Leaders Play Chess, Grunts Play Checkers

One of the most important things I’ve learned to do in milsim is to think ahead.

As a normal player, i. e. not a unit leader, this means I keep myself and my equipment mission ready at all times. When I return from a mission, I refill water, clean my weapon and refil any food, batteries or other consumables I may have used in the prior mission. I hydrate, eat and perform personal maintenance like shower, shave, clean my feet, put on dry clothes, etc. Only then do I sleep or move on to the next tasking for the day. This way, when a mission drops, someone attacks our camp or a QRF is called for – I am ready at the drop of a hat rather than fumbling around for kit at the last minute.

Thinking ahead also means that I study what will be required of me at upcoming events. I’ll find out whether maps will be issued or not, and if not I make them. I print out the comm matrix, get directions to the AO, source any equipment I may not already have and brush up on skills I’ll need in the field. That way, I can be sure to be an asset to my command staff rather than a detriment. Also, it enables me to help other members of my unit rather than always having to beg for extra teaching time and explanations.

On mission, I’m performing my basic function in my unit, whatever that may be. I’m also keeping track of my liquids, ammunition and other equipment so I know how much I have and can give an accurate LACE report when my Team Leader asks for it. When I set up my hooch for the night, I’m positioning it so I have good concealment and also a decent field of fire in case we come under attack. Also, my kit will be clipped up and ready to grab if I have to jump up and run – same for my ruck – and my rifle will be well within arms reach.

Now this is all find and dandy if I’m a grunt. Thinking a move or two ahead (like a checkers player would) is great, but if I’m leading people that are thinking a move or two ahead I need to be thinking ahead 3, 4 maybe even 5 moves. This is what I mean by “leaders play chess”.

If you’re a squad leader, even as you write down your OPORD for a mission, you’re thinking of contingencies for when it falls apart. If we perform today’s mission on foot rather than driving part of the way will we be rested enough for our next mission? ¬†If we arrive at a link up on time and the other unit doesn’t show what do we do? If we arrive on our objective and the enemy moved it what do we do? If we get hit en route home from our objective what do we do?And so on and so on…

Of course, your thought process is going to depend on your leadership level and position. For instance the Patrol Leader is going to be thinking mainly about accomplishing his squad’s¬†objectives. As an Assistant Patrol Leader, your main concern is troop wellness so you’ll need to be thinking ahead, making sure your troops get water resupply, have time to rest and fix their feet and get adequate amounts of sleep. Additionally, if we know we’ll have to get up and attack something early tomorrow morning, we’ll definitely need to make sure we resupply our water, ammo and food today before we sleep so we’ll be ready to go.

We all know how small problems can compound quickly into mission ineffective on a patrol. Thinking ahead whether you’re a leader or a guy on the line can literally make the difference between the success and failure of your unit.