Saturday, October 4, 2008

There is always one more thing you can do to increase your odds of success

Thanks to Lason Perkins for passing along these notes from Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, who during his career earned the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

According to Wikipedia:

Hal Moore is best known for the Battle of Ia Drang, portrayed in the 2002 film We Were Soldiers and well-detailed in the 1992 book "We Were Soldiers Once… And Young."

The Battle of Ia Drang began in November of 1965 when 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. Unbeknownst to Moore and his commanders, this clearing was adjacent to more than 4,000 North Vietnamese soldiers, who quickly surrounded the small unit.

Encircled by enemy soldiers with no clear landing zone (LZ) that would allow them to leave, Lieutenant Colonel Moore managed to persevere despite overwhelming odds that led to a sister battalion only two-and-a-half miles away being massacred.

Moore's dictum that "there is always one more thing you can do to increase your odds of success" and the perseverance and courage of his entire command are credited with this astounding outcome.

Importantly, despite the fact that Moore's spirited defense led to more than a 4-to-1 ratio between North Vietnamese casualties and U.S. casualties, Moore considers the battle a draw because the U.S. left the area and allowed the North Vietnamese to reassert control. Many consider the battle a microcosm of the war.

In his notes on "Battlefield Leadership," Lt. Gen. Moore encourages leaders to "install the will to win in your unit" and to "build unit discipline, teamwork. A team of fighters."

According to Lt. Gen. Moore, a leader can "either contaminate his environment and his unit with his attitude and actions, or he can inspire confidence."

In the words of Lt. Gen Moore:

"[A leader] must exhibit his determination to prevail no matter what the odds or how desperate the situation. [He] must have and display the will to win by his actions, his words, his tone of voice on the radio and face to face, his appearance, his demeanor, his countenance, the look in his eyes. He must remain calm and cool. No fear. [He] must ignore the noise, dust, smoke, explosions, screams of the wounded, the yells, the dead lying around him. That is all normal.

[He] must never give off any hint or evidence that he is uncertain about a positive outcome, even in the most desperate of situations. There is always one more thing you can do to influence any situation in your favor - and after that one more thing - and after that one more thing, etc., etc.

[Ask yourself]: 'What am I doing that I should not be doing, and what am I not doing that I should be doing to influence the situation in my favor?'

And finally, trust your instincts. In critical, fast moving battlefield situations, instincts and intuition amount to an instant estimate of the situation. Your instincts are the product of your education, training, reading, personality, and experience.

When seconds count, instincts and decisiveness come into play. In quick-developing situation, the leader must act fast, impart confidence to all around him, must not second guess a decision - Make it happen."