DARK SIDE OF COMMAND
A/1-228th Avn flew four combat air assaults on D-Day. During the weeks that preceded the operation, the A Co commander prepared his unit mentally for combat by increasing the cohesiveness and sense of teamwork across the company, and by placing added emphasis to his duty as a leader to foster morale. On 19 Dec, as the unit received its mission orders, the commander gathered his crews one last time. He stressed adherence to the routine they had practiced and to approach each situation in a methodical manner. He emphasized there would be casualties, but that each pilot must concentrate on the mission and the aircraft in front of him, ignoring the ground fire. A Co flew each mission expertly. The third mission was into Tinajitas where the PDF garrison was on full alert. Twice A Co inserted troopers into the hot LZ without deviating from the prescribed course, despite receiving extensive hits on every aircraft.
The ranks of the U.S. Army are no longer filled by combat veterans. Annual training programs prepare units to perform their combat tasks but do not always mentally prepare soldiers for the realities of war marked by fear and casualties. Unit commanders should dedicate training time to the mental aspects of combat. In particular, commanders should address what gives soldiers the will to fight and what events they will face on the battlefield that will challenge them psychologically.
- Mentally prepare soldiers for combat. Address taking casualties and still maintaining focus on the mission.
- Reduce the fear of the unknown. Address questions soldiers have concerning how they or their unit will react under fire.
- Rehearse procedures for wounded personnel so the momentum of the attack is not lost as the first casualties are taken.
- Incorporate casualty play in training and mission rehearsals; include key leaders becoming casualties. Review procedures for succession of command.
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