Captain David Hall

12 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2009

See all articles by Alexander Horniman

Alexander Horniman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

T. Lax

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This technical note provides a pedagogical overview of management communication for MBA education.




Army Captain David Hall looked out the window of his office at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on January 20, 1994, and reflected on the unbelievable turn of events. As the commander of a UH-60 Blackhawk assault helicopter company, he had spent the past year selling his vision of what he wanted the unit to become. Though progress had been slow at times and often caused him to doubt and second-guess the viability of his goals, David thought that the company was finally past its biggest obstacles. The long hours and late nights working with the mechanics to repair helicopters in the aircraft maintenance hangar, the endless property inventories and account reconciliations, the phone calls at 3 a.m., and the months away from his family for training in California and Arkansas all seemed worth the sacrifices. Now, David questioned everything. He had received an unexpected phone call from his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Hubbard after arriving at work that morning. Hubbard told David to report to his office immediately.

Captain Hall had arrived at work later than usual after a night vision goggle training flight that ended that morning at 3:30 a.m. The scene when he arrived at 9:15 a.m. could best be described as pandemonium. The company's pilots and mechanics were scrambling to get an aircraft launched for a last-minute mission to pick up a three-star general at nearby Semore Johnson Air Force Base. After asking the flight operations officer for a quick situation update and driving to the hanger to ensure that the helicopter was ready to fly, he drove on to Hubbard's office. When he got there, he found his boss and a fellow commander, Captain Scott Davis, in the colonel's office. Hubbard was dressed in civilian clothes, which was unusual, and looked haggard and tired. He apparently had also had a late night. Getting right to the point, Hubbard told Davis and Hall that the Brigade Commander, Colonel Mitchell Cutter, wanted both captains to submit written requests to be relieved from command. Hall was floored. Relief from command was the kiss of death for an officer's career. After more than five successful years in the army, he was being asked to give up the position that he had worked so diligently to get. Hall was being asked to admit that he had failed in his responsibility as a leader and company commander. He was, in effect, being asked to request an end to his army career.

When he returned to his office, Hall realized that his hands were still shaking. He was angry and confused, and he did not know what to do next. The company had struggled to make progress under his leadership, but with good reason considering the challenges they faced when he took command of the unit. Had his performance been so poor that his senior commander felt that he was incapable of commanding troops? What had he done, or failed to do, that caused the Brigade Commander to request his resignation? Where had he failed? What did this situation say about his leadership and his future in the army? As he looked out at the gray North Carolina sky, he closed his eyes and thought about his alternatives.

Captain David M. Hall, Captain, U.S. Army

. . .

Keywords: communication process, communication strategy

Suggested Citation

Horniman, Alexander and Lax, T., Captain David Hall. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0124, Available at SSRN:

Alexander Horniman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


T. Lax

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics