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Some thoughts from a combat soldier

Mark Smith is a retired Special Forces Major. He was captured in the battle of Loc Ninh in Vietnam. He had 38 holes in his body when captured, back broken, lung messed up, bowel penetrated, and other wounds. He was held in a camp in Cambodia until released. He was an officer, but he was a sergeant first as he was field commissioned to the officer position. Having been an infantryman and a sergeant in Vietnam ex-POW Maj. Mark Smith. Mark is a recipient of the DSC.


1. Never accept an officer as competent based on his source of commission.
2. Your right to influence the battlefield is diminished in ratio to the distance you are from the actual arena of action.
3. The battlefield selects its own Generals. No school or board can replace it.
4. Never call fire on your own troops, unless you stand among them.
5. Leaders are indeed born and no military school can provide what God did not.
6. Equipment procurement will always be compromised by not only being made by the lowest bidder, but by attempting to make it multi-functional.
7. Attempting to lighten the soldier’s load by diminishing the weight of any given weapon, will always result in shorter range and less firepower.
8. Excellent staff officers rarely make good battlefield commanders.
9. Outstanding commanders will surround themselves with excellent staff officers.
10. Never make command a reward for good staff work.
11. Discipline began its decline with the demise of the swagger stick and centralized promotion boards.
12. Outstanding NCO’s may make good officers. But, rarely will a riffed officer make a good NCO.
13. Atheists will never be trusted by their troops on the battlefield.
14. Women can do many things men do, except for a few days every month.
15. Going through the change, has nothing to do with the female senior officer’s uniform.
16. Sexual harassment is a two-lane road.
17. Soldiers tell the truth about good and bad commanders. Their opinion is the ultimate evaluation of an officer.
18. No commander was ever hated for being too hard. But, many are detested for trying to cultivate that image, without substance.
19. The maximum effective range of any weapon is that range at which the individual soldier can hit his target and not an inch further.
20. Pretty females rarely feel harassed by male counterparts.
21. Plain-looking female soldiers are usually the best performers and fit in.
22. Endurance should be judged on the bayonet assault course and not on a marathon run.
23. How far soldiers can run in shorts is unimportant, compared to how far they can speed march with full equipment.
24. Pregnant females are overweight soldiers. Thus, the US Army Weight Control program is not based on equal enforcement of the rules.
25. Tears on the cheeks of any soldier, regardless of gender, are only acceptable on the death of a relative or comrade and when “Old Glory” passes by.
26. Pregnancy is self-inflicted, thus abortions should be paid for by the soldier, as a non line of duty procedure.
27. Soldiers are not ‘sent into combat,” they are led.
28. Your worth as an officer should never be judged on how well you ran with a football in college.
29. West Point is a place of learning, as is any college. Both produce two types of officer; Good and Bad.
30. The computer will never be able to judge the content of a soldier’s spirit, as his Sergeant can.
31. Esprit De Corps cannot be attained at the Battalion picnic or Sports Day. It must be instilled by good leadership and belief in one’s fellow soldiers.
32. No new weapon or tactic will ever instill the same fear in the enemy that one Infantryman with a bayonet can.
33. He who drinks at lunch is a drunken soldier in the afternoon.
34. No soldier is so smart that his physical deficiencies can be overlooked in the Infantry.
35. Painting rocks and serving drinks to officers, have never been soldierly functions. And golf is not a required skill for officers.
36. Consolidation of all administrative personnel at battalion level has eroded accountability and proper reporting.
37. Anyone who thinks that future battlefields will not contain Infantrymen knows nothing about war.
38. Indecision kills more soldiers than any wrong decision. One can command his way out of a wrong decision.
39. The only mission of the Infantry Soldier is to kill the enemy. “Humanitarian Missions” are someone else’s job.
40. Only the Infantry and Armor can gain ground. Only the Infantry can hold it alone.
41. Special Forces are not Rangers or Light Infantry and should never be employed as such.
42. Rangers are light infantry and are not Special Forces.
43. Victory is not a limited objective. There is no other reason to engage an enemy, except victory.
44. Never shower or apply after-shave and cologne, forty eight hours prior to a night attack.
45. Sweat is the true lubricant of the Infantry fighting machine.
46. No American Soldier can be managed to victory. He must be led.
47. The only color in the U.S. Army is green.
48. Use of chemical weapons and biological weapons are a crime against humanity.
49. Not training your soldiers to protect themselves from them is a crime against your own troops.
50. Any tactic written in a book is known to your enemies.
51. If short hair is truly a matter of hygiene and discipline, then all soldiers must have it.
52. No member of a soldier’s family is more important than the mission.
53. No soldier can accomplish his mission if the Army neglects his family.
54. Any soldier who sleeps with another soldier’s wife or lover cannot be trusted on the battlefield and should be shunned.
55. Officers are more likely to wear unauthorized awards than any NCO or Private.
56. Any officer who claims he is accepting an individual award for the entire unit should allow his soldiers to wear it.
57. There can be no quota for awards.
58. Any award for Valor is of more value to the Army than any school diploma or certification.
59. Heroism cannot be taught. But, cowardice is a communicable disease.
60. The machine gun is too important a weapon to be used as a tool for punishing poor soldiers.
61. Precision weapons will jam, if the Commander demands communal cleaning.
62. No officer should be given a command, because, he needs one for his career.
63. No officer should be denied a command, because, he already had one.
64. The state of the Army can be evaluated by how its soldiers look in uniform, at any airport in the world.
65. No reporter can be trusted with operational plans. A reporter who reveals operational plans is a traitor to his country.
66. A combat veteran of any war should be respected by soldiers.
67. American soldiers do not lose wars. Leaders lose wars.
68. What a soldier saw with his own eyes, cannot be ignored or changed by higher headquarters.
69. If Special Forces are not assigned strategic missions, they are being misused.
70. The “Hummer” is a vehicle and is the only thing of that name allowed in the Infantry.
71. If you wish to learn about guerrilla warfare, study Francis Marion and not Westmoreland or Giap.
72. The one night you don’t dig in, will bring mortars on your position.
73. Taking the easy way will always get you killed.
74. Blank ammunition has no place in Infantry training.
75. The more you restrict Infantrymen possessing live ammunition, the more accidents you will have.
76. The Air Force and Navy are supporting arms.
77. Intelligence Officer is usually a contradiction in terms.
78. Inclement weather is the true Infantryman’s ally.
79. There is no special duty so important, that it takes the Infantry Soldier away from his squad.
80. Commanders who use the “Off Limits” authority to deny sex to combat soldiers will have a high V.D. rate.
81. A Commander’s morals are his own and cannot be imposed on his soldiers.
82. Chaplains must present themselves when the soldier has time, not because they have a schedule.
83. An officer must be judged on his ability and not on how many coffees his wife has attended.
84. Senior officers who allow discussions about a brother officer, not present, are not honorable men.
85. A Commander who bad-mouths his predecessor will never be truly respected.
86. Equal opportunity is guaranteed by the law and does not require a separate staff.
87. If a Sergeant Major suggests a unit watch, he is the supplier.
88. The quality of food went down, with the initiation of the consolidated mess.
89. No NCO or Warrant Officer outranks a Second Lieutenant.
90. Any officer who does not listen to NCO’s and Warrant Officers is a fool.
91. If you wish your subordinates to call you by your first name, go sell shoes. There is no place for you in the Army.
92. Any Army man who sneers at a Marine for being sharp and well turned out is no soldier.
93. Any Infantryman who must call higher headquarters before engaging the enemy has a fool for a commander.
94. Soldiers respect leaders worth emulating. They cannot be “ordered” to respect anyone.
95. No man who refused to serve his country in war should be elected or appointed over men and women being sent to fight.
96. The soldier must obey the orders of all those elected or appointed over him.
97. The “leadership genes” in famous American military families usually become weaker as the generations roll by.
98. A soldier should not be denied the right to wear his uniform anywhere in America, including The White House.
99. The only truly unique headgear is the one the Army was forced to authorize. All others are cheap copies.
100. There is only one reason to join the Army and that is to serve the Country.
101. If a soldier says he hates combat, he is in the wrong profession.

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