USS Denver, At Sea -- From the moment he stepped in front of the platoon, the Marines knew they could trust him, they knew he had their best interest in mind – he had a “vibe” of leadership.
This testimony comes from the Marines serving with Sgt. Walter J. Krueger, currently a squad leader for Company F., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
From his beginnings as a squad automatic weapon gunner in Iraq, to his experiences years later as a squad leader in Iraq and Afghanistan, Krueger has been learning the qualities of a leader every step of the way. He carefully observed his mentors, identified their greatest qualities and began molding himself in their image.
“I’ve been in for more than eight years, (been) a squad leader through two deployments and watched many leaders along the way,” said Krueger, a native of Memphis, Tenn. “I knew I would need to step up as a leader someday, so I watched and learned.”
His mentors taught him how to project a calm, professional image; they taught him the value of putting the needs of subordinates before his own; and they taught him how to maintain high expectations without being overbearing.
“He is a well-rounded leader,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey R. Kurek, Krueger’s current platoon sergeant. “Not just skilled in infantry tactics and leading a squad, but he’s above his peers in his ability to develop subordinates.”
Krueger’s quality was apparent to Company F. as soon as he arrived in the summer of 2013. Coming off a three-year assignment as a drill instructor, he immediately assumed the role of platoon sergeant in place of a staff noncommissioned officer who was attending an advanced military school. Krueger took the increased responsibility in stride.
“He stepped right in as the platoon sergeant, my second in command, and ran things as smoothly as any staff NCO in the battalion could have,” said 1st Lt. Edward V. Hickey, Krueger’s platoon commander. “His early experiences gave him the confidence necessary to fill the position, and the drill field gave him his intensity and skills as a mentor.”
Like any platoon sergeant, his duties included monitoring training standards, accounting for equipment, developing infantry skills and much more for the approximately 30 Marines under his charge. He accomplished all this during high-intensity training evolutions like a Special Operations Training Group raid package and the battalion’s combat readiness evaluations.
But it wasn’t just his performance in accountability and administration that stood out to his superiors.
“It’s not hard to be good at your job,” said Hickey, a native of Falls Church, Va. “Developing your junior Marines is what sets you apart as a leader.”
Following the example of his predecessors, Krueger focuses much of his energy on the development of Marines both personally and professionally. He provides his subordinates with everything from one-on-one mentorship to group classes on a variety of professional topics. Krueger’s superiors describe his approach as a “coach’s mentality.”
By showing a personal interest in their development, Krueger endears himself to the Marines in his platoon. He has earned a high level of trust from the Marines around him, according to Lance Cpl. Rodney K. Holiman, a rifleman in Krueger’s squad.
“He treats his Marines with dignity and respect,” said Kurek, native of Oak Forest, Ill. “They know he wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself.”
Krueger attributes his success as a leader to recognizing his own limitations. Early in his career he realized that one Marine’s efforts, no matter how great, can only accomplish so much, but a leader who focuses his efforts on improving others can be a part of something extraordinary.
“It is a point of pride for me to make sure that every Marine I have a chance to influence is improved in some way,” said Krueger.