Never Getting ‘the Call’

[May 16, 2019] I’ve heard from many folks in various militaries around the world who put in their time and yet never got “the call.” The call is military-speak for being called for combat duty. That’s what we train for, that’s the purpose of our duty, and we expect that we willed be called to defend our nation at some point in our careers.

There are plenty of organizations that are established with important missions where members are called on to perform an important task. For example, firefighters are called to put out fires. If you belong to a firefighter company, you will be called. Fires are common enough that they drive tasks frequently enough to gain relevant experience.

Being called for a big fire, on the other hand, may never happen. And so it is with the U.S. military. There are plenty of smaller missions, usually labeled contingencies, that have short deployment times and duration; often measured in weeks or a few months. A soldier may deploy without a weapon to some of these.

Before being called to combat today means that a service member will be alerted (sort of like firefighters being alerted by a siren). This alert information is sent to the unit to prepare to be mobilized for combat. But not all service members are ever called upon.

There will always be weak or unscrupulous service members who avoid being called to combat. They “volunteer” for non-deployable units; like training units or senior headquarter-type units. If given a position in a deployable combat unit, they will avoid the call by feigning a medical or some discrediting problem. Sadly, I’ve seen this happen often.

There are also those who serve honorably and with distinction who desire to go into combat but are never called upon. This can be frustrating. They expect that doing the job they’ve been trained for is the ultimate in satisfying their personal goals in life. For example, my first combat deployment ended abruptly when the First Gulf War (1990-1991) ended sooner than expected.

Many in my engineer unit waited at a U.S. airfield, sitting on their rucksacks when the word came down that they would not deploy. Those engineer soldiers were very unhappy, and some decided that at the end of their enlistment, they would quit the army.

Military service members are still valuable assets even when stationed stateside in a war. They are frequently called upon to perform tasks that combat units cannot do due to their current mission. Non-deployable units also provide individual fillers who replace combat losses.

Not getting the call doesn’t make a service member less of a person. However, that will never be their belief.

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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.

21 thoughts on “Never Getting ‘the Call’

  1. Harry B. Donner

    Interesting viewpoint in Gen. Satterfield’s article today. There is some frustration if you are never called upon to do the job. I agree and I think this is the main theme here. Good article that made me think what I can do to get more of my workers involved.

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      Anger might be another emotion expressed whenever a person doesn’t get ‘the call’ to perform the job they’ve been hired and trained to do. What does an employer do about that? Leaders, those that want to do good, have to answer that question.

      1. Bryan Lee

        This is the question that all leaders will eventually have to deal with as the one who makes key decisions.

    2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Good comment Harry. Yes, but what to do about it is the question of the day.

    3. Kenny Foster

      I agree, frustration and anger will be the first response. But also, any good employee (or military service member) must remember that they are there and more missions occur outside the main effort. Those in combat are supported by those doing less visible jobs.

  2. Andrew Dooley

    Another good article for my morning coffee. 🙂

  3. Edward Kennedy III

    In the US Army, we are always giving the hardest and most dangerous missions to those most capable. In combat, this is even more important. Failure is not an option. That means those who are the best at what they do are also most exposed to the dangers of the mission and are more likely to be killed or injured. It also brings to a close the war more quickly.

    1. JT Patterson

      Great comment, Mr. Kennedy. I went back to re-read many of your articles published here and enjoyed them. Please write another article soon. Thank you.

    2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Edward, you’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. Yes, those that are the best are called upon more than others and are at greater risks. They are also the ones promoted quicker to higher levels of responsibility.

      1. Gil Johnson

        Isn’t this unfair. I mean why expose the best people to the most negative risks?

        1. Roger Yellowmule

          Hi Gil, I think the answer is simple:
          1. You get the job done quicker, better, and cheaper.
          2. Those people become the next generation of great leaders.

        2. Anita

          I agree, good discussion but you still have exposed the best workers to the greatest risks and thus there is a good chance you will lose them (killed in combat or go to another company that pays better).

    3. Greg Heyman

      I’m one of your big fans. We’d like an update on what you’ve been doing (undercover?) recently. Thanks Mr. K.

  4. Janna Faulkner

    It seems to me, in my limited experience anyway, that those men and women who are doing the best job compared to others are the ones most likely to be called to do the next, upcoming job/task/mission. If you’re good at what you do, your boss is more than likely to get you onto the next task that required brain power and a go-get-em attitude.

    1. Jake Tapper, Jr.

      Yes, good point Janna. I was that “guy” who was always being called upon for any new or unusual job that needed getting done. My team was the best in the company and we were like, “wow, why did we get another task when other teams were sitting by idly.” No surprise here, of course.

  5. Army Captain

    Interesting, my situation was that I always got ‘the call.’

    1. Georgie M.

      Good to see you Gen. Satterfield’s blog again this morning. Thanks for helping defend our nation, Army Captain.

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