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What It Means to Serve and Be a Selfless Leader

The Talking Series is a weekly segment that delves deeper into topics discussed by guests on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast.

What separates those who are good from those who are great? We believe it’s a combination of hard work, talent, dedication, and drive. That’s reasonably accurate, except when discussing leadership. Sure, those traits come into play, but they’re not defining features. Two things determine the quality of leadership: relationships and focus. Good leaders have transactional relationships with those they lead and focus on how best to utilize each person’s skills to achieve success. In contrast, great leaders build transformative relationships with those they serve and focus on helping each person on their team grow personally and professionally, which results in a far more successful team. In short, great leaders are game-changers, innovators, and visionaries who lead by example and genuinely care about those under their charge.

Those lucky enough to have such a mentor know it’s anything but easy; they’re hard on you, hold you accountable, and demand your absolute best. They do this because they understand that character, accountability, and high standards are necessary for long-term success. We often fail to recognize their impact until many years later but are forever grateful once we do. If they haven’t yet, those who served under the command of Major General Clayton Hutmacher (USA, Retired) will one day realize just how lucky they are.

If we had to choose one word to describe Hutmacher, president and CEO of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, it would be selfless. An incredibly accomplished individual. When we hosted him on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, we discussed leadership, accountability, and much more. In this article, we wanted to take a moment to recognize Hutmacher and acknowledge how his post-military mission paints the portrait of a truly great and selfless leader.

Finding a Path

Following his parents’ divorce, Clayton’s mother moved to South Africa for work. The youngest of five, his behavior worsened over time until he was placed in foster care at 15 years old. Thankfully, Charlie Williams and his wife opened their home to him. While Charlie has since passed, Hutmacher fondly remembers sitting and listening to his stories about life as a Marine and his time in Korea. On his decision to enlist, Hutmacher says, “I didn’t know what I needed other than somebody to put me on the straight and narrow…and the Marines seemed like a good choice.” Little did he know, this decision was the beginning of an incredible military career that spanned 40 years. During those four decades, Hutmacher served his nation with distinction and honor, first as an enlisted Marine, then as an Army warrant officer, and finally as a commissioned officer. He commanded the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, one of the most effective, efficient, and lethal manifestations of combat power and expertise the world has ever known.

Honoring the Fallen

Losing a Special Operations soldier is hard on the entire community, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous pain experienced by that soldier’s family, especially their children. While nothing can stop the anguish of such a profound loss, the Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) honors the legacy of those brave men and women by helping their children prepare for a successful future. Since 2018, MG Hutmacher has provided the leadership SOWF needs to move its mission forward and ensure that every child of a fallen Special Operations soldier, or Medal of Honor recipient gets an education. Whether it’s Harvard University or a trade school, they cover the financial burden (tuition, application fees, computer, etc.), but that’s only part of what they offer. Their “cradle-to-career” approach means providing preschool and private K–12 tuition assistance, academic counseling, private tutoring, and more. MG Hutmacher explains, “We also have a program for children with disabilities, of which I’m extremely proud. I’ve expanded the definition of disabilities to [include] significant behavioral and emotional issues since they’re clearly tied to the loss of a parent.”

Supporting the Mission

Since its founding, they’ve helped 467 young people graduate from college, and the program currently supports another 990 children. We wish we could say there will no longer be a need for SOWF, but we can’t. Those serving in Special Operations will undoubtedly be called upon to protect our nation, which means the number of children who qualify for assistance will likely increase. Thankfully, SOWF will be there to help. This is a foundation so deserving of support, because it truly honors those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. You can go to the site to donate.

Check out our full conversation with Major General Clayton Hutmacher on the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, available now.

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