SMILE BIG: Chelsea Haynes, left, with Haynes and Sue Myers, Ph.D. (Col. Ret.)—spouse of Maj. Gen. Greene. Haynes said that Dr. Myers has become like a member of the family since Greene’s death.
Good mentors can help improve a career,
but exceptional mentors can profoundly change your life.
by Steve Stark
Few things can be more valuable to a career than having a good mentor, a person who can take you under their wing and provide a been-there and done-that view of the ins and outs of a profession. That may be especially true for military careers, when the mentee has little practical sense of how to manage the career ahead, balance the demands of family and work, and undertake more and more challenging work.
For Maj. Jeremy Haynes (USA Ret.), Maj. Gen. Harold J. “Harry” Greene was an exceptional mentor. At the time the two men met, Greene was deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A). Haynes became Greene’s aide-de-camp in May 2014 and served as aide until August 5, 2014, when both were shot—Greene killed, Haynes gravely wounded—during a routine trip to the Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Afghanistan.
Haynes said that Greene was a natural mentor, someone who gave to everyone around him. “He was all about growth, whether professional or personal,” Haynes said. “He was a leader who never missed an opportunity to mentor, guide or pass along life lessons.”
A NEW KIND OF BOSS
Being Greene’s aide was more than a full-time job, Haynes said in an interview with Army AL&T magazine in January. Greene’s chief of staff routinely told Haynes, “You got one job: Take care of the boss.” That meant that Haynes was with Greene nearly every minute of every day. “First of all, when I had breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m with Gen. Greene,” he said.
Haynes was a young military logistician, and his new job meant being close to someone unlike any other leader he’d experienced.
“From the first time I met him,” Haynes said, “I was serious in everything I did.” Greene once joked with him that, if he didn’t loosen up, Greene was going to make him pack his bags. And “pack your bags” meant that “I was going to be fired,” Haynes said. “Pack your bags” was one of many regularly occurring Greene jests. “There was never a dull moment with the boss. Regardless of how tense a situation might be, he had a gift for making everyone in the room calm. Often by telling a joke.”
Part of taking care of the boss meant that Haynes accompanied Greene on missions and key leader engagements, he said. While traveling to and from missions, Haynes said, “The boss never missed a moment to provide mentorship or guidance.” Such conversations ranged beyond serving in the military and included family, life, lessons learned as a father and husband, and his passion for Boston professional sports. Especially the Red Sox.
Coming up in the military, serving at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Haynes said that he’d never experienced the kind of leadership embodied by Greene.
Haynes said that, as an officer, he’d been exposed to different types of leaders—some who yelled or belittled troops to get a task done. Others whose “egos were larger than the mission or [their] care for Soldiers.” Greene was different. He always led and spoke with his heart, Haynes said. His way of leading and caring was contagious and spread throughout the command.
Haynes was already in Afghanistan when, in January 2014, Greene was named deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A). At the time, Haynes was working as a foreign military sales officer whose responsibilities ranged from managing assets to acquiring rolling stock for the Afghan Defense Force. Greene’s chief of staff at the time recommended Haynes for the aide-de-camp role.
THE SMARTEST GUY
Haynes grew up in southwest Georgia. He decided to join the military his senior year of high school after witnessing the events of 9/11. He went to Georgia Military College and was commissioned after two years—then his military career started in earnest, including a deployment to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. When he came back to the U.S., he went back to school, commanded a parachute rigger company and was accepted into a Training With Industry assignment with the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Despite this experience, he said, until he met Greene, he didn’t really have a sense of what a military acquisition career was. When Greene asked Haynes what he thought the Army Acquisition Corps does, Haynes said, “A military version of Amazon. You order stuff and it’s delivered through the supply chain.” Greene was taken aback, he said. “He took his glasses off, and slowly looked at me…. He said, ‘What did you just say about my Acquisition Corps? How dare you compare us to Amazon. We will run laps around that company.’ ”
The general had a way of taking off his glasses and giving you probing looks, Haynes said. Greene would grab his glasses by the bridge and lift them off, then stare at you in complete silence. “Normally, this was an indication that something you either said or did was wrong.” Depending on how bad you’d screwed up, Haynes continued, “the boss would either follow up with a question to allow you to re-evaluate and correct what was said or done, tell a joke to ease a tense situation, or use the opportunity as a teaching moment. I never observed him raising his voice in anger.”
Greene was effective, Haynes said, in putting things into context, so people could see the larger picture. “Gen. Greene explained to me how the Acquisition Corps impacts our Army and entire military force,” Haynes said. “He cross-walked how acquisition not only ties into logistics, but to other branches and services.” He explained in depth the relationship between acquisition as a function and the warfighter.
Haynes said that it was often clear that Greene was the smartest guy in the room, and others knew it. But Greene, who had a doctorate in materials science and three master’s degrees—two in engineering and one in strategic studies—wasn’t the kind of man who needed recognition for how smart he was. The example he set was about doing his job well, and passing rigor and excellence along to others.
Above all, it was clear that Greene valued mentoring. “He once asked, ‘Jeremy, anybody talk career development with you?’ ” Haynes said that no one had. He’d just been told to perform well and the Army would tell him where to go next. Greene was flabbergasted, and said “Who told you that? There’s a lot more to that equation.” Haynes told Greene that his dream job was to command a sustainment brigade.
In response, the general, Haynes said “began to cross-walk duty positions I wanted that correlated to my experiences.” During that discussion, Haynes said Greene also gave him an assignment. “ ‘Show this to your wife, get her input—and discuss her life goals also.’ We both laughed after he warned me that I may have to negotiate and concede because our plan is not always our spouse’s plan.”
By that time, Haynes had seen Greene help other junior officers and enlisted personnel with their careers more than once. He was passionate, engaged and not afraid to fight for others.
“He wasn’t afraid to put his rank on the line to fight for what was right or for opportunities for someone else,” Haynes said. “I recall an individual being denied a chance to re-deploy and go to a school that he was selected to attend. The boss found out. …I recall the boss saying, ‘Just because there’s a war in Afghanistan doesn’t mean we should stop his professional growth.’ A week or so later, the individual was granted the opportunity to re-deploy and prepare for his course,” Haynes said. “I’ve been in commands where the mindset is, ‘The mission is far too important to lose anyone.’ Gen. Greene always instilled in me the importance of people-development as it related to the Army’s big picture. He once said, ‘A positive return on investing in you is that you’ll one day invest in others.’ ”
There are no metrics to measure the effect that a mentor can have on a mentee. Nor is there a limit to the dimensions of life and work that a great role model can influence for the better in a mentee. During the period that Haynes worked for Greene, he was going through some issues in his marriage, he said. Days before “the incident,” as Haynes calls the shooting, he’d had a fight with his wife—an Army Reserve Soldier—that Greene overheard.
“A few days prior to the incident, I was arguing with my wife on the phone. The boss walked in, and I abruptly hung up the phone. He stopped before my desk, removed his glasses, and gave me his signature stare before telling me to fix it.”
The men had a follow-up trip scheduled to NATO Headquarters in Brussels after briefings in Washington. Greene proposed that, after they got back from Washington and were in Brussels, he was going to fly his wife, Dr. Susan Myers, a retired Army colonel, to Brussels. He suggested that Haynes do the same with his wife, Chelsea. Greene told Haynes, “ ‘I’ve been married for a long time and can relate to the frustration you both are dealing with.’ Greene offered to share life experiences and things they did to overcome obstacles and time apart.”
Haynes accepted Greene’s invitation and made travel reservations for Chelsea, but things at home were still difficult. “On the day of the incident, I was again arguing with my wife.” Greene overheard some of it. “Gen. Greene called me into the office, and said, ‘Jeremy? Fix it.’ ” At first, Haynes said, he thought Greene was talking about the upcoming mission at Marshal Fahim National Defense University. Haynes said that he was surprised that Greene was talking about that, questioning their readiness. Greene said, “ ‘You need to fix it, young man. Do I need to spell it out for you?’ ”
Haynes said that he was embarrassed to have brought his personal issues to work with him. “But looking back on the situation, the boss understood that serving is a shared sacrifice” that often includes unsung but courageous and selfless spouses.
Greene told Haynes, “ ‘This is a shared journey. Not just for you, but for everyone who’s attached to you. …You’re here hurting; they’re back there hurting. You’re worried about this mission. …But the folks at home are worried about you.’ And he went on to tell me to value my relationships because, ‘There’s life after the Army. You’ll be just fine,’ ” Haynes said.
“I walked out of the boss’s office and called my wife. While I was dialing her number, Gen. Greene stood in front of my desk as if he wanted to make sure I followed through…. I apologized but did not tell her that I loved her.”
That, Haynes said, could have been his last moment talking with his wife and he hadn’t told her that he loved her.
A DIFFERENT “LIFE AFTER THE ARMY”
Greene was right that there was life after the Army, except that Greene never got to taste it. Haynes almost didn’t. He was among the 15 other people the gunman hit when Greene was killed.
Haynes said that, immediately after the shooting, he lost consciousness. Then, Haynes said, “When I opened my eyes, I thought everyone left. From where I lay, I could see no one. I remember a peer, Maj. Chris Foreman, lifting me up. Although he was shot in the leg, Chris disregarded his own wound and rushed to get me to an aid station.” Haynes said he remembered asking, “ ‘Where’s the boss, where’s Gen. Greene?’ ” And then someone said, “ ‘Gen. Greene is fine, let’s just focus on you.’ ”
While under care at Walter Reed National Medical Center, Haynes said, “I discovered that Greene had passed. I remember [Greene’s widow] Dr. Myers holding my hand. I was so weak. I faintly squeezed her hand and told her, “You lost a husband, but you inherited another son.’ ”
During that recovery period, Haynes said that his wife told him how she first met Myers outside his intensive care unit room at Walter Reed. Myers looked at her and said, “This damn sure enough isn’t Brussels,” and both began to laugh. Haynes said that that showed him how much Myers and Greene were alike. There she was, having just lost the love of her life, “her kids are in pain, she’s in pain, but she selflessly devoted time to spend with me and give me encouraging words in my fight to survive,” and, for Haynes, that was exactly something that the boss would have done.
Haynes and his wife were expecting a child in January 2015. To honor his mentor, Haynes asked Myers for her blessing to name the child for Greene. She gave it, and son Jordon’s middle name is Harold. Haynes also asked her to be his son’s godmother. Later, the Hayneses welcomed their fourth child. Joseph was also named in honor of Greene, whose middle name was Joseph. Today, the Haynes family are in frequent contact with Myers, whom they call Mama Sue. The kids also call the adult Greene children aunt and uncle.
A NEW FAMILY
These days, Haynes said, there isn’t a week that goes by that Mama Sue isn’t visiting or texting. Haynes said he finds it ironic that Jordon has Greene’s loud voice and love for baseball while Joseph has his sense of humor and gregariousness.
The influence of his mentor, boss and friend still reverberates through Haynes’s life in positive ways. Greene may have died far too young, but his legacy lives on, not just in his family, but also in Haynes’s family, in Greene’s extended Army family, and in the writing contest that was renamed to honor him by his friend Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson (USA Ret.).
“A positive return on investing in you is that you’ll one day invest in others,” Greene told Haynes, and probably others. That investment is a leap of faith that says, “I see you. I care.”
Haynes didn’t have the career that Greene helped him map out. But what he got from the man and continues to get is inestimable. It is perhaps also a debt to pay forward. That’s a debt that Haynes will happily pay again and again, on behalf of “a phenomenal man who people liked, many loved and most admired. …His legacy will live on.”
STEVE STARK is senior editor of Army AL&T magazine. He holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University and a B.A. in English from George Mason University. In addition to more than two decades of editing and writing about the military, science and technology, he is, as Stephen Stark, the best-selling ghostwriter of several consumer health-oriented books and an award-winning novelist.