Monday, June 18, 2007

Point Man

Look at "Professionals and Amateurs" from September 2005. Just the first couple of paragraphs, the rant.

Marc wrote some dark and secret thoughts and shared them. I want to think about them here. He wrote about being on point because you run a little faster to the call for help. That some of the professionals who talk tough always seem to take a second to tie their shoes or check their radios... just long enough for the real meat eaters to get a lead and start to get the situation under control.

I've only noticed this a few times in my career. That doesn't mean it didn't happen, it might have meant that I was usually so far in front and so busy juggling options that I never paid attention to the possibility that other people's slowness was a tactic.

The tendency to run towards trouble has had one profound effect- not just on me but on the agency and maybe the world. It is a key reason why real experience concentrates in so few people. A small percentage of people go into professions where violence is common. Of those a surprisingly large amount develop a skill at finding and staying in desk jobs. Of the remainder, most work shifts or districts where very little happens. The last winnowing is that even in a bad shift in a bad area, you can almost always slow down and let someone else take point.

So experience concentrates in a very small percentage of people- the 'meat-eaters'. But the perception of experience is spread with a very broad brush. Readers can't tell if the "expert" is a desk jockey or a political player who has run units without ever being in them or a part-time reserve. I've known training officers, many of them, who went into training because it was easier and safer than doing the job they were training others to do. Sometimes the best do teach, but sometimes people teach to avoid doing.

Full disclosure: I've been in a desk job for five months now. It's driving me nuts. If not for tactical team calls I'd probably be chewing off my leg.

So I haven't noticed it very often, and honestly less at work than in my civilian life. (Though at work I have developed the habit of at least listening for cover officers to be on the way, more for witnesses than for safety. I will end it and I will end it quickly so the aftermath is easier if there are corroborating reports.)

In civilian life I have counted to three with a close friend before jumping off a bridge only to look up and see a confused, "I didn't think he'd really do it," look on his face. Long nights with college friends working on our plan to save the world we realized that the military was the best way to get initial and free training, so I joined... and heard, "We didn't think you'd really do it."

It can be lonely on point. Especially when it becomes real and other people want to deal with the dreams.

But one time at work, a cell extraction on a psych in full excited delirium I realized that my cover officer outweighed me by over two hundred pounds and was a Hall of Fame wrestler... and I was taking point. And that was fine. The way it should be. I still tease him about it, though.


Kai Jones said...

Why, though? Why don't they run toward the problem? I'm not brave: I'm scared to death. But if I don't go fix it, it will come to me eventually, and likely bigger and worse and harder to handle.

In happier news, my son called me yesterday to ask parenting advice! I'm kvelling.

Molly said...

And sometimes others are running to point and you're just faster? And (this I know from experience growing up with you) Letting Rory take point is often the best option, even for people that would step up if you weren't around. Stepping back and letting you jump in works best for everybody.

As far as gnawing off your leg at your desk job, realize that there are people in the field that now have one of there own in admin - how many times have you dealt with the desk jockeys wishing that just ONE would get it? You are that one.