“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
~ The Hobbit
If you need a new perspective on life, I invite you to join the military.
If you feel like there is something more than this cushy (and safe) reality we live in, I invite you to join the infantry.
Many people talk about what they “shoulda, woulda, coulda done”. Others go out and do it. I am proud to say that I joined the latter.
The last 4 months I attended Army BCT (Basic Combat Training) and Advanced Infantry Training. To be honest, it was nothing special. Thousands of men in our country’s history have come before me. Most men CAN physically do it. However, what makes it a special experience are the mental demands required from each individual.
Being immersed into a a culture that tells what you what to do AND expects 110% effort was a new experience. Although being an athlete my whole life helped regarding following directions and executing, it was another experience altogether being held accountable for the actions of those around me, being confined to a very narrow set of tasks and not having contact with those I love.
In the Army, you quickly learn you’re only as strong as the man to your left and right. We hear this kind of saying all the time in the civilian world too, whether it’s in sports or business. It’s meant to instill pride, motivation and espirit de corps in the group. However, in the military, you’re not playing a game for points. It’s life and death. A lack of discipline will kill the man next to you.
Mortality is a hard thing to grasp. Defending and taking it is another. Nothing can completely prepare you. Thus, you have the NCO (non commissioned officer) or Drill Sergeant who is there to teach what it means to operate under high levels of stress. Their job description is to make every infantryman a warrior and they accomplish this by “bringing each potential soldier just to the breaking point mentally and physically”. Through sleep deprivation, training in foul weather conditions, PT, and all other creative means, the NCO accomplishes his goal. The more amount of “suck” involved in any task, the better.
4 months of minimal contact with the outside world (we were allowed to receive letters after the first 6 weeks) while being placed under high amounts of mental and physical stress will change a man.
Here’s what I learned:
- The Army values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage. Of all these values, INTEGRITY is the greatest and creates the foundations for the others.
- “A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
~ George Patton. There is tremendous value in making a quick, decisive decision rather than waiting and second guessing yourself. Make a decision, stand by it and execute. If it turns out to be wrong, adjust course accordingly and continue moving forward.
- Move with a purpose. No walking. Run or move quickly in everything you do.
- Stay disciplined, complacency kills. That also means taking care of your equipment, making sure it’s secured at all times and in proper working order.
- Stay motivated. Find ways to motivate yourself to perform, get through the day, night or any other unpleasant situation. Small steps are the only way to mentally cope, whether that’s making it back to your bunk at night or just getting to the next meal.
- Lastly, and certainly not least, I learned the true value of freedom. It’s amazing how much we take for granted in our American life and what you truly miss when you have it taken away. I missed my daughter, my fiancé and my community. They were the ones that filled my mind the most when I was missing home or sad and everyone else felt the same about their own loved ones. It is a nice awakening of what is truly most important in life.
Next time you see a soldier, please thank them. They uphold and protect EVERYTHING our country stands for, without their own political bias. They have endured and sacrificed to be “guardian’s of freedom and the American way of life.” The “American way of life” encompasses all colors, creeds, religions and political views.
Never Let It Rest,