Creating A Contemporary Warrior, Part One
Being armed does not a warrior make. Being willing to fight does not a warrior make.
Warrior: 1) a person engaged or experienced in warfare; soldier. 2) a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness.
Perhaps the greatest warriors of contemporary times, the United States Marine Corps has as their core values:
Honor: honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions; a source of credit or distinction.
Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Commitment: a pledge or promise; obligation.
In another era, though still practiced today, Bushido was the code of the Samurai. Tenets that they considered imperative in their life were:
Justice: the quality of being just; the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
Benevolence: an act of kindness; a charitable gift.
Love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
Sincerity: freedom from deceit, hypocrisy, or duplicity.
Honesty: freedom from deceit or fraud.
Self-control (also self-discipline): discipline and training of oneself, usually for improvement.
One of the character traits that has always been considered the mark of a wise warrior is the ability to show compassion to the innocent, the bystander, or any non-enemy. The ability to show care and concern for another’s plight while maintaining a vigil against the aggressor and always standing ready to fight as necessary to defend the weak marks a true warrior as having compassion.
Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Wow. If a contemporary warrior could personify all of those character traits he or she would be one heck of a great human being, wouldn’t they? I don’t think anyone will argue that. Of course, being a warrior means that they are also capable of violence – whether in aggression or defense. The administering of deserved punishment definitely requires the warrior to be able to act in a harsh manner – albeit justifiably.
But the topic of this article is not simply to describe all of the desirable or necessary character traits for a contemporary warrior. The topic of this article is, how do we create one?
A part of me wants to say that contemporary warriors are simply born to it; meant for it; destined to be a warrior. Another part of me wants to say that warriors are trained; forged; molded. Both would be correct to some extent. While being a warrior may not be genetic, the family that a person is born into or raised by plays a vital role in that person’s potential future as a warrior.
When you look at the character traits listed above it’s easy to identify that virtually all of them are learned. Whether they are consciously taught or taught through demonstration none of them are instinctive behaviors. Each of them is abstract and children aren’t capable of “abstract” – not usually until they’re about ten. But they CAN be taught right from wrong and they can mimic behaviors of those they admire.
That brings me to another point I want to touch on: who is your hero? If you’re old enough you remember a time when almost everyone had a hero. For my dad it was the actors like Gene Autry and Erol Flynn. More specifically it was the characters those actors portrayed in various films. If asked to name real human beings that he admired my dad would name people like General George Patton. He was a big fan of Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sr.).
I won’t name the real people that I hold in high esteem – some of them are still alive and might read this. But in the fictional world of Hollywood, books, etc. I have always enjoyed the Spenser character created by Robert B. Parker (remember the “Spenser For Hire” television show?), and Walker Texas Ranger (go ahead and laugh). When I was a kid I enjoyed the original Lone Ranger television show and Captain Kirk was way cool. As I reached my pre-teen years I began to have a bigger respect for people like my uncle, Donald Ingram. A former Marine who took me into his home and taught me things like honor, courage, self-discipline. Sound familiar?
So, good role models are important. But even that isn’t enough. All children need active parenting. All children need to be shown care and compassion – because that’s how they identify those behaviors / character traits and learn to copy them. Before they can want to mimic them they have to see the value in them and they see that value when they FEEL the results of being treated with care and compassion.
Now all this talk about care and compassion… is that really what warriors are about? Nicey nice, touchy feely? To some extent, yes. I’ve long believed that true warriors are motivated by their desire to accomplish some good; to fight for justice or in the cause of justice; to protect the weak or infirm; to fight for the underdog. Combat can be a benevolent act, faced courageously, and performed with honor.
That said, we don’t see much of that in today’s world. Why is that? I’ll tell you why I think that is: because it just doesn’t sell newspapers or advertising. It’s not sensational – but that’s a point of view. Personally, I think a Marine who performs a given mission and comes out the other end carrying an orphaned child – carrying that child to the safety of a first-aid or other social facility – has shown compassion. What else would we expect, right?
Let me share a story from the war in Iraq that I became aware of and am slightly upset that it didn’t make major headlines all around the world:
There was a video circulating through the Internet of an American soldier who gets shot by a terrorist / insurgent sniper. The shot is not a great distance – maybe fifty yards – and it was videotaped by the terrorist insurgent. Throughout the tape you can hear the sniper whispering prayers to Allah and when he fires the shot that strikes the American soldier in the chest you can hear the terrorist insurgent’s prayers requesting blessing change into prayers of thanks. The video then shows the American soldier get up and move around behind his patrol vehicle (an HMMWV or “Hummer”) for cover. There the video ends.
The rest of the story that you don’t here is this: that American soldier was part of a squad out on patrol. Of course, after a sniper attacked one of their squad members they tracked the sniper down and captured him. He resisted. They fought. It’s war after all. The sniper was injured and in need of medical attention – first aid. The American soldier that the sniper had shot was the squad medic and he provided medical care to the man who had shot him. THAT is professionalism at its finest. THAT is a compassionate warrior.
Such action – benevolence shown to the enemy, and even more important, an enemy that had just shot him – on the part of an American soldier should have been the lead story on every cable, television and internet news show. It should have been the lead headline on every print news periodical the next day. Everyone who watched or read the news should have known about this example of how great our soldiers can be.
But how did he get that way? It started the day he was born. He was taught personal values that included honor, courage, benevolence. As he grew he learned others, and if he was a Marine he was specifically taught about Honor, Courage and Commitment.
Yes, some of the greatest warriors can come out of broken homes; orphanages; foster homes and more. Yes, some of the greatest warriors were abused children with little or no descent example of how a human being should act. Some of our greatest warriors overcome untold challenges simply to reach the age of 18 when they can enter into the profession – and make no mistake. Just as much as being a doctor, lawyer, accountant, electrician, welder or any other occupation is a “profession”, so is being a contemporary warrior. The biggest difference is this:
For most people, their profession is what they do to get paid and they go home at the en of their work day.
For contemporary warriors their profession is their way of life. It’s a significant part of who they are and how they relate to the world around them. True warriors are the most honorable and caring people in the world. But they didn’t get that way by accident.
As I have in past articles I now place a challenge before you: look in the mirror; look around your dinner table; look in your living room at any holiday when your family comes to visit. What do you see? It’s fairly easy to identify people who personify the characteristics listed above: honor, courage, commitment, justice, benevolence, love, sincerity, honesty, self-control / self-discipline and compassion. If you don’t see any of that maybe you should think about changing something in your life. If you don’t see that in any of your children then you need to take a hard look at what you’re doing to set the example.
If you DO see those, be thankful and keep working to make them stronger and more prominent. Count your blessings.
Creating A Contemporary Warrior, Part Two – Conditioning & Training
In part one of Creating A Contemporary Warrior we discussed the personality traits and behavioral characteristics necessary in a contemporary warrior. We also talked somewhat about values and how all of those things together form a foundation for the man or woman who would take up arms against criminals, terrorists or despots of any kind. This week we’re going to take a look at some of the basic training I feel is required for that contemporary warrior to be effective on the modern battlefield. Bear in mind that the modern battlefield may be the city streets of Baghdad, but may also be the city street in your home town; or it may be your backyard or your home’s main hallway.
So, bearing in mind that you have no idea of when the fight will come to you – and we really don’t since terrorism is completely unpredictable – what must the contemporary warrior know? What training should they successfully complete? The list I delineate here will obviously need modification for specific situations and environs but I believe it is a good starting point; a decent foundation for more technical training to be delivered upon.
Physical Fitness: This is probably accepted without argument by a great many people. Where the arguments start is when you start discussing what’s the best method of getting into good physical condition and how you measure the level of condition. I submit that any good physical fitness program must at least maintain and at best consistently improve the following three items: strength, flexibility, cardio-vascular fitness. Endurance is, ultimately, a combination of all three, but if a warrior is short in any given area it can greatly hamper his or her overall performance. Good flexibility requires daily stretching. Strength training can be done daily or every other day depending on how you break up the body’s muscle groups. Cardio can / should be done daily. What level you attempt to attain should be predicated upon two things: first, how long do you want to live? As we age our body’s systems will regularly decline, but the point they start declining from can, to some extent, be determined by how much effort you invest in staying in shape. Second, what rigors do you expect to put your body through in your operational environment? It would well and truly suck to have to hump a 55 lb. pack twenty miles when you’ve never carried more than 20 lb. five miles.
How We Learn: Next, our warriors need to know just a little bit about how we learn; what thought patterns are better for planning; which are better for dynamic operational environments, etc. To maximize learning efficiency in all follow on training, a basic understanding of Boyd’s Cycle (OODA Loops) and decision making under stress must be imparted. The strengths and weaknesses of conscious vs. subconscious data processing and decision making must be understood. To further support this particular training objective, the training must be structured properly – as must all training delivered – and the training itself about How We Learn will serve as an example of how training efficiency can be affected by structure, delivery, practice, etc.
Basic & Advanced First-Aid: While not every contemporary warrior needs to be a “tactical medic”, what would it hurt? If you anticipate working in a high risk environment then the ability to maintain your own biological system (your body) should be considered a mandatory skill set. Additionally, the ability to maintain your own system is equally applicable to maintaining your buddy’s. Risks in any environment are NOT just those created by flying projectiles. Risks in combat areas can include, but are not limited to: construction damage, chemicals in the atmosphere, falling materials, weak floor / support, dangerous overhead environments, cold, heat, etc. Naturally, any warrior in today’s world must also know about the dangers of flying projectiles (bullets and shrapnel). First-Aid skills that include checking vital signs, stopping bleeding, maintaining circulation and respiration should be mandatory. The greater level of skill we can deliver then the better off the warrior – and the community he/she serves – will be.
Biomechanics and Anatomy: As a follow on to, or side by side with, the first aid training, warriors should all know something about how the human skeletal structure works and what organs are where along with the bigger chunks of our nervous system. Why? Because along with empowering him in his first aid skills it also educates him in ways that the human system can be immobilized, broken, injured or defeated. An education in maintaining the human system, by default, is also an education in how to defeat the same system. How to “lock” the skeletal system by studying the limits of joints is valuable information. Where major nerves run, and therefore knowing where to hit / punch / kick / stab, is valuable information. Knowing what major organs are where and the basic functions they perform imparts a basic understanding of what incapacitation can be reasonably expected in what time span due to injuries delivered to those organs. I consider this basic information that every warrior should have.
Hand To Hand “Combat”: While it’s sexy and adventuresome to think about hand-to-hand (H2H) fighting as “combat” the reality is that most of our H2H skills involve keeping someone off of us long enough to get a weapon to kill them with. Can you kill someone with your hands? Absolutely – but it’s not as easy as some people like to think. While the physical action to cause injury that results in death may not be hard to perform, actually performing that action with your bare hands, knowing that it is going to result in another human being’s death, may not be as easy to do as some believe. So, H2H should encompass basic fighting skills to include punching, kicking, elbow and knee strikes, chops, jabs, etc. But it should also include training on joint locks, soft targets on the human body (both of which should have been partially learned in biomechanics and anatomy above), and ways to immediately affect the proper function of the skeletal, respiratory and visual systems in an opponent.
Edged Weapons: Building on the previous two topics, the use of edged weapons (knives) is an important skill set for contemporary warriors to have. Now it’s important to recognize that most of us are not “knife fighters”, we are fighters who happen to sometimes have knives available as weapons. True Knife Fighters practice their skill / art for a large portion of their lifetime and most often as part of a martial arts system that supports the blade techniques used. Edged Weapons training for our warriors should be two-fold: 1) they should be taught how to defend against / counter basic knife attack techniques, and 2) they should be taught how to use knives to immediately incapacitate their opponent. For our soldiers this isn’t hard to justify. Fighting for your life is fighting for your life and the use of a knife / bayonet in a war zone won’t be questioned as much as the use of a folding knife by a law enforcement professional would be. Still, our police officers and deputies need to have the same (or similar) training. They need to know how to defend / deflect an edged weapon attack. They should also be trained, and authorized by proper departmental policy, in how to use their own edged weapon as a means of lethal force under appropriate circumstances. In my experience, police administrators have a hard time with training their officers to use a knife as a lethal force tool. For this very reason, many trainers are asked for non-lethal edged weapons training. Whole programs that revolve around bio-mechanical cutting – that being attacks to specifically disable part of the human system – exist and are taught. I cringe when I think about police officers using a lethal force tool to cause a permanent disabling injury. I’m liability conscious past the line where an officer’s life is at risk and even I cringe at the size of the lawsuit filed by a subject who was cut and crippled by a police officer’s knife.
Basic Marksmanship: Duh. Since the primary weapon of any contemporary warrior is a firearm it only makes sense that their training should include marksmanship. That said, “marksmanship” must include all facets of firearms use, care, maintenance, transport, storage, ballistics, etc. Restrictions on when firearms may be deployed, whether in military or law enforcement use, must also be covered. I believe it is imperative to discuss both uses when dealing with both communities. Given that the large majority of our military deployments in the past few decades have been “peace keeping” missions, and accepting the reality of potential terrorist attacks in our country, both communities face having to operate in both environments: firearms as a primary means of defense and firearms as an assault tool. Therefore, to deny either community training in both uses – and all of the controls, protocols, regulations, etc that apply – denies them the full knowledge and judgment skill base required to properly deploy firearms as force tools. Finally, today’s warrior must receive at least basic familiarization training with tools we can reasonably expect the enemy to have / use such as the AK-47 rifle.
Personal Protective Equipment / NBC / Chem-Bio: The ability to function in any environment should be a requirement for today’s warrior(s). Contrary to popular belief, the ability to create a contaminated / poisonous environment is not difficult. Further, some environments that exist in high risk targets, such as liquid natural gas storage facilities or nuclear power plants, inherently have, as part of their structure, environments unfit for human function. Still, if such facilities are attacked, the responders must be able to function in all those environments. As ugly as the reality might be, a chemical or biological weapon attack in any major city – or rural community – will result in the need for law enforcement services, crowd control, quarantine, etc. and the officers performing those duties have to protect themselves from infection. Functioning in the requisite protective equipment is different than functioning without it. Something as simple as firing a rifle is no longer simple when a cheek weld can’t be obtained and sight picture may be blurred due to the shield / lenses of a protective mask. These types of issues need to be identified, addressed and trained for before the need arises.
Basic Small Unit Tactics: Virtually every soldier and police officer / deputy today needs to understand the differences between a two-man team, a fire team, a squad, etc. Most probably do since they were organized by squad in their academy and, in larger areas, still are within their agency. To some extent common Active Shooter response training focuses on the four man fire team structure. That’s all well and good but if our contemporary warriors are going to survive in and emerge victories from a combat situation they need to fully understand how fire teams interact; how they support each other; how the strengths of each can be multiplied through coordinated efforts. Dependent on the weapons available and the weapon/shooter capabilities, team tactics should be developed and taught to most efficiently address the potential threats our populace faces. At the very minimum, two-man and fire team (four man) tactics should be taught at multiple levels so that all of the involved warriors understand the primary purpose of each follow on team and how they can interact to close on and eliminate / neutralize the enemy.
Munitions: Versatility is the name of the game when you’re going into a conflict situation. The more challenges and situations you can overcome with what you’re carrying then the more efficiently you can operate. It’s already common for SWAT members to carry , or at least be trained with, 37mm or 40mm munitions, stun grenades, distraction devices, breaching munitions / explosives and more. In today’s world of the potential terrorist attack / siege, I submit that we must train our law enforcement professional in greater numbers to be competent in handling and using (or deactivating):
– 37mm and 40mm munitions
– Twelve gauge specialty munitions
– Breaching munitions
– Common military / terrorist munitions such as fragmentation grenades and claymore mines.
Driving Skills: I clearly remember walking / marching in excess of twenty miles carrying all of my equipment in basic training. Sure, I found out I could do it. Yes, one of the main ways our military moves troops is marching. Still, if you give most people the option of walking with fifty pounds of equipment or riding with that same equipment, they’ll ride every time. The ability to operate a variety of vehicles should be a mandatory skill for all of today’s warriors. They should know how to drive a stick shift / manual transmission as well as automatics. They should know the different handling characteristics of sedans versus sport utility vehicles versus pickup trucks, etc. As they may need to drive under emergency conditions, they should be trained in evasive driving, ramming in both directions, vehicle strengths, weaknesses, and more. To make it simple, they should be able to walk up to a wide variety of vehicles and know how to make it move when their survival depends on it.
Basic Survival: Our contemporary warriors operate in a wide variety of environments and each environment presents unique challenges to simply staying alive. Desert, mountains, water… each presents specific dangers that our operators must be trained to overcome. In every environment the warrior should know how to find or create shelter, find food and water, and manage the temperature or his exposure to it, to stay alive. It doesn’t have to be pleasant, it just has to be survivable. For officers who work in cities, then urban survival skills may be most appropriate, but if their jurisdiction includes any rural areas such as farms or parks, then they need to be trained to survive there as well. Does this sound paranoid? Perhaps, but I would prefer for our contemporary warrior to have skills that they may never need rather than not having a skill that they desperately need to stay alive.
I’m sure there are other skill sets that our contemporary warriors need to have. Communications is not covered here. Intelligence gathering and analysis is not covered her. But when it comes down to the individual human being, the person we’re going to put in a uniform and equip to function in potentially lethal environments, this is my list of what I consider minimum and mandatory. If you’re a uniform wearing / badge wearing warrior today, I recommend that you seek out training in any of the skills above that you don’t already possess. As I said: better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.