Last time, we established that a unit’s culture is controlled in large part by the demands that the leadership places on the members of the unit. Units that run collectively value running because peer pressure within the group will make everyone want to avoid being the person who falls out day after day and will also make people want to excel to be well thought of. Members of a unit that posts the shooting scores, or better yet makes shooting an overt competition, will value shooting ability. And most importantly for our discussion, a unit that requires members to frequently do some sort of fighting, from competitive pummeling or neck wrestling to ground grappling, can count on every member becoming at least a competent fighter.
We left off with the question of what happens in a unit that can assume every member is a competent fighter. This gets to the real goal we are after, which is how do we insure that the members of the unit have the values of warriors. Obviously valuing fighting ability, even if reluctantly as is the case in running for many soldiers, is a good first step but it doesn’t capture all that we are after.
To bring it back to the cultural failings of the pre-war Army and, in particular of the 507th Maintenance Unit, how do we insure that soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers value the warrior skills. How do we insure there is proper weapons maintenance and land navigation ability? How do we insure that every member of a supply unit or unit of truck drivers have sufficient medical skills? The answer is by changing what the definition of “Squared-away” is, not just within the unit but Army wide. And the biggest tool we have in that is the fighting ability that we have been discussing.
In a unit where fighting is a normal part of training, it is hard to get around the fact that unit members may be called upon to actually fight an enemy. Instilling that reality into the unit’s psyche is the real goal. The bottom line is that in a unit where everyone must be a competent fighter, to be thought of well among their peers and by both their leaders and subordinates, the definition of squared away shifts. In units that do collective physical training it isn’t enough for a Soldier to be thought of as squared away to just be good at their job. They must be in good physical condition. In that unit the leaders aren’t putting the overweight Soldier up for an early promotion, no matter how good they are at other things because it is clear that they cannot set the example for the Soldiers they are asked to lead.
In a unit where every Soldiers is expected to be a competent fighter, and consequently fighting is forced into everyone’s mind, what it means to be squared away makes a similar and more drastic shift. Even in areas of soldiering that are difficult to provide motivation through competition, having it in everyone’s mind that fighting is something expected of unit members will produce more seriousness. How can a member of a unit that might be called upon to fight justify not performing well on land navigation? How can a leader of such a unit justify a training schedule that doesn’t include good medical training?
The reason that fighting has this effect more than other forms of training is the same reason why many people avoid it, it is scary. It is the fear factor that separates training that produces warriors from other training that warriors, and non-warriors alike, may do. It isn’t scary to go to the rifle range. It isn’t scary to go for a run. It isn’t scary to conduct a rotation at one of the national training centers. This deficit means that someone can lack the fundamental component of a warrior and still excel at these tasks. Fear is a necessary component of training if the goal is to produce soldiers and units capable of operating effectively in war.
The current military has many battle proven warriors within its ranks. However, it also has a very large number of people with several years of “Combat experience” that involved working in their office and drinking coffee at the Green Bean when they could take a break, for whom the largest danger was mortar rounds that may have landed within several hundred yards of their airconditioned chu. In other words, “Combat Veterans” who have seen about the same amount of combat as the ladies who worked at AAFES.
For these people fear wasn’t even a very large part of their “combat”’ experience, much less of their military training. This means it is going to be an uphill fight to insure the Army is ready for its next big test. It is going to have to be fought in many ways from the ground up. Squad and platoon leaders along with company commanders and first sergeants are going to have to ensure that the right things are happening in their units. Only by embracing the fact that warrior training must involve fear, that it must be a visceral as we can make it, can we ever hope to avoid the next 507th Maintenance Unit debacle.
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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...