The Mission, the Men, and Me by Pete Blaber emphasizes how leaders must prioritize tasks and listen to subordinates.
As part of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, he recounts stories and lessons learned that turn into valuable advice for the avid reader.
The Mission, The Men and Me is an easy read. I listened to the audiobook, and it was almost ten hours long with minimal tangents in the book.
I’ll give a brief synopsis of the book, then I’ll talk about things I liked about it, and finally, I’ll note what I didn’t like about it.
Blaber begins with the three M’s of a successful operation: the mission, the men, and me. He emphasizes this point by describing a mission he conducted near Tikrit, Iraq.
The mission was to conduct a show of force near the city, but his team came under heavy fire from fortified positions surrounding Tikrit.
Even after gaining control of the situation, top leaders encouraged Blaber via radio to move into Tikrit. However, Blaber understood his mission and opted to stay in his original posture.
The mission comes first because that is most important. Second, the men come next because they’re the ones executing the mission. Take care of them, and they will take care of you.
Finally, “me” is last. Get the most important things done first before tending to your own needs.
Saturate, Incubate, Illuminate
Blaber uses the sequence ‘saturate, incubate, illuminate’ to plan for a mission. Saturation comes with gathering the information required for the mission. Incubate means thinking about how to execute the task. And illumination on how to accomplish the mission comes after the first two steps.
Blaber is a humble writer. Here is how Blaber described Delta Force: “Although the Delta Force culture is one of quiet professionalism that values humility over self-aggrandizement, that same culture also instills an innate sense of responsibility to always strive to make a contribution to the greater good.”
A recurring theme in the book is to always listen to the “guy on the ground.” His story at the beginning of the book reflects that idea. Top leaders did not see what Blaber saw on the ground. So, when they gave the order to move into the city, Blaber chose not to obey that order and to remain in a show of force posture.
Developing the situation is critical in crisis moments. It’s essential to slow down and see what’s happening.
Things I Liked
Candidness was a theme in the book. Although Blaber can’t say everything, he provided enough detail to describe his experiences. My favorite part of the book was when Blaber took his team to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, or, ‘The Bob.’
Blaber talked about meeting with a man in a restaurant who told him to pack some snowshoes for the trip, which Blaber almost didn’t. However, Blaber was glad he brought them when they found snow in late spring while passing through The Bob. It reaffirmed his idea to always listen to the guy on the ground.
The book’s lessons applied relevance to the book. You knew what Blaber was going to say and how his experience shaped his ideas. I think about his chihuahua example at the beginning of the book and how you shouldn’t get overly engaged in trivial tasks or urgent requirements.
He says, “don’t get treed by a chihuahua,” meaning don’t let something small derail your mission.
Lastly, I enjoyed his humility. Delta Force holds a prestigious place in the United States Army, and Blaber carried himself well throughout the book. He humbly explains his mistakes and how he would change for the future.
For instance, Blaber talked about pranking a group of prom-goers at the beginning of the book in his senior year of high school. I thought that was an exciting experience to address in light of the lessons he learned.
What I Didn’t Like
There were two important concepts in the book: listening to the guy on the ground and creating a shared reality. He emphasized the guy on the ground more than creating a shared reality, which I didn’t expect.
Even though the guy on the ground has a great perspective, a bird’ s-eye view is great to have. I felt like Blaber discounted the staff-work that enables missions.
Also, I hesitate to take absolute qualifiers as truth. Using the word ‘always’ in the phrase “always listen to the guy on the ground” raises skepticism in me. Instead, I wish that Blaber expounded more on his shared reality concept to create a common operating picture.
Despite my critique, I sympathize with Blaber’s misgivings about the over-reliance on technology to solve battlefield conflicts. I’ve spent countless hours during staff exercises waiting for computer logins, network shutdowns, and technology restraints that create further frustration for little reward.
I do agree with Blaber that the guy on the ground does have a fantastic perspective. Still, ground troops must report that information as quickly as possible so the staff can mobilize assets to leverage an effect.
Whether you’re military or not, this book is a must-read. Regardless, my critique pales compared to the need for these lessons in the Army and corporate today. With our over-dependence on technology to solve our problems, it’s refreshing to hear someone like Blaber provide a solid way ahead into prioritization.
Also, I thoroughly enjoyed his experiences. He’s not even a humble-bragger like many military books tend to be. Blaber is as humble as it gets. Give this book a read or listen, and you’ll find out for yourself how much you can learn from Pete Blaber.
If you want to buy this book, click here.
Overall, I give this book an 8/10.