2 Secrets to Prepare Your Soldiers for Combat

As a small unit leader, your primary responsibility is to prepare your Soldiers for combat.  Everything else you do is secondary.  In order to prepare your Soldiers for combat, you really only need to do two things.  You need to teach them the right skill-set and the right mind-set.  We’ll cover more on each topic below.

The Right Skill-Set

The right skill-set means that your Soldiers can do their job, get the mission done, and then come home safe.  Specific elements include:

  • Trained at the Warrior Tasks – Every Soldier, regardless of their MOS must be proficient in the Warrior Tasks.  They must know how to shoot, move and communicate, so they can survive on the battlefield.
  • Trained in MOS – You need to ensure that your Soldiers are highly trained in their MOS, that they have the schools they need and the job experience to know what it takes to succeed.  They should also be cross-trained in other job skills.
  • Trained in Unit’s Collective Tasks – Soldiers must be proficient at their unit’s collective tasks.  They must know the unit’s collective tasks and what their role is in helping accomplish those tasks.

The Right Mind-Set

  • Live by the Warrior Ethos – You must instill the warrior ethos in your Soldiers.  Some examples include discipline, the will to carry on, pride, honor, etc.  Soldiers must think like Soldiers and be mentally tough.  It also includes being mentally and physically fit. 
  • Live by the Army Values – The Army values are important, even in combat.  You must instill the Army values in your Soldiers: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
  • Disciplined – We covered this a moment ago, but discipline really is the core component on this entire list.  Everything starts with discipline. Your Soldiers must respect the rank structure, their orders, their superiors, and most importantly themselves.  They must be willing to carry out orders, even if it could cost them their life in combat.
  • Team Focused – Their is no “I” in team.  You need to make sure your Soldiers are team focused and care just as much about the team as they do themselves.  This means they care about their team and understand that the team’s objectives are more important than their personal objectives.
  • Mission Focused – You must instill in your Soldiers a mind-set that accomplishing the mission is the most important thing.  Everything revolves around the mission.

If I had to put all these things into a single statement, it would be to ensure your Soldiers have the skill, the will and team work to get the job done.

Whenever you do a training event at your armory or in the field, make sure it is battle focused.  Make sure that it incorporates one of more of the things listed above.  By doing that, you will help ensure your Soldiers are prepared for combat.  That way if they get deployment orders, you can be confident that they will get the mission done AND come home safely.

What are your thoughts?  What do you think leaders should do to prepare their Soldiers for combat?  Leave a comment and let us know.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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9 thoughts on “2 Secrets to Prepare Your Soldiers for Combat”

  1. Faith A. Coleman

    Many of your blogs list traits for success, or how to do something, steps to take, a mind-set to cultivate certain qualities, etc. It’s impressive to me how very many suggestions aren’t logistical but are about character, morals, values, etc. I wasn’t expecting to see the spiritual nature being honored, being acknowledged even. I think it’s great and recognizes that the foundation of the Army is not in weapons and tanks, those are just tools, but it’s in a mindset, in hearts and values. I’d like to see more of that. It seems though that a lot of people are resistant to developing the spiritual qualities within them or within the Army.

  2. A house divided cannot stand, and no more truer words were spoken than in a combat situation, which is why I can understand that discipline is central to a seamlessly working unit. I also agree with Justin’s comment, muscle memory is important as well, which is why regular training and drills is vital to creating a focused and dependable team. Confidence and ability don’t happen overnight, it takes training and consistent feedback, making it a day-by-day job which eventually leads to an elite crew.

  3. Amy Skalicky

    Good point on developing “muscle memory,” Justin. That mitigates the potential of soldiers freezing or having a “duh” moment at a critical time. Eliminating that potential could save lives.

    I can see where discipline is the core of the entire list, Chuck. If discipline is lacking, the rest of the points become rather moot to some degree. Having the right mindset, especially the discipline, will make developing the right skill set so much easier and make time on deployment a little easier.

  4. Great lesson here! Many leaders forget their real purpose. I think you are spot on by saying that everything you do as a leader should prepare your troops for combat. You need them mentally and physically prepared, before you get deployed.

  5. Great points, Chuck. I would add a bit to your first point (skill set) in that you want to have your Soldiers trained on their job and cross-trained, but also trained to such an extent that their skills are simple, instantaneous muscle reactions. Prime example is my gunner… He is so highly trained, and us as a crew, that our reactions happen without command. We simply react to situations as they arise (and this is shown everytime we conduct a gunnery). As a PL, that’s what I need out of my gunner…to be able to act and react without my input as I am busy maneuvering the rest of the platoon, talking to Higher, etc. That is the level you want your Soldiers operating on…auto-pilot.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      I agree with Justin that these skills should be instinctual, and a natural impulse. We train and train on things for a reason. It’s easier to focus on other tasks that arise if the basics with our job are a part of who we are.

      This is a great article, Chuck. Something I will probably share with my guys as we prepare for deployment.

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