Put Me in the Fight

By | February 28, 2020

[February 28, 2020]  There is an old U.S. Army Engineer motto Essayons, a French word that means “Let us try.”  It refers back centuries into the haze of French and English history, meaning that when things get tough, send in the Engineers.  Another, more modern military one-liner meaning roughly the same thing is – put me in the fight.

Military units train to fight but rarely get the opportunity to use those hard-won skills.  It is, therefore, not surprising that many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen are chomping at the bit to use their training and get into the fight.  But, I have found they only want the chance to fight if there is a legitimate, legal war.

During the Second Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, November, and December 2004, elements of my Engineer unit were sitting on the east side of the city waiting for U.S. Marines to begin their clearing operation.  I was present when one of the Marine battalion commanders was speaking with the 1st U.S. Marine Division Commander.  The battalion commander knew the upcoming fight would be tough, but he also knew his men had trained hard for the mission and wanted to get it on quickly.  He said, “Sir, put me in the fight.”

We were cheerleaders for the Iraqi people.  We saw how the population was treated, especially the Sunnis, Christians, and gays.  It was common that these people would be thrown off a roof, burned to death, tortured, or disappeared.  Although rare, we occasionally ran across a mass grave of buried men, women, and children who had been “eliminated” by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a Shia.

These people were the underdog, and Americans love underdogs.  The underdog gives us a chance to help right a wrong, fix a problem that needs fixin’, or set the record straight by doing what is morally, legally, and ethically right.  Seldom is the choice so evident in life.  When you see people who have been mistreated, you know that right is on your side.  I found the Marine battalion commander’s request solely for what it was.  His request was to try to do the right thing, and regardless of the outcome, he and his men could live with the results.

The Second Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest battle of the entire Iraq War.  It is notable for being the first significant engagement of the Iraq War fought solely against insurgents rather than forces of the former Ba’athist Iraqi government.  U.S. Army units sitting east of the city and acting as the anvil part of a hammer-and-anvil strategy had it easy compared to the Marines.  The outcome, however, had been foreordained.

U.S. Navy Seabees (naval engineers) were a vital part of the fight, clearing mines and debris, cutting electrical power to the city, bulldozing obstacles, etc.  There were no Coalition units that hesitated to be part of this fight, including Iraqi army forces.  Put me in the fight was a common refrain in those months.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Put Me in the Fight

  1. Mikka Solarno

    So true! Excellent article, so thanks Gen. Satterfield.

  2. Joe Omerrod

    This article reminds me of my college football days. We had a scrappy team but lost nearly every game. But we possessed something the other team did not have. We had heart. And, of course, every member of the team were always asking out coach to put us in the game.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Good story from your younger days, Joe. Thanks. Most men have similar stories. Comradeship means a lot to us.

  3. Tracey Brockman

    “Put me in the game” or “Put me in the fight” are the same thing. We all want to compete unless the desire is slowly knocked out of us in school. That is why schools must develop and enhance competition, not subdue it.

  4. Drew Dill

    There are some great lessons here. All, let’s pay close attention. I nearly missed a couple of important points in the article but found only after a second reading. Yes, Americans love an underdog but we also 1) love competition and 2) love winners. This is no trivial fact.

    1. Bryan Lee

      Good point, Drew and I will add that we tend to elevate winners to an almost hero-level of appreciation. The reason may be lost in the fog of antiquities but it does make us much better people.

  5. Kenny Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks for working in at times some of the battles in which you fought. A little applied history never hurts.

  6. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    When I was in High School I played basketball and found it to be a wonderful game in many respects. First, it taught you humility (always someone was much better than you) . Second, it taught you to work as a team (or you lost the game). And, third, it taught you to keep a cool head under pressure. While there were many other lessons, these things make for a better person no matter how you look at it. Thanks to my basketball years, I’m simply a better person.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Thanks Otto, this is exactly what I tell my football players. Competition makes you a better man (or woman).

  7. Georgie B.

    Another great time to be reading Gen. Satterfield’s blog. We are looking at leadership being developed among candidates for presidential office in the USA. I look forward to comparing what is written here in this blog to what is going on on the ground in the upcoming election.

  8. Jane Fillmore

    Hey guys, I’ve been following – of and on – the US Democrat debates. This is an example of extreme competition. They all want to be “in the fight” and none seem to want to back out. That is a good thing in itself. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are all a bit batshit crazy to say what they are saying but the competition should mellow the extremists out a little bit at some point. Too many polls are saying they cannot win against Pres Trump with such extremism but we shall see.

    1. Lady Hawk

      This is a good way to look at it. Why the Democrats are running to the extreme left is a curious question. Some say it’s because all their Twitter (various social media) fans are pushing them that way. I’m not so sure but the competition has so far killed off all the moderates. Maybe competition in this case is not working out so well.

    2. JT Patterson

      Competition is a good thing, rarely bad. I think it will shake out the candidates for the better. Let’s wait and see what happens.

  9. Greg Heyman

    Put me in coach!
    A conversation between a man’s primary and secondary brain where the later lets the former know he’s ready for action.
    Coach Willie’s team was excited to see the new grass on the field. Johnson stood up and said, “Put me in coach! I’m ready to play!”
    From the Urban Dictionary. A little weird on the def part but if you re read it several times, it starts to make sense.

    1. Tom Bushmaster

      Thanks Greg, for the definition. We should all be paying close attention to the fact that kids like to compete, especially boys. We should be encouraging them, not discouraging them like the liberal teachers in school that want to emasculate little boys.

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Tom,yes, so sad but so true. I hope we can turn this problem around where teachers are teaching that govt is the solution to all problems when it should be that individual roughedness is the real solution.

      2. Wendy Holmes

        Competition makes us all better even if you are not part of it. Some of us observe and cheerlead for one team or the others. We are all winners when this happens.

  10. Army Captain

    Wanting to be ‘in the fight’ is why the US military is always pushing competitive games on its troops. It makes the want to compete more and more. That is why, when in combat we are so effective.

  11. Eric Coda

    Coach, put me in !! That is common among players in games. I like the fact that so many of us love competition and being part of the game. That is the only way you will ever know what victory feels like (and want it more) and, conversely, what failure feels like (and want to avoid it).

    1. Willie Shrumburger

      I agree, Eric that nearly every kid I ever had in my class, wanted to be “in the game” so they could show off (or really just win the game for us). Competition, meaning being up against someone better than us, is what makes us all better folks.

    2. Valkerie

      Good comment Eric and yes we do like being in the game. Gen. Satterfield wrote sometime in the past that everyone should have ‘skin in the game’ which means we are part of the success or part of the failure. Who wants to fail? While there are some leftists on the political scale that might love to fail, the rest of the real world wants to win and win big.


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