Date of Award

Summer 6-25-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Julia Hadden

Second Advisor

Dr. Jalin B. Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Carlos V. Guzman


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative study was to discover and describe behaviors that retired U.S. Army First Sergeants (1SG) applied to lead their troops through turbulent times using the leadership attributes of moral purpose, concern for the collective interest, resilience, and personal temperament during combat operations.

Methodology: This qualitative study used a phenomenological approach to capture data from 10 retired U.S. Army 1SGs in the South Puget Sound area in Washington State who led their companies in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS). Data were collected from 10 interviews and 71 artifacts of Disabled Americans Veterans (DAV) or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members. Participants were interviewed through an online video platform.

Findings: This study revealed 21 themes that retired U.S. Army 1SGs utilized to lead effectively through the turbulent time of OEF or OFS in Afghanistan using the attributes of moral purpose, concern for the collective interest, resilience, and personal temperament.

Conclusions: The study supported to lead effectively through a turbulent time of combat operations is placing mission accomplishment to succeed at all costs as critical to leading soldiers. Equally important, 1SGs’ character is unparalleled in demonstrating who they are, and living by the highest military standards within themselves is critical to lead their soldiers. A 1SG’s ultimate responsibility is to take care of their soldiers from training to discipline, and that mindset is not compromised through their passion and energy they exhibit daily.

Recommendations: Further research is recommended to replicate this study of leadership attributes and behaviors of other Department of Defense branches of service that have a position like the U.S. Army 1SG who is the pillar of leadership and is the conductor of training, discipline, and military experiences in combat operations when leading soldiers, airmen, Marines, and sailors. In addition, this study should be duplicated during the active duty tenure of a 1SG in combat operations at the time of the appointed position. Finally, the Army educational system should incorporate mindfulness training for 1SGs to ensure the mental capacity for a mission’s success, primarily if that mission is difficult or dangerous.