To Battle We Go: ‘Improvise, adapt and overcome’
By: Dr. Steve Kellner
The famous 19th century German military strategist, Field Marshall Helmut Von Moltke, said that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” No military force has everything it needs going into battle, and no battle goes exactly as planned, win or lose. Leaders and even individual soldiers must be able to accomplish the mission with what they have in whatever circumstances they find themselves.
This truth is so well known that it is baked into the cake of any modern battle plan and the training for it. The U.S. Marine Corps phrase for this is “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.” No Marine or leader of Marines who fails to take a battlefield objective is allowed to use the excuse that they didn’t have what they needed to accomplish the mission, or that the plan didn’t go as planned, or that the enemy didn’t react as expected. For this reason, military training and war games attempt to simulate the confusion that occurs when things don’t go as expected, because battle planners know that things aren’t going to go as expected.
Likewise, The Salvation Army has never in its history had all the resources needed to accomplish its mission. And no battle plan of The Salvation Army has ever gone as expected. This is well inculcated into Army culture, so much so that you could say the Army’s motto is really “Ready, Fire, Aim!” rather than “Ready, Aim, Fire!” We are never going to have everything we need, and we are never going to have a perfect plan. So, we just have to start doing something where we are and with what we have, and figure it out as we go along.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a plan. Putting together a plan is a great way to get everyone in your corps or ministry involved, giving them a voice, and unifying them around the mission. That’s why General (later President) Dwight D. Eisenhower wisely said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” And strategies and tactics that have worked in the past often will still work. But, just as often, they won’t. But some part of the plan will work, and the Lord has a way of honoring our efforts to prepare by taking the tattered remnants of our battle-scarred plan and doing something different and wonderful, better than what we envisioned.
We in the Army must become experts in “field expedient” solutions to the obstacles we meet, to “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.”
Anticipating these obstacles, Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We can be confident that we can overcome any obstacle because we have the ultimate battle captain in Jesus Christ. We may not think we have what we need, or that our battle plan is lacking, but we know the outcome of the battle is settled. Jesus has overcome the world!