Academic journal article Military Review

Building Brotherhood for Combat

Academic journal article Military Review

Building Brotherhood for Combat

Article excerpt

Leaders should visibly love their more than their positions - and prove their love with their actions.

-President Theodore Roosevelt

Love came to us unbidden on the battlefields, as it does on every battlefield in every war man has ever fought. We discovered in that depressing, hellish place, where death was our constant companion, that we loved each other. We killed for each other, we died for each other, and we wept for each other. And in time we came to love each other as brothers.

-Lieutenant General Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young

I HAVE HEARD many leaders talk about how they love their soldiers, love the Army, and love their country, and I have heard stories of how the leaders' soldiers loved them. Do some leaders really love their soldiers and the Army? Why would soldiers love their leaders? How is love related to leadership?

Do these leaders really mean love? Is this love the same as the way in which they love their parents, their siblings, their spouse, their children, or their dogs? How is serving in the Army related to these relationships? Are they similar? Americans seem to accept that it is OK to love their country., but is it appropriate to love an organization and its personnel? Is it appropriate for them to love their leader? Do we really mean love?

This article will examine the process of leadership as it relates to love. It will first discuss how an Army unit is similar to a family and then discuss how leadership relates to love on individual, group, and organizational levels. The focus will be on scientific research of love as it relates to leadership and how love relates to leadership in combat.

A Military Unit as a Family

One second he was paralyzed with fear and pain and the next ... he had stopped caring about himself He would think about this a lot later, and the best he could explain it was, his own life no longer mattered. All that did matter were his buddies, his brothers, that they not get hurt, that they not get killed. These men around him, some of' whom he had only known for months, were more important to him than life itself. .. He had to keep fighting because the other guys needed him.

--Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down

We hear a lot about how soldiers become a band of brothers when they share the intensity of combat. Are they truly as close as brothers? Is a family a good model for a combat unit? Is this an effective way to fight in combat? If so, how does one develop such a close relationship in a military unit?

Anyone who has been in combat or experienced tough, challenging training in peacetime understands how close soldiers can become. It seems that relationships among soldiers can approach the same kinds of relationships that they feel for parents, children, siblings, or spouses. In this context, perhaps one might feel more comfortable using the word love when considering a unit as a family rather than in a romantic sense. Notice that military language is filled with terms like "parent unit," "platoon daddy," and "sister unit" and that leaders sometimes use the word "son" when addressing young male soldiers.

It seems that military traditions, daily training, and deployments encourage soldiers to think of their unit as an extended family, especially if the leaders foster this environment. It appears that the traditional military culture suggests that this is an effective way to build relationships and to train for combat. Leaders foster this environment by personally relating to soldiers and developing teams through tough, realistic, and challenging training, thus developing in a unit a sense of family.

Given the importance of unit cohesion and a sense of brotherhood in combat, leaders should review personnel policies to try to establish as much stability as possible within their units. Yes, leaders have to balance unit readiness with the need for soldier development, but currently there seems to be quite a bit of turbulence in the Army personnel system. …

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