The following excerpt is courtesy of Robert A. Trivino’s book A Warrior’s Path: Lessons in Leadership. Robert is a former member of the US Army’s 18th Airborne Corps, 75th Ranger Regiment, and an operational member of the Army’s elite special missions unit. The book humbly highlights Trivino’s own successes – and particularly his failures – throughout a storied career that illustrates how he used them to improve his leadership skills for personal growth but most importantly, for his own men.

The excerpt below is from Chapter 5: “Team Sergeant Time” where Trivino describes preparing to be one of the first Americans to set boots on the ground in the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

September 11, 2001, Fort Bragg, NC

I met with my team at approximately 8 am on September 11, 2001, and we discussed the day’s schedule. Our morning was slow. We all needed to catch up on paperwork and return equipment used for training earlier in the week. I had to return a freefall parachute that I’d signed out for weekend freefall training and I also needed to reply to a number of e-mails that I’d prioritized lower than team training.

I entered the common area of my unit after dropping off my parachute at the rigger’s shed. There was a small crowd of operators sitting and standing around the television. I looked at the television and saw one of the twin towers smoking. I asked the guys what was going on. One of the communications specialists looked at me and said, “An airplane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. No one knows if it was an accident or what.” I thought to myself, how could an airplane accidentally crash into one of the tallest buildings in the United States?

After a few minutes of news watching I continued on with my daily duties. Later that morning I was in another section of the unit, trying to track down some personal equipment that I left in the parachute bag that I turned in earlier that morning. I went to my friend Jason’s team room and asked if he found any gear in the parachute bag that he signed out after I turned it in. I looked in the bag and found my gear, and we talked briefly about the situation in New York City. That’s when I found out about the second airplane striking the second tower.

We speculated over what was happening, and then Jason said in somewhat of a joking manner, “Things are crazy, and I think we’d be safer outside of this building.” I thought about it for a few seconds and that’s when it hit me – the seriousness and magnitude of the events. I said good bye to Jason and went back to my team room to catch up on some email.