Many of my peer group shared the same formative experience. We watched in horror as the event of 9/11 transpired live on television. At the time, I was in highschool and knew what my first career would be. Now, I am twice as old as I was the first time I held a bayonet. It is surreal to see how much technology has changed in that time. However, one thing that has not changed is the spirit of the warfighter and certain universal truths will always remain the same.
Every year, fewer of the Global War on Terror generation remain in our ranks. As the possibility of future conflict is ever present, it is imperative the lessons learned the hard way not be lost to time. So, here are my 5 biggest tips for the next generation of warfighters.
- When it hits the fan, don’t panic.
The fog of war will rob you of information, clarity, and confidence. When faced with uncertainty, all you can do is rely on your training, and instincts, to make sound and timely decisions, born of a school of thought, based on the information you have at hand. Work the problem, don’t let it work you.
- Read, learn, apply.
Be hungry for knowledge. There are countless books, manuals, and after action reports just waiting for you to pick up. Use them to enhance your capabilities and lethality. Greedily consume knowledge that benefits your profession, and can help keep your teammates alive. This can range from small unit tactics, managing long term stress and everything in between.
- Don’t let an enemy out think you.
Much like chess, war is a thinking man's game. The speed of your OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) can help bridge the gap between you and an adversary that eclipses you in preparation or skill. Regularly put yourself in situations that require you to think, and quickly act. “Turn the map around” and see how you would appear to a foe. Use that in your planning process.
- Mistakes happen, forgive yourself.
No one is perfect and the “zero-defect” mentality is the enemy of growth. Learn why something went wrong, and never repeat the error. Training is the perfect environment to iron out your weaknesses. This will help you learn how to avoid self-induced friction. Learn to control what you can, and plan for what you can’t. The anxiety of failure will blind you to creative solutions.
- Enjoy the ride.
As much as things may suck in the moment, you’ll look back with fondness on your career. Take lots of pictures with your friends, and appreciate the free ammo (and penicillin) while you can. The military will ride you hard, and put you away wet. So, take time for yourself and make sure to cherish what is good in life.