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Stood at Attention

A group of appreciative tourists watched a demonstration put on by the Royal Artillery of the Queen. The six man team worked with flawless precision. Actually, only five of them worked with precision. One of the soldiers positioned himself about 25 yards away from the cannon and stood at attention during the entire exhibition, doing nothing. After the exhibition, one of the tourists asked the staff officer to explain the duty of the man standing off to the side. “He’s number six,” came the reply. “Yes, but what does he do?” “He stands at attention.” “Yes, I know, but why does he stand at attention?” No one knew why number six stood at attention. None of the other five knew, the man himself didn’t know, and even the commanding officer didn’t know. After many hours of research through old training manuals, it became clear what number six was to do. He was to hold the horses. Why was number six standing at attention? Because he was appointed to do so. Did he have any idea what he was supposed to do? No.

Steve Farrar, Point Man, p. 32

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