The realities of the situation are different -- one is life or death; the other a game -- but the lessons transfer. So Ben Kotwica tapped into what he learned in Iraq when he became a football coach.
Kotwica, the Redskins special teams coach, spent seven years in the Army, serving as a combat attack helicopter commander. He earned multiple medals during his time in the Army: the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star.
He's entering his second full season as a special teams coach and seventh overall in the NFL.
"You can have a plan going in, you can have an operational order, whether in Bosnia or Korea or Iraq, but the enemy has a vote," Kotwica said. "You have a plan going in that might work, but again the enemy has a vote, so whether it's in the desert of Iraq or on a football field on Sunday, you have to have the ability to make adjustments and instill that confidence in your soldiers or players that the job will get done."
During the spring workouts, Kotwica certainly came across as a tough commanding voice. After a disastrous season in 2013 for the Redskins' special teams, they certainly could use a strong tone -- and a kick in the rear.
Even Redskins coach Jay Gruden joked that, "I'm never going to overstep my boundaries with coach Kotwica."
Kotwica said being a commander or leader in the Army is akin to coaching. That's why, when he left the Army, he turned to coaching -- Bobby Ross was coaching at West Point and hired him.
"I seized on that opportunity and it's been great," he said. "I thoroughly enjoyed being in the military and this has been a great run."
The Redskins hope that run continues. Kotwica takes over a unit that was beaten down, not just because of coaching but because some players did not buy in the way others had. Some younger players contributed little or nothing to these units.
"Anytime you try to form a unit or an organization you want to instill a culture," Kotwica said. "There are things I brought from my military background. I put an apply within sign on my front door. We're taking all applicants. I think guys have bought into that."