The Best Defense

How to work in a TOC: Charlie Sherpa's 26 rules of hard-won wisdom

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on April 15, 2013.

For the genre of "hard-won but sometimes humorous military wisdom," "Charlie Sherpa" mentioned these in a comment on the lessons of helicopter pilots, but they are too good not to run as a separate post.

1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"

2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"

3. Never speak with complete authority regarding that which you lack direct knowledge, observation, and/or suppressive fires.

4. Never pull rank over a radio net.

5. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.

6. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to communicate.

7. "I am responsible for everything my commander's organization knows and fails to know, learns and fails to learn."

8. Know when to wake up the Old Man. Also, know how to wake him up without getting punched, shot, or fired.

9. The three most important things in the TOC are: Track the battle. Track the battle. Track the battle.

10. Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries.

11. Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person on the map.

12. Rank has its privileges. It also has its limitations.

13. Let Joe surprise you.

14. Don't let Joe surprise you.

15. The first report is always wrong. Except when it isn't.

16. The problem is always at the distant end. Except when it isn't.

17. Exercise digital/tactical patience. Communications works at the speed of light. People do not.

18. Your trigger finger is your safety. Keep it away from the CAPS LOCK, reply-all, and flash-override buttons.

19. The warfighter is your customer, and the customer is always right.

20. Bullets don't kill people. Logistics kills people.

21. Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it's supposed to work.

22. Cite sources on demand. State opinions when asked.

23. Work by, with, and through others. It's all about empowerment.

24. Do not seek the spotlight, Ranger. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.

25. Both the Bible and The Art of War make this point: It's never a mistake to put oneself in someone else's boots.

26. Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't.


The Best Defense

'The Darker Side of Cohesion': A military problem I'd like to read more about

During the summer, the Best Defense is in re-runs. Here are some favorites that ran in late 2012 and in 2013. This item originally ran on April 4, 2013.

You don't see much discussion of the downside of cohesion, so I was interested to see this comment by Pete Kilner on page 70 of the April issue of ARMY:

A team is too cohesive if its Soldiers prioritize their loyalty to each other above their loyalty to Army values. Such a team risks covering up unethical behavior and dealing with it solely ‘in house.' Leaders must ensure that cohesive teams are as loyal to our professional values as they are to each other.

Tom again: This made me wonder. We had very cohesive small units in Iraq and Afghanistan. How did this change the conduct of the war? Has anyone examined abuses in the context of high- and low-cohesion units? I know, it might be impossible, because if Kilner is correct, then abuse by high-cohesion units disproportionately won't be reported.

My bet is that one of the signs of real trouble is when the cohesion is at odds with the chain of command. I remember seeing a Marine platoon in Somalia where the platoon leader was out of it, almost shoved aside by a charismatic NCO -- who turned out to be a natural-born criminal.