Small Wars Journal

The Pool

The Pool

Keith Nightingale

Every Grunt has a well of courage that is drawn upon as he moves through his tour.  It is a pool that resides in us all and is tapped from the primordial beginnings when we were the weakest mammal in a world of predators.  It is from this pool that we consume when we have to do what we have to do.

The pool’s depth varies from person to person and is depleted by the experiences and requirements of the moment.  For some, the pool is deep and recharges constantly.  For others, it is quite shallow and requires studied pauses before it is drawn upon again

A wise small unit leader will recognize that aspect in each of his men and take a mental note as to its residual volume. If it drawn to empty, the rest of the unit will be endangered and require deeper draughts of their own reservoirs for the unit to survive. 

One certain aspect is that all the pools have limits.  It is not the fault of the possessor, it just is what is.  Each Grunt needs a break at some moment in the passage of conflict and it is the unusually competent leader who recognizes that before the pool is drawn down and makes provisions for reconstituting that which was lost.

In some cases, some things as simple as  a day of rest, a good meal, a bath, a cold drink or relief from a night ambush may be sufficient.  In others, only a complete isolation from the draw may suffice.  Element leader’s that ignore this or are ignorant of its presence, will pay a bill in blood.

A leader who can sense the depth and the edge of shallowness will make seemingly unconscious decisions or acts of kindness to restore lubrication.  He is exquisitely mindful that the health of every one is the catalyst for the survival of the whole.  This is a highly personal skill that cannot be trained.  But if a unit is blessed with such a diviner, at any level, the members will know. This is the person a Grunt will follow to the deepest terrors combat may provide.  It is our general good fortune that the best such diviners reside in our smallest but most important maneuver elements.  Surviving Grunts will recognize forever who their lifeguard was for good or for ill.