We left off last time with the question of what was it that the soldiers of the 507th lacked? What qualities did the culture of the unit not value? And most importantly why and what can we do to ensure that current and future units do not have the same deficits?
The first thing we must do is define what a warrior is. Without a clear understanding of what values we require individual Soldiers to have we can never understand what sort culture is required to instill these values of a warrior into its members. Understanding both is necessary before we can create and evaluate the leadership tools necessary to instill them in unit members.
The only way that any definition of a warrior will be sufficient is if we list the attributes that someone must have to be one. The first, and most obvious, is a willingness to close with the enemy. To make the definition more visceral, this means that if there are people in the building across the street who want to kill you, a warrior is willing to go into that building to try to kill them.
Someone could potentially have every other quality and ability that people consider desirable in a soldier, they could be in top physical condition, know their job inside and out, even thoroughly understand small unit tactics and have countless hours of practice and technical proficiency in close quarters battle. They could be the best marksman with every weapon in the Army’s arsenal, master the use of every piece of equipment, not to mention the silly things like knowing the answer to every board question and looking good in uniform, and it would not make them in the least a warrior if they are not willing to enter that building. “Once more into the breach” as Shakespeare put it, means getting up from behind cover and going through the breach.
The only problem with this as a definition is how can you tell, in the daily grind of Soldiering, who is willing? There are very few activities in the average Soldier’s life outside of combat deployments that require real physical courage. It doesn’t take any courage to go to the motor pool, or on a three-mile run or even to the range. Those things are just not scary unless you are pretty far on the other side of the warrior scale.
There are some things. Jumping out of airplanes takes courage. Going over the edge of a precipice while repelling comes to mind as does pugil stick fighting. But let’s be honest, how often is the average Soldier called upon to display actual physical courage outside of combat?
It is easy to imagine someone joining the Army in the late seventies or early eighties who may have even gone through basic training during the era when even pugil stick fighting had been dropped from the curriculum. They then went on to their Advanced Individual Training in what were called a “soft skills” MOS and did nothing any scarier than being yelled at for not shining the floor enough. They could have then lived in a peacetime Army for the next twenty plus years and maybe never done a single thing that required actual physical courage. Under these circumstances it is easy to see how thinking like a warrior may not be a requirement.
So, a warrior is willing to close with the enemy. Now, how do we insure our Soldiers are warriors?
To be continued………
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Kratophobe – A person who claims to be a warrior and yet has an irrational fear of realistic hand-to-hand combat training.
Etymology, from the Greek...