“Combat, Orders and Judgment”

Interesting companion piece to Tango 76’s Omaha Beach post last week.

How often do we reward, in training, a good spot judgment that our subordinates made? How often were you rewarded for such a thing? Have we ever inserted a point into an exercise, large or small, in which one of our subordinates is specifically given a clear chance to sweep the field but must deviate from orders to do so? Or, conversely, plod on and perhaps lose?

What other examples from history can you cite?

Like I said, interesting.

About vmijpp

VMIJPP hails from the star city of the south, Roanoke, Virginia. A 1989 graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, he is a retired artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps, with time in both the active and reserve sides. He served in Iraq in 2004, and in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. He joined the magnificent OPFOR.com as a guest blogger from the now defunct but never uninteresting Rule 308, where he denounced gun control and other aspects of tyranny, and proclaimed the greatness of the United States. When the sun set on OPFOR.com, he migrated here with Keydet1976 and the others.
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4 Responses to “Combat, Orders and Judgment”

  1. DaveO says:

    There was an old joke in NATO that surveyed the core weakness of every nation’s army. For America, it was the rigid adherence to doctrine. “By the numbers,” FM this and AR that, “Officers plan, NCO think, and Privates execute.” All of our doctrine, all of our zero defects mentality can not snatch defeat from the victories given to us by Little Groups of Paratroopers. No matter what the plan was, their blundering into a fight and killing everyone not dressed like them made up for brigades and divisions of a well-ordered army.

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  2. burkemblog says:

    An endlessly fascinating question, and one that the current chief of staff of the Army has mentioned–the initiative of individual soldiers and junior leaders in combat. My concern is that armed soldiers not under control become brigands, something we don’t think about much any more. I was division materiel management officer for 1st Armed in Gulf War, responsible for keeping the division sustained during the advance into Iraq and after–had a fuel truck convoy hijacked by armed soldiers of another unit–a captain held a weapon to the convoy NCOs head and ordered him and his truck to follow him. So 50,000 gallons of fuel meant for us went elsewhere (I found out about the hijacking a couple days later when the NCO finally got to our unit and reported to me). At that point, we were dangerously close to running out of gas because it took longer to drive fuel across the desert than the Corps planners thought, and this fuel loss brought us within about an hour of stopping. Luckily, another convoy made it to us a few hours later, and the armored units did a magnificent job of conserving fuel until we could resupply them. The point here is that that captain probably was ordered to find fuel, and he did so–initiative, whatever–but at the cost of endangering another unit and threatening to kill another soldier. Everybody was MOPPed up, of course, so no one knew the name of the officer in question.

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  3. DaveO says:

    There was a similar situation in Bosnia, involving steak for supper.

    Willing to bet that captain is known. Somebody will talk. Somebody always talks. On the flipside, how did the xonvoy commander not notice the unit/nation markings on the vehicles being refueled? Fuel blivits are marked, and the convoy commander had to know the location in order to find his way back?

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    • burkemblog says:

      My sergeant’s fuel trucks were HEMMTs. We knew the unit–the officer had a HMMWV. We didn’t know the captain’s name–MOPP suits. But talking to the commander of the unit in question got me (or my boss, DISCOM commander) nowhere. Long, sad story and not worth spending any time on it at this point. The issue of initiative and how it can go wrong, at least from my limited perspective, is the topic.

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