Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Pulley

The other day I was stopped at a “T” intersection waiting on an approaching car to pass by before I could proceed. There was also a gray squirrel crouching in the middle of the road. The squirrel suddenly realized that the car I was waiting on was bearing down on him. He ran left, then right, then left, and then right – and to my utter amazement, the car passed right over him --allowing him to escape unscathed. It‘s worth noting that the car never deviated. Whether the driver was oblivious to the squirrel or just staying true to his course, I don’t know.  

The US Army has a course that’s specifically designed to facilitate the type of deliberate decision making that the squirrel so successfully employed. This course doesn’t consist of classes and lectures. It’s known as the Leader’s Reaction Course (LRC). In many ways it resembles the typical Army obstacle course, but serves a different purpose.

The Army has two types of obstacle courses: The Conditioning Obstacle Course “develops physical capacities, fundamental skills, and abilities that are important to Soldiers in combat operations. It has low obstacles that must be negotiated quickly.” The Confidence Obstacle Course “has higher and more difficult obstacles than the conditioning course. It gives Soldiers confidence in their mental and physical abilities and cultivates their spirit and daring. Confidence obstacle courses incorporate complex obstacles that involve height and are not run for time.”

Although the LRC may physically resemble the two aforementioned, it is designed to more fully exercise the analytical and leadership faculties. The concept for the Leader’s Reaction Course reportedly began with German psychologists during the late 1920s. They were interested in the selection process of prospective officers. Their selection process included, “tests for imagination and rapid learning ability; capacity for swift adjustment; emotional stability and security of conduct. They found that a series of leader situations provided an opportunity to observe the presence of the desirable leader skills.”

After WWII, the British adapted the German leader evaluation concept, including the LRC. An LRC was eventually established by the US Air Force at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. “It was used there as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course.” In September 1953, the Infantry School at Fort Benning built an LRC for West Point cadets who were coming to attend a summer training program in 1954.

The Army’s intent behind the LRC is to improve the student’s leadership ability; assess the student’s leadership traits and behaviors; provide the student with a means of making a self-evaluation of his leadership abilities; and provide students the opportunity to observe the strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.

Many years ago, while at Fort Bragg, NC I was in a position to watch numerous teams negotiate a particular LRC obstacle. That obstacle had some walls and poles that had to be climbed as well as some ditches that had to be forded. The equipment provided at that obstacle included some boards, some fuel drums, about 75 feet of large diameter rope and a very large pulley with a hook on the top.

Obviously the leadership dynamics of each team were different. In some instances one guy took charge and was very directive in nature, obviously efficient but the pitfalls to that approach are also numerous. In some cases there was a more deliberative, democratic, committee like methodology. Others broke down into teams and tried to gain efficiencies in their simultaneity. While that was all very interesting, that is not what amazed me about that particular obstacle.

What fascinated me the most that day was not the various leadership approaches or divisions of labor. What captivated me was how each and every team earnestly tried to figure out how to employ the rope and pulley. Without fail, for at least fifteen minutes, they all struggled with that pulley. They tried to hook it to things, tried routing the rope through the sheave, etc., etc. -- all to no avail. In fact, the pulley served no useful purpose whatsoever – it was in actuality, a hindrance.

How many times have I, like the squirrel dashed about going nowhere or vainly tried to figure out how to employ the “pulley”? Perhaps the better reaction -- as prescribed by the greatest Leader: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Lord, help us to lead by following You.

This column appears in The Upson Beacon, 7 OCT 2015 published in Upson County, GA.

1 comment:

Col. B. Bunny said...

As someone who went through that LRC at Ft. Benning a couple of centuries ago, I can attest to its being a brilliant way of testing, well, the reaction of officer candidates.

The hook diversion is brilliant. I don't recall that it was present in the particular course we went through. It immediately brings to mind the diversionary function of the MSM. Billions and billions of dollars of hardware and salaries all too often get devoted to pure fluff, an example of which these days is the "who's up, who's down?" reporting on political polls, sohelpmeIkidyounot.

Our undeclared, moronic war against Syria proceeds at great expense in money and national prestige on the mere say so of Obama. One man! It's a national disgrace that Congress has not asserted itself in this pointless and dishonest war. Who are these "moderate terrorists" that some wag called them? Are we or are we not supporting ISIS? What is Obama's idea of what will replace the Syrian state if we achieve our precious "regime change"? Does the glare of publicity illuminate any of this? No. Obama's ready-fire-aim foreign policy rushes forward. Would anyone drive at night if their headlights illuminated only 10 feet of the road? That's how we approach foreign policy now and why Putin, assuming he's a chess player or a junior geostrategerist, one, can easily outmaneuver Obama. "Are you against ISIS? Hey, what a coincidence! So are we! Here we come to help out! Since you didn't get a declaration of war against Syria, I know you won't mind if we go after some of those moderate terrorists."