Mission First, People Always

It’s not just for the military. HOOAH!

Vincent D. Howard
2016 January

The phrase “Mission First, People Always” is a phrase I heard often during the time I served in the United States Army as a military police officer (1988-1992). It is also a phrase that is often used in military leadership courses. I often wondered what that term meant and what the concept behind that often-used phrase was.

For military leaders, whose job it is to sometimes precisely place our nation’s women and men in harm’s way in order to achieve a mission (whatever that may be), one wonders at what point is it acceptable for that military leader to fade out the “People Always” aspect of the motto and focus on the mission? This is the conundrum. There is a fine balance between the two: the people and the mission.

The motto is best understood by looking at combat readiness. Any soldier knows that from the first day in basic training (mine being at Ft. McClellan, Alabama in 1988) until the date of your expiration of term of service (ETS), one spends probably 80 percent of the time training, drilling, planning, and staging for possible combat. Regardless of what one’s military occupational specialty (MOS) was (mine was 95Bravo Military Police Officer), we were instilled with the notion that we were soldiers first and, in my case, a police officer second.

Therefore, a lot of time is spent on the road to combat; not engaging in combat itself. All of the hours of training spent under the unit’s military leadership along with the human interactions is what makes any military unit effective. This is the road to combat (with combat being the mission). All the while, leadership marches its troops down this road towards the mission while caring for and maintaining the cohesion of its people along the way. This imagery suggests that there is nothing more important than accomplishing the mission, except for taking care of the people involved. One must always take care of people if the mission is to be achieved. Mission First, People Always.

World’s greatest fraternity

This motto is what stood out most to me once I became part of the world’s greatest fraternity, the United States Military. For me, the military was a great place to start, which was the slogan at the time that I joined. I was part of a brotherhood that I could turn to in time of need. Thus, I developed who I am through the army. The army took a skinny kid from Tennessee who needed direction in his life and nurtured him and then sent him into the civilian world with direction, confidence, and the ability to adapt to and overcome any situation. The army did this by always putting the mission first and by always taking care of me. In 1992, when it came time for me to out-process from the service, the army released me into the world a better, more confident person. The people I met and experiences I encountered during those years are still some of the most important and fulfilling ones of my life, and I am forever grateful to the United States Army for that. What I learned during that time I carry with me in my personal and professional career, and it has served me well.

Second greatest fraternity

Now I am part of the second greatest fraternity in the world, which is that of plaintiff trial attorneys, and I am honored to be sworn in as Orange County Trial Lawyers Association’s President for 2016. Our mission as trial attorneys is to promote a fair and effective justice system, one that “lets justice roll down like waters and righteousness from an ever-flowing stream.” We must always engage in training, educating ourselves, planning, and strategizing ways that we can promote such a fair and effective justice system. This is our mission. We achieve this ever important mission by caring for people: our clients and our members. OCTLA and other trial lawyer associations put the mission first by always focusing on members. These trial lawyer associations (TLAs) provide excellent MCLE programs, provide valuable networking opportunities, and support one another via their list serves, dinner meetings, social events, and annual conferences. It is this type of “people first” attitude that makes TLA members better attorneys. And when our members are better attorneys, they are better equipped to help our clients get the justice they seek and deserve.

Joining my local, state, and national TLA back in 2004 was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The women and men of these organizations have taken care of me and taught me how to be the dedicated attorney I am today.Collectively, we make up one of the best and strongest “law firms” in the country. So here’s to 2016…Mission First, People Always! HOOAH!

Vincent D. Howard Vincent D. Howard

Vincent D. Howard is the managing shareholder of Vincent Law, Anaheim.  His practice focuses on individual cases and mass torts involving personal injury and consumer protection. His experience in these areas stems from his work at Lopez, Hodes, Restaino, Milman & Skikos, where he handled high-profile mass tort litigation and pharmaceutical injury cases against such companies as Wal-mart, Merck  and Halliburton.  He is a graduate of the University of Nevada-Reno and received his J.D. at Western State College of Law, where he was a Dean's Scholar.

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