Preparing for the Worst
The first thing that leapt to mind was S.L.A. Marshall's advice in Men Against Fire:
“When troops have been hard used in battle, and especially when green troops have taken heavy losses during their first engagement, talk itself is the easiest and most effective first step toward the re-establishing of a fighting morale.
Nothing is more likely to break the nerve of an intelligent and sensitive young commander in the aftermath of a costly and bloodletting experience than to leave him alone with his thoughts. That holds true also of the men under him. Men need to talk it out. The need of such a release is greatest when they feel they have been whipped.
It makes little difference how clearly the circumstances say that the fault was not one’s own. The shock of seeing one’s own men or comrades killed and of pondering one’s own hand in the making of their fate leads almost inevitably to a mood of self-accusation and bitterness – the tokens of moral defeat. The more able and conscientious the commander, the more likely it becomes that he will react in this way.” [p.118]
“The darkest hour for the novice in war comes with the recoil after the unit has been badly hit. It is then that the young commander has the greatest need of the friendship and steadiness of his superior or of any other officer whose judgment he respects. Criticism or tactical counsel are of no value at that time. They can be given later if necessary, but in the wrong hour they add to the hurt. Let him get out his crying towel! When he has told how it happened, the important thing is that he be given a pat on the back, an assurance that he did his full duty, and some little reminder that while he may feel his losses are excessive, such incidents are an unavoidable feature of combat and do not keep one from coming back the next round.” [p.119]
I have taken this advice to heart, especially as the possiblity of making LTC comes around next year. May God grant that I never have to avail myself of it. However, if I ever have to, I hope I have a superior officer like my outgoing Brigade Commander, or COL Algermissen, who was my TF Eagle CO. I think they understand this, and would do the same for one of their BN commanders.
Oh, and what does one fear could happen?
“The treatment is simple. Its psychological results should be apparent. I have seen it work many times in battle… But it is by no means a rule of action even among those senior officers who make a sincere effort to live close to their troops. More times than not, I have seen them freeze up in the very hour when their subordinates were hurting worst for a few words of understanding. Then someone else had to come along and do the job for them. Likewise, I have witnessed units which had been badly bruised their first time in battle, spend several days in painful brooding, and then bounce back almost at once when given a little intelligent moral treatment by a superior. A man remains a man after he puts on a soldier suit. Death in the company is like death in the family. Talk relieves tension. It is the first step toward moving on to life’s next problem.” [p.199-120] (emphasis added)
Always easier if you have a CSM Bones (an excellent Command Sargeant Major), or an Inner Prop (a fellow field grade officer) to prod you out of that, should it happen.