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A slideshare on Rogers Rules, which are still in effect today and always will be!

Part of Who Dares Wins: Special Operation Strategies for Success and The Green Beret Survival Guide.

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indexRobert Rogers was a colonial farmer from New Hampshire who was recruited by the British in 1755 to serve in the French and Indian War.  Over the course of the following years he formed a unit of colonials called Rogers’ Rangers, the first Ranger unit.  Unlike the Redcoat British, they wore green uniforms and utilized unconventional tactics, many of which were written down as Rogers’ Ranging Rules, some of which are still used in the current US Army Ranger Handbook, called Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs). I’ll post on Rogers Rules of Rangering in a week or so.

The most significant engagement the Rangers fought was with the Abenaki Indians in Canada.  This tribe had been raiding the colonies and was credited with over five hundred kills, mostly of civilians, during the war.  A Ranger force of two hundred marched into Canada and destroyed the Abenaki village, a feat shown in the 1940 movie Northwest Passage starring Spencer Tracy.  This was a case of thinking outside of the normal parameters on Rogers’ part.  Conventional wisdom at the time dictated being on the defensive along the frontier.  Rogers realized that would be futile and leave the initiative in the hands of his enemies.  The frontier was simply too large to be adequately defended with the scant forces he had.

WDW_B&N copyHe decided that the only way to stop this scourge was to go to the source, which others told him was impossible as it was too far inside enemy territory.  He turned that thinking around, figuring that if the other side thought that too, it would increase his odds of success as no one would consider the raid a real possibility and be prepared to defend against it.  This open-mindedness is something is one of the seven character traits of the elite.  An elite individual is someone who finds new ways to tackle problems.  I discuss this in detail in Who Dares Wins Special Operations Strategies for Success.

The Rangers also fought in General Wolfe’s campaign against Quebec and the subsequent one against Montreal in 1760.  After the war, Rogers repeatedly petitioned the King to fund expeditions for the Rangers to explore from the Mississippi to the Pacific, almost fifty years before Lewis & Clark.  Think how history might have changed if he had done this (which gets my brain working on a possible mission for a future Time Patrol book).  Unfortunately, the King turned Rogers down and his persistence in trying to launch his own expeditions caused him to be arrested on charges of treason.  So much for loyalty from top to bottom, a key to effective leadership.  There are some who say the seeds of the Revolution were planted among the ranks of the Rangers because of this.  Despite their excellent service, the Rangers were treated with contempt by the British and in 1775 some of the men who fired upon the British at Lexington and Concord were former Rangers.

As part of this focus on Spec Ops, I’ve put together three discounted Special Ops bundles on Amazon:

Special Ops One: Green Berets Cut Out and Shadow Warriors: The Line

Special Ops Two: Green Berets: Chasing the Lost and The Jefferson Allegiance

Special Ops Three: Green Berets: Eternity Base and Shadow Warriors: Omega Sanction

Tomorrow I’ll post about Rogers Rules of Rangering, which we still use today!


indexThose who don’t learn from history . . .

Down in the Low Country, early in our country’s history, one of the first ‘Special Operators’ plied his trade.

During the Revolution, an early chapter in the history of American Special Operations Forces was written.  Francis Marion, a farmer, who was to become known by the moniker the ‘Swamp Fox’, lived on the Santee River in South Carolina.  During the French and Indian War he served in two campaigns against the Cherokees.  He was elected to the South Carolina Provincial Congress in 1775.

Marion helped fight off the British from taking Charleston for four years, before the regular army there surrendered. He then slipped away to form his own regiment which conducted guerrilla warfare along the Peedee and Santee Rivers, defeating both Loyalist and British Regular forces, including Tarleton’s dragoons.  He was known for his hit and run tactics, particularly attacking at night and using the swampy terrain for cover and concealment.  Like other Special Forces legends, Marion’s adventures (somewhat fictionalized) were captured on film in the movie The Patriot with Mel Gibson (whose father, BTW, moved the family to Australia when he was 12 partly so that Mel could avoid the draft, which I find ironic given he also made the movie We Were Soldiers Once– just another one of those historical tidbits we learn).

A key to Marion’s success was breaking the accepted ‘rules’ of warfare at the time.  When Charleston surrendered he was supposed to give himself up to captivity.  He chose not to do that, much as some of the early architects of modern Special Forces such as Colonel Volckmann refused to give themselves up in the Philippines in the early days of World War II and went into the jungle to form guerrilla units after the ‘official’ surrender.  These were people who did not accept defeat in battle while the war still raged on.

A dangerous, but useful tenet of Special Forces is to break rules when they don’t fit either the situation or the mission.  The breaking of rules is part of being an artist, of learning the craft and then rising above it.  I have three rules of rule breaking but the first rule is never tell anyone the rules of rule-breaking.

4 D DayJoking. But I was just writing in the latest Time Patrol book how the first rule of the Time Patrol is you can never tell anyone you’re in the Time Patrol. It’s also the second rule. And if you break the rule then you have to travel back in time and kill yourself.

Another early Special Operator was John Mosby.  In Civil War, another link in the history of Special Operations Forces was a man who fought against our government with great success.  There are some Civil War historians who say that John S. Mosby’s partisan activities in northern and western Virginia prevented the Union from winning the war in the summer of 1864.

Mosby was a lawyer who had a reputation for violence.  When the Civil War started, he enlisted as a private in the 1st Virginia Cavalry.  He received a field commission and worked his way up the ranks until he came into conflict with the unit commander and was reassigned to JEB Stuart’s staff.  He took part in Stuart’s infamous ride around the Union army during the Peninsula campaign.  Stuart then detached Mosby with the order to raise a band of guerrilla fighters in the Loudoun Valley in northern Virginia.

With a small force of partisans, Mosby brought havoc to Union supply lines causing large amounts of Federal troops to be detailed from the front-lines to guard the rear.  He ranged so far afield, he actually penetrated the outer perimeter of Washington’s defenses several times.

In 1863 with only twenty-nine men, he stole into the Fairfax Court House and woke Union General Edwin H. Stoughton, capturing him.  During another raid, he almost captured the train on which Ulysses S. Grant was traveling.

Mosby, like Rogers (of Rogers Rangers fame) and Marion, used unconventional tactics to confound conventional commanders.  His forces were always outnumbered and he usually operated behind enemy lines, taking the battle to his foe, rather than the other way around, as Rogers did in his march into Canada to stop the Indian raids.  He usually lived off the land, much like we were taught to do during the Special Forces Qualification Course and SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  Most conventional military units are tied to their supply lines, which makes them predictable and vulnerable.

Mosby’s forces so frustrated Union officers, that they took the severe step of summarily executing his men when they captured them.  General George Custer, who I cover in Shit Doesn’t Just Happen: The Gift of Failure, executed six of Mosby’s men in 1864 and Mosby retaliated by shooting seven of Custer’s soldiers.  Mosby left a note pinned to one of the bodies stating that he would treat all future captives as prisoners of war as long as Custer did.  Both sides ceased the executions.

Mosby’s activities highlighted one of the keys of success for future Special Operators:  small numbers of highly mobile forces can pin down much larger numbers of less mobile, regular forces and affect the strategic campaign well out of proportion to their size.  Too often generals—and managers—are too focused on numbers of people and they ignore quality of personnel and the effectiveness of unconventional tactics.  For the individual, the key point is that quality is better than quantity.

WDW_B&N copyA lot of the above comes from Who Dares Wins: Special Operations Strategies for Success.

I show how we can apply many of the strategies and tactics employed by our elite military units in both our personal and professional lives.

FromandkorpsetI’ve had varied experiences, especially in the military. Cadet at West Point, Infantry platoon leader, recon platoon leader, and then Special Forces A-Team leader and other position in Special Operations over the years. I experienced organizations at various levels, from bad to great.

However, the most dangerous place to be is ‘good’.

What good means is that you and/or your organization is doing well enough to get by. To accomplish the ordinary tasks. But in Special Forces our tasks were often extraordinary.  Complacency could have fatal consequences.Voltaire is credited with saying: “Good is enemy of great.”

I’ve found this also to be true in my civilian career as a writer and CEO of Cool Gus. Here are some basic rules I learned in Special Operations and continually apply to avoid settling for good; and you can too:

1. Great is hard work. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. The one common core I saw in Spec Ops and in successful authors was they work damn hard. I watch people buying lottery tickets and think that’s what many wanna-be’s do with their career and their life. They hope luck will strike them; luck comes to those on top of the hill. Who climbed up there on their own.

2. Those who don’t aspire to greatness will try to take you down. A saying I tweet every once in a while which receives a large response is: People too weak to follow their own dream will always find a way to discourage yours.  Don’t let them.  In fact, the good news is you need them. My business partner, Jen, calls them the ‘haters’.  The more successful you get, the more people will come after you– it means you’re doing something right. Smile, get motivated and move on.

3. Failure is opportunity. After every mission we ran, we conducted vigorous after-action reviews and debriefings. We focused on what went right, but also what didn’t. We required honesty in that. And then we worked on making sure that failure did not happen again. As a writer, I’ve had many failures, many rejections, but I view them as one door closing which means there’s another out there for me to open up. One of the “thoughts” for Special Forces Selection and Assessment (a course I helped design) is: Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage.

4. Great leadership means being honest and admitting mistakes.  You can’t fix it if you don’t put it on the table. And everyone knows you screwed up. Trying to cover it up makes it worse. But you don’t get to make the same mistake twice.

5. Great leadership means trusting and asking for help. I had a team of experts on my A-Team. Much more knowledgeable not only in their specialties than me, but they also had their life experiences to draw on. It’s amazing how much can be done working together side by side, rather than trying to dictate from behind a desk or behind rank.

And as a bonus, here’s a secret I learned the hard way: Be positive. Believe that you will succeed. See it, go for it. No matter what the odds, most of the battle is inside your own head.  BE POSITIVE!

Time Patrol: Ides of March

15 March 2016

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