Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Shiloh: The Real Deal

Shiloh: The Real Deal
February 26, 2018 by studentoffire

“It’s gonna be a pissa’ out there.” As in rain, Mississippi grab-the-sandbags, rain. Thanks to the challenge thrown out at the Introductory dinner last night, we were all invited to attend a 5am run. Not required, nope, but “a leader is always being watched” we’re told. Well with those semantics you either get pissed on and catch pneumonia or you feel like a slouch. And my over-engineered alarm clock, a throwback from the 90’s, failed. First impressions, anybody?

Shiloh Church

The crew was broken into groups, each with an OMNA SME (Subject Matter Expert) and a fire management SME. The purpose of having both should be obvious. We’re studying a military battle for leadership qualities for fire. The OMNA SME directs from stand to stand, discussing key decision points, covering the history and military tactics and strategies. The fire SME tries to bring it home and facilitate discussions on how we adopt particular principles and traits.

These OMNA folks are top notch. The guy in my group was a Machine Gunner, and had a full bandolier of enthusiasm and energy. He was in his mid 60’s but lacked any sense of disenfranchisement, and wasn’t jaded the way we sometimes find older people who’ve been with an organization for their entire career to be. Here he was, hiking all over the battlefield in a pissa’, going ten thousand miles an hour about the hornet’s nest, describing how many cannon were in a battery, how many horses are needed to supply one, how many rounds per minute were bombarding the federal troops on sunken road; he had chosen a career with the United States Marine Core some 40 years ago, and didn’t reveal a single trace of wavering commitment.

It was a pissa’ out there
The hardest part about this is overcoming self importance and the uniqueness of what we do. Certainly digging line around a fire is different than shooting long ass musket rifles and cannons at people? But as the day progressed I developed a way of thinking. I was learning how to learn. What wasn’t working was trying to visualize the Confederates or the Federal Army as the fire, or using some of the geographical points of significance as they related to the Battle of Shiloh, and translating that to theoretical fire locations. Instead, I keyed in on the decision making processes, the similarities. People are pissed off, hungry, disorganized, under stress; you have some good leaders, some inept, some political appointees and the golden child; there’s the disconnect from management or command to the boots on the ground; there’s the prioritization of resources, the ever-present time wedge getting smaller by the minute, the necessity to adapt plans to fit the people rather than fitting people to the right plan; command is coming from the top, and control from the bottom.

We had been challenged on day one to have a tidbit to share with everybody. I kept asking people what their nugget was going to be, hoping it would materialize something for myself. By the time our integration catfish dinner came around, I knew what I’d say. It involved the hornets nest, the federal troops there, who kept the Confederates occupied and distracted for quite some time. This allowed the Federal troops time to retreat and reorganize. My group leader, using his Einstein-like ammunition and ballistic calculations, presumed there to be something like 15,000 rounds of lead flying through the air at the hornets nest.

How and why would a group of people take this assignment, hold their ground until most were dead, until the only option left is death or surrender? They understand the importance of their mission, how what they were doing played into the bigger picture: they knew buying time and being the stubborn bunch holding the advantageous ground was good for business, good for the federals, and was part of their leaders intent. That’s it. Being a good leader, Grant knew people needed to understand and believe they were part of winning ideas – that if they were empowered to be critical parts, they would in turn create critical successes.

Reprinted with permission from the author. View the original on the Student of Fire blog. All thoughts are that of the author.

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