From the dawn of man, our ancestors have trained recruits, established hierarchies, and cooperated to survive. Those skills are just as important today as they ever were. Green Beret soldiers are selected not only for their intelligence and skills, but also for their ability to lead and follow as the situation dictates. The Special Forces Qualification Course goes to great lengths to make success dependent on team effort and cooperation. The result is a seemingly contradictory notion: a team of leaders.

The first war for which we have a visual record was fought between the Mesopotamian states of Lagash and Umma in 2525 B.C. The images were recorded on a victory column, or stele. Known as the Stele of Vultures because of the images of scavengers feeding on bodies of defeated soldiers, it portrays the King of Lagash leading a phalanx of armored infantry with an eight-man front, trampling their enemies. Fielding identically equipped soldiers and fighting in formation required training and discipline. Have you ever tried to get 50 teenagers to dress just alike, then walk, much less fight, in a formation? These guys were professional soldiers.


The birth of agriculture, in what is now Iraq, produced adequate resources to build cities. For the first time in history, there was wealth to steal. This wealth also made possible the development of trades. Popular myth has it that soldier is the second-oldest profession. This was the beginning of civilization. You might be able to survive on your own, but to thrive, you need a community.

The neolithic war band consisted of untrained men brought together by blood lines or oath in temporary alliance. These rugged individuals never stood a chance against a professional, trained army. Even though some of the marauders were superior in individual combat, the phalanx overwhelmed them. War is a team sport. The winners got a victory column and their opponents left only bleached bones drying in the Iraqi desert.


The idea of a Rambo taking on all comers belongs in Hollywood myth. We enjoy the fruits of civilization because our ancestors were great collaborators. If you want to survive and thrive, build strong relationships and organize solid teams. Recruit strong people and smart people; it takes a variety of skills to succeed in life or in war.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”—Robert Heinlein

Be a leader, be a teammate, and be a winner.

(Featured Image Courtesy: DVIDs)

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