You know what they say, right? It’s a cliché simply because it’s one of those truths that you really can’t ever escape from. But what if assumptions are more than that? What if they’re a bigger problem than you realize?
I assume. I assume a lot. As an officer with 14 years in service, 12 of them enlisted, I assume that anyone who’s been in the army for a minute has had similar experiences to mine. At least on the things that should be basic knowledge, such as property accountability and soldier issues. But I find myself more and more frustrated and after talking it over with a mentor of mine, I realize that the problem isn’t necessarily with them, but with my assumptions.
See, I assume that as an SFC, you would have accomplishing the mission and the welfare of your soldiers foremost in your mind. I assume that as an SFC, something should not have to be spelled out. I assume that you understand that there are such things as implied tasks that go along with accomplishing the mission. And I assume that when an officer gives you an order, you absolutely use that as the basis for accomplishing the mission.
I do not assume that as a senior NCO or officer that you have zero knowledge of what right looks like regarding property accountability. I do not assume that I must break every single task down to the minutia and I assume that you know what minutia means. I do not assume that making a simple correction is going to send you on a diatribe about people freaking out over property.
There is a reason that I am frustrated with some of the leadership in my company. I believe now that the problem lies with me. I assume standards of conduct are the norm, when in fact, watching TV and chilling out are. I assume that checking on your subscribers is a norm when instead, the norm is let the system fail and maybe get off your ass to fix it. I assume that when I say do something tonight, that means it happens tonight, not that as long as it happens by morning, it’s okay.
So I think the problem is that I assume.
This actually has relevance in my writing. I write about military life and I make assumptions about what my reader knows. I assume that someone knows that a brigade combat team is made up of battalions. I assume that people know the difference between officers and NCOs and that they know what NCO stands for. I assume that when I talk about the responsibilities of command, that people know that I’m talking about an officer’s responsibilities and not an enlisted.
These assumptions have the potential to derail my writing. If I leave out explanation, I risk pulling the reader out of the story to go look things up. If I put in too much, I risk patronizing or talking down to them. So the importance is to find the right balance and create my world without pages of explanation.
Will I be able to paint my world here in Iraq, as the XO and make my platoon sergeants and platoon leaders understand what I expect without having to waste precious time and resources explaining every detail?
We shall see.