'I'm sorry that I didn't seek your advice today,' the Air Commander said over drinks in the Mess, 'But I didn't have a neuron spare.'
I'd watched from two seats along as he'd coordinated fighter aircraft launches into the skies over Northern Australia and beyond to defend it against waves of attack by the Kamarian Air Force. He was making a decision about every two minutes for eight hours.
What I wanted do say was 'You need to practise having a neuron spare, Sir. Better for you to practise and learn when the air battles are staged.' But I didn't. I was only a Flight Lieutenant Lawyer and he was a Group Captain Fighter Pilot and I wanted to make it to Squadron Leader.
'We didn't have the resources to stop and attend to the enemy wounded,' the Army Lieutenant Colonel Infantry Officer had explained to the International Committee of the Red Cross representative who reported this breach of the Law of War to me in Exercise HQ. 'They need to train as they would fight,' I wrote in my post-Exercise Report. 'They must learn what resources that they need to fight lawfully.' I scraped promotion to Squadron Leader.
'We don't have time to comply with the various policies in this organisation,' the senior executive said to me as his peers in the audience nodded with folded arms. 'We're too busy doing our jobs.' More nodding and the beginnings of applause. 'You need to practise having a neuron spare,' I quoted myself. 'Those policies are laws and doing your job means doing it lawfully.' I glanced across at the CEO who was texting on his phone.
Good decision making is a skill. Like any skill it needs to be practised until it becomes routine. We need to build the neural pathways by applying the Five Steps until doing so is unconscious. It's called being Professional.
The Air Commander wondered out loud how he could resolve his Rules of Engagement with the radar blips playing out on the huge screen covering the wall in front of us. It was the last wave of the week. 'Air-to-air missiles are not classed as 'aircraft' under International Law, Sir,' I said, loudly beginning my unsolicited advice.
He bought me a drink in the Mess that night. 'Let's kill a few of those neurons you made me exercise today,' he said.