Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"The Moral is to the Physical..."

Did the panel interviews for tactical team candidates today. It's not what I think most civillians would expect- I care very little about their skills or tactical understanding or knowledge of the trivia of combat, we'll give them what they need of those things.

The big questions are to see if they really understand their responsibility and if they will mesh with the culture of the team.

The culture of the team. Every team has a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world. Ours, from day one, was planned and designed. We knew we would be wielding great power- there is great power in the correctional system any way- but even more so with a specialty team in an emergency. Our state law allows corrections to use force to "maintain order". We would literally be called in to situations where we could easily justify using deadly force and we would resolve it at a lower, safer level.

Our culture was designed around responsibility and risk management. We were never to be called in because we were bigger or stronger or better equipped but because we were more skilled, cool and professional. We can and have gone into situations (PCP freak in a small cell with two shanks) and resolved it hand-to-hand, without injury. I wanted bored veterans, not kids with something to prove. People who have thought through the possibility that some day they may be called on to take a life and both refuse to discount the cost yet assume the responsibilty. People who will do it if it is the right thing to do.

So the test is about that- what do you think makes a good team? A good team member? What purpose does the team serve? For the agency? For the community?

We give them scenarios and the scenarios are explicitly designed to test two things:
1) Will they disobey a direct order if they need to? I don't need puppets. Blind faith whether in tactics or religion is only blindness. I most value the people who will step up and tell me when I'm full of shit.
2) Will they do what needs to be done no matter how bad it sounds? If they worry more about how they look than the primary mission they will freeze. There has to be an element of selflessness in these men and women. They are giving up a big chunk of their lives to a pager, risking huge liability and physical danger... if they're doing it to look cool in a black uniform, they're wasting my air.

We throw a rattler question in. They're already in one of those panel interviews that makes everyone nervous, they're starting to get comfortable with the flow of questions and then we throw one in from left field. This year:

Napoleon said that in battle, the moral is to the physical as three to one. What did he mean? How does it apply to you and the team?

I dropped this on several current team members and got pretty uniform responses- the spiritual and mental attributes such as tenacity, morale, team work, dedication and the will to fight are far more important than numbers or equipment.

The candidates all choked, but most recovered nicely. It was fun to see their eyes get big when they heard the question... but not one of them understood it. I was disappointed. They've all fought, but had either not realized or never stopped to understand that fighting is far more mental than it is physical.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to try and answer that question. Moral meaning ethical? But ethics without morality has lead to dictatorship. Moral, I think means emotional. Stress situations - from skidding on ice to full-out combat is emotional. So - three parts emotion, one part physical. It's easy to train the physical - a combination of repetition and creativity. But to factor in the emotions - the adrenaline - of stress, is something no test can really address. We can get close with no-time spontaneous decision-making (ConSim), but no one who has not 'seen the elephant' will ever really know. But we have a mechanism for determining the level of trust and confidence in new team mates - intuition. And intuition is a function of awareness. If the 'deciders' awareness encompasses that of the prospectives, then intuition is a good guide - can be almost infallible (nothing is perfect). Thus we trust our leaders - team, squad, engine, whatever, to have the skill, the experience, the emotional stability to guide us to become as, or better, than they.

Rory said...

Exactly, Mac. Moral, in this context is spiritual and mental.

Unknown said...

Wouldn't morale make more sense than moral?

Crockett said...

Exactly! Morale would make much more sense; Morals are subjective.