Service Before Self: Will you be your supervisor’s Lt. Rowan?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Christopher May
  • 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander
The year, 1898, the cause, Cuban independence from Spanish rule...the United States was at war with Spain over its treatment of Cuban citizens following a failed revolution three years earlier, as well as the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana's harbor, which killed 260 U.S. sailors. During this tumultuous period, a great lesson for the Air Force's second core value, Service Before Self, was demonstrated and serves as an outstanding example of followership.

The plan to liberate Cuba involved an insurgency led by General Calixto Garcia. President McKinley desperately needed to send a message to General Garcia to secure his cooperation and ensure the successful liberation of Cuba. There were no means at the time to correspond quickly, so a messenger was needed to relay the plans to the insurgency. That messenger was Army Lt. Andrew S. Rowan. Rowan was given an oil-skinned pouch containing a letter from President McKinley with no further direction other than to ensure that it made it into the hands of General Garcia as fast as possible. After four days in an open boat, Lt. Rowan finally landed on a desolate beach and traversed through the jungle for three weeks to find General Garcia and relay the plan.

The one knew where General Garcia was and Lt. Rowan volunteered to traverse the Gulf of Mexico, miles of jungle, and into occupied territory to secure support from the insurgency, all without asking a myriad of questions that may come about after receiving such a task. For example; Why me? Why not someone else? Where is General Garcia? Is he expecting me? Will he be there when I arrive? Or the oft answered that's not my job. If not you, then who? When asked to take the letter to Garcia will you be your supervisor's Lt. Rowan?