widely gathered and unattributable
There is no better place than combat for measuring a man.
It's always better to know the right sergeant than the right
Armies need to go to war every so often just so they'll
understand what all the absurd training has been for, so they can
reorganize their priorities again, and so they'll remember that
they exist as more than toy-soldiers for drill-and-ceremonies.
The more you sweat in training, then the less you'll bleed on the
The military doesn't have time for tact; whereas sweetie-pie
kiss-ass probably works for inefficient and undisciplined
civilians. There is no nice way to tell a
dud to get his shit together before he gets a
comrade killed; and there is no point discussing the
proper etiquette for battlefield mayhem! Any
excuses for conduct or performance better have nothing to do with
By the time they've taught us everything we need to know to stay
alive, we'll either be too old to accomplish the mission, or the
war will be over!
'Tactics' is what you do when there's something
to do. 'Strategy' is what you do when there's
nothing to be done.
The troops aren't 'really' happy unless they're
complaining ... and when they cease, the unit is in real trouble.
In order to be a good soldier, one must love the military. In
order to be a good commander, one must be willing to order the
death of the thing one loves above all else.
If you're brave and honorable, then your enemies will seek your
defeat by destroying whatever you love best.
The first combat casualty is always the battle plan.
Since you may die at anytime, you must live all of the time!
Great generals do not make prodigious victories, but magnificent
victories make great generals.
When a romantic unsuccessfully attempts to fulfill a mission,
he's rewarded for the mere effort with a token medal; but when a
pragmatist succeeds by violating all the rules, then he's cursed
Confidence inspires action. Fear promotes caution. Paranoia
instills despair. The objective of good leadership isn't to
disassociate these progressions, but to recognize and utilize
them effectively for mission accomplishment.
Modern warfare is both a specialized science of destruction and
an uncompromising artform of devastation; wherein the unexplored
option or limited creativity entails disastrous results.
The wise old philosophers say: live and learn; but the canny
grunt says: learn and live!
The duties and responsibilities of command ensure that every
leader will be hated by alot of ordinary people for some very
good reasons. It's important to function reasonably and
impersonally, despite the enmity or detestation, so as not to
earn anyone's disrespect.
Because opportunities are usually inconvenient, and pride often
causes fatal misjudgments, the battlefields frequently select
their soldiers before anyone can change them.
A weak army needs great oratory and exceptional strategy. A
strong army needs great wisdom and exceptional standards.
Patriots are the easiest people to deceive, and the hardest to
Soldiers should not be quarrelsome or disrespectful. Soldiers
should not be too eager to fight; but when they draw their
swords, they should discard their scabbards.
The reason RHIP is abused is because it's misunderstood. The
personification of privileged rank has two basic criteria:
ultimate responsibility for uniformity, and sufficient authority
for exceptions. Saying 'no' can prevent mistakes, but saying
'yes' can resolve mistakes. Rank is all about stopping disunity,
fixing problems, and making things function. RHIP has nothing to
do with personal comfort or private excuses.
An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of
lions led by an ass!
It's been true since the dawn of warfare, that defenders don't
rely upon their fortifications for protection, and that attackers
don't rely upon their weapons for victory. Soldiers must depend
upon their courage to accomplish their missions.
Despite the evolution of the battlefield and all the concomitant
methodological changes, it can be argued that combat will be
protracted if the troops are commanded from the rear, and will be
decisive if the soldiery is led from the front.
The side which is the most flexibly responsive in adopting
contingent changes, and the most responsively mobile when
implementing them, will usually win most contests. The side which
is rigid and dogmatic may win some clashes, but at a terrible
cost that will not sustain victory.
Sometimes small things portend larger things, and sometimes small
things are just minor anomalies. No one has the resources to
investigate every exception, and because stimulus patterns can be
imitated, no doctrine can automatically classify potential
threats. Judgement is the art of fine tuning the intuition and
experience essential to recognize an uncategorized phenomenon as
a possible development that's worthy of further commitment ... so
it will never reach fruition.
Just as all plans have their flaws, knowing your own limits,
relative to your enemy's strengths, may prevent you from being
complicit in your own destruction.
A tactical advantage should always be gained by wasting ordnance
and equipment. Time is a resource that should be conserved so it
can be spent when needed. Lives, because soldiers are thinking
machines, must be reserved as the ultimate weapon.
An army that loses its discipline will lose its battles.
Quitters can't lead, and never win. Winners are either good or
lucky. Losers usually become philosophers. Above all, leaders
must become more than
Forcing your opponent to fight on your schedule and upon your
chosen ground is almost as good as changing the rules without
letting him know.
Military regulations are not based on romantic principles or
abstract ideals, since every one of them is the result of arduous
and intransigent experience. Even with the best of intentions,
the regulatory consequences are not always the most desirable.
What civilians can't understand about orders is that
they're not pleas, proposals, requests, or
subject to negotiation. What many commanders don't appreciate
about lawful orders is that obedient execution may not
be automatic, for a multitude of reasons ranging from incapacity
to inapplicability; so it's always better to persuade a willing
follower than to enforce a reluctant compliance.
It may be better to die on your feet than to live on your knees,
but a supine corpse, putrid with pride and reeking of rectitude,
cannot low-crawl into the nearest prone firing position so as to
take deadly command of the battle zone.
There are only three kinds of soldiers: those who
make things happen, those who
watch things happen, and those who
wonder what happened!
There are times when the most dangerous course of action is
cautious and contemplative.
Combat is much too dangerous and important to risk by
experimentation; but it's the only place that experiments will
The measure of a man is not his willingness to stand-up for
greatness, but his willingness to stand-fast in adversity!
You may be just an insignificant cog in the great and terrible,
lean and mean, giant green machine, and your performance or death
may go unnoticed or unappreciated; but each cog has a function,
and the whole mechanism will cease to operate effectively if too
many of us cogs are lost. You may not be very important, but you
are both necessary and crucial.
Freedom grants you the power to do what you should when you'd
rather do whatever you want.
Not everything that happens to a soldier during his service is a
result of his professional performance. Not only do unforeseen
situations occur, but everyone is a unique and complex
By the time a soldier has enough experience to know everything he
needs, he's usually too old or too crippled to do the job anymore
... but he'll just have to do until someone better comes along.
All good and contended soldiers are indistinguishable, but each
miserable wretch is unique ... and on the verge of
Every warrior hopes for a good and honorable death ... but some
cannot wait, and must seek it.
Do not discuss politics, religion, sex, or gambling with your
personnel, because it only interferes with the mission.
No man can ever positively predict his response to unknown
circumstances, so we train them to automatically react to the
most probable stimuli.
Imitation is either the highest compliment or the worst
criticism! ... and it is deadly on the battlefield.
A good soldier needs a strong backbone, because the purpose of a
straight stiff spine is to prevent his asshole from sucking-up to
merge with his mouth, so he won't always talk shit!
Strategy is always theoretical, and tactics are empirical;
because the improvements and revisions that enable victory are
always taught by the enemy on the battlefield.
There're lots of ways to impress the commander, but there's only
one way to impress the troops.
An inferior or substandard unit is not composed of inadequate
soldiers; but rather of unmotivated and undirected troops being
misled by bad officers!
It's really difficult to gain any perspective when your head is
stuck-up your ass! ... and you can't appreciate another's vision
by putting your head up his ass!
Without insight into one's own defining character, no decision
can ever be free of implications, and new knowledge will only
confuse a disorderly mind ... mistakes will accumulate, and the
befuddled past will prevail upon potential opportunity.
If life is the only school that administers the test before it
offers any lessons; then war is the only school that employs the
enemy to teach the most worthwhile lessons ... not 'what', but
'how'; not 'when' and 'where', but 'why'!
The only society which totally accepts any stranger or foreigner,
without reference to class or caste, is that meritocracy which
admits only fellow professionals ... such as expert soldiers. No
other standard is valued, and none other may be substituted.
If you assemble the most audacious, gallant, and intrepid
warriors as loyal advisors, then you'll have counsel by their
Training needs to be both realistic and challenging, so it will
simulate actuality; but it also needs to be difficult enough to
reveal any personal weaknesses before a defect or failure costs
precious time, irreplaceable lives, or immeasurable options.
If you're too young to think and too stupid to read, then you'd
better listen to your platoon sergeant!
You should never stand-up for anything higher than base motives,
nor put yourself above anything loftier than your most basic
scruples ... unless, of course, you're jump-qualified!
The successful conclusion of any enterprise depends upon
War should target the mind, because physical wounds eventually
Wars aren't fought by weapons, no matter how magnificent or
devastating. Wars are fought by men ... by men whose sacrifices
have been inspired by devoted leadership!
An inspiringly heroic leader is essentially someone possessed
with so much charisma that when his arrogant stupidity
inevitably traps him in a desperate or improbable situation, then
his devoted followers will not only rescue him, but will also
champion his finer qualities as being responsible for any
Accidents cannot be replicated or prevented; and operational
recovery is inversely proportional to the accident's durable
effect and distribution.
In order to lead soldiers, you must be one.
A precisely measured impatience and a deliberately calculated
tension will never be mistaken for a reassuring calm or a relaxed
Any officer who cannot perform every task of his subordinates,
and who doesn't periodically relieve the fatigue and frustration
of duty on both ends of the command-chain by practicing 'soldier
skills' in substitution, doesn't deserve the respect accorded his
rank or position. Deference must not only be earned, it must be
reciprocated, so the human barriers, from jealousy to
incompetence, that militate against mission accomplishment, can
Whatever works is alot better than too little, too late, and do
Integrity is not a conditional attribute; and it's almost never
If you can't trust your troops with your wife, your money, or
your gear, then you certainly can't risk your life with them
If wars were fairly fought, then their results would be
meaningless, and no one would learn anything.
There is no unit as good as the one you're reporting into, nor as
bad as the one you just left!
What moralists, pacifists, and other hypocrites don't understand
about war isn't who started it, but who finishes it!
A thousand men can be swayed by their prejudices faster and
easier than one man can be persuaded by reason.
No one has ever learned anything by listening that did not
require re-learning by doing.
Soldiers don't have to be too sharp, but they have to be smart
enough to know when not to ask questions!
The only thing worse than being halfway-dumb is being halfway-smart!
The military does not exist to take care of the
troops ... the troops exist to take care of the military!
A pretty parade formation doesn't account for much when the
The worst predicament that can assail any soldier is
doubt ... doubt about who is his foe, how to respond to
whatever is provocative, and whom to trust for guidance or
In problem solving, knowing the answer is always an aid, but
isn't always the best solution! ... particularly if you don't
know the mechanics of resolution.
Every second spent in combat is worth a month in training.
The only people rushing around aimlessly on the battlefield are
fugitives, criminals, cowards, or staff-flunkies; since every
experienced combatant is steady and purposeful.
If both sides believe they're about to lose, then they're both
right, and neither one knows it.
The most dangerous of all battles are those which risk little for
failure, and those which gain greatly from success.
If it's true that no good deed should go unpunished,
then a bad deed, if done at all, should be done quickly and
surely, without distraction or regret.
Civilians express their super-sensitivity by claiming to 'feel
each other's pain' or 'feel sorry for one another', but soldiers
express their awareness of inexperience and immaturity with 'I
feel for you, but I can't reach you!'.
One cannot lose a soldier's cynicism by promotion, since command
only offers a broader spectrum for developing the same
There is always the disappointment of having a few bad sergeants,
and the despair of having only a few good officers. So to
maintain a unit's morale and integrity, commend and apologize
publicly, but recommend and criticize privately.
Good commanders lead from the front, order without shouting,
display honorable convictions, remain calm and controlled under
stress, and reserve all doubts or regrets for private moments.
That's why there are so few good commanders.
It's easy to criticize, and even assail, the current leader
because his back is fully exposed and completely vulnerable.
No one is fitted for command who will not command himself.
No one in-extremis is ever himself.
A good man may be hard to find, but he's easy to lose!
A straight-line is obviously the shortest distance between two
points; and is the one most likely to be ambushed!
A 'civilian' is someone who's unfit to be a soldier! ... and
they're the people we're sworn to protect.
This war consists of the unfit leading the unwilling to do the
unnecessary for the ungrateful.
Live like a madman, but die like a wise man!
The military has an oath of arms, because boys can be
deceived with trinkets and men can be deceived with pledges.
Beware the furious retaliation of a patient and honorable man.
A weapon that's never used teaches no lessons.
When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you're a
knife, everything needs to be cut. When you're a gun, everything
becomes a target. When you're a soldier, fighting is the simplest
Intractable civilian problems are always resolved by one of the
military solutions; but intractable military problems are only
resolved by exhausting all the military answers ... things are
settled when the military restores order, but nothing is settled
when the military engenders disorder.
Among the varieties of possible disorder, only a few are natural
or predictable; and disobedience is not one of them.
Thinking aloud is prejudicial to good order and discipline, if
not strictly seditious.
An army without profanity couldn't fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag!
Opinions are like assholes ... everyone's got one, and they all
If you didn't serve there, then you don't have the right to an
opinion about it!
When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!
Bullets are cheap, and brains are rare!
There's never enough manpower in war, and always too much in
Wars are ingloriously and unglamorously won by the side having
the least incompetent leadership, fielding the least
undisciplined soldiery, and who are most able to endure their
confused duties to achieve an unreasonable conclusion.
You can never excel at work that you hate and fear; but you'll
lose your humanity if you find pleasure in the job. You must take
pride in your skill and professional detachment to be a good
soldier ... obedience to duty, honor to code, and service to
country are regulations of your performance.
People tend to perform poorly when pissed-on or pissed-off!
It's better to be pissed-off than pissed-on!
Any attempt to fashion the massive incoherence of actual battle
into some semblance of comprehensible lore must be either
counterfeit or fanciful. Proposing the indiscriminate absorption
or rejection of war's chaos is insanity. Constructing a doctrine
which ignores this insanity is irresponsible. Abandoning doctrine
because it is inherently unrealistic and imperfect is inhumane.
Enduring age and mean treachery will overwhelm vital youth and
innocent virtue every time!
You cannot both act and plan, nor react and reflect at the same
The enemy of my friend is my enemy; and the enemy of my enemy is
The first time you eat field rations you'll realize that killing
the enemy will be the easy part of soldiering!
The military is the only place where being typical and being
extraordinary amount to the same thing, and it's a prerequisite
for self-respect. The soldier's paradox is that he hates the very
things that make him proud.
Experience has little to do with age, learning, or initiative;
but rather is mostly comprised of stubborn determination and
foolish persistence. The doctrine of where there's a will
there's a way accumulates, and eventually succeeds because
it can succeed!
If your head is stuck in rectal-defilade, then you can't see,
hear, smell, taste, or think ... so you'll need your sense of
touch to know when you're dead!
Anything worth doing will make a mess. Anything worth fighting
for is worth fighting dirty!
We may lose this battle, but we'll employ all of our skill, and
end it with pride. Just because it's a bad job doesn't mean I
have to do it badly!
You can't teach an old soldier new tricks; but his trusty and
reliable old tricks are usually better than the fancy new ones
that are supposed to supersede them.
A leader may be right or wrong, but he may not be unsure. A
commander's mantra might be: let me not disappoint the
expectations of my men and not fail the faith of my
Actions always speak louder than words!
Knowledge, that which is applied to and derived from experience,
is the most precious asset of any formation.
There are no guarantees in war ... in order to win, you must risk
The ideal of all professional military operations is complete
dedication to total efficiency and absolute proficiency in the
successful accomplishment of their assigned mission; therefore,
every soldier should waste enemies and not ammo!
The best and only weapon you'll ever need is
cleverly concealed between your ears!
A real soldier knows enough to never waste words, ammo, or time.
Taking things in a long stride will take you further than a short
The only difference between our soldiers and their's is that
we are being paid to kill while they're being paid
Anticipation is the essence of experience and a prerequisite of
wisdom, but where wisdom is required, force is unavailing.
Rank and bearing are inversely proportional.
The word root of 'command' isn't 'man'
(comMANd), but rather is 'comma'
You must either lead, follow, or get the hell
out of the way!
People who only do what they're told have to be told what to do.
Playing with snakes is foolish. Running from snakes is cowardly.
Avoiding snakes is wise. Killing snakes, eating their flesh, and
wearing their skin is proper, since danger reveals hidden
One dog barks at shadows, and all the others bark at the sound.
Some men hide behind good in order to do bad, so it is possible
that the Gods regard as good everything that men regard as evil.
Anyone who first considers the consequences cannot be brave.
When a soldier is killed, the wound extends all the way through
his body into his family's heart.
A nation that forgets its defenders and neglects its heroes is
destined for extinction.
If the answers are unacceptable, then the question is probably
Good is only recognized when it departs, and Evil when it
Wars begin with noble sentiments and flags waving; but they end
with ignoble passions and flags draped.
There is more truth in one sword than in ten-thousand words.
Fear your enemy once, but fear your friend forever!
At some point, you will cross the threshold between love and
regret, compassion and fear, life and inventory, until only
memory connects them ... until you can no longer recognize
We are more just and honest with the dead, because we are no
longer obligated to them.
The chaos of a battlefield gives liars an opportunity entirely
Every soldier risks death or injury, defeat or injustice by
answering his nation's call to arms; but no soldier should ever
risk dishonor to defend a common trust.
All that a soldier really wants is dry socks, hot chow, cold
beer, regular rest, and good friends. All he ever gets is
fatigue, blisters, cold rations, weak coffee, hot shit, more
excuses, and too many orders. Then he's expected to volunteer,
and not complain!
A deafening heart attack is Nature's way of telling you that
you're in a bad firefight! A sucking chest wound
is Nature's way of telling you that you've
They keep trying to prove how bad war is by making it
unappealing and unglamorous ... just imagine trying to take the
glamor out of jet fighters, gunships, tanks, submachine guns ...
out of beautiful rockets and gorgeous grenades! ... out of
breathless dashes and heart-stopping explosions! It's
impossible! It's like trying to take the glamor
out of sex! Whether war is good or not, it is certainly
attractive, and will endure because of that unequivocal fact.
There is no greater challenge than combat, but
skill is the least of its tests.
Pain may be the surest way to learn wisdom; but whenever
experience is the teacher, the test always comes before the
Violence educates rapidly, vigorously, and thoroughly; but it
usually teaches the wrong lesson!
Freedom has a price ... it can be bought, but cannot be sold.
Freedom is only worth what someone is willing to sacrifice for
its preservation. It's something that no one will give away, that
anyone may take away, and that everyone must save in any way.
Don't wait for trouble to find you, because it'll deny you the
initiative and take command of the tactics ... search out and
If a soldier survives the horrible chaos of war, then he will
spend the rest of his life trying to understand it. In any case,
he's condemned to unbearable images and consuming emotions.
Reflection may truly be a fate worse than death.
Most people are lucky enough to crawl away from their wounds, but
some of us drag them along, as though there is no escape from
ourselves, nor from events.
Fighting always makes a difference, but no one ever has to like
the difference that it makes. If we're not willing to fight with
a bad army for a better end, then we cannot object when a worse
The intimate details of events are very different from the
coherent histories of posterity.
Never attack anyone until you've first calculated the debt for
losing, and unless you've also figured the price for winning.
War changes the way the warrior views the world.
If you can keep your head while those around you are losing
their's, then you just don't understand the situation!
The only thing worse than fighting without any allies is having
to fight with them.
Duty is a heavy burden that limits everything, but death is as
light as a feather flying away.
A man with outward courage dares to die; while a man with inward
courage dares to live.
The brave deeds of noble warriors, whether successful or
surviving, will always be sung in tribal remembrance; but the
uninspired lives of ordinary men shall be forgotten.
Eagles do not hunt flies, but flies prey upon eagles.
The best iron is not used to make nails; nor the best men become
I began to learn quite alot once I discovered that I didn't
already know everything, and wasn't too good to learn it from
anyone with more experience.
If the truth doesn't offend somebody, then it isn't accurate
enough; because lies are told to protect everybody.
There are few things in life as riveting and exhilarating as
being shot-at without lethal effect!
While the contest of gambling requires a sane and tranquil mind,
the contentions of war demand madness as the price for playing.
Competing gladiators, of whatever political stripe, have much
more in common than those who've never bled for anything.
A war story may be true only if it's pointless, foul, grotesque,
mean, stupid, or embarrassing ... and painfully laughable or
memorable. Otherwise it's just another fairy tale. A war story
has nothing essential to say about war.
We compose our reminiscent memoirs when the only thing we have
left to give is our ineffectual advice.
As every grunt knows, the only options that aren't extremely hard
are downright impossible!
Although we don't seem to accomplish much, or to progress
anywhere, it takes-up all of our time. We seem to stay busy
trying to stay alive ... so we may be ready to die, or kill, or
whatever. So, until then, we move in 'soldier time' and wait on
some other schedule.
Anyone who's endured battle for an entire day will never want to
witness it again for a single hour!
There's no such thing as being a little pregnant, partly
convinced, halfway converted, mostly honest, pretty experienced,
or almost ready.
Our greatest mistake of the war was making our best generals into
editors, our wisest strategists into critics, our bravest leaders
into fearless speculators.
No man who has ever seen battle can be as brave as someone who
The world's most cherished ideals become ludicrous when composed
Having had to do terrible things for the best of reasons in the
worst of times has convinced me that nobody has ever died of pure
Necessity is too often mistaken for courage, when there is no
Medals are awarded to ordinary people who do extraordinary things
at unique moments in the normal course of regular routine.
No matter how many snapping close-calls or cracking near-misses
you've had, there is nothing that reminds you of intimate
fatality as much as the death of a friend.
Combat is how Hell would look if eternity was shorter!
A hero is just a guy who was too scared to run and too dumb to
War isn't such a bad thing ... just look at all the terrible
people it's rid us of!
No loss is ever so entire that there isn't something worth
Destruction is so fine, and easy, and gratifying ... much more so
than generation ... for which we know we should be ashamed. It
would be more comical if it weren't so painful and pointless!
Your first duty in military service is to discover whatever you
don't already know ... and then you'll spend the rest of your
time hiding the truth from yourself.
For all of the time spent crowded in formations and standing in
lines, a soldier still spends most of his time alone with his
thoughts ... vagrant ideas are his only solace on duty, and the
chain of command doesn't want his opinions. The camaraderie among
veterans celebrates both the superficial association and
inviolate unity, both the casual fraternity and unuttered
alliance. Like familial bonds, it's a tie that can strangle or
I don't revisit battlefields or attend memorials, for I am much
sadder than they are.
Fond memories are fleeting, but bad habits and ugly experiences
For the fighting man, there is no victory or defeat ... only
endless combat and everlasting echoes.
In the final analysis, we each do whatever it is that we must ...
charge or flee, slay or hide ... and sometimes we loathe that
inescapable knowledge of ourselves.
I've seen it all ... everyone loses in war. I don't want to
remember, but I can't forget. War has even taken my tears and
rage ... all that's left is my bitterness.
My shoes are gone; my clothes are almost gone. I'm weary. I'm
sick, I'm hungry. My family has been killed or scattered, and may
be now wandering helpless and unprotected in a strange land. And
I have suffered all of this for my country. I love my country. I
would die ... yes, I would die willingly because I love my
country. But if this war is ever over, I'll be damned if I ever
love another country!
Gone are the proud hopes, the high aspirations that swelled our
bosom a few days ago. Once more unsuccessful, and only a bloody
record to show our men were brave. The army has strong limbs to
march and meet the foe, stout arms to strike heavy blows, brave
hearts to dare ... but the brains, the
brains! Have we no brains to use the arms
and limbs and eager hearts with cunning? Perhaps our noble leader
has some funny story to tell appropriate to the occasion.
The willingness of our young people to serve in any war,
howsoever it may be justified, is directly dependent upon their
perception of the way veterans of earlier wars were treated by a
It ain't over 'til they blow the bugle.
It ain't over 'til every participant is dead and buried
It ain't over 'til everyone who had a stake in it gets a stake in
compiled by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been
excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.