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News | Nov. 19, 2018

Retired Navy SEAL talks leadership, love and life after Iraq

By MAJ Angel Jackson Defense Intelligence Agency

How do you measure a bad day? Is it sitting in heavy traffic or a delayed flight? Retired Navy SEAL Jason Redman described to the Defense Intelligence Agency workforce what most might consider a very bad day during a visit to the DIA headquarters Nov. 14, as part of the agency’s Masterminds speaking series.

“It’s a heartbreaking moment when you come face-to-face with this is where you’re going out,” said the retired naval officer, as he detailed the moment he lay on the battlefield in Iraq 11-years-ago bleeding from seven rounds of machine-gun fire during a firefight with al-Qaida.

With his service dog Kharmah by his side, Redman described drifting in and out of consciousness as he lay pinned down 45-feet from an enemy machine gun, waiting on aerial support from an AC-130 gunship, and eventually, medical evacuation for him and his team.

Redman said he recalled the HBO documentary “Baghdad ER,” and a statistic from the show said, “If our wounded warriors show up in a combat support hospital with a pulse, they have a 90 percent chance of making it home alive. And I grabbed on to that fact like a lifeline and I said ‘Stay awake to stay alive.’”

Eventually, Redman and his team were rescued and arrived at the combat support hospital. He said that moment he thought he could finally relax, but he heard a nurse yell that he still had a bomb on him and everyone ran out of the emergency room. He said that is when he thought, “Oh my God, what a bad day!”

Redman survived his bad day in Iraq and went on to tell his story, but it left him with physical, emotional and mental scars. That day also gave him a new perspective on life. Redman now measures a bad day as a catastrophic moment, a life ambush or an event that causes a mental or physical scar from which a person will never fully recover.

During his recovery, he had time to think about the enemy ambush he and his team walked into and to look back on his life. He thought about his time as a leader in the Navy, his life as a family man and what his life would be like going forward. He now has six tenants on how he lives his life: overcome, live greatly, love deeply, stay humble, lead always, and live a life of no regrets.

Redman said the “overcome” mindset helps him to always remember to never let adversity defeat him. While recovering, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he hung a sign on his door telling visitors not to enter his room feeling sorry for him. A sign former first lady Michelle Obama recounts in her book, “Becoming.”

Redman doesn’t mentally quit because it leads to physically quitting. He says he appreciates how the U.S. Army Ranger School humbled him as a leader. He added that a leader can’t pick and choose when to lead. A leader is expected to lead always.

“One of the critical things to leadership is credibility,” said Redman. “Credibility is the currency of leadership.”

Redman thanked the DIA workforce for the work they do providing time-sensitive information to warfighters on the battlefield. “What you guys do absolutely makes a difference for those of us who are on the ground.”