[October 18, 2019] It’s not easy being in the military. You have competing priorities with complex assignments and demanding commanders. To be successful, you have to think hard about your mission and your teammates. In battle, you have to shoot, move, and communicate.
“Think, think, think, that is what we are trying to install because your mind is the biggest weapon Soldiers have in battle.” – U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Fairchild, 2nd Platoon, A Co.1
In the U.S. Infantry, you shoot to destroy the enemy, keep moving to avoid being hit, and be where the enemy doesn’t expect you and communicate with your higher headquarters, so they know what’s going on. I found this very difficult to do. Calling my higher headquarters didn’t seem important when you’re trying to keep from getting killed; the immediate firefight takes precedence over telling someone what’s happening.
I was wrong. Communicating with your higher headquarters is just as important as the firefight itself. The reason is that others who know what’s happening – based on you talking with them – can come to your aid. Information communicated with the higher also helps commanders understand the overall situation better and can then direct other units properly. Doing so ensures a higher probability of success on the battlefield.
It may not be obvious, but this idea applies to everything we do. At your job or with family and friends, doing what you’re supposed to do (the “shoot”) means to do things (the “move”), and talking with them to keep others motivated and happy (the “communicate”). Soldiers have a hard time adapting to this combat requirement also to do things, but through practical exercises and classroom discussion, they learn to do so.
In one of the last live-fire exercises my unit conducted before deploying to Baghdad, Iraq, we were running a convoy through its paces. As expected, we were hit by “enemy” forces that forced our convoy to stop (not good in a real situation). While we returned fire (with blank ammunition), our convoy commander was calling in the attack to our higher headquarters. We failed the exercise because we failed to “move.” The next day, we didn’t repeat the mistakes.
While in combat, our unit was able to pass through an ambush. Thanks to the training we had on “shoot, move, and communicate,” we survived. Realistic training builds confidence and provides a toolbox of goodies that can be used to conduct a difficult mission.