History holds the key for success during ORI

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mike Brillo Brill
  • Chief, 419th Fighter Wing Safety
What you are about to read may sound like a history lesson. But after reading various accounts of the Revolutionary War, I've found it is amazingly applicable to the next two months as the 419th Fighter Wing and its Team Hill counterparts prepare for the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection.

It's a common misperception that the colonists won the Revolutionary War by using "Indian tactics," firing on the Redcoats from behind trees and walls. While we did have some success at places like Lexington Green and Bunker Hill with guerrilla tactics, we didn't actually defeat the British Army and ultimately win our freedom until we adopted the European conventional style of warfare.

The main problem was that the "smoothbore" muskets of that time had no rifling to spin the ball and were inaccurate outside of 30 yards. After the first volley, the battlefield was obscured by smoke, as the invention of smokeless powder was still years away. Soldiers had to be trained to fire at areas rather than individual targets. By the time the British Army invaded New York City in 1776, they had changed to an open-ranks formation with 18 inches between men. British Commanders had the ability to stretch their men's formations up to 10 yards and beyond. This was all done to defeat the American guerilla tactics of fighting from cover. Generally speaking, wherever the British attacked, the Americans ran.

During the winter garrison at Valley Forge, the Prussian drillmaster Friedrich von Steuben tirelessly drilled the soldiers in the art of linear tactics. Musket men were lined up in three ranks or rows firing volleys rank-by-rank. With ample training, the massed formation could fire a devastating nine volleys per minute! Tactics of this era sought to simply blast their opponents off the battlefield with concentrated musket fire. Unfortunately for the soldiers, it became a tactical fact of life that a regiment was rated not by how well it could deliver a volley of musket fire, but by how well they could stand after receiving a volley.

Interestingly, linear tactics were not designed to shoot down the enemy, but to break up his organized lines, creating chaos and disarray. Your side would then march forward, in a cohesive, organized fashion, culminating in a charge with the bayonet. Some men would panic and run while others would disregard the firing order, reloading as rapidly as possible and firing aimed shoots individually. While these true warriors may have thought they were helping the cause, they were actually adding to the confusion. A disorganized unit cannot stand against a coordinated bayonet charge. Charged units, if not able to organize themselves, would give way and desert their posts -- or die spitted.

The key lesson here is that victory was achieved only through teamwork and cohesion in the midst of chaos and confusion. Superior individual efforts were ineffective.

The inspector general team members -- like the British -- are extremely disciplined. They will hit us with multiple volleys of fire, and their key motive is to disrupt our operation and cause confusion. Unfortunately, the 419 FW's greatest asset -- our people -- can become a liability if we don't restrain ourselves. We have a great bunch of outstanding warriors and leaders, but we must remember that unity of effort and teamwork are the keys to success. Grabbing the M1 and charging the pillbox may win the war, but it doesn't win the ORI.

When the "stuff hits the fan" and the fog of the battle starts to break down the lines, it's time to rally the troops with cool, calm, and precise direction and leadership. Rely on the procedures we have established and avoid the instinct to freelance; in an ORI the end does not justify the means.