The Art of ARFF (part 6) - Variation in Tactics

Sun Tzu states that there are five faults that lead to an army being overthrown, its leader slain, and a victory lost.
  1. Recklessness
  2. Cowardice
  3. Hasty temper
  4. Delicacy of honor
  5. Over-solicitude for his men

Recklessness leads to destruction.  Recklessness is the result of going to battle being ill-prepared and unaware of the opposition. One commentator states, "...he who fights recklessly, without any perception of what is expedient, must be condemned." To go into battle, to attack a fire or crash scene, without any prior preparation or knowledge will result in loss. The way to prevent recklessness is to be always ready, always prepared. Recklessness can be eliminated by constant and evolving training, by fire prevention and pre-planning efforts, and by networking and learning from those that have gone before.

Cowardice leads to capture.  The translation of the Chinese word for 'cowardice' used here refers to "the man whom timidity prevents from advancing to seize an advantage".  With the fire departments emphasis on safety, it seems that the "timid" firefighter is becoming more common.  Though we must act safely, we must also remember, that we have not chosen a 'safe' career.  People are counting on us to do the hard things, to take the risks, that nobody else will. Timidity leads to hesitation which leads to death.

This idea was best stated by FDNY Lt. Ray McCormack during his keynote speech at the 2009 FDIC. In his address Lt. McCormack stated that the fire service needs a "culture of extinguishment not safety".  Due to the "constant barrage" of safety messages, the fire service is at risk of losing its identity and effectiveness.  If firefighters stop taking the risks necessary to save lives, who will do it?  Who will step in to save these lives?

If you follow the rules outlined by Sun Tzu, victory and safety can be obtained.

Hasty temper.
A hasty temper can be provoked by insults. This passage speaks to the importance of self-control. Destruction and loss will surely come to those who cannot control their emotions. When emotions are allowed free reign all perspective, reasoning, and logic disappears. In anger and selfishness we are prone to poor decision making, speaking things which should not be said, and taking part in inappropriate actions. There have many careers lost due to letting emotions take-over, and not being kept in check.  

Delicacy of honor.
Delicacy of honor is sensitivity to shame. This is not to say that honor is a negative quality in a leader. The meaning of this phrase is the victorious leader must be thick skinned.  There is no room for sensitivity to outside judgments, slanderous reports, or opinion.  Leaders stand by their decisions, and understand what they are ultimately responsible for, regardless of what others may say. A Sun Tzu contemporary stated this sentiment as, "They who seek after glory should be careless of public opinion".

Over-solicitude for his men.
Over-solicitude for the men, will expose them to worry and trouble.  The Marine Corps primary objective is, mission accomplishment. Their secondary objective is, troop welfare.  At first glance, this may seem out of order.  Since troops are needed to complete the mission, shouldn't their welfare be first?  The answer is no, and here's why.  If we put troop welfare first, then the mission would fail based on the attitude, feelings, or ideas of each man.  However, with mission accomplishment being the primary objective, personal feelings, ideas, and discomfort are not a hindrance to victory. 

The good leader, or company officer, does not neglect the care of his personnel.  He does, however, understand and emphasizes the primary objective of mission accomplishment.

Sun Tzu introduces these five faults with the idea that he has expressed throughout his writing, prevention and preparedness are key to victory. He states, "The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable."