One Shepherd Leadership Institute

One Shepherd History

The Warrior-Leader Path since 1981

In the summer of 1981 at just 14 years of age, Jeff McGhay and Christopher Larsen began a martial wargaming club around the small town of Weston in northwest Missouri. This loose association of young men and women referred to the pastime as the “Weston War Games.” The gaming association would continue on until 1988 when the bulk of its members dispersed, answering the call of military service or university campuses.

The war games began again in the summer of 1992 along the same bluffs of the Missouri River. Many alumni had recently returned from military service and the games were significantly refined to reflect tactical doctrine, leadership principles, and some impressive hardware. Instead of “rubber duck” weapon replicas, military grade firearms were employed with blank ammunition and blank firing adapters – the same as used in military service. Sophisticated navigation systems, communication systems, and even targeting systems such as night vision were introduced to the games.

Gaming takes on a Training Focus…

By the mid-1990s, the war games were in full swing with a new gaming season being hammered out. It was determined that a training regimen would be needed to bring the non-veterans up to task competency. This was the instigation that turned a simple gaming association into One Shepherd, a leadership institute.

A small staff began to purposefully build the training regimen of a leadership development program using small unit patrolling tactics as the vehicle – loosely modeling the program on the final weeks of the US Army primary NCO academy.

The early curriculum envisioned just 14 days of field training spread over a calendar year.

Naming an Institution…

At this time the name One Shepherd emerged. LTC Dave Grossman’s book On Killing (Pack Bay Book, 1996) had recently been released. And while Grossman’s signature book had no significant influence on One Shepherd’s curriculum, his popularized analogy of the sheep, the sheepdog and the wolf made an impact on the One Shepherd philosophy and moniker.

Grossman uses sheep as an analogy of peaceful, productive, law-abiding citizens, while likening wolves to predatory criminals who feed upon the sheep. For Grossman, the sheepdog represents a warrior class that is left to struggle between defending the sheep, yet simultaneously being feared by the sheep due to the sheepdog’s often misunderstood similarity to wolves – canine fangs, claws, thick coat and aggressiveness.

“Where there are sheepdogs, there must be shepherds.” This contemplation conveyed exactly the desired focus for leadership in One Shepherd. Warriors are mentored through an ethical community of practice. To raise warriors in a dark, harsh, unloving environment risks the prospect of the warrior turning his back on the community and instead becoming a predatory criminal. This would be the worst possible outcome.

The name One Shepherd was adopted to convey a compassionate philosophy. One Shepherd recognized its rightful role as a transformational institute of leadership vocation – as both a community of practice and a rite of passage for warriors.

However, by 2002 the Missouri bluffs again fell silent. The majority of One Shepherd members enlisted in military service in preparation for the looming wars in Southwest Asia. There was no plan to reconvene; yet there was little doubt that One Shepherd would rise anew.

A New Beginning…

One Shepherd began training again in the spring of 2006. It brought together a community of professionals and academic scholars; plus military and law enforcement veterans alongside an array of talented civilians. In 2007 One Shepherd formed as a division under TacComp Media, LLC which purchased and expanded the institution’s table organizational equipment (TOE) to include the most advanced force-on-force simulation engagement available – MILES 2000 and MILES IWS.

Additionally, an in-house training manual was printed. This simple textbook eventually led to multiple published works by the One Shepherd community including our online magazine, and several books including The Small Unit Tactics SMARTbook (The Lightning Press, 2008, 2013) that is now in its second edition and institutionalized by all four branches of the US Armed Forces.

Today the One Shepherd warrior-leader curriculum involves up to 42 days of field training. That’s six weeklong semesters spread over a three-year period.

The One Shepherd Leadership Institute…

In 2018, One Shepherd separated from TacComp Media, LLC and stood itself up as a non profit.  This alignment solidifies the future of One Shepherd for generations to come.

One Shepherd staff and cadre are veterans of the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force as well as members of our host community businesses, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. Many are certified instructors in One Shepherd as well as through national marksmanship foundations. These staff and cadre bring a plethora of experience to the training environment.

The One Shepherd curriculum continues an exclusive emphasis on small unit patrolling tactics through robust wargaming simulation. The first two semesters are focused on the warrior track and include competencies of “shoot, move, and communicate.” The next four semesters include the warrior-leader track.

One Shepherd’s pedagogy includes a vocational apprenticeship of leadership processes, decision-making, and ethics. Members are rotated into leadership positions to give each member the opportunity to visualize, plan, and lead missions. Through wargaming each warrior-leader explores, reflects, and articulates their experiences with the community and the cadre.

One Shepherd remains a rite of passage for the warrior community. Each member is mentored toward the spirit of the warrior, the art of the leader, and the compassion of the shepherd. One Warrior, One Leader, One Shepherd.