Business Lessons from a Military Mission - The Black Hawk Down Raid
October 3rd, 1993 is a day that very few people will ever forget. On October 3rd, 1993 a US Special Operations Force (SOF) set about to capture a Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, that was accused of causing the deaths of Somali civilians and international peacekeeping forces. The routine combat operation was drastically changed when one, and then two, Blackhawk helicopters were shot down in a dense urban area of Mogadishu swarming with militia. The mission, transformed into a multi-pronged rescue operation for the pilots and aircrew unfolded with tragedy, heroism, bravery, and brotherhood. Ultimately, 18 US Soldiers were killed as well as hundreds of Somali militiamen fighting the international peacekeeping forces.
October 3rd, 1993 in Somalia must be remembered in my opinion, for the sacrifices of the US servicemen, but also for the lessons for business and life that the Battle of Mogadishu represented.
Lesson #1 – The Team Is The Most Important. As the events of October 3rd unfolded from the planned capture mission into multiple rescue missions, street fighting, medical evacuations, and resupply missions, the soldiers were fighting for each other. In business, it is very easy to focus on revenue, profitability, and stock prices, but this battle clearly reminds us that it is employees that need to be an overarching focus to a successful business. The military recognizes that missions cannot be accomplished without personnel and business needs to learn that employees matter most.
Lesson #2 – The Time Before The Battle. Prior to the battle, the SOF forces trained together and many had known each other for years. The times before adversity are the most important because it is during the times of quiet that learning occurs, relationships are built, and methods perfected. It was really all the time before the battle that prevented October 3rd in Mogadishu from turning into a tragedy. Business needs to realize that during the “good” times, business needs to take a very hard look at products, customers, services, and the customer experience to begin improving things before the competition acts.
Lesson #3 – Difficult Training Triumphs Over Adversity. The SOF Forces in the Battle of Mogadishu from Rangers, Special Operations Aviation, and “Delta” Force were some of the most highly trained military forces in the world. The central point for business (that the military realizes) is that you may never fully know when you will enter your most challenging point, which is why constant, difficult training is vital to success. Constant, challenging, and difficult training is the only way to remain constantly prepared for challenges that you cannot fully anticipate.
Lesson #4 – Success In One Area Does Not Mean Success In Another. In 1993, the US Military was seen as supreme in the world. The US Military had been a central player in forcing the Soviet Union to abandon communism for democratic reforms. In the Middle East, the US Military built a strong coalition that destroyed the regional military power, Iraq, in less than a week of conventional ground combat. The lesson for business is that just because you are strong in one product category or one market does not mean that you will be strong in others. The militia forces in Mogadishu were an exceptionally effective military force fighting in the dense, confusing urban terrain of a major city.
Lesson #5 – Lower Level Leaders With Initiative Bring Success. Encouraging and developing leaders with initiative is one of the hallmarks of SOF. A great deal of the success that US forces experienced that day came from lower level leaders who understood that the initial plan had to be modified, observed what needed to be done, and then took multiple successful actions to ensure that the follow on plan was successful. The lesson for business is that few product launches or new business initiatives succeed exactly according to plan. Business needs to encourage the development of trained, bright, and focused leaders and instill them with a spirit of initiative so they seek out problems when initial plans fail to deliver success at the end.
Lesson #6 – Learn, Reshape Your Operations, and Prepare for The Next Fight. Finally, SOF never rest in examining their mistakes and creating new methods, tactics, and equipment to ensure success in the future. The October 3rd, 1993 Battle of Mogadishu brought about a renewed focus on urban fighting, new medical technology to halt bleeding faster, and renewed focus on fighting as a combined forces of air and ground teams working together. Business needs to learn that a great team never rests in their desire to be even greater.
In my opinion, the best ways to remember and appreciate the sacrifice of US Military forces on October 3rd, 1993 is to incorporate their lessons to make your life, career, and business better.
Author: Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 250 articles in over 150 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com
Courtesy of USAA