[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.