‘Always Keep Moving’ is Good Advice, but …

[May 4, 2020]  One of the basic rules of combat is to always keep moving (never be in one place long), else the real enemy might find you and attack.  Always keep moving is good advice but it has some drawbacks.

My mechanized Infantry platoon had failed to link up with at a predetermined time and location established by our commander.  We were waiting for a late group of soldiers to arrive when the OPFOR unexpectedly attacked.  The mission failed and I was given a “no go” on the platoon-level leader skill of coordinating a rendezvous.  Herein was the problem we experienced.

If you stand still long enough in combat, you’re going to be found and attacked.  This lesson meant the best advice is, indeed, keep moving.  Now that I’m older, I can more appreciate that advice, but I can also see that it has a few drawbacks as well.

My biggest problem was that I took my commander at his word literally and didn’t have the flexibility to accomplish a simple rendezvous when the other soldiers were late.  Keep moving or staying in one location too long should be seen as a principle to be modified if necessary.  Lesson learned; we train as we fight.  My platoon had its proficiency rating downgraded and we were on extra duty for the duration of the week.

Another drawback to the advice of always keep moving is that doing so is impossible, practically speaking.  We were part of a mechanized unit; thus, any movement was relatively easy.  Yet maintenance, refueling, rest, and refit must be done sometime else the Armored Personnel Carrier, our weapons, and personal gear will cease to function.  Being a new Second Lieutenant meant I lacked the relevant experience to be flexible in understanding my commander’s mission intent.

If you want to see how good advice from a leader can turn bad, the study of the deadly event that took place 50 years ago today.  On this date, at Kent State University, four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a Vietnam War protest.  This event is an excellent study in the psychology of people under stress and their actions can become unpredictable.  I wrote about this several years ago.1

I took full responsibility for my platoon’s failure because it was indeed my fault for our lack of flexibility.  But I took responsibility for another reason; leaders take care of their troops and are inherently answerable for what happens, good or bad.

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  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/kent-state-shootings-and-a-study-in-leadership/
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “‘Always Keep Moving’ is Good Advice, but …

  1. Darryl Sitterly

    Great advice and easily overlooked. I’m not surprised we have to be motivated by others to remember it.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      The BEST advice I ever got. My dad used to say that to me all the time. He coached our junior high football team and during practice he was known as a ‘beast.’ We had to ‘keep moving’ or we had to run extra laps.

  2. The Kid 1945

    Gen. Satterfield, you regularly use your time in the Army as a junior officer to highlight your points. Like others here, I find this a good idea. On another note, you must have had a hard time at it based on your comments about making so many mistakes. Does the Army really tolerate making mistakes and getting away with it? Or do they have some philosophy that I’m not aware of?

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      “The kid,” thanks for asking this question. The US Army and other US military services do not have a zero-tolerance policy on legitimate mistakes. If they had, I’d have been kicked out long ago.

    2. Tracey Brockman

      Many of the best officers I ever came across in the military, were ones who struggled the most at the beginning of their time. They learned often the hard way but were able to adapt and overcome those obstacles.

      1. Sally

        Well said, Tracey. We don’t all start out perfect! Ha Ha.

  3. Randy Goodman

    Just a reminder to those who read these forums that the Daily Favorites is useful also.
    And, we also had a special treat with the WWII photographs “for Charlie” a friend of Gen. Satterfield who recently passed away.

    1. Wendy Holmes

      Yes, Randy and I thought it was especially touching that he provided some colorized WWII pix for his WWII friend who died. Thanks for pointing this out.

  4. Santa Fe Mae

    Enjoyable reading. Both entertaining and educational. I know others have said that but it is the gain I get from these blog posts that keeps me coming back. Yesterday you had Mr. Kennedy III on your site and I’m a big fan of his (like so many). Thanks.

  5. KenFBrown

    I agree with Valkerie below that using your soldier experience is helpful. Telling a story is one of the reasons I can remember so many of your points. One day, I’ll just be walking along and I see something that triggers the memory of your blog because of the ‘story.’ I talked to one of the psychologists last week who said this is common and they call it ‘association.’ Or, something like that. Any way, keep it up.

    1. Len Jakosky

      Thank Ken. The same happens to me but I was afraid to say it here for fear of you folks thinking I was nuts. Guess not.

  6. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, another great article using your experience from when you were in the army. Thank you.

  7. Darwin Lippe

    Now that I’m getting older (much older but don’t tell me), I find that keep moving has additional value. If you stop, then you atrophy and die. I try to keep moving both physically and mentally. Mentally it means reading books, talking with friends, playing chess with my grandson, and walking around my neighborhood and having a conversation with people.

    1. Gil Johnson

      I was thinking the same thing.

  8. JT Patterson

    In the May 2020 edition of VFW Magazine (don’t know if it’s online yet or not) there is an article about two vets missing legs who navigated up Pikes Peak in Colorado. You might not think much of it, standing alone in your kitchen with the oven of cookies, but these two did something not even a healthy man could do. If you have the mag, read the article. The title …. of course …. “Always keep moving.”

    1. old warrior

      I get the VFW and Amer Legion magazine each month and read them cover to cover.

  9. Army Captain

    I too have been given this advice on many occasions. And, it does work. If in doubt, keep moving. There are times when we don’t keep moving and that is a choice based on circumstance. Like in a defensive position when you want the enemy to come to you.

  10. Eva Easterbrook

    Good article. Thanks. I would suggest, humbly of course, that you start a series on “good advice … but” and give us more of these. Well done. Hope you take my suggestion.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Good suggestion but I think Gen. Satterfield will be interspersing these thru-out the weeks as he comes across them. I’m not so sure he want to begin another series on “good advice” since he already is doing that. Hey, Eva, great to hear from you again. 😊

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      I agree, great recommendation.

      1. Janna Faulkner

        Yep, anything on advice in general or lessons learned are of particular value to us. Anything along these lines would work out. I would also recommend that Gen. Satterfield put together an electronic book, like he did other years, on advice. Or, even better on his ‘jobs’ as a young kid. I found these particularly entertaining and valuable for those things he learned.

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