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Doing Heroic Things When Faced With Overwhelming Responsibility

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It is frightfully dark; shadows dance, the sound of machine gun fire and exploding mortars echo. Men are yelling, some in valiant battle cries, others in chilling screams of pain and terror. From inside a foxhole, a volley of rifle fire emits; a battle-hardened first sergeant struggles to keep the enemy from pouring through the front line. When out of the corner of his eye he sees a soldier go down-shot through the leg. Out from another foxhole a few yards away leaps a well-seasoned lieutenant, the commanding officer of the company. Seeing that all the enemy fighters are currently engaged, he crawls out to the injured man. Slowly standing he heaves him onto his shoulder. Cautiously, picking his steps carefully, he starts making his way back to the foxhole; without knowing it, a sniper has gotten a bead on his head. With a crack, the CO goes down. Immediately, the first sergeant jumps up, runs over, checks his pulse, and finds none; it is in this moment he realizes he is now the leader of the platoon. With this story, I hope to tell you how one SNCO suddenly thrust into this command position attempts to keep these soldiers alive with the seven needs of every team.

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  1. Common Goals. Stunned, looking at the lifeless body of this great warrior, he suddenly heard the crackle of a field phone in the lieutenant’s foxhole. A man is screaming that they are trying to take the town, but another platoon has been misdirected and is shooting at them. Moreover, if they can’t get a message to the other squad before mortars are fired, we are going to be massacred.
  2. Leadership. Quickly realizing if he doesn’t move now, it could spell disaster for the whole offense. He takes off in a feverish sprint across the open field towards the town. Why put another man’s life in danger if you don’t have to.
  3. Involvement of all members. About halfway across the hellish landscape, he comes upon a small group of Ghillie suit-clad men; British snipers sent to pick off machine gunners. The head of the group states that they are cut off from the town and are not able to get to their positions. However, he adds, if there is anything that needs to be done, he and his men will do it.
  4. Good Morale. With yells of ferocity, they charge at the enemy line between them and the allied platoon on the other side of the town, with the first sergeant in the lead. As the charge begins, there was a realization not everyone will survive, but as they charge, nobody cares; for the Bible says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. ”
  5. Open communication. Some do it intentionally, most of them do it unintentionally. With every rifle swing, every hand motion, and every yell there is information traded. Without this continuous stream of details, many more men will lose their lives.
  6. Mutual respect. Running past a machine gun nest the first sergeant brushes aside a pile of barbed wire and sees a very young enemy man clutching on to the mangled body of his fallen comrade; “We are both soldiers,” spoke the first sergeant with a nod, and continues moving. If you are barbaric to the enemy, or to the members of your team, what do you expect to get in return?
  7. A fair way to resolve conflicts. After a successful breach of the enemy fortifications, the first sergeant and the band of men charge into the town moments before the command to fire the artillery is given. After briefing the sergeant in charge, the first sergeant goes over to where the British snipers are resting to thank them. With a flash of anger, the British CO jumps up and lashes out at the first sergeant; he screams “Six of my men died trying to save this cutoff “American” platoon!” Calmly, the first sergeant replies, “If these men hadn’t risked and lost their lives over five dozen “people,” not “Americans” would have died, and this is not something to be ashamed of. ”

This example may seem unbelievable, or extreme, but in reality, this is not so farfetched as it may seem. Throughout the history of war, there have been many examples of men and women doing heroic things without thinking twice. Movies such as Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, and even Forrest Gump all portray men who when faced with overwhelming responsibility, chose to power through and succeeded. Even though this is a situation many of us will not find ourselves in today, there are many other times in which the seven principles apply to our daily lives. Becoming an SNCO in CAP is a time these principles start to apply to you greatly. You have to get accustomed to being the leader of a flight; contrary to being in the flight. The point I want to leave is while SNCOs face the responsibility of taking command of their people, anyone, not just the formal chain of command leaders need to know the “Seven Basic Needs of Every Team. By implementing this basic knowledge, anyone can lead, even if they don’t know it.

15 April 2020

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