Lock and Load: Leadership in Action

[May 15, 2019] The phrase “lock and load” has been around a long time. Veterans of military service know it well; whether on a weapon qualification range or preparing for combat, lock and load literally means to chamber a round in your weapon. It also means to be ready for anything.

Being ready for whatever comes is what leadership is about. Being prepared is one of the hallmarks of good leadership. I remember my first time on the M16 Rifle qualification range at Fort Polk, Louisiana back in 1974. I was nervous, not because I didn’t know how to shoot but because I worried about embarrassing myself in front of my peers and Drill Sergeants.

In the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, lock and load is a euphemism for a less polite way of saying ‘be ready to kill the enemy.’ My first trip outside the wire into Indian Country during my first wartime experience was an eyeopener. My buddies and I were actually going into a possible firefight with some really bad actors in Sadr City, Iraq.1 No action occurred but our pucker factor was high.

To be locked and loaded is true leadership in action. It means that the leader’s team is fully prepared and about to take on their mission. Whether that mission is to kill the nation’s enemies or to build a new car at the Ford factory, it’s still the essence of real leadership. My leadership blog often reinforces the idea that leadership traits are common across all types of leadership. Styles may differ but leadership is still about getting the job done and taking care of people.

As a leader throughout my military career, I always had two simple priorities; get the job done and care for my soldiers. My soldiers often used the well-used phrase to get ‘er done to signify that they were focused and ready to take on any mission.

Our first year in combat we conducted over 50 major offensive operations and none of my men were killed. We all came home and accomplished our mission objectives.

Success is always dependent on drive and persistence. This is where good leadership separates the wannabe leaders from the great ones.


  1. https://www.theleadermaker.com/going-off-the-reservation/
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.

22 thoughts on “Lock and Load: Leadership in Action

  1. Bryan Lee

    Another great article that is why I keep coming back to General Satterfield’s leadership blog.

    1. Harry B. Donner

      Hey thanks Wilson for getting me to see this video. It also has some great history of weapons.

    2. Fred Weber

      Thank you WIlson. Very informative.

  2. Scotty Bush

    One of my personal fav quotes and appropriate for this blog post: “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.” by David Star Jordan

  3. Jung Hoon Kim

    Thank you from the deepest of my heart to American soldiers. My father was saved from the Communists. My family praises all those soldiers who won the battles for us during our fight in Korea.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Mr. Kim, and you and your country of South Korea have our greatest appreciation for being a strong ally against evil forces in the world that would enslave us all.

    2. Tomas C. Clooney

      I concur. Thanks Mr. Jung Hoon Kim.

  4. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

    “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.” –Henry Kissinger
    This means leadership is about “action” and getting results.

  5. Willie Shrumburger

    Oh, I like the thumbnail you are using. The soldier is holding an M1 Carbine that was made popular during WWII. It fired a 30 caliber round from a magazine. It was smaller than the full M1 Garand and had a higher capacity. The bullet was, however, underpowered. Great article today. Thanks, Gen. Satterfield.

    1. Mark Evans

      Willie, thanks for pointing out this detail. I have an M1 Garand that I purchased many decades ago. Great shooter. My dad carried one during WWII and an uncle during the Korean War. I always had a fascination about it since I was a kid and was told of the ‘action’ that went on during both wars.

      1. Eva Easterbrook

        You should be honored to have so many of your relatives who played a role in important wars of the US.

      2. Harry B. Donner

        A great rifle. Got to qualify with it back in the 1960s.

    2. Greg Heyman

      Yes, Willie, guns are tools but sometimes they take on symbolic meaning. For you, it is a good thing but for some others (who are sufficiently ignorant) guns are evil incarnate. Such ignorance of the first degree is telling; that person lacks the basic elements of good character and should never be trusted.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Good point, Greg. Anyone who is so weak mentally that they are sucked in willingly to a twisted ideology (like Nazism or Communism or Socialism, or PC) cannot be trusted. They will blow with the next prevailing wind. Their word is meaningless.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    Wow! Now I have a better appreciation of those who help defend our nation. That includes police and any others that put their lives on the line for us.

  7. Army Captain

    Oh, I remember it so; my first time in combat when I gave the command to lock and load. Scary!

    1. Albert Ayer

      I’m sure it was. Going into harm’s way where people are trying to kill you and your men must have been an experience you’ll never forget.

    2. Danny Burkholder

      Thank you for what you do and have done to help keep us free from crazy dictators and socialists/communist wannabes.

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