Critical Thinking in the Combat Zone Critical Thinking in the Combat Zone The art of critical thinking is just that, an art. It comes with time, patience, and practice. Paul and Elder (2006) describe critical thinking as the art of thinking about thinking while thinking in order to make thinking better. It involves three interwoven phases: it analyzes thinking, it evaluates thinking, it improves thinking. At some time, all of us have done some sort critical thinking. It may have been a split second thought while driving a car. You see a crash up ahead.
Do you slam on the brakes, swerve to the left or right or just hold on tight. As these thoughts are going through your brain, you are analyzing and evaluating what the outcome may be. We do this all in the matter of a few seconds. But what if we are afforded the opportunity and time to sit and think of a task and utilize our critical thinking skills. What is to follow is one of many times I used critical thinking while in the United States Military. The Mission It was a day like most every day. Get up two hours before sunrise. Shave, brush my teeth, wash my face, don my battle gear and hit the road.
I was the senior logistical non-commissioned officer in my battalion, and I delivered the supplies that the soldiers needed. Twice a day I delivered food, ammunition, fuel and mail. At times I felt like a rolling bomb, especially with the enemy now using improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled grenades against us. To accomplish this mission successfully, day after day for months, required me to use my critical thinking skills to my maximum ability. If I had not thought out the outcome of every scenario and had not planned for them, I would not have returned all of my soldiers and myself home safely.
Analyze By focusing on the parts of thinking in any situation- its purpose, question, information, inferences, assumptions, concepts, implications and point of view, I am analyzing. For this mission, its purpose was to resupply the soldiers and there was no question as to if it would happen. I would review current situation reports that would give me information on any enemy activity in the area. I would always assume that we were going to be attacked at some point and would look at any implications that could affect or change the mission. And last, I would always get a second opinion.
Having someone else review my plans might give me a different point of view on how to do something. I might be as simple as changing the timeline by 15 minutes. Evaluate By figuring out it strengths and weaknesses: the extent to which is clear, accurate, precise, relevant, deep, broad, logical, significant and fair, I am evaluating. My strengths and weaknesses might be personal, weapons, the amount of vehicles or the experience of the personnel on my team. I would also have to make sure that everyone understood exactly what we were doing, where we were going, and how to react to each different situation.
Everything had to have a reason and some sort of significance to the mission. I also had to make sure that there was a significant reason for the mission. Did they need to be resupplied or want to be resupplied? Improve Thinking By building on its strengths and while reducing its weaknesses, I can improve my thinking process. By looking at the five thinking errors that Kirby and Goodpaster (2007) talk about, I am able to deduce where my thinking process may have failed or succeeded. The five areas that they say to look at are personalization, polarized thinking, overgeneralization, catastrophnizing, and selective abstraction.
By examining these five errors, I can determine if I am taking too much responsibility for the final outcome, see if I am looking at the situation entirely from a extreme view, drawing my conclusions from a single incident, always expecting the worst, or focusing too much on one detail and ignoring the larger picture. Conclusion Critical thinking in a combat zone can be very stressful. I had to be very versatile in my planning and be willing to accept that not every situation would have a happy ending.
But by further analyzing, evaluating and improving, I was able to learn and make each mission better and safer for myself and my team. It is because of the use of critical thinking, that I believe I was able to have hundreds of successful missions. And I also feel that because of that success, my team members that have returned to the combat zone, learned from my critical thinking process and have themselves been successful. References Kirby, Gary R. & Goodpaster, Jeffery R. , (2007). Thinking. Prentice-Hall. Paul, Richard & Elder, Linda, (2006). Tools for taking charge of your learning and your life. Prentice-Hall.