National Guard as an 11M, mechanized infantryman.
In 2000, transitioned to active duty and became an Infantry officer.
Then in October of 2001 Wallace attended Ranger school.
“Ranger school for an infantry officer is one of those thing you just know you are going to do,” said Wallace. “Its part of the profession.”
Ranger School is one of the best leadership courses in the Army, said Wallace.
“I see it as a capstone training event in your initial entry training,” said Wallace. “What it provided me was really an understanding of my physical and mental limitations.”
Wallace added the biggest lesson he learned was how to persevere.
Although, Wallace concedes mental toughness alone would not have been enough at some stages.
There was one incident in particular that highlighted the importance of teamwork, when Wallace was dealing with blisters all over his feet.
“That was a big limitation for me, and I had a lot of doubt,” said Wallace. “I just kept persevering and honestly, through teamwork, I succeeded. I could not have done it alone.”
From Ranger School Wallace attended the Mechanized Leaders Course before an assignment to the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
While in the 3rd ID, Wallace said he was lucky enough to be attached to a Special Operations Task Force early in the Iraq War.
Witnessing Rangers conducting missions left Wallace feeling impressed, he said.
The impression led Wallace to request an assignment with the Ranger Battalion when he returned from Iraq.
From a leadership perspective, there is not much difference between Ranger Battalions and other assignments in the Army, said Wallace.
The biggest difference is the speed in which the Ranger organization moves.
Whereas in the Ranger Battalion planning might only take a couple of hours, other units’ preparations, rehearsals, and execution would take days, Wallace said.
Wallace said the reason for the accelerated ability to accomplish missions is a focus on the basics.
The basics are five core areas: marksmanship, small unit tactics, medical skills, physical training, and mobility.
The success of the Rangers has inspired other units to emulate their formula, said Wallace.
The Soldiers that surrounded him in the Ranger Regiment had a common identity and a common purpose, and being a Ranger was central to their identity, said Wallace.
While deployed, that “warrior culture” was displayed on a daily basis.
“The motivation and the eagerness of the Rangers to do their mission as assigned, and what I mean by motivation is that we stayed very, very busy,” said Wallace. “They were ready to get after the enemy.”
Wallace’s vast combat experiences lead him to become an instructor in the Ranger’s Training Brigade.
Wallace was a Instructor at the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Leader Course.
It was in his role as an instructor Wallace recognized how detailed planning helped accomplish missions and keep Soldiers safe. He utilized those lessons while conducting counter-insurgency operations on his next assignment with the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
Detailed planning allowed for his subordinates to adapt, improvise and fight more like the enemy rather than fight the plan. Leaders were better equipped to deal with the fluid nature of battle and could think their way around problems, said Wallace.
Obstacles leave Soldiers with three choices: breach it, bypass it, or report it and request assistance, said Wallace.
Wallace’s relationships built in the Ranger Regiment also helped when he was dealing with Afghans.
His combat experience in both special operations and conventional units in allowed him to give the village elders he would meet with a better understanding of what is happening in battle, said Wallace.
“Its about relationships,” said Wallace. “When I look back, its one thing to have the experience, but it’s totally another to have the relationships you have made along the way.”
The different stops along the way have shaped Wallace as a leader.
“I taught Troop Leading Procedures and reconnaissance planning when I was working at fourth Ranger Training Battalion,” said Wallace. “I saw the Special Operations side of things when I was in first Ranger Battalion and third Ranger Battalion. I experienced high intensity conflict, what we call now “Decisive Action,” during the initial days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
The breadth of his experiences allows Wallace to draw from his past and find solutions to the challenges that he faces presently.
“It helps me provide perspective and expectations to those that are here in The Old Guard,” said Wallace. “Talking with my staff and NCO’s about here’s what life is like in the third ID, here’s what life is like inside the Ranger Regiment.”
“I not only saw a lot of different leadership styles, I saw a lot of different unit cultures and climates,” said Wallace.
Wallace said the summary of these experiences has now culminated in The Old Guard.
From his early career as a Specialist in the Mississippi National Guard where he learned attention to detail, to the perseverance it took to get through Ranger training, Wallace applies the lessons learned to the highly visible mission of The Old Guard.
“I think this unit more then any other unit in the Army that I’ve been in speaks to me from the standpoint of humility and honor,” said Wallace. “Its extremely exciting.”