Monday, May 20, 2024

The Story Before The Story via Compass Points

 Note.  CoffeeJoeJava turned me onto Compass Points and if I haven't said it on the blog, let me do it now.  CHECK OUT COMPASS POINTS!  Anyway the debate continues on Force Design 2030 (no rebranding allowed) and they touch on some of the background discussions that were had.  This is a blast from the past but it shows that discussions around "force design" have always raged.  The difference between now and then?  Radical change would be allowed IF IT COULD BE DEFENDED!  That's why its been incremental.  The human side of warfare is eternal.  Getting up within breath smelling range against a man that you know is trying to hurt you is eternal.  It clears the mind and things become simple.  Extremely lethal yes, but also very simple.  You win you live, you lose you die.  Back on task.  Check this out...

Back in 1996 a Marine named John Sayen had his own ideas about how the Marine battalion should be changed. He and a friend carefully assembled his idea for a new Marine battalion and gained an appointment with a senior Marine General Officer. The General listened with interest to the brief by John Sayen and his friend. When they finished their brief, which was thorough and professional, the General said to them, “Gentlemen, I need to hear the story before the story."

The officers were puzzled. Story before the story? What was that? 

The General explained when he came into the Marine Corps there was a weapons company in the infantry battalion but later it was disestablished, only to return after the Vietnam War.  He also related how the rifle companies in the battalion had 60-mm mortars when he enlisted in the 1950s but the Corps removed them before the Vietnam War, only to return them during that war and then remove them after the war and now, they were back again.

Instead of making quick decisions with only a surface understanding of all that has gone before, it is better to take time to discover the "story before the story." Understanding the “story before the story” prevents costly mistakes. The General concluded by asking the officers to go study the story before the story about the history of the Marine infantry battalion so they could provide a deeper context for their ideas.

Years went by and the General never heard from the officers. Then, several years after the General's retirement, out of the blue, he received a email from John Sayen.  Sayen, who by then had retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, reminded the General of the briefing and his tasking about the "story before the story."  John explained that neither he nor his associate were able to find funding for a study and their regular duties precluded undertaking the effort themselves.  However, he decided to conduct the study using his own resources and on his own time, which he continued into retirement.

John said that early on he found he was unable to gain a complete picture of the Marine infantry battalion without considering the influence US Army infantry battalions as they changed over time.  John further said that eventually he found he needed to study American infantry from the colonial period to the present.  He shared the results of his efforts in a document of hundreds of pages with diagrams and descriptions of every infantry unit that had ever existed in the American military.  It was an extraordinary piece of work.

Sadly, John died without seeing his extraordinary study of the American infantry battalion in print.  There is some good news, however, John’s brother gave the online Tactical Notebook permission to serialize the study -- see link below.


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