[August 14, 2021] Recently, I began writing a book on the early years of the Iraq War. By writing a bit of that history, I’m being forced to relearn many of the rules of combat that I may have forgotten from my days on the battlefield. In this article and several that follow, I will highlight the rules of combat and apply them to the leadership required of folks today.
I was fortunate to grow up in a small town in the Northeast corner of the state of Louisiana. Veterans from WWII and Korea were in abundance, and they gave me some great war stories, those stories from which we can also learn a great deal. I’ll be blunt here; these veterans scared the living bejeebers out of me. Their tales should never be repeated, and I will honor them by never revealing their experiences. I’ll carry their secrets to my grave, but taken as a whole, I was made better by such brave men.
One rule these veterans taught me, not the first but an important one, is to be sure and see the enemy first. Later, this was highlighted by our Vietnam veterans returning home from the jungles of Southeast Asia. If you can’t see the enemy, he will see you, and you will die. Pay close attention to your surroundings but also learn to distinguish typical background from the enemy. Bad guys are good at camouflaging their motivations and intentions. Be aware.
On the television series Combat!, my hero Sergeant Chip Saunders, Company K, was always on point, looking out for the Krauts. He had a sharp eye and excellent hearing. If you are looking for the enemy, be sure to put the person with the best ability out front. Seeing the enemy first gives us a tactical advantage, and we must fight for every advantage at every opportunity we can get. That is how we win.
Seeing the enemy first is really about preparation and setting the standard of excellence for everyone. It also means motivating and teaching all your soldiers the most valuable skills. At the local town council meeting I attended earlier this week, I saw what seeing the enemy first really meant. That article was about how democracy can be messy. I witnessed several town folks get up to a microphone, despite being scared and talk in opposition on an upcoming vote that was expected to pass. The vote failed.
A little old lady, she called herself Mrs. J., was the coolest and bravest one present. She stood there and lectured our council members about how they were attacking our community elderly. Mrs. J. had the facts and figures ready, and she hammered home her points. I was proud to be beside her … and on her side. The council came around to our side; we won the day.
That is what seeing the enemy is all about. Know what is going on in your surroundings, self-educate and educate others, be bold and decisive, stay informed, and always watch out for the enemy.