[September 2, 2016] Leaders who want to always be on top of their game, focused, and fully proficient in duty performance, might want to take a look at the Standing Rules of Rogers’ Rangers. The first rule is DON’T FORGET NOTHIN’. These rules lay the groundwork for what leadership means at any level and are applicable at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of any organization.
The 20 rules were initially established by Major Robert Rogers in 1759 while fighting during the French and Indian War in the United States. Later, during the U.S. Revolutionary War, many of those same rangers played a significant part in helping win independence from Britain. Modern U.S. Special Forces and Ranger units trace their lineage directly to Rogers’ Rangers and today’s Ranger Handbook (SH 21-76) is full of great leadership in action (see link 2011 RHB Final Revised 02-11-2011 for current edition).1
What’s so special about these “rules” – in my humble opinion – is that the range of application is exceedingly broad. It may take a little introspection mixed with some experience but some of the most senior U.S. military leaders have used Rogers’ rules as a basis for their leadership style and as a tool to help them with their duties and responsibilities as well as providing a basis for high-level thinking.
For example, rule number 20 states, “Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it, jump out and finish him with your hatchet.” There is the most obvious meaning from those standing rules over 250 years old … but it can also mean something else. When confronted by an enemy (or competitor), don’t use force piecemeal but suddenly and aggressively to instill shock and fear.
Here are the Standing Rules of Rogers’ Rangers:
- DON’T FORGET NOTHIN’.
- Keep your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet sharp and scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
- When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you were sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
- Tell the truth about what you see and do. There is an army depending on you for correct information. You can lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but never lie to another Ranger or to an officer.
- Don’t ever take a chance you don’t have to.
- When we’re on the march, we move in single file, staying far enough apart that one shot can’t go through two men. This also helps conceal the number of men in our party.
- If we strike swamps or soft ground, we spread out abreast so it’s harder to track us.
- When we’re on the march, we keep moving until dark to give the enemy the least possible chance at catching up to us.
- When we make camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
- If we take prisoners, we keep them separated until we have time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between them.
- We never return home the same way we went out. We use a different route, so we won’t be ambushed. Be extra careful when we get close to home: the enemy may be lying in wait nearby.
- Whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party keeps a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on each flank and 20 yards in the rear, so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
- Every night, you’ll be told where to meet if we have to disperse to avoid being surrounded by a superior force.
- Never sit down to eat, or stop to replenish water supplies, without posting sentries.
- All hands shall be awake, alert and ready for action before dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians like to attack.
- If we find that somebody’s trailing us we make a circle, come back on our own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush us.
- When we’re on the march, we stay at least a hundred yards away from lakes or rivers, to avoid being trapped against a shoreline.
- Never cross a river by a known, regular ford. These are prime places for ambush.
- Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, or hide behind a tree or rock.
- Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it, jump out and finish him with your hatchet.
What a great way to start the day by reading something from so long ago that has meaning that transcends modern technology.
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