ChamberLink — September 2013
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Pantaleo offers 9/11 leadership lessons at special event

Ninety-five percent of Americans will face at least three-to-five “major” crises during their lifetimes.
How they respond to those crises depends on their intellectual, spiritual and physical makeup.
Maj. Dan Pantaleo, USMC(Ret.), describes this blend of mind, spirit and body as a person’s “Leadership DNA.”
Maj. Pantaleo shared what he learned about leadership during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon during a special breakfast meeting at The Inn at the Old Silk Mill.
On Sept. 11, 2001, he was working in his Rosslyn, VA office when terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 777 and slammed it into the Pentagon.
Learning of the news, Maj. Pantaleo and his colleagues moved to the window and saw the Pentagon ablaze. As chaos erupted, Maj. Pantaleo rounded up personnel and rudimentary medical supplies and headed toward the burning building.
For the rest of the day and into the night he led this Initial Rescue and Recovery Team (IRRT) in helping survivors from the wreckage and performing needed triage work on the injured. In the early hours of Sept. 12, the mission changed to the grim task of recovering the bodies of those who died in the attack.
Decision making in a time of crisis requires leaders to rely on their internal moral compass, Maj. Pantaleo told the Chamber audience.
Ordered by a crime scene investigator to stack the bodies for removal to a forensics lab, Maj. Pantaleo refused.
“I wanted to make sure the victims were treated with dignity and respect,” he recalled.
And so he and his team brought out the bodies one by one and carefully placed them in the waiting vehicles.
In addition to following a moral compass, good leaders watch out for their teams, especially during a crisis, Maj. Pantaleo said.
Aware that members of the IRRT were suffering from “low-level” depression as the horrors of 9/11 unfolded, he made sure that all of them took breaks and had the opportunity to talk with chaplains and counselors. When President Bush visited the still-smoldering Pentagon on Sept. 12, Maj. Pantaleo made sure his team members got to meet the president.
But the most memorable moment came when IRRT members spotted a U.S. Marine Corps flag standing tall and undamaged in rubble of the Pentagon.
“What it stood for at that moment, none of us will ever forget,” Maj. Pantaleo told the Chamber audience.
Determined not to let it fall victim to the pending demolition and reconstruction work, members of the IRRT waded through the debris and retrieved the flag. A few days later, they presented it to the U.S. House Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader.
Reflecting on that horrible day 12 years ago, Maj. Pantaleo declared that good leaders should take action and put service above self interest, should strive to make ethical decisions, should work to transform their organizations and should seek opportunities to inspire others.

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