The Principles of War Podcast
D Coy Esprit de Corps
Long TanPodcast

37 – D Coy training, leadership and Esprit de Corps

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What is esprit de corps and how do you instill it in troops? Ths is the latest episode in our long interview with Dave Sabben, Pl Comd 11 Pl at the Battle of Long Tan.  There is a lot of valuable experience shared about what made D Coy different and how they were trained and prepared for war.  The series started with Dave’s story at Puckapunyal joining the Army and has covered his journey to Vietnam, to Nui Dat and through the Battle of Long Tan, followed by his reflections on what made it possible for the soldiers of D Coy to defend their position against an enemy that outnumbered the 20:1.


How was esprit de corp built within D Coy?

We look at the training regime for D Coy.  How was their battle training program designed and what was the effect?  What did the other companies and the Bn COMD think of D Coy and what was their attitude?
What was it in MAJ Smith’s experience that enabled him to develop the training program and culture within D Coy?
How did MAJ Smith manage soldiers and officers who were not able to meet the required standard?
What was his approach to the acquisition of material outside of the usual logistics chain?
As the Coy Comd in contact, how was he able to pre-empt needs like resupply?
Dave finishes the discussion with the most important factor that enabled D Coy to survive the battle.

There are very important lessons here for training, leadership and the building of esprit de corps at a Company level.

A big thank you to Dave Sabben, for very generously spending his time sharing his invaluable experience in the Battle of Long Tan.

What is the meaning of esprit de corps?

It literally means the ‘spirit of the body’ in French.

It is synonymous with Morale, on the principles of war.  As Napoleon said, “The moral is to the physical as three is to one”  Long Tan is an excellent example of troops with high morale being able to withstand overwhelming odds, continue to do there job, even as the prospects of survival grew increasingly grim.  Morale relates to the unit cohesion, a shared sense of purpose and is derived from leadership, culture, the training program, and ultimately success in battle.  Success in battle is an important element and on the battlefield success often breeds success.  For raw troops, troops in their first contact or battle, the training and leadership is more important because they do not have a frame of reference around victory in battle on which to relate their expected behaviour.  This makes the success all the more remarkable for the troops of D Coy and highlights the excellent training program, from Puckapunyal, Scheyville for the Officers, through to the Jungle Warfare Center at Canungra and onto Nui Dat under the leadership of MAJ Harry Smith.

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