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Updated: Feb 21, 2019


1/325 Scouts; 82nd Airborne; Iraq 1991

“Do we have what it takes to be the 1st Man thru the Door"?

(Iraq Jan 1991)

On a moonlit night in southern Iraq just over the Saudi border, we led a 10-man patrol to probe an outpost our forces would undoubtedly need to roll through when they launched the big attack coming in March. The ground war had not yet started so we were completely on our own.

…Let me say that I love the spirit and guts of our all our special forces, whether they’re Navy Seals, Green Berets & Delta, or my beloved Army Rangers. The brotherhood that exists between men who commit to bleed for each other on the battlefield is a phenomenon that only an incredibly infinitesimal portion of the world ever experiences. *Now years later I would find out that what I love about MIT is that they are actually interested in quantifying & learning from the experiences of that infinitesimally small population of heroes.*

Back to 1991… Our full patrol element of 10 Rangers halted 800m short of the target, & broke down to just the 3 of us, me & my two best Rangers - Sergeant A(kers) and Sergeant M(andeville). We shed all our unnecessary equipment that might make noise, and proceeded through the night - across the desert floor to the long low building that lay just ahead of us.

*One note about walking across the desert floor with only your camo & stealth to protect you – you are exposed, vulnerable, and sitting ducks.

We now approached the building, close enough to see that this long flat structure had 3 doorways (doors long since blown off) spaced evenly 10 meters apart. 3 of us x 3 doorways = easy math. We lined up in front of each, myself in the middle as the Patrol leader, with my 2 fellow Rangers on each side - at the ready for the signal to move.

It was then I saw that the middle door I needed to charge thru was blocked with rubble and concertina wire nearly 4 feet in height. The plan of entering this door while preserving the element of surprise just took a nosedive. I made a snap call to ‘hand signal’ to Sergeant A, “My door blocked…you enter first... spray fire right to left…we follow.” It was a smart, logical call based on the situation. Without blinking, Sergeant A, the spectacularly best Ranger NCO in the entire US Army who I trusted with my life, signaled back, Sir… you’re the PL… you go first… right up the gut… we follow.”

The revelation of my life came at that exact moment – right there in the stinkin desert, 8000 miles away from my family, in the dead of the night…damn…

Of course I needed to be the 1st man thru the door... barbed wire, rubble, or the enemy waiting inside to return fire doesn’t matter à when you’re in charge.

Leadership at that moment was defined in crystal clear terms: Be 1st in, blaze the trail without fear, and set the example.

That’s what I learned at night in Iraq.

Years later I find young leaders will benefit from those same lessons borne in combat.

You can thank Sergeant A for it.

..stay tuned for Running with the Bulls and grabbing life's Victories - coming up soon!


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Captain Joe Sacchetti served 2 tours in Iraq, commanding Ranger Scouts in the 82nd Abn & earning the Bronze Star Medal.

MIT's Exec Ed program in Strategy & Innovation teaches senior Business Managers to think like Leaders. me @

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