sexta-feira, 8 de outubro de 2010

Character Series nº 5 - James R. McDonough



(Part III)
  
Wonders never cease to happen and all of you are first hand witnesses of that fact right here and now. Here we have another scheduled post  - that appeared on schedule!
Can you think of a better wonder than this one ? (you do not have to answer this...).

In the words of Paulus Renatus Vegetius “Few men are born brave. Many become so through training and force of discipline”.
Is it not strange that thoughts such as this one, thousands of years old, are many times proven applicable in the present? I mean, here I am writing about something related to military matters but examples such as this one are very common in practically any human endeavour or behaviour, of a personal or professional nature.
It makes a guy wonder, this being true, about the reason why sometimes it seems so difficult and takes so much time to achieve positive things in the field of human evolution.

Well, in JM’s case, the only positive thing he was interested on achieving was the swift and effective elimination of the threat posed by guys on the other side of the (political…) trench that had exactly the same purpose
When JM arrived in Vietnam he had already 5 years of military training behind him. He went through West Point, Airborne School, Ranger School and Jungle Warfare School – the very best the US Army had to offer at the time to a young lieutenant on the brink of going to war.

(Follow the Leader)

The need for leadership and military discipline in combat is a well established principle. The difficult part is to establish it in the field, as JM found out on his arrival. His solution for the matter was pretty simple: he established his authority by checking and regulating every single part of the daily routine of the platoon.
From health habits (sanitary installation free from the enemy and disease, mess equipment kept clean, shaving and washing on a regular basis, balanced diet) to tactical aspects (defence, offence, patrolling, ambushing, weapons employment, weapons maintenance, setting mines, uncovering mines, handling prisoners, planning indirect fire support, first aid, map reading, night movement, stream crossing) ending in security requirements (men on alert must stay awake; radios monitored and kept dry and supplied with fresh batteries, proper communications procedures observed, codes not compromised, combat positions constantly improved, claymore mines - seven hundred steel miniballs compressed into C-4 explosive - checked and camouflaged; trenches deepened, artillery fires registered) JM took to himself to supervise of every single thing, directly or by the way of his squad leaders.

And that was his way to let everybody know who was in charge of things from that point on. It worked.

However important, the above mentioned aspects are never enough if a guy wants to achieve a positive leadership in the face of the enemy. In that field, the leader of a small combat unit must show something else to his men: guts.

Well, JM had plenty of that to go around, as the reader of his fine book can very well deduct from his actions, before and during combat situations.

(Patrol Duty)

This was truly a tough job: going on patrol. In my last post I mentioned the gear the troopers took with them when going out on a tour around the jungle on that part of Vietnam. An elusive, ruthless and often unseen enemy and countless booby traps was what waited them every step of the way. The risk of serious injury or sudden death was constant. One can understand the fact that a soldier could endure this kind of stress for a few days or even a few weeks.
However, enduring this kind of situation for months at a time certainly demanded an above average amount of stamina from those guys, that also had to face an enemy hardened to the rigours and climate that wore down the American soldier

And JM is full of praise for the American G.I., the kind of guys labelled back home as “lowly infantrymen”.
He recounts several moments when, the same soldiers that were called “baby killers” by some of their countrymen, risked their lives to save those of the civilians they were there to protect.
Another aspect underlined by JM is how willingly those troopers did their job, whenever he asked them, by the way of leaving protected and covered firing positions to face the fire of enemy automatic weapons – because that was just what had to be done.
Truth be said that the average reader (like myself) gets the impression that JM got a lot out of his soldiers just because he put out a lot himself to his unit.
Unlike his predecessor, this guy was not the “go on ahead, I will join you later” type. No way, his style was more like “I will go first and you follow me” type – the mark of a true combat leader.

And once again, as you have seen in the post about Ernst Jünger, this guy here had also moments were he became literally scared to death…of dying. That’s right; this is one of the things that are also common throughout the ages: a soldier, any soldier, is scared to die and has moments of doubt and weakness, and often struggles to overcome them.

JM speaks also frankly about his moments of weakness, and this fact only brings added authenticity to his story, and marks his Character. And we only feel sorry about the unfortunate political and social situation he was called on to do his job.

And now we arrived at the final words in this awesome post, in this no less awesome Series.

It is time for you to guess the name of my next Character. And, yes, even JMM is allowed to enter this tremendous new challenge (because I am sure he has no chance at all to win!).
In fact, I am so certain that no one will guess it’s name that I am prepared to offer an outstanding prize to the winner: a copy of the book “Emperor: The Gates of Rome”, by Conn Iggulden.
My next Character’s name starts with a “W” and ends with a “W”. He was British and fought in Wellington’s army, during the Peninsular War (1807-1814)

By the way: JMM if you or nobody else gets this right, you will have to paint my DBA Crusader army. You have to agree this is only fair, given the prize I am offering.

There is no escape for you now! YES!

PC