Chapter 1 Review of "Gung Ho! The Corps' Most Progressive Tradition

I just received H. John Poole's latest addition to his series of creative books on tactics and the thinking and attitude required to be effective. This latest book titled: Gung Ho: The Corps' Most Progressive Tradition, is packed full of information that, "goes beyond the mechanics of the weapons, tactics and formations" to be effective in stressful dynamic encounters. The book discusses the United States Marine Corps tradition of "working together" which is what the Chinese words "gung ho" translates to.

Individual attitude and skill that is focused on initiative towards the overall mission and intent with an understanding the no one person knows it all about unfolding conditions and hence the need for cohesive units "working together" from the bottom up, to accomplish missions. "Gung Ho" individual effort that leads to collective power. Something we in law enforcement need more of as well.

This book i am going to review a bit differently. As i read and ideas form i will post my review of "Gung Ho" as a series. The book has that much to offer that i feel will be helpful to those of us in law enforcement.

From Chapter 1: Historical Backdrop, The Roots of Nontraditional Wisdom

"Literally translated, "gung ho" means "working together" in Chinese. While the term did not become an official part of USMC jargon until 1942, its message was far from new to its members. After helping to defend Peking's diplomatic enclave in 1900, Leathernecks routinely served in China for 40 years. Of course, the tradition of working together was not uniquely Asian. While fighting the World War I Germans, Devil Dog infantrymen had painfully witnessed the power of decentralized control and "bottom-up" thinking. From whatever the source, the idea of jointly supporting each other has had a pronounced effect on USMC history. In fact, it may be what still sets the Corps apart from other U.S. service branches."

Remarks: For more than 30 years law enforcement has talked about decentralized control and how it would be more effective in solving the types of problems we face. Yet most law enforcement agencies still practice the top down approach to leading and deploying officers in day to day operation as well as critical incidents. There is deep roots to the effectiveness of the attributes unity and focus. Over 2,500 hundred years ago Sun Tzu stated; "Those whose upper and lower ranks have the same desire are victorious." the excerpt, above from the book, goes back over 100 years, yet we still seem to struggle with the idea. Our culture, how we learn and attempt to solve problems in a linear step by step way is a big part of the problem. Crisis situation are complex situations that require people who can change to an altered situation by not seeking the checklist or procedure but instead by real-time problem solving.

The tradition "gung ho" started with Red Mike Edson (USMC 1st Raider Battalion) and Evans Fordyce Carlson (USMC 2nd Raider battalion) who watched and learned throughout their careers and adapted their experiences, although differently, to develop unconventional tactics and an unconventional approach to leadership.

"Every man would have the right to say what he thought, and their battle cry would be "Gung Ho!" ...Officers would have no greater privileges than the men, and would lead by consensus rather than rank, There would also be "Ethical Indoctrination." ...It supposedly ensured that each man knew what he was fighting for and why." ~History and Museums Division, HQMC, 1995

My thinking is that this type of unit or organizational environment breeds an attitude of continued development of skills (mental and physical) and tactical innovation, a constant craving to learn, unlearn and relearn in an effort to be better, more effective, as well as safe. This leads to more tactical options being available, like how to do the job with limited people, and limited equipment and still gain the initiative necessary to win.

More to follow on Gung Ho!

Stay Oriented!

Fred