Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Going-to-War Advice

Operation Iraqi Freedom: Below is a portion of the initial counseling I gave to the soldiers I’m supervising.

You must not believe that terrorists are superheroes, untouchable. They are people. That sounds simple and obvious, but I believe most of the free world has a misconception of what a terrorist is and what s/he can do. If we could speak with them face-to-face and learn more about them individually, we would stand in awe no more. The allurement, phobia and bravado of terrorism would quickly fade. We would lose our sense of fear towards them entirely. In fact, we would become empowered by our own might and strength. It would shock us at just how foolish we were to embolden them with any sort of power.

I wouldn’t call terrorists cowards; some of them are rather bold. I chose to call them devils, drunken with anger, inspired by a sense of fierce apathy difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. I would call their overall capacity a hyperbole. They have limited resources and limited numbers. Since we do not know Abu Mujahid, the 29-year-old terrorist personally, we think he has more resources, better ideas, and more courage than he actually does.

Terrorist and insurgent tactics are merely ancient guerrilla tactics. The methods stem from the ancient Islamic Assassins and Thugs; they come from Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox” from the Revolutionary War and hundreds of other low-intensity conflicts throughout the ages. The term ‘terrorist’ is relatively new, but the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used are a compilation of unconventional human creativity and gross violations of the Just War Theory, period. With a twist of 21st Century weaponry, added with a spice of overconfidence, the modern-day Thug has access to no more ingenuity or advanced weaponry than you or me. In fact, we are far more advanced and have many more successes in the global war on terror (GWOT) than is publicized.

We have a myriad of things at our disposal to help us detect, deter and defeat terrorism. Undoubtedly, there will be successes and failures; that’s the law of life. And, although the GWOT has no foreseeable end, we can, without doubt win many battles.

A terrorist’s power lies in his anonymity. As mentioned, it lies in the fact that many have not seen or spoken with a terrorist. Embellished ideas of what terrorists can do help their cause. And, their cause is buoyed up by societies’ overarching interest in terrorism and terrorist leadership. While they are portrayed as all-powerful, they are nothing short of rascally criminals. Each of them has mothers. Each of them has to eat and drink to survive. They have cried, laughed and been scared, just like you and me. They have fears too. And, despite the rhetoric and propaganda claiming otherwise and an occasional suicidal volunteer, they still fear of death. This is especially true for the leaders who claim they are too important to become a suicide “martyr”. All of them have flesh and body composition and structure similar to ours. They bleed and are vulnerable. Let’s exploit those vulnerabilities.

Chain of Command
In the heat of combat, commands may be hollered from every direction. Bullets and bombs can kill any of us, regardless of rank, title or experience. Bullets and bomb fragments rip through training certificates. Therefore, don’t be shy or timid, esp. if you have lower rank. When tactically engaged, speak up and shout, if necessary. Rank does not indicate the level of one’s intelligence or capacity.

Team Work
Teamwork is integral. Occasionally sternness is appropriate and necessary, but in the brutality of war there is no room for brutal leadership. (Adapted from WWII General S.L.A. Marshall, from his book Men Under Fire.) Kindness begets cooperation and enhanced job performance. It makes people feel better about themselves, their leaders and their jobs. Harsh words and rough treatment should be left for fictional military movies. Being in Iraq is already difficult enough. None of us needs the added stress of evil contention, cruelty or unkindness.

I expect you to get along well with others. I expect you to speak positively and kindly. Being kind does not make you a weak person or a weak leader. King Author, recalling the purpose for the gathering of the knight’s of the Round Table, said: “Violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness.” (From the musical play Camelot written by Alan Jay Lerner, based on a novel by TH White.) I concur.

Your Behavior
Behave in a professional manner at all times. Obey the law. Be smart. Do what’s right, even when no one else is watching. Respect others; this includes foreign nationals. Follow the Warrior Ethos and the Army Values. Keep your weapon(s) and your gear clean and operational. Maintain tactical and technical proficiency. It is your duty and responsibility to know your job. It is important for you to learn peripheral duties as well. I would like more time devoted for training. Unfortunately, that is not possible. Often learning must be conducted on your own. Use your time wisely. Make personal and professional goals. Seek knowledge. Fill your mind with things that uplift, build and inspire, not destroy or degrade. Do that and you’ll be a better person and, subsequently, a better soldier.

Violations of professional conduct will not be tolerated. Moral behavior is a reflection of who you are. Return with honor.

I’m not prude, but I prefer—and the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) indicates—that soldiers not engage in lewd, lascivious, or crude speech and cursing.

Treat others fairly, irrespective of race, color, language, religion, gender, etc. I do not want to hear generalities, cruel or xenophobic remarks about foreigners.

Personal Well-Being
Everyone has fear. An effective soldier will learn to manage it well. Fear begins in the mind. It will induce physiological effects that will help you win and survive in battle. Fear is good. If you weren’t scared, you would not have the capacity to fight well. But, you must not let worry, anxiety or depression run your life. And, don’t forget what Audie Murphy, the most decorated solider of WWII, said: “A situation is seldom as black as the imagination paints it.” (Audie Murphy, To Hell and Back, 1949, p. 96.)

Going to war brings with it many stresses and fears, to include problems at home and threats of injury and death to you or teammates. Losing friends, teammates and co-workers to terrorists’ attacks is devastating. It hurts. Leaving family, home and the comforts of America to go to war likewise takes a terrible emotional toll.

Take time to learn about your emotional, psychological and spiritual health. Physical and emotional health and healing are essential to your well-being and necessary to being an effective solider and a productive member of society. There are many resources to help us with this, to include journal writing, self-introspection, inspired books, friends, leaders, others who have experienced difficult times, professional counselors, and the Chaplain, to name a few. If you’d like to talk, my door is open.

Attitude means everything. When confronted with a situation, you will do what you’ve trained your mind to do or believe. If you have visualized success and trained for success, you will be successful. Your body will act out what you think. It is impossible to do otherwise. If you think you will fail, you will. So think positively…albeit realistically. Why? Because bad things happen in war.

If you have not thought about how you would work through a worst-case scenario and survive, do it. For example, if you have not visualized seeing the absolute grotesque wounds of war, you might freeze instead of work to control the bleeding when/if you or your buddy gets hurt. If you get shot or blown up, it does not mean you will die. Conversely, it does not mean the person you shoot will go down either. Hollywood paints a bad picture that way. In the real world, vice the reel world of motion picture, there is no small arms bullet that knocks people off their feet and back 20 meters. And, even the best target shooters have a hard time hitting their target under stress. Keep shooting until the threat stops.

Remember: Our attitude and morale must stay above the terrorists will to destroy it.

As long as it’s legal, smart, safe, and successful, we’ll do it. I encourage unconventional thinking and creativity. We’re not here to just survive, but win. Although there’s some merit to it, we’re not here to solely avoid being hurt from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and then go back home. No, we’re here to stop terrorists and make life better for the good people of Iraq.

You gain a tactical advantage through practice and visualization. ‘What if’ pre-determined tactics training works. Think: what if [this] or [that] happens, how will I react? What should I do?

Before the pitch, a good short stop will visualize what he should do. When a ball comes to him at over 100 mph, he does not have a lot of time to see where the runners are, how many outs there are, or what the score is. He must know that before he gets the ball in order to make the right play. In firefights and war, time is of the essence. Pre-determined tactics will help cut down lag time.

Finally, I want you to know that I will do all in my power to call upon the protection of the Almighty and to bring everyone back safely. I look forward to getting to know you better.

1 comment:

Kim Lane Palmer said...

You are a good man Jeff. Your skills and your Heavenly Father will keep you on this side of the veil for a long time, if that is His will. You have much to offer to our soldiers. I am glad to call you Friend and Brother. Come home safe and share a campfire with us again. Kim.