The Spirit of the Bayonet

The Guard Position

“The will to meet and destroy the enemy in hand-to-hand combat is the spirit of the bayonet. It springs from the fighter’s confidence, courage, and grim determination, and is the result of vigorous training. Through training, the fighting instinct of the individual soldier is developed to the highest point. The will to use the bayonet first appears in the trainee when he begins to handle it with facility, and increases as his confidence grows. The full development of his physical prowess and complete confidence in his weapon culminates in the final expression of the spirit of the bayonet — fierce and relentless destruction of the enemy.”

Field Manual 23-25 Bayonet –October 1943 edition

Note the subtle distinction between the ‘spirit’ of the bayonet, “The will to meet and destroy the enemy in hand-to-hand combat” and the ‘final expression’ of the spirit of the bayonet, “fierce and relentless destruction of the enemy.” The first is philosophical, the second operational.

Recognizing how to put a concept into operation is an important step in turning information into knowledge. For instance, how can we operationalize the “O-O-D-A Loop?” My colleague Melody Lauer once asked me:

How do I use the OODA Loop? That’s not clear to me.

At the time, I didn’t have a good answer for her.

Now, I would say that the basis for making Boyd’s process operational is to dig deep into Orient. Boyd himself said:

Orientation is the schwerpunkt. It shapes the way we interact with the environment–hence orientation shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act. [emphasis mine] –Organic Design for Command and Control, slide 16

“I’ll shoot anyone I find in my house” is an example of an input to Orientation, probably a Cultural Heritage artifact from English common law of centuries ago. When we acquire New Information through training, observation, or experience, that also becomes an input to our Orientation. Then comes the hard part, Analysis / Synthesis. All the other inputs to Orientation coalesce through Analysis / Synthesis into decision-making that occurs ahead of an incident rather than during the incident. We may need to modify the plan and decisions as an incident unfolds, but that’s much easier and faster to do than making a plan up on the spot.

Examining, expanding, and integrating all of our Orientation inputs is what allows us to ‘make’ good decisions quickly. When we have formed a solid Orientation, we are actually not making decisions in the moment, rather we are ‘choosing’ from a menu of pre-made decisions available to us because we’ve already considered the benefits, objectives, and consequences and made a rational decision about what’s in our best interests. It’s how we avoid making Serious Mistakes.

My thanks to Melody and Joseph Edward Timbs for provoking me to write this post. Also thanks to Steve Moses, Shawn Vincent, and Don West of CCWSafe for inviting me to participate in a thought provoking podcast about the topic.

4 responses

  1. Do you have a direct link to the podcast? I’m having trouble finding it.

    1. We recorded the podcast a couple of days ago and it’s still being edited because I babble so much. As soon as it’s posted, I will upload the link.

  2. I’m not a pilot, so I can’t relate from personal experience to the OODA Loop as Boyd describes it. Piloting against adversarial aircraft(s) in a three dimensional environment, and allowing for a noticeable time delay in the reaction of the aircraft to pilot control inputs, would be a completely different endeavor from ground based, two dimensional gun fighting.
    My Gun Fight experience involved:
    1) OBSERVE – See/hear the emerging problem.
    2) DECIDE – What exactly will I do about it (flee/fight). Allowing for space and obstacles, what is my most advantageous positioning and which adversary will I focus on first.
    3) ORIENT – Shift my position to accommodate my conclusions in 2.
    4) ACT – Initiate defensive move against adversary, by shooting/cutting as necessary to end threat.

    There you have Barry G’s Ground Based Gun Fight ODOA LOOP.
    I fully agree with the concepts involved in initiating action to upset your adversary’s intentions. Perhaps “OODA LOOP” is an incorrect expression for ground based action, which would make explaining it unpossible. Boyd’s work was very detailed filling many pages of single space typing. My conclusions will leave room on a 3 x 5 index card. Following my outline, even a Two Digit IQ Gun Fighter will have a working platform.

  3. OODA always confused me. I have had like 12 presentations on it in a military context. A few in a ACM context. And like 6 in a self defense context. I’m a big fan of Boyd’s Energy-maneuverability theory. And while dated to before vectored thrust still has lessons for Aircraft today.

    It was not until I read Boyd’s Biography by Coram that I finally put the pieces together. In passing Coram talks of Boyd after retirement calling his friends and talking about OODA. Boyd was said to have stated Sun Tzu was concerned with disrupting an enemies OODA. Carl von Clausewitz was concerned with keeping your OODA intact in spite of political and operational pressures to cause “friction”.

    A light went on then. Because OODA is primarily about that Orient part. An attacker that is following a no doubt scripted set of actions assuming a compliant victim is NOT in an OODA loop. In fact it is really in an OA loop Observe-Act. A victim who “freezes” is actually in an broken OODA loop. Some call this loop OO where they never actually Decide or Act. If you read Frans Osinga’s “…Theory of John Boyd” and it’s a 300 page plus military dissertation. Osinga talks about Boyd tapping into current Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology to explain OODA. I would also say that Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow also touches on the idea of decision loops. If an attacker is not presented with an unexpected threat he will inevitably stay in OA loops so he can be a victor. Unless the attacker is reset. Boyd called the resets “fast transients”. But whatever you call it you want an attacker to “reset” to either OO or OOD and you want him to do that before he’s won.

    Another thing that I see is that Orient is NOT a decision tree area. The Decide space is. The Orient area is where the fast thinking instinctual actions come from. As long as things are going smoothly for the attacker fast thinking with it’s corresponding tight fast OODA loop is a sure route to victory.

    In Self Defense with Guns we normally talk in terms of quick draw, with quick accurate shots. But in actuality speedy defensive action cannot alone prevail from an attackers preplanned attack with his fast tight OODA. No what a defender must strive for is a surprise that will blow the attacker out of his preformed orient to have the attacker OODA reset to a slower pace. This allows for the defender to gain a tighter OODA loop.
    THEN the defender could employ that quick draw and quick accurate shot. If you watch ASP videos there is a constant theme that I see over and over again. The defender typically never draws on the drop, the defender waits. Or the defender draws or displays the gun early. Training should probably be focused on making those two actions as fast as possible to move them into the Orient part of the loop.

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