Ballad of a Young Staff Officer

One Friday night, dark and dreary,
At my desk I slumped, weak and weary.
A late-night tasker, come my way,
Too “urgent” to wait just one more day.

“See here, LT,” the S-3 had said,
“This suspense can’t wait, don’t mark as read,
“Write WARNO, write FRAGO, pen the order,
And ensure your slides have the proper border.”

With these words he was off to dinner,
And to tell the BC how he was a winner,
Leaving me in the TOC, to sweat and to write,
Until I was engulfed in the very dark of the night.

Just me and my doctrine, my trusty old pal,
My reference for all things Army ethereal,
And mission command, with acronyms galore,
My brain was starting to get a mite sore.


First to prepare, plan, then execute.
My rifle sits in the corner, never to shoot,
“Give me sustainment or give me death!”
My RipIt-fueled words spilled from my breath.

“Operational terms and graphics!” I shout,
“That is the stuff which gives me some clout!
Old Carl himself couldn’t top this, I think,
If only I had now some whiskey to drink!”

In the back of my brain, a quiet voice spoke,
“No MDMP was done, your process is broke.”
“Damn you conscience, you know I agree!
MDMP is abbreviated, per our BC’s TTP!”

From the darkness, shadows clearing,
Came a voice, wrought with feeling,
“Are you conveying your commander’s intent?
Your one third of time, how is it spent?”

“The enemy’s center of gravity, attack it,
By other means, war, diplomacy, that bit.
Forget not von Moltke, strategy is more,
Than a great, tiresome, and scholarly bore.”

“What you know of the line, take and apply,
To the problem: make the other men die,
Not your own. Firstest, get there with mostest,
And put your troops behind the military crest.”


“Beware the falcon that wears the blue,
To thine own doctrine you must stay true,
And take from me these incendiaries,
To ward off all the good idea fairies.”

With that he was gone, into shadow he melt,
Yet still his presence in th’ TOC could be felt.
There could be only one, as the verse it ran:
I’d been blessed by a visit from Doctrine Man.

In awe-struck thought I sat, head spinning,
Never noticing the ghost, still grinning,
Of Clausewitz, typing my orders so swiftly,
That they were written, correct, doctrinally.

Carl von Clausewitz (Courtesy Wikimedia)

With eyes agape in deep amaze,
I read the words as through a haze,
Then hit “send” to the distro list,
And walked off into the morning mist.

Young staff officers listen, now, take heed,
As you sit and type in your hour of need,
You’re never alone, not even one day,
Strategists don’t die, they just fade away.


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