“S.M.E.A.C.” and The Hill To Die On

Gumshoe is pretty sure that you, my gentle readers have heard this often used hackneyed idiom, “This isn’t the hill I (or you) want to die on”.

This expression is related to the military term about making the tactical decision (weighing the advantage and the human cost) in taking the “high ground” from a determined and entrenched enemy.  Now, unless you were an army “grunt” or an “0311” (Marine infantryman); you won’t be acquainted with “SMEAC” and that’s okay.

In Gumshoe’s old-tattered USMC pocket guide, there is the enumerated “five-paragraph combat order”.  The acronym—“SMEAC” (Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration/Logistics, and Command/Signal)

“SMEAC” neatly outlined how to plan on how to take that hill or any other objective.  It was a battle-tested and effective tool for planning.

Now from the civilian point of view on planning.  Is it worth it?  What’s the buy-in?  Are all participants fully committed?  Are there sufficient resources?  Can it be successfully taken? What is the ultimate result? Are there unforeseen consequences?  Who has our support (our collective backsides) in the event of a failure?

(Think of the “CYA” syndrome and the proverb, “Success has many fathers while failure is an orphan”.)

Now let’s go back to some military history.  “The hill you don’t want to die on” expression gave Gumshoe the immediate thoughts of “Hamburger Hill” and “Khe Sanh” (during the Vietnam War era).   In both of these costly won and bloody battles prosecuted by the US Army Infantry “grunts”(Hamburger Hill), and by the USMC “0311’s”(Khe Sanh).  Each of these battles was won at the horrendous cost of casualties and by the undaunted courage and the firm commitment displayed by the soldiers and by the Marines.  God bless them all! The sad fact is both of these proclaimed hard-won military “victories” were ultimately  “hollow” in that each of these hills were soon abandoned after the battles.

“SMEAC” does not cover the aftermath; “just the how-to”— “not the what now?”

No tactical advantage retained—bragging rights by the brass; one too many KIA letters for the loved ones at home.  Mournful echoes of taps fade away as tricorne-folded flags are presented.

Why is Gumshoe relating this sad narrative of waste you may wonder.  Well, take a pause my readers; let’s all of us Individually consider on what hill we would be prepared to die on, regardless of the cost?

What is our “SMEAC” and our hoped outcomes and even beyond that?

Would it be for our faith? Our loved ones?  Our home? Our livelihood? Our neighbor? Our principles? Our legacy?  Our country? Our freedom? Our safety and security?  Or, just maybe even for a stranger?

Think hard about it now in which you can take your sweet time and without facing any immediate threat.  Make your decision now before these turbulent times perhaps overwhelm you. Our military and our law enforcement folks have already made their dedicated decisions and they have already taken their oaths to affirm their commitments for all of us.  

No more “hollow” victories and let’s not abandon them!  Have their “6” because they have our “6”.

Always remember to love the ones who love you and try to love the ones who don’t.

DON'T WAIT! ONLY 5 OF 50 SEATS LEFT! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE

Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.


  1. Danny, great message especially: “SMEAC” does not cover the aftermath; “just the how-to”— “not the what now?” How many times in recent memory has that gotten political leadership into trouble? Our military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan come to my mind. So much money, so many lives…

    On a less-costly note, there is a great scene at the end of the movie THE CANDIDATE starring Robert Redford. RR plays a candidate for the US Senate from CA who is NOT supposed to win the election; he’s just supposed to get exposure. But he does win. A great scene at the end asks your question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myEpap3TxVs

    I will think about my SMEAC, but your real gem here, to me, is the question “What now?” It has so many ramifications for life especially for young people starting out in the world of work. You got the big job you wanted with all the accouterments. Now what?

    • Yes sireee Jeff. It’s sort of like a dog chasing a car and once the car stops, the dog is puzzled. My good friend Ben Franklin posted in his Poor Richard’s Almanac: “If a man got one-half of his wishes, he would only double his troubles”. Think through the follow through is acquired wisdom indeed. Thanks Jeff for your welcomed comment and the analogy to “The Candidate”.