December 22, 2010

In Praise of Junior Officers

There is a great passage in Powell's Men at Arnhem
in which he describes how junior officers and noncommissioned officers die in combat. I do not have the book in front of me, but it describes how, in combat, junior officers do not normally die while doing anything fancy or obscenely heroic but rather by simply doing their jobs. They die while running from one position to another, adjusting their machine gun's right and left limits, shifting one squad a little to the right, etc. They die while consciously exposing themselves to the enemy in order to carry out their job, which does not allow them to fight in place.

That having been said, I have never known a job more horrifying and more rewarding than to be a platoon leader in combat. The only job I ever saw that looked even remotely as rewarding was that of Ranger squad leader.

Anyway, I thought of Powell while reading this James Dao piece in today's Times.