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Pre-war Scammell Pioneer
" … necessity being the unforgiving step-mother mother of reinvention."

If my decades working in project management taught me anything, it taught me that an ounce of properly focused logistics tends to be worth a ton of almost anything else. Though nobody ever received a Congressional Medal of Honor for clever logistical support, none of the "great" battlefield victories throughout history could have been possible without a bunch of back office shenanigans worthy of deep respect. Our struggles over responding to Covid-19 clearly demonstrate the necessity for competent administration. Sending more first responders to the front might encourage upswells of sincere appreciation from a grateful population, but we witness otherwise unnecessary sacrifice as these genuine heroes fabricate their own personal protective gear and work around all the services suddenly rendered unavailable, like testing, apparently due to some genuine Bozos handling logistics. The World Health Organization has distributed hundreds of thousands of test kits everywhere but to the used-to-be good old U. S. of A. because some back office politicking decided that we should go our own way. All by ourselves. Alone.

Battles tend to be lost for want of a horseshoe nail as shortages cascade to render moot even the grandest intentions.
The pieces that seem most essential might prove necessary but hardly sufficient. For want of a package of Charmin® Extra Soft, public faith in our entire economic system was severely wounded, and a nagging dread settled in. Deflected responsibilities left each state learning late in the game that a traditional supplier of last resort had entered into bidding wars against them, denying them necessary supplies. Honorable and dedicated public servants get played for fools, accused of pilfering supplies for their own unnamed but apparently nefarious purposes. When logistics fail, the rest of the operation goes to Hell, without the traditional hand baskets, those being inexplicably on backorder until they probably won't be needed anymore.

My friend Gregory Howell confided his secrets for success leading a recon unit stationed in The Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War. Essentially cutoff from outside support for lengthy periods, their assignment directed them to monitor traffic through the area, wherever that meant. They lived in a small village which supplied them with most of their necessities, so Gregory, recognizing their operation's absolute dependence upon local support, issued four standing orders. First, Don't Drive On The Grass. Driving on the grass turned the grass into mud, which would then get tracked all over everything, requiring resources to clean up the resulting mess. If we're gonna successfully achieve our mission, Do Not Drive On The Grass.

His second order declared: Do Not Take The Monkey Into The Cafe. The monkey was doubtless entertaining and a near constant companion for the troops, but the monkey was also unpredictable, apt to act out without provocation. The locals running the cafe had lived with monkey shenanigans all their lives, and found them somewhat less entertaining than did the American boys, and they took offense when the monkey busted up the cafe, offense to the point where the American boys might not be able to rely upon the cafe to serve their meals. On the threat of living on C-rations for the balance of the deployment, and to aid in successfully achieving their mission, Do Not Take The Monkey Into The Cafe.

Gregory's third standing order infringed upon the personal lives of every soldier stationed there: Do Not Fall In Love With The Washerwomen. Gregory freely admitted that the washer women were beautiful and young and willing, but that romantic entanglements might threaten laundry service which, if disrupted, would leave the troops to do their own laundry, seriously threatening their mission. So, as draconian as the standing order might seem, Do Not Fall In Love With The Washer Women.

Gregory claims to have forgotten his fourth standing order, but insists that these orders, strictly enforced, served as the key to the smooth functioning of his unit through the war. They focused upon ensuring a context congruent to reducing the possibility for internal conflict, an under-appreciated element of every great strategic plan. No, headquarters were never informed of these orders, and Gregory probably had no real authority to enforce any of them, but the men saw the logic behind them and so forwent a few of their more primal urges for the sake of a successful mission.

Logistics create context which either enables or complicates completing a mission. It might be that heroics usually happen after some supply sergeant screws up a shipment. Rapid adaptation might resolve any initial supply shortfall, but a logistical system incapable of fixing itself seems utterly useless in this world. In WWII, the British relied upon an almost completely inappropriate prewar tractor/truck, the Scammell Pioneer, to haul artillery and pull tanks out of ditches. It worked, after a fashion, necessity being the unforgiving step-mother mother of reinvention. We're using bandit masks.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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