Battle-Hardened Troops: Who are They?

By | September 17, 2018

[September 17, 2018]  I’ve been asked on several occasions to re-publish a few of my older articles on the U.S. military as a way to reintroduce the concept of “effectiveness in teams.”  Today I’ve done that with an article on battle-hardened troops.  Enjoy!

[Originally published September 2, 2014]  There are few things more confusing in military debate circles than the concept of “battle hardened” troops. In most discussions about them, people are saying how the battle-hardened troop is more effective at fighting, how they are calmer and composed in combat, and how they are courageous under fire. While there is some truth to this, it entirely misses the point at what is important.

The critical component of any successful fighting force is the effectiveness of its units in combat. Battle-hardened means being more effective and more effective means being part of a unit.

As a universal rule of combat, the best troop is the one who can be part of a functioning unit. How smart, strong, and resilient the individual troop is, is less relevant than how well the combat unit works together. This means that the unit has excellent internal and external communications. Combat weeds out those who cannot communicate or who fail in other ways. Those who remain are better at teamwork, communication, and ultimately better at showing initiative.

During World War II, both the Japanese and German small units were known for their internal communications. Interestingly, this carried over into movies from that era … The Sands of Iwo Jima and Back to Bataan were two good examples that showed how the Japanese soldiers relied upon bugles and voice commands. The Americans rarely talked during battle.

Battle-hardened troops are those who can most effectively work as part of a smoothly functioning team. This means that there is good internal coordination that comes from first-rate communication. Once a military team has a preponderance of experienced troops who can work in a team environment, the unit becomes more effective on the battlefield.

The concept of battle-hardened troops thus applies to the team and not to the individual. And that is why there is so much confusion over the concept.

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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.

26 thoughts on “Battle-Hardened Troops: Who are They?

  1. Scotty Bush

    The idea that being part of a team is what makes us effective as a person (or as a leader) runs counter and in great contrast to what you read today about leadership. I think you are on point with it and the person matters only so much as they are a contributor to the team. You can still be a great person but only when you are part of something.

  2. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Thank you, Gen Satterfield, for bringing back a great article from the past. Always important for me to be reintroduced to key concepts.

  3. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Nothing like good old team membership that makes us better individuals.

  4. Jerome Smith

    Growing up as a kid, I was always on some sports team. We won most of our games and we experienced the thrill of winning and, yes, losing. But we learned also that the team was what made us who we are and not some psycho-battle teacher. Team membership matters. Only by being part of a team (like in a marriage or on a baseball team) is what makes us more human. People are social beings. Nothing else comes close.

    1. Mike Baker

      Good point here, Jerome. Yes, people are social beings. Too many Millenials today don’t understand that key fact.

  5. Eric Coda

    Nothing better than a great article and it doesn’t matter when printed originally.
    The idea that being part of the team matters more than the individual is not a new idea but one that we need to be reminded of occasionally.
    Thanks for a good read, Gen. Satterfield.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    I too am a long-time reader but having the better articles republished is a good thing. Hey, thanks all for encouraging the best to be reread by old farts like me.

  7. Nick Lighthouse

    I’m a new reader so bringing back some of the older and more popular articles is a good thing for me. I liked this article because it is getting into those things that allow me (and others who are interested) to refocus on those things that make for better leadership. I’m especially interested in the fact that being part of the team is the key. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for getting this article back out for us.

  8. Lynn Pitts

    Wow, love it. I wasn’t a reader back then but please continue to bring forth some of your more popular articles about military troops. The more we learn about them, the more we learn about how to be better and more effective leaders.

  9. Willie Shrumburger

    Spot on article about battle-hardened troops and how it’s being part of an effective team that really matters more than anything else.

  10. Joe Omerrod

    Sitting at my desk this morning in the hospital I help run, my coffee is brewing up, and have just read your wonderful article. It always amazes me what our troops do in combat and how they can accomplish so much … despite our political leadership.

    1. Danny Burkholder

      Love your comments. Me too. I also have my dog here.

  11. Janna Faulkner

    Long-time reader here at and remember this article when it came out. I made an impression upon me because it was written by an experienced combat soldier. The idea of what makes a person an effective member of the team stuck with me.

  12. Roger Yellowmule

    I’m a fairly new reader so missed that article. The idea of resilience and battle-hardened should be explored a little more here in your website. Good stuff.

    1. Bill Sanders Jr.

      Yes, I’m always amazed at what I can learn at this website. Thanks, Army Captain for your service.

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