Saturday, November 12, 2005

Happy birthday to me... 
I almost forgot, til I read Greyhawk's account of the genesis of the Milblog ring...

This weekend marks Countercolumn's second birthday!

So I'm gonna observe it by consolidating the "Leadership Lessons from Iraq" series, debuted on November 12th, 2003, and posting them here:

1. Sec. Rumsfeld says that first reports are often wrong. Scratch that. First reports are almost ALWAYS wrong.

2. You don't have to holler to communicate in a crisis. My favorite way to communicate in a hairy spot is to put my arm around someone and speak calmly, and directly into his ear. I've heard back later that guys appreciate this.

3. Think of your rank as a badge of servitude to your mission and to your men.

4. Constantly ask yourself, 'what is the best use of my time, right now?'

5. Deep within the heart of every great unit-level logistician lurks just a
touch of larceny.

6. It's always a good idea to periodically ask your peers "How can I better support your mission?"

7. Never take a compliment from the boss without immediately passing on credit to your troops. "Well, the real hero was Pfc Garcia over there..."

8. You have heard it said that loyalty goes two ways—to your boss and to your men. But I submit that’s not enough. You also owe loyalty to your mission, to your boss’s mission, to the theater commander’s mission, and to the democratic principles of the republic you are sworn to defend.

9. If you sense a soldier’s having a hard time, take a minute and say “hey, walk with me to the PX.” Even if you weren’t going to the PX. Then ask ‘what was on your mind just now?’

Then shut up and listen.

10. Never stop coaching or teaching younger soldiers—even if it’s only by way of your example.

11. Don’t take risks you can’t afford to lose.

Example: You are planning a convoy. They tell you you have 3 humvees available and a 5 ton truck. The route takes you out of radio range. There’s no expected air cover. Can you afford the risk of the truck breaking down? No, because you have nothing that can tow the five ton. You’ll either have to stay with it and pray someone else comes along, or you’ll have to abandon the truck.

That’s a mission killer. Hedge your bets, and insist on getting another 5 ton, or delaying the convoy until you can travel with a larger element.

12. Army precommissioning programs tend to esteem reflexive decisiveness over measured judgment. But lieutenants and leaders in all kinds of contexts need both. And in my own experience (over 11 years commissioned service) the measured judgment part of the equation is immeasurably more important.

13. Officers, like all execs, are paid to think, and make sound and timely decisions. They are not paid to flap their pieholes on the radio, anymore than they are paid to write unmotivating emails (or blog entries, for that matter.) Stay in your lane.

14. Put sharp soldiers on the radio. It’s worth the investment. Then take a minute to communicate your plan clearly. Your soldiers will make you look good. Monitor just to make sure.

15. Officers should work through their NCOs and maintain situational awareness.

16. You're not a dog, Firing your weapon isn’t like licking your balls. It’s not one of those things you want to do just because you can. In the urban, low-intensity warfare environment, just firing your weapon is a commitment. Don’t make it lightly.

17. You don’t have to intervene personally in every crisis. Make your intent clear, but allow junior leaders the chance to correct their own mistakes. God knows I’ve appreciated the chance to do that myself, many times over.

18. Never promise an award or promotion, until you are actually pinning it on the soldier.

19. A negative evaluation report should never come as a surprise. Counsel your subordinates regularly, and let them know where they stand all the time.

20. Make your own personal politics a mystery—a guessing game, as far as your troops are concerned. Most soldiers are conservative. But not all of them, by a long shot. You are there to be a leader and mentor to conservatives and liberals alike. Treat everyone’s views with respect.

21. What do Plutonium, Carbon-14 isotopes, and soldier skills have in common? They all have a half-life. So do your maintenance program and your command supply discipline program. You can get it humming and it will hum along for about six weeks to three months, and then will slowly deteriorate beyond recognition. Time for a booster shot from the leadership. Inspect something. Gather subordinate leaders around and tell them what you’ve observed, and insist on hewing to the standard.

22. An ounce of reconnaissance is worth a pound of prayers.

Thanks for reading these past few years, and for your many emails and comments.

And a big thank you from the bottom of my heart especially for the families of American servicemen and women overseas, and to the civilian employers of Guardsmen and reservists everywhere.

And most of all, thank you to the men and women assigned or attached to the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry regiment, who've done so much to make the last few years of my life so memorable and enjoyable. I can't express how proud I am to have worn the uniform along with every one of you.


Happy Birthday, Anniversary, or whatever, Jason. I always enjoy your blogs and have learned a lot. Can't remember if I posted a Happy Veterans Day comment here, but in case I didn't, you were all on my mind & in my heart. Thanks for all you do. Katy
Happy birthday to you. Keep up the great work, in the field and in the blogosphere. Amen to what Katy said.
All very wise and exceedingly valid rules. You should see promotion for merit in your future when you follow these rules. If perchance you don't see it, it is the Army's loss and these rules remain valid for any leadership position, (even the 5 ton truck example, although you would think more along the hedge your company's financial risk scenario there). Wisdom beyond your years, son.

I look forward to hearing more good things about you and from you. Let us know when you make Colonel.

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