What does right look like?

Right looks like mission accomplishment.

This question aggravates me to no end… no end. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but when I hear it at work, it means, “What do the regulations say?”

Let me repeat the answer: Right looks like mission accomplishment. What else should it look like? If it causes more harm to follow the rules than to break them, what would a reasonable man choose?

I recently finished a staff exercise where we as the battalion staff team participated in a military decision-making process (MDMP) exercise. It lasted a week.

The picture of The Battle Staff SMARTbook above, I placed up there because it’s a picture of an older edition that’s probably just as good as its newer edition. My buddy, the battalion chaplain, held a copy of the book during the start of the MDMP exercise. The facilitator/instructor – an awesome man, by the way, and I mean that sincerely – put it down as outdated.

Now, I have a copy of that same version and I only use two sections of the book: the part about the format of an operations order (or just OPORD for short), and the part about operational terms and graphics (what all those funny military symbols mean). 80/20. It’s good enough.

Has the military’s mission changed much since the beginning of military history? When has it ever been something other than win wars or protect life?

Anyway, the MDMP process consists of seven steps, with the seventh step being to publish the order. Much of the time, when we MDMP, it’s for an event we already did. Why recreate the wheel? Many times we just copy the last order, the one from last year – change the dates, some names… still good.

However, somewhere along the line we exponentially blew up all these formalities, all this red tape, all these rules that hinder more than help us. A recent study by the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute revealed that today’s company commander must somehow fit 20 months of training into a 12-month calendar.

An even more awesome study, by retired Army officers Leonard Wong and Stephen Gerras, asks, “Well, if it’s impossible, if the requirements exceed the capabilities, then what are we reporting?” I’m sure you can guess.

Back to the staff exercise. When it came to the part about comparing courses of action, we asked a Staff Sergeant (SSG) for his experience with a particular event. None of us Captains and Lieutenants at the table had any direct experience for this one event we were planning. Shocking.

The SSG asked about a term on a slide projected up on the wall. He asked, “What does competing requirements mean?” He didn’t mean, “What requirements have we identified as competing?”; no, he meant just what he asked.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Geez, what else does it mean?” I have a better question: Why would we impose competing/conflicting requirements on ourselves in the first place?

It’s most likely in the nature of a large bureaucracy to crank out non-user-friendliness. Right doesn’t look like the rules. The rules should serve us. Right looks like mission accomplishment. Remember the big picture, the end result.

I’m in the middle of writing a book, titled, Shamurai, a Comedy. Here’s the subtitle:

“The 17 For-Real Rules of Military Officership and Extreme Mediocrity for the Disgruntled Everyday Man Juggling Alcohol, Car Problems, Child Support, Divorce, Money Problems, Suicide, and Women.”

I’ll keep you updated. Comment below if you’d like to know more about the book. Thanks for reading.


Brian M. Delrosario