Rules of Combat: Don’t Do Anything Stupid

By | March 29, 2022

[March 29, 2022]  Some folks will tell you this rule of what-not-to-do in combat is plain old common sense.  Let me be clear!  It’s not.  I have seen some of the dumbest behavior on the battlefield, and those people still amaze me.  Rules of combat are there because some people are just plain stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, and I have tremendous respect and admiration for the average foot soldier, the person who is first into the firefight.  Occasionally, however, I get to meet some who are idols for the Darwin Award competition.  Things you and I would never try, they seem to admire and revere.

Here are some of the really stupid things I witnessed:

  1. Going into combat without ammunition or grenades.
  2. A rifle fouled with carbon and grease that will not chamber a round.
  3. Traveling in a vehicle low on fuel.
  4. Removing the armor ceramic plate to “lighten up” the carrying load.
  5. Failing to know the rules of engagement (yes, they do change).
  6. Mistaking the enemy firing at you for ordinary peaceful civilians (the gun barrel flashes are a giveaway).
  7. Hiding your battle buddy’s ammo as a joke.
  8. Walking in the tall grass along the roadside when unnecessary (anti-personnel mines are hidden there).
  9. Not knowing where you are located.
  10. And last but not least, not knowing how to call for backup or air support.

Is there a Darwin Award for Soldiers in combat?  I don’t think so.

Here is a bonus.  Making assumptions is a sure killer.  Assume the enemy is not there; yep, they are.  Assume you have enough ammo; nope, you never have enough.  Assume your commander knows what he is doing; wrong again, he doesn’t have a clue.  And, assume you can get out of an ambush with aggressive tactics, and you are wrong again.

Rules of combat are there for a reason; they work.  Failure to study the failures of others and you will be the first to walk into a minefield and never know it until your leg is blown off.  That’s what happens when people get complacent or just do stupid things.1




Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

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.

31 thoughts on “Rules of Combat: Don’t Do Anything Stupid

  1. Danny Burkholder

    Your list are not so common sense. I cannot fathom how anyone would make such mistakes. Maybe they are tired. Maybe they have bad sergeants (who aren’t checking). Regardless sometimes it takes more than common sense.

  2. Randy Goodman

    Gen. Satterfield has a little series going on. I would recommend that Gen. S. start a tab that accummulates all these “rules of combat” into something we can see all at once. Or come up with a book on them. Great stuff.

  3. Lynn Pitts

    Great advice from Gen. Satterfield and something that we should all pay close attention to, and not for obvious reasons. This website is on target if you want to learn a bit about leadership. I’m a long-time fan. Thanks Gen. S. for what you do.

  4. Army Vet

    A note to all readers of this great blog by Gen. Satterfield …. Gen S. has given us some real life examples of how dumb folks can make your life difficult. But I think it is worth exploring how to overcome this problem and who are these dumb people. We already know that 10 percent of the population cannot hold a job or function in society. Let’s put some effort into how to overcome that problem. Then we can work to instill MERIT once again in our country.

    1. MrJohn22

      Great to hear from you. Tell us what you’ve been up to, Army Vet. We love your articles.

  5. Ronny Fisher

    Great list, Gen. Satterfield. I was a bit taken aback with your list but I guess this happens. Happens, tho, when the local leadership is poor.

  6. Nick Lighthouse

    90% of soldiers are there as cannon fodder. Best if you are paying attention so you are part of the 10%.

    1. Erleldech

      Good comment. I think you hit the nail on the head. The problem for military leaders is that you don’t know in advance who that 90% or 10% will be. So you have to properly train them all.

  7. Wendy Holmes

    Great article Gen. Satterfield. Loved this list. I’m was shocked at what stupid people can do. “Stupid” …. oh did I insult somebody. Tough, Pull up your big boy pants.

  8. Max Foster

    Biden caught using cue cards in trying to paper over Ukraine gaffe about ousting Putin
    And this guy is president of the United States? How insane does he have to get before something is done. His “misspeaks” could get folks killed. Oh, already has in Afghanistan (what he called the greatest withdrawal ever). And Crazy Gen. Milley and his ilk are still in their jobs.

    1. Colleen Ramirez

      Biden = EVIL
      If you can’t see it, then you are self-blinding to reality.

  9. Maureen S. Sullivan

    Just follow the science. Oh, sorry, wrong idea. Ha Ha Ha …. !@#%$% Darn it, where is Joe Biden or Kaammmmallla Harris when you need them to talk their word salad? Oh, having ice cream and laughing at the war in Ukraine. Oh, small country gets attacked by big country. Duh.

    1. Idiot Savant

      Maureen, you are right in my mind. Thanks for a bit of humor this morning. Gen. Satterfield now has a short series going with rules of combat. I think this is the third one. Good stuff.

      1. Anya B.

        👍👍👍👍👍 Keep your brain in gear if you want to read Gen. Satterfield’s articles. Thanks Maureen and IS.

        1. Tom Bushmaster

          Got my copy. Read it twice. Enjoyed it both times. Gave my worn copy to my brother and now he’s reading it. Great feedback on his book. Write a review if you get a chance.

          1. Armywife

            The General’s book makes a great gift. I’ve gifted several to friends and even our mayor. I’ve only gotten back positive feedback.

  10. Army Captain

    I’ve seen it all.
    1. Going into combat without ammunition or grenades.
    Shocking, nope, not at all. 😊

      1. JT Patterson

        Missing in action, apparently. I heard about this before during the Korean War, esp. at the beginning of the war. Fortunately, soldiers either wise up or are killed off. You don’t survive long being stupid. And there is a big difference in stupid and courage.

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Thanks Army Captain for adding to my thinking too. Yeah, crazy things happen. Wars tend to sort out the dumb from the smart fairly quickly.

  11. Plato

    WOW, crazy. or as Gen. Satterfield always like to say, “stupid is contagious.” Yes, that is exactly what we are having here. Stupidity at its finest. Want to see more, just listen to slow-Joe Biden on his trip to Europe that shows his dementia.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Yep, and yet the most obvious truths are thrown away in the name of radical neo-marxism and post-modernism. That is something we will ignore to our peril.

    2. KenFBrown

      Let’s be careful about speaking to a millennial of truth around so many snowflakes (living in their mom’s basement and playing computer games all day). THey just might melt. Now that would be worth paying to watch.

      1. Frankie Boy

        The truth is a “social construct” and thus changeable at their whim.


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