everyone loves a hero…

Fred Leland Jr. of Law Enforcement and Security Consulting just made me aware of this quote of William F Owen’s:

“Popular military history (and especially regimental or unit histories) constantly fail to recognise that outstanding courage and sacrifice are not the same as good tactics. It could even be said that, if you have to resort to courage and sacrifice, tactical skill is lacking. More often than not, heroism gets advanced to cover up poor tactical conduct. Thus the understanding of what creates successful tactics is largely absent from a lot of modern doctrine. With confusion as to tactics, something called the ‘operational level of war’ seems alluring. It might even be suggested that commanders are drawn to describing themselves as working at the operational level, because it allows them to avoid responsibility for bad tactics.” ~William F. Owen

I agree. While we all admire the hero, I’d rather carry out 100 uneventful but successful operations than be remembered for bravery in a @#%$$’er where everything went sideways.



8 thoughts on “everyone loves a hero…”

  1. Bravery and courage play an integral role in combat and deserve reverence. Even the best tacticians are reliant upon available information/intelligence and are forced to accept assumptions for what is unknown. It is precisely when that unknown strikes that tactics can prove for naught; and the sole chance of victory becomes dependent upon the bravery and heroism of the individual fighting man who, using his initiative and courage to overcome the situation, performs acts of bravery to wrench mission success from the maelstrom.

    1. Actually it is exactly when the unknown strikes that tactical training and tactics will reveal the best trained. How many times will you hear/read/see REAL operators interviewed on History channel and they don’t talk about dealing with adversity/unknowns by ‘bravery’ but by falling back on their training. I don’t know about Law Enforcement planning but Military planning and operations are built around the assumption of discipline, obedience, mission focus, and courage… ‘courage’ is a factor but to be honest the BEST countermeasure the military has against ‘fear’ (as in someone quitting the mission, turning and running) is peer pressure and conditioning/culture NOT necessarily ‘courage’ from my experience.

    2. Reverence and respect for ‘uncommon Valor’ levels of bravery and courage should take place during special ceremonies, memorials, and during those ‘war story’ sessions within the unit that ‘owns’ those stories IMO. It may be a factor to consider when planning missions – as a factor of ‘readiness’ – but to be honest if it can’t be measured, counted, or calculated most Military operations are planned with the ASSUMPTION that ‘courage’ and ‘bravery’ will be there in every troop because a certain level of conditioned ‘bravery’ is part of the basics that is trained into combat/combat support troops from basic training, through MOS school/AIT, unit training and operations. NO military operation is designed around the theory of “okay if this falls a part do we have Bruce Willis in the Nakatomi building?”

  2. I remember an old Recon Marine from the Vietnam Era giving a talk to a group of NCO’s while I was active duty. In a nutshell he said most missions were boring if they did their jobs right. I’m not discounting guts/glory/courage, just saying that it’s the pre-mission planning and work ups that should make those moments of guts/glory rare. If professionals had to ‘wing it’ more often, not only would the mission not get done, it would be a waste of some seriously important military assets – like Operators.

  3. Hi Guys, just a word of caution in using Clausewitz, he always spoke in broad terms. When he speaks of action, he means armies, not a platoon, a squad or an individual.

    1. I know…but much like Musashi was talking about individual combat in “The Book of Five Rings”…one can use portions of his work to illustrate wider ranging ideas.

      I have heard iterations of the “a bad decision now is better than a good decision later” meme spouted in places as varied as military NCO schools, police academies and SWAT sources as advice to individuals. I think people who say stuff like that need to be clear that this applies in special circumstances… primarily “life and death” moments. I know a few people who would probably still be alive if they had slowed down and thought about what they were going to do before they did it.

    2. Same point could be made about Lao Tzu but everyone loves to quote him as well. Regardless of the scope/range of the author (Clausewitz, Musashi, Lao Tzu..) the idea is that the conceptual theory that they present can be applied at many levels of tactics and strategy. When I was in the Marines we learned individual, team, squad, platoon and company level tactics and strategies with the understanding that the basics – the concept of how and why these “units” were moved/deployed was going to be fundamentally the same at almost any scale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s