Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How to work in a TOC: Charlie Sherpa’s 26 rules of hard-won wisdom

For the genre of "hard-won but sometimes humorous military wisdom," "Charlie Sherpa" mentioned these in a comment on the lessons of helicopter pilots, but they are too good not to run as a separate post. 1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?" 2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need ...

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For the genre of "hard-won but sometimes humorous military wisdom," "Charlie Sherpa" mentioned these in a comment on the lessons of helicopter pilots, but they are too good not to run as a separate post.

1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"

2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"

For the genre of "hard-won but sometimes humorous military wisdom," "Charlie Sherpa" mentioned these in a comment on the lessons of helicopter pilots, but they are too good not to run as a separate post.

1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"

2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"

3. Never speak with complete authority regarding that which you lack direct knowledge, observation, and/or suppressive fires.

4. Never pull rank over a radio net.

5. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.

6. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to communicate.

7. "I am responsible for everything my commander’s organization knows and fails to know, learns and fails to learn."

8. Know when to wake up the Old Man. Also, know how to wake him up without getting punched, shot, or fired.

9. The three most important things in the TOC are: Track the battle. Track the battle. Track the battle.

10. Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries.

11. Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person on the map.

12. Rank has its privileges. It also has its limitations.

13. Let Joe surprise you.

14. Don’t let Joe surprise you.

15. The first report is always wrong. Except when it isn’t.

16. The problem is always at the distant end. Except when it isn’t.

17. Exercise digital/tactical patience. Communications works at the speed of light. People do not.

18. Your trigger finger is your safety. Keep it away from the CAPS LOCKreply-all, and flash-override buttons.

19. The warfighter is your customer, and the customer is always right.

20. Bullets don’t kill people. Logistics kills people.

21. Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it’s supposed to work.

22. Cite sources on demand. State opinions when asked.

23. Work by, with, and through others. It’s all about empowerment.

24. Do not seek the spotlight, Ranger. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.

25. Both the Bible and The Art of War make this point: It’s never a mistake to put oneself in someone else’s boots.

26. Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn’t.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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