Of all the necessary ingredients required to form, build, train, and maintain and effective NPT, the four below can be considered, ‘cornerstones.’ Without them, your NPT will not be able to perform its primary task: Keep the family and home safe during a grid down situation. To be sure, participation by all members 95% of the time is a given. If the NPT members aren’t self-motivated to show up for training sessions, it’s not going to work, and you might need new NPT members, they might need a new leader, or maybe it’s time to ‘pop smoke’ and move to a new AO and start over. That said, let’s take a look!
Group Cohesion – is the single most important sustaining and motivating force for a fighter. Cohesion is partly built from harsh, demanding, realistic as possible physical training, which has the foundation of solid academic classroom training so the mind and body stay relatively equal in their development. Your NPT will not become cohesive until it has shared experiences. The more demanding the experience (meaning, the more the members have to depend on each other to successfully negotiate the experience), the more cohesion is built. The key ingredient is the sharing by NPT members. Success, failure, and in between must all be experienced. Yes, you’ll see the elements of Group Dynamics show up to liven up the ride, but that’s all part of the human process. The honeymoon when the group gets together (Forming), the arguments and bickering as people determine where they fit (Storming) , the calming of relationships as they accept their status in the group (Norming), and the arrival by the group at the level of ‘best possible’ performance for the group (Performing). Harsh as possible physical training (environment, task difficulty, physically demanding) will accelerate the group through the Group Dynamics steps and help build the cohesion desired, if the group’s leadership does its job.
Leadership – has the most effect on the will to fight for any small group or team. Squad and platoon leaders provide the command climate that enables cohesion at the NPT level. The influence of the NPT leader can be so great that one who exhibits negative leadership or values can cause the entire small unit to adopt negative behavior as a norm, and once that spiral downward has begun, it’s very difficult to reverse it. Therefore, accept that effective leaders are not ‘born.’ Effective leaders are trained. Not everyone is a good leader, either, even when undergoing ‘top shelf’ leadership training. Sure, there are natural traits that come into play when training a leader, but the bottom line is that leading people is an equal mixture of art and science, especially when the only authority the leader possesses is ‘moral authority,’ which is that granted by the group members.
Cohesion is the glue; effective leadership is the catalyst that causes the glue to harden, so to speak, the will of the team/group to fight. During this process, the small group or team leader (up to about 50 people) becomes an integral part of the group; his sharing of their privations and danger level underscores and reinforces his authority. The small group leader also walks a fine line in knowing and being part of the group without becoming too familiar, because the old axiom, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is as true as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. The bottom line for the leader on being an integral part of the group is that without that group membership perceived by the members, the leader will be much less effective and will most likely fail.
Physical Training – prepares the group members and leader (or leaders, if it’s a larger group with subordinate leaders) for the rigors of a grid down situation. Because of the nature of a NPT’s available time, a good portion of the physical conditioning is going to be done on personal time. This is where peer pressure works to the NPT’s advantage to keep its members accountable for the performance of PT to the limit of their abilities. However, the PT portion must be recognized as laying the foundation for performing the extremely demanding tasks within the realm of tactical skill building. Without a fairly robust fitness level, the team itself will never achieve the level of performance it might have envisioned when forming. Cohesion development within the team may help individual team members achieve personal physical goals such as quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, developing better eating habits, and losing unnecessary weight.
Intellectual Development – is comprised of the solid academic foundation of the skills the NPT will work to master as well as its effort to develop the Warrior Ethos. As in the physical realm, time is extremely limited for the NPT’s training, due to life’s requirements of us all. That means that we must become insatiable readers of related subjects so that when we do get the time to train, none of it is wasted by having to be exposed to foundational information or material. An example: The NPT is going to do a land navigation course. Half the members don’t read the pre-requisite work on the importance of magnetic declination or contour lines. The NPT trainer must now hold the group’s performance up until the entire NPT has the understanding necessary to perform the course.
All four of these cornerstones you’ll build your NPT ‘house’ on are dependent upon the first: Cohesion. Focus on it at all times. Everything the NPT does should work toward building it. Cohesion is that important. Make sure it’s documented in your guiding documentation: “Develop and Maintain Group Cohesion.”
You’ll be glad you did.