Rules of Combat: See the Enemy First

By | August 14, 2021

[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.

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.

17 thoughts on “Rules of Combat: See the Enemy First

  1. Chuck USA

    Gen. Satterfield, in light of the fact that Afghanistan is falling apart as I write this, please write your next article on “rules of combat” about knowing what’s ahead. Thanks again for your insights and esp. your comments on BIden’s epic failure in Afghanistan.

  2. Wilson Cox

    Good article, Gen. Satterfield. I encourage you to keep this one up. So what is the next rule of combat?

  3. Guns are Us

    Politicians are not about the people but only getting the votes of the people. Very few at the federal level care about people, only getting the vote. That is why we have stupid people like Nancy Pelosi in charge.

  4. Georgie B.

    Our politicians should remember this line: “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.” — Gen. Doug Satterfield, extraordinaire leader.

    1. Harry Donner

      Yes, it has a fantastic example of the FACT that Pres. Joe Biden completely bombed out on the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He didn’t see the enemy first, he didn’t see them at all. But they saw him and pegged him for the idiot that he is.

    2. Eric Coda

      What a dumbass Biden is. Clueless comes to mind. Who is advising him anyway or is he just that stupid. Even I could see this coming.

      1. Pink Cloud

        These are good articles from Gen. Satterfield frequently references them. A bunch of insightful gentlemen run the site.

        1. Jonathan B.

          Just another reason to keep coming back to Gen. Satterfield’s leadership website. If you don’t, you’re missing out a bunch. Anyway, we know that Gen. Satterfield names names and naming Biden as a failed presidency is worth me reading about it any way. Keep up the pressure on those that are stupid and help those who are ignorant. That is what real leaders do, IMHO.

  5. Army Captain

    “Seeing the enemy first,” wow, and yes I do know that what Gen. Satterfield is writing here is symbolic and not just about combat on the battlefield. What he is saying is that if you don’t pay attention – sleep thru life – then you will have a hard time. Also, if you are so ideologically blind, you will also never see the enemy coming.

    1. Willie Strumburger

      Lady Hawk, I was thinking the same thing. I keep coming back to this website for inspiration and education. And, yes, I do admit also for a bit of entertainment ….. which I find in both the articles and in come who comment here like “old warrior,” who never fails to make me laugh.

      1. Max Foster

        Yes, Willie and I do wish others would comment so that we can “see” better (as Gen. Satterfield says) what is most important – that way we can learn better from this leadership forum’s section. Nothing better than learning from others so that we can avoid the major mistakes that they make. It’s about learning not about being born with a silver spoon in our mouths.

      2. Greg Heyman

        Gen. Satterfield surely puts up some great stuff, some better than others. If you want a daily dose of leadership, come to this website.

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      Yep! Great article on a subject you would not think people need to talk about. But with all the ‘snowflakes’ out there, better keep things hot to melt that exterior stupidity.


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