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Commander's Corner

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Aufhorchen, Landser!

List of Contents:
Article Date
Individualism 2017-01-18
Tapfer und Treu 2013-09-04
4 Basic Life Lessons from Basic Training 2012-04-09
Zero Dollar Improvements to your Impression 2012-03-28


in·di·vid·u·al·ism
    ˌindəˈvij(o͞o)əˌlizəm/

    noun
   
    1. the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant.
    2. a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective control.

Unit Impression

Individualism – it’s a cornerstone of our society today.  Being able to express yourself as a unique individual with your own thoughts, plans and desires is important…but that trait doesn’t work so well in reenacting.  In fact, it’s harmful to the hobby.  The act of portraying a soldier in a military unit requires first and foremost that an individual understands the hobby is about collectivism, not individualism.  Der Erste Zug, the reenacting unit out of Pennsylvania with a website that is a wealth of knowledge, likes to call it the “unit impression.”   

What is a “unit impression?”  It’s making sure that whatever you bring to an event, be it your uniform, your equipment, your attitude and your persona, adds to the authenticity of the unit as a whole.  It’s falling into line and not striving to stand out.  Being “just another grunt” and looking just like the reenacting soldier next to you should be the goal of every reenactor trying to attain a great “unit impression.”  Let go of any individualistic item you want to bring with you into the hobby.  Just because you saw a picture once of a Soldat wearing a smock that was sewn together with Italian camo, an SS-zelt and some sheepskin doesn’t mean that you get to wear that to an event.  You don’t get to buy and wear whatever fancy medal you like.  Don’t paint your helmet some wacky camo colors.  SHAVE YOUR DAMNED BEARD AND CUT YOUR HAIR.  Stop making excuses and stop making yourself stand out from others in your unit.

Uniformity is drilled into you in basic training – a fun little event most reenactors don’t get to experience (unless they are prior or active military).  Basic training is designed to tear down the individual and rebuild them into a cohesive and uniform group.  This, kids, is what military service is all about – the group survives or perishes as a collective entity.  If you want to have a top-notch reenacting unit, you have to understand this concept.  You are nothing.  You are not special.  You are not unique.  You are the same as every other basic grunt around you.  If one person fails, the whole unit fails.  The unit is everything.  Apply whatever cliché you want here – the tallest blade of grass gets cut first, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link…cliché or not, it’s all true.  Uniformity is strictly upheld by military units, in WWII and now, even in the most difficult of times.  Unfortunately, uniformity is a rarity in reenacting these days.  The worst units (and the weakest units) are the ones in which every member strives to have the “coolest” looking uniform, where there are more MP40s, machine guns and other odd weapons than there are K98s, where there’s scant trace of military knowledge or discipline at all and where the desire to go out and pop blanks is greater than being historically accurate.  The best units are the ones in which the Gruppe is accurately portrayed, in which all members know and understand military commands and formations, in which you have trouble telling one Landser from another at a distance of 10 meters.

Since starting this unit, we’ve seen a couple of exoduses from our unit, with one happening just last week.  These departures occurred because these former members thought they could do it better.  They wanted to stand out.  They didn’t want to work as a team.  They want individualism over collectivism.  While it hurts to lose members, it’s for the best.  I’d rather have four dedicated, historically accurate Soldaten striving for a “unit impression” than 40 half-assed weekend warriors who all have their own opinion and think they can do it better on their own.

So, moving forward, we’re going to be pursuing a “unit impression.”  Will this be a difficult transition?  Absolutely.  However, the benefits will far outweigh the work put in to getting there.  Tolerance for individualism is set to 0.  Me kissing ass and playing nice to get you to fall into line is done.  Unique items, uniforms, weapons and equipment are out.  Trying to get half-hearted recruits to participate is over.  Either you get it or you don’t.  Either you want to learn or you don’t.  Either you want to participate or you don’t.  Research on the 352nd, research on the life of a Landser and doing things together as a unit will be our priorities; they will serve as the cohesive bond in our unit.  Sorry, this isn’t a democracy.  There will be strict standards that will be defined and will be followed.  Striving for a “unit impression” will bring our unit closer to the historical accuracy for which we signed up in the first place.  Being able to achieve that historical accuracy will better enable us to remember a generation, to honor their sacrifices and to educate future generations about the 352.Infanterie-Division.  

Tapfer und Treu...
2013-09-04

Steve Kapotis, the commander of the 914.Grenadier-
Regiemnt in Massachusetts, has been battling cancer for the last several years. Yesterday morning, he lost the battle.  Steve has been an energetic and dedicated leader in reenacting for many years, and had been coordinating with me to get our unit out to participate in the GAP.  It was his goal every year to get together all the 352.Infantry-Division units from around the world to participate in the GAP.  Unfortunately, we weren't ever able to make it out there.  His loyalty to his unit, those who have been under his command and to living history as a whole has been exemplary.  I ask that you all say a prayer for him, his family and his family, as they are dealing with this great loss.  
Ich hatte' einen Kameraden...


Stephan Kapotis
Tapfer und Treu
In dankbarkeit die Kameraden
der 352.Infanterie-Division


4 Basic Life Lessons from Basic Training
2012-04-09

Anoter gem from the internets.  For any of you that have been through basic training, I'm sure you'll agree with what's said here.  Not only can these lessons learned be applied to your everyday life, but they are good things to know and practice in reenacting - they will improve your impression, and you should get more out of the reenacting experience for it.

4 Basic Life Lessons from Basic Training

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Inscho.

As an enlisted member of the Army, and now an Officer, I’ve gone through what was essentially two separate stints at basic training. The first as enlisted and the second as an Officer. During the training, it’s difficult to see the lifelong lessons being drilled into you. Now, however, years after finishing, it’s easier to put a finger on those lessons and apply them to everyday life.

1. If You Can’t Carry It, Wear It, or Shoot It, Leave It Behind

When I would travel in high school, my bags were packed with everything that I might need in an encounter. It might get cold…throw in a few hoodies. What about rain? Take the rain jacket. Doing laundry sucks…I’d better take 3 pairs of underwear and socks for every day I’m going to be away just in case. Seven days in the Carolinas required the same amount of baggage as moving to a new house.

Drill Sergeant, in his infinite wisdom, was about to teach me a more efficient way to pack my bags.
One day we were told we were doing a ruck march the next day and were handed a packing list. This packing list was mandatory, and everything on it had to be packed in our ruck sacks or worn on us.

“The stuff on the packing list is more than my ruck sack can hold…how am I supposed to bring the extra gear I might need?!”

After that first ruck march with 10 days worth of gear and change of clothes, my ideas about packing changed drastically.  If it wasn’t 100%, absolutely crucial to my survival, it wasn’t packed.  A uniform, two or three changes of undergarments, a poncho, and some bungee cords were all we used, and therefore, were all we needed. Twelve undershirts is unnecessary when you’re only gone for ten days.  Nobody cares what you smell like and that same space could be used for food or ammunition.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

Do you need a walk-in closet full of dress shirts if your job requires a hard hat and a tool belt? Do you need six different methods of making coffee when you end up just stopping by a coffee shop anyways?  

Take an inventory of everything you use, and donate or sell everything that hasn’t been useful in the last four months. How do you decide what stays and what goes? Do what I do. Twice a year, turn everything you own backwards. When you look in the dresser drawer, you’ll see the backs of your shirts; in the cabinet you’ll see the back of the peanut butter jar. Then, when you use an item, turn it back around so it’s facing you.  If you don’t use it, leave it alone. After four months, everything that is still facing away from you is donated or sold…no questions asked.

2. Run, Shoot, Communicate

Every morning we did PT, and every PT session included some sort of running. If we were ever on a real world mission and had to get to the objective, we knew we could run to it.

Next, if we weren’t on a live range, we were practicing basic rifle marksmanship drills. We knew that if we ever got into a real world firefight, these techniques would be second nature and give us the ability to protect ourselves and our teammates.

After that we communicated. Radios, written orders, hand and arm signals…eventually our squad got to the point that our communication was almost telepathic.

Our Drill Sergeant constantly reminded us that all we needed to be a successful Soldier was to be able to run, shoot, and communicate. If you can do those well and your squad can do them well, all of the extra stuff is icing on the cake.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

What do you need to do to be a successful husband? Provide care, love, and resources to your family. Nothing else should be your focus until these needs are met. What about a successful bachelor? Grandfather? Boss?

The type of man you want to be can be simplified to a few basic characteristics that, when done successfully, lead you to success. Prioritize your life and focus on the “need to haves” before you even think about the “nice to haves.”

3. Practice Mindfulness

My second round of basic training granted me a bit more freedom and opportunities outside of training. Still, training was the priority, and one day I found myself back on the range to qualify with my weapon.

“I’ve done this a million times. No sweat…BANG! I wonder what they are serving for dinner tonight…BANG! What about the gym…BANG! Are they even open today…BANG!”

On and on that went for all 40 targets. My mind on the mystery meat that would be served later for dinner. It should have been on the mechanics of marksmanship that were drilled into my mind and body during my first round at basic training.

I finished my ammunition and awaited my score. No doubt it’d be a 28/40…or maybe even a 30/40 because I’d done this a million times, remember?

9. I shot a 9 out of 40. Talk about embarrassing.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

Proficiency does not come from one attempt…not even dozens of attempts. To do something well demands your concentration and for you to practice mindfulness, regardless of how many times you’ve done that task before. If whatever you’re doing isn’t important enough to you to demand your full attention…why do it?

4. Outranking Someone Doesn’t Equal Control of Them

One of the Army Values is Respect, and it’s defined as “treat people as they should be treated.” So even if someone outranks you, if he has shown that he can’t keep track of his equipment, you are well within your rights to treat him like someone who can’t keep track of his equipment. Rank does not automatically mean you get to boss around everyone below you.

Case in point, during Officers Basic Training, myself and 39 other brand new Second Lieutenants made up a platoon that was “advised” by a group of Staff Sergeants and a Sergeant First Class. From the standpoint of the military’s hierarchy, we were being led by people we outranked.

This wasn’t an issue until our field exercise. At times like that everyone’s temper is much, much shorter than usual and the easy way out tends to become the trail most taken.

After we came back from a tactics exercise in the woods, someone realized that he had lost an important piece of equipment. Not something important to him, or assigned to him, but something very important to the entire platoon and the responsibility of our Sergeant First Class advisor.

The search for it was half-assed on our part, and the Sergeant First Class decided we needed punishment.  Except we outranked him and he couldn’t punish us the way it’s normally done in the Army (mass amounts of push-ups and other exotic, and exhausting, types of physical training).

The one thing he could do to us, was hold us in formation for as long as he pleased and wherever he pleased. It was late June, in southern Georgia, and our base was made up entirely of low tents and gravel. Obviously the best place for him to keep us in formation for the next hour was out in the open as the temperature rose to 100+…and that’s exactly what he did.

How to Apply This Lesson to Everyday Life

If you’re a manager, or a boss, or a leader of any type, you need to realize that your position doesn’t mean your subordinates have to automatically bend to your every desire. They don’t even have to respect you.

You earn the respect you are given.

Wrapping Up

These four basic life lessons are nowhere near a complete guide to being a man. They are, however, things you commonly see many men pay no attention to. Practice these lessons daily, one at a time until each one is mastered, and I’m willing to bet you’ll see all parts of your life from a new perspective, and find yourself closer to winning the battle that every man fights–whether soldier or civilian–of becoming the man you want to be.
______________________________________
Mike Inscho is an Army Officer and aspiring writer. You can find his writing on speed, strength, and power at AlphaMaleFTS.com.


Zero Dollar Improvements to your Impression
2012-03-28

Came across this on a forum a few weeks ago.  This is a great list of things you can do to make your impression better for free.

Zero Dollar Improvements to Your Impression
 
By Neil Gillbanks

Since tighter budgets are a reality for most people these days, I was looking to compose a comprehensive list of zero dollar solutions. That is, the things reenactors can do to improve their impressions for zero or nearly zero dollars.

Many times I have seen units that look 10 times better with minimal kit and without the fancy weapons, than units with more money than sense.

I am focusing mostly on the times when you are not in the field or when you are at a public display. My list in no particular order, so far is:

1. Get a haircut.
2. Get your hands out of your pockets.
3. Don't wash your feldbluse.
4. Skip the modern sports/tv/politics talk.
5. Walk EVERYWHERE in step and in column of 2
6. STOW your gear.
7. Clean your weapon when sitting in camp.
8. Use your canteen cup/stein.
9. Wear your belt in the right place.
10. Set up zelt tents in rows.
11. Stack boxes, crates, etc., neatly.
12. Put your rifles in 3 unit tripods with a helmet on top.
13. Place the tripods next to the zelt tents.
14. Carry a pack of cigarettes.
15. Stuff your pockets with socks, blanks, apples, etc.
16. String your gear on your "Y" straps.
17. Learn 1 new German command each event.
18. Use German commands in formation.
19. Have formations and kit inspections.
20. Move as a squad/unit to and from assembly areas.
21. Learn some greetings/small talk in German.
22. DON'T use cheesy Hollywood German accents.
23. Listen to ACTUAL German accents.
24. Get a little feldgrau canvas bag to cover Gatorade bottles.
25. Discuss squad tactics in camp.
26. Include the new guys in the discussions.
27. Practice your rifle drill and teach the new guys.
28. Write letters home in cursive. [Not curse words!]
29. Do everything possible as a group.
30. Learn to darn socks, sew buttons, patch zelts.
31. When sitting in camp, darn socks, sew buttons, patch zelts.
32. Leave the twinkies, potato chips, etc at home.
33. Bring Babybell cheese, small rye/pumpernickel loaves, wafer cookies.
34. Remove modern labels from tinned goods.
35. Learn the German names for your kit.
36. Play checkers, chess and cards.
37. Offer to do vehicle maintenance. (Check oil, tire pressure, etc.)
38. Use and respect rank/command structure.
39. Don't argue in public. (Unless it is in German!)
40. TURN OFF/or hide Cellphones.
41. Post a sentry at camp or have people watching for P-47's.
42. Button your pockets.
43. Inspect each other's gear before taking the field.
44. Try to maintain a consistent time frame look for the squad.
45. Fill your stripper clips.
46. Think and act like a squad.
47. If waiting for something, stand in line.
48. Don't chew gum.
49. If you don't know, politely ask questions.
50. Remember, We do this for FUN!


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