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Sometimes, bayonetting tradition is the smart thing to do

Submitted by on Sunday, 31 January 2010 No Comment
Bayonets - he calls them "knife guns" - crack Big Guy up.

"Why are they using those?" he asked recently as we watched one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean. "Why don't they just use their guns?"

Back then, guns weren't as powerful and sometimes you had to stab the bad guys if you couldn't get off a good shot. Daddy learned how to use one in basic training, I said.

"Why?" Big Guy asked.

That's what I'd wondered, too. Though bayonets still are used occasionally as a last resort - and as recently as two years ago a British officer was awarded a medal after he used his in a battle in Afghanistan - most American weapons no longer can handle bayonets.

It turns out that the Army has been wondering as well and now is considering dropping what arguably is more traditional than useful.

"Bayonet training - something that's been a staple in our Army - is kind of hard to teach right now when most of the weapons we use don't have the ability to affix a bayonet," Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said recently. "So why are we training it? We're changing the way we train fighting with a rifle, and that's how we're couching it now, as opposed to bayonet training."

Hertling says the Army's entire basic training program will be rewritten to reflect that and other changes. Changes such as moving away from teaching wrestling to focusing more on martial arts. Changes that will account for the fact that more of today's recruits are in worse physical condition than those a generation earlier.

The revisions make sense, especially in a day when soldiers can wind up in combat mere months after they finish training.

And if the military can look hard enough at itself to figure out that it's doing things that no longer make sense, it should be easy for any business or organization to do so as well.

I worked for a company once that did zero-base budgeting - the theory was that everything had to be justified anew every year. The reality was, the zero base was an excuse to slash spending every year, regardless of whether the money really was needed or not.

But rarely does anyone do zero-based workflow, analyzing whether tasks still were justified. If they do, they'll find far more waste than they've ever unearthed while looking for money spent inefficiently.

A lot of us in many walks of live can learn from Hertling's work. If the Army can end bayonet training after all these centuries, what can we find in our worlds that simply no longer makes sense?

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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