Editor’s Note: It’s an honor to feature this guest post. Below are Lt. Gen Van Riper’s reflections on combat after he retired from the Marine Corps in 1997.
By Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (ret)
- Pray before every battle, pray during the battle, and pray after the battle. I never prayed harder or more earnestly than I did in combat nor did I find anything more comforting.
- Fear is the same every time you come under enemy fire. You may become accustomed to the responses you make, but not the gut-wrenching feeling. You can conquer fear in the sense that you are able to function effectively, however, it will always be with you.
- There are two extremes in a unit’s first fight—“trigger happiness” and over caution. If the first fight is at night the problem is even greater. This is something you simply need to be aware of and to educate your Marines about to reduce the negative impact. Generally, the problem is self-correcting in subsequent engagements.
By Joe Byerly
I originally published this post over at The Zen Pundit as part of The Thucydides Round Table, an eight week deep dive into an exceptional work of history. If you haven’t read Landmark Thucydides yet, I encourage you to pick up a copy, read along, and join in on the discussion here.
In Book 1 of The Landmark Thucydides the council of citizens in Sparta gather to hear the Corinthians, the Athenians, King Archidamus, and one of the ephors debate whether or not Sparta should go to war with Athens. It is within this scene that we witness a psychological phenomenon called “Group Think”; ultimately ending in a declaration of war.
Recently at a gathering of senior military leaders in the Pacific meant to discuss pertinent issues in the region – as well as strategic leadership writ large – General (Retired) Carter Ham spoke at length about his career and the lessons garnered from them. As a consummate developer of leaders, at the end of his talk General Ham gave everyone a “homework assignment”. He was kind enough to provide this assignment to From The Green Notebook for use by the community, listing three contemporary books he thinks all military professionals should consider reading:
By Thomas E. Meyer
The United States Military provides an outstanding leadership laboratory to grow yourself and your team. Perhaps the most impressive means of continuing personal and organizational growth is a personnel system that requires leaders to promote out of position and transition organizations. Controlled change breeds innovation and progress. But, change can also bring discomfort and anxiety. Fear not – there are steps you can take to transition well and establish yourself in a new organization.
Talent management is a hot topic today, and we increasingly read articles and blog posts that are very critical of the military’s management of its personnel. However, the tension between talent management and our promotion system is not a new one. If one studies the history of our military or reads biographies of those who’ve been labeled as “reformers” or “intellectuals”, we find that the institution is not always kind to those who think outside the box or push the boundaries of intellectual thought in the Profession of Arms.
In the late 1800s, a young company grade officer by the name of Arthur Wagner was a member of a network of military leaders who were labeled as the Young Turks. He and his compatriots were intellectuals and reformers. They were not happy with the status quo, and they sought to bring about change by writing in journals such as the Army and Navy Journal, Journal of Military Service Institution, and the Journal of United States Cavalry Association. They pushed the Army to think more deeply about war, develop tough realistic training practices, and create a professional military education system that better prepared leaders for the realities of combat. If Arthur Wagner were around today, he would probably be a member of the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum, the Military Writer’s Guild, and a frequent contributor to sites like From the Green Notebook, The Strategy Bridge, The Military Leader, Ricks’ Best Defense, Small Wars Journal, and War on the Rocks.
How have blogs, social media, and the internet shaped leadership and leader development in the Digital Age?
This post originally appeared on the Strategy Bridge on August 17, 2016
How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon. Rosa Brooks. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016.
In June 1945, 850 delegates representing 50 nations gathered in San Francisco to start the process of drafting what would eventually become the Charter of the United Nations. This wasn’t some exercise in bureaucratic protocol; this was a desperate attempt by humans to bring about stability to a world ripped apart by war, to draw distinct lines between war and peace, and to keep war inside its box. For the ashes were still smoldering on the continent of Europe, and the war in the Pacific wasn’t yet over. Sixty million of the planet’s sons and daughters perished during World War II with another twenty five million wounded. The work of these delegates and their staffs took two months to complete, and by October 24, 1945 the U.N. officially came into existence. For the last 71 years, the Charter, this international body, and the norms they have established for warfare, have contributed to the prevention of the level of destruction experienced in the early 20th century.
By Zachary Mierva
The cabin was very quiet. A few passengers made phone calls or sent text messages to loved ones. Some were saying their prayers. Others would say they were making peace with the situation. If they were going to die, they said, there was nothing they could do about it, and so they tried to accept it.
Some later told me that they were glad I didn’t give them too many details. That would have made them even more frightened.
It wasn’t until about 90 seconds before we hit the water that I spoke to the passengers.
I wanted to be very direct. I didn’t want to sound agitated or alarmed. I wanted to sound professional.
“This is the captain. Brace for impact!”
–Cpt Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
From ARMY Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 9, September 2016. Copyright © 2016 by the Association of the U.S. Army and reprinted by permission of ARMY Magazine.
By the end of August 1944, Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army had left a swath of destruction across Europe. They had captured or destroyed over 4,300 German tanks, artillery pieces and vehicles while losing fewer than 500 of their own tanks and artillery. Even the death toll was lopsided. As of Aug. 23 of that year, the Germans had lost 16,000 soldiers, killed at the hands of III Corps, compared to approximately 2,000 U.S. service members killed in action.
Patton’s rapid 500-mile trek across Europe can be summed up in one word: Attack! The speed at which he moved left the Germans confused, and it paved the way for the Allies’ race to the Rhine.
In 1920, as commander of 3rd Squadron, 3d Cavalry, then Colonel George S. Patton Jr. held a series of sixteen lectures in which we he imparted the lessons he had learned from a mixture of self study and his own experiences in World War I to the junior officers in his formation. When I think about these professional development sessions, I imagine Patton standing in front of a room full of officers with his notecards in hand, and the young captains and lieutenants scribbling furiously in their notebooks. Almost 100 years later, this method of imparting knowledge to the next generation of military leaders hasn’t changed much in our organizations.