Before leaving Army’s 10th Mountain division in early 2007, I went up to battalion headquarters, found an old quotations book I’d seen in the “Battalion Library” near the Battalion Commander’s office, and copied every page on the headquarters copying machine. Years later I found that there’d been a copy of a handwritten list written by the famous Command Sergeant Major Don Purdy in it. It’s a bit tough to read – much of it is maxims about Small Unit Tactics and patrolling, other parts are things just about every crusty senior NCO in an infantry unit yells about several times a day. Others are distinctly Purdy. The legends of the guy I’d always heard were likely exaggerated, but the guy apparently did love training with bayonets and was hell on targets on a live fire objective. And he wasn’t “a” hardass – he was “the” hardass to hear it from the guys who served with him.
Purdy held NCOs, the Army’s frontline managers and in my view the greatest differentiator between our Army and Marine Corps and those of just about every other nation, in high regard but also responsible for quite a lot. Rules about what training should be executed accounts for a lot of this list – which indicates how important training is and should be to the position of frontline manager. This whole list is a magnificent organizational artifact of the military manager – in essence, it’s a guide for “doing things right” when it comes to tactical-level combat operations and leadership practices and principles. This is the type of knowledge that seriously affects the perfomance of an organization.
Purdy also professed truths about his domain (number 39) that many senior leaders will disagree with on a fundamental level. It’s striking how focused this CSM was on combat and not haircuts, uniforms, equal opportunity or resilience. Rare was the infantry CSM I served with who had these combat priorities and drive. I like to think that more than a few other great NCOs I served with who went on to serve as CSMs did, though.
So what’s the leadership value in this document? What about this is valuable for leaders of all kinds? This list is foremost an example of the value of intense focus in an institutional leader of frontline managers. Don Purdy was a guy who understood not only what made infantry units successful but also what kept infantry soldiers alive – and constant rigorous training, down to daily habits, seems to have been it in both cases and he wasn’t afraid to be direct about its necessity. This focus is terribly valuable in an NCO, and this list is an outstanding example of it.
My favorite rule is number 68 – this seems to be a rule a lot of guys followed (with exceptions) up until a few generations ago. If you have a personal reputation like Purdy’s, I imagine this one’s important.
Don Purdy Rules to LIVE By (Don’t Forget Nothin!)
- Shoot from the shoulder. Pistols are back up weapons. Learn to shoot well. Marksmanship is critical.
- Carry all the ammo and water you can on your person.
- Don’t lean weapons agains trees and walls.
- Weapons on safe until its time to kill.
- Machine gunners should be corporals.
- Guns must be trained to maneuver on there (sic) own. Crew drills are critical.
- Reload drills are critical.
- Firing in the blind and dead gunner drills must be executed.
- Soldiers must know how to use the weapons properly and everyone elses.
- Train on foreign weapons when possible.
- Camouflage! It works.
- A bayonet is a weapon. Train your soldiers to use it to kill the enemy.
- Do Combatives. Also rifle P.T.
- When in the defense or preparing one never get more than arms reach from your weapon.
- Keep shirts and K-Pots on when digging.
- Don’t lay ammo in the dirt. Carry sand bags so you can lay magazines and other ammo on the bags when in defense.
- Soldiers need to know basic demo.
- Use VS–17 panel for daytime signal that you have no verbal commo.
- Handling of POWs and medevac must be practiced constantly.
- Execute withdrawals under pressure. Live fire when possible.
- Silence is golden. Learn to whisper. Even on radios.
- When in the heat of battle leaders talk others shut up.
- Stay off the radio. No unnecessary chatter.
- Use whistles, star clusters as back up signals.
- When in a MOUT Defense have a destruction plan in case of a withdrawal under pressure.
- Wheel barrels (sic) are great in a MOUT environment.
- Don’t forget! Sanitation Plan.
- Always think dirty. Think about what you would do if the doo doo hit the fan right now.
- Move like a cat (rat?) and don’t hesitate.
- Read the battlefield.
- Do bang! drills. This teaches soldiers to react to every contact instantly. In less than one second rounds should be going back at the enemy.
- Hip pocket training is excellent. All leaders need to know how to do this properly and efficiently.
- NCOs TRAIN Soldiers!
- Discipline, Discipline, Discipline. Its too late when the fighting begins.
- Drill & Ceremony is important. Do it right.
- Uniformity is important.
- If you think something is wrong it is.
- Be prepared to take charge.
- Not everyone can be an Infantry soldier. Get rid of the weak.
- Nothing out of a ruck sack except what is necessary.
- Eat one thing at a time and immediately pack it up.
- Trash goes back in the rucksack (MRE).
- Be ruthless on those who leave equipment or ammo on the battlefield.
- Keep the plan simple and violent.
- Smoke doesn’t stop bullets.
- Breaching tools are a last resort to breach.
- Never pass a threat.
- Don’t daisy chain claymores.
- Train with live grenades as much as possible.
- Train soldiers to react to bumping into enemy personnel in close quarters.
- Talk to your soldiers about the reality of there (sic) mission (Life and Death).
- NCOs must never back down in front of there (sic) soldiers.
- Never reduce standards of discipline when in a hostile environment. Be ruthless.
- Leading from the rear is like pushing spaghetti up hill.
- NODs on during darkness.
- Improvise when necessary. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Field hygiene is important.
- If you want to know what the enemy is doing think about what you are doing.
- Treat your enemy as if he is the baddest of the bad. Do not underestimate him.
- Always use boot laces not zippers.
- Boots stay on. Only remove when necessary one boot at a time.
- Infantrymen must have the heart of a lion. Leaders (NCOs) must develop that heart. The infantry has no room for the weak or faint of heart.
- Your mission is to close with and destroy the enemy with any means possible. You must live in the environment on the ground. The mission has priority. The fight comes first then the recovery of dead and wounded.
- Always plan resupply and medevac procedures thoroughly.
- Keep the bi-pods down on MGs and SAWs when moving.
- Place two tracer rounds in magazines first so you will know when your (sic) about to have to change mags.
- Teach your squad leaders how to direct guns with tracers.
- Never smile for photographs.Always keep things simple. Complicated plans don’t work out well.
Lastly I wish to point out that the role of the NCO is awesome. You own the soldier. Train them for war not for peace. Be hard but fair. Never forget where you came from. Learn from failure and confess when your (sic) wrong.
There is no room for boot licking, gut eating, ticket punching NCOs in the infantry. Police your ranks of self servers. There (sic) scum of the earth.
P.S. Root Hog or Die
March or Die
Get tough or Die
More rules to Live By
- When preparing to move don’t let everyone get up at the same time.
- When searching enemy bodies strip them and put the clothing in a trash bag.
- Before assaulting across a kill zone throw hand grenades.
- When moving across the kill zone remove weapons from enemy bodies.
- Gun crews do not fire claymores.
- Sqd leaders fire on semi during an ambush so they can pick up the fire if there is a lull. Team leaders also if it is a platoon size ambush.
- Weapons will cook off when hot. Be careful.
- Rear Security!
- Use snipers whenever possible. Good for your moral (sic), bad for the enemies.Fix Bayonets!If possible carry concealed back up radio.Make the enemy die for his country.
Lastly always quit (sic) yourselves like Soldiers.
Photo from Rear Security Magazine, 2003 (http://www.lrrp.com/docs/200302.pdf)
Also – Purdy’s Ranger Hall of Fame Citation (See Page 5)