By Lauren Sorensen, Current Staff
Rooms filled with bunks, artillery, and high security information normally aren’t found in the same building filled with whiteboards, desks, and books. The atmospheres of a military base and a high school may not be synonymous, but they have more similarities below the surface than meets the eye.
The 2014-2015 school year brought many changes to the West Bend High Schools, one of which was the hiring of new head principal Bill Greymont. Greymont brings many experiences with him to his new position as principal, including 20 years of military service.
“There are more similarities than you would think, people are people,” Greymont said when asked about the parallels between leadership in the military and leadership in education.
Greymont draws on lessons learned in his years of military service in his approach to administration. “I don’t think I’ve ever truly shifted,” said Greymont when comparing his change in leadership roles between the military and education. Greymont’s philosophy of the duty of a leader is pushing people to achieve at high levels. The cultures/language might be different, but the process of leading is the same no matter the environment.
“People won’t drive into bombs and bullets for you if they don’t trust that you will take care of them,” Greymont said.
Accepting responsibility is a large part of leading for Greymont. “As a leader, you are responsible for every failure and you can’t make excuses,” he said. Greymont believes that everyone must accept their responsibilities and not blame others.
Greymont spent 364 days at Camp Navistar, 200 meters from the Iraq border in Kuwait from July 2006 until July 2007. “I spent well over 100 days on convoys, out with the troops, being visible, setting an example of how you conduct yourself in stressful situations. I’m going to go out and share the dangers with you. Part of it is supervision, part of it is setting an example. That’s leadership,” he said.
Greymont also recalls another day when the battle captains were at lunch so his duties shifted to running the Operations Center. He then heard a blast go off nearby. Greymont was directed to send Route Security to the area to investigate. An IED had hit a convoy from a different unit. Next, Medevac (medical evacuation) procedures were followed in order to get the troops to the hospital. “Everybody lived, we saved those guys’ lives with that one,” Greymont said with a smile.
“As a leader, you are responsible for every failure and you can’t make excuses.”
– Bill Greymont, WBHS principal
Managing personalities and conflicting opinions are obstacles Greymont has faced in his leadership positions, regardless of the context.
“You must have a vision to bring people together,” said Greymont.
The importance of community and serving one’s community is a focus for Greymont. It is this service that drew him towards both of his career paths. “I chose education because I wanted to serve others, and I chose the military because I wanted to protect my community,” Greymont said.
In his third year of college at UW-Madison, Greymont enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard in order to utilize the GI Bill to help pay for college. After five years as a private working as a turbine mechanic, Greymont was recommended to go to officer candidate school and spend a year in leadership training. Over the next 15 years, Greymont worked as a field artillery officer.
After graduating from Madison with a double major in education and engineering, Greymont attended UW-Milwaukee for his teaching certification. Greymont then began teaching in Port Washington. Soon, his leadership qualities were revealed and it was suggested that Greymont pursue a master’s degree in education administration.
Greymont then picked up his family and moved west of Madison to become an athletic director.
“Family has and always will be the most important thing,” Greymont said. Madison soon become too far away from family members for Greymont and so he was led to Beaver Dam to become associate principal. Greymont served in this position for five years before his final destination of West Bend.
The move to West Bend was “a way to consolidate personal/professional goals with the most important thing which is my family,” Greymont said. He saw the job posting for head principal and was drawn to the overall goal of the district being a “destination.”
“West Bend actually added programs last year, which is unheard of,” Greymont said.
What should students consider before enlisting in the military? “Make sure you talk to everyone. Get all of the information,” Greymont said. “It’s not for everyone. You have to know what you are getting into.
“You’re gonna be much better in your career if you have a passion for it,” he said.
Greymont has found his passion: leadership.
(Top image: Bill Greymont stands in the BIAP [Baghdad International Airport] area while on a reconnaissance mission during the “surge” in 2007. Photos courtesy of Greymont.)