SFC (R) Eric Bourquin and GEN (R) Peter Chiarelli Discuss Leadership and Resilience

Beginning in November 2017, National Geographic aired an 8-episode series titled “The Long Road Home.” Based on Martha Raddatz’s bestselling book, the story chronicles the events of April 4th, 2004, when a US Army platoon was ambushed in Sadr City—an attack that came to be known as “Black Sunday.”

In episode 7, called “Abandon Hope,” we see Sergeant First Class Eric Bourquin struggling to signal helicopters in a desperate last-ditch effort to be located and extracted. The harrowing near misses and heroic holdout against overwhelming numbers culminates in a climactic final battle.

On January 16, 2018 Eric Bourquin and General Peter Chiarelli, who ultimately oversaw the units embroiled in Sadr City, spent an evening in Dempsey Hall with Foster students, alumni, and friends, many of them cadets or vets. Management Professor Bruce Avolio moderated a thoughtful discussion that touched on resilience, balance and leadership as it relates to situations of extreme duress.

The realities of post-traumatic stress were central to the panelists’ remarks, with a focus on what recovery looks like, and how not only to encourage it but also make help more widely available. There was a humbling, heartfelt ambience in the room that was incredibly powerful.

The discussion was followed by a screening of episode 7, and then a final round of questions. Recent MBA grad Joshua Rodriguez, himself an Army veteran, helped bring this event to the Foster community with the help of co-sponsorship from his employer, Goldman Sachs.