“If you sweat more in training, you’ll bleed less in war.”
As an infantry soldier, I have heard that old stoicism regurgitated by NCO and officer alike (often after the customary Lee Greenwood song.) As a young soldier, I once thought it was, at best, false bravado, or at worst, the justification for the beatdown they were about to inflict on us.
I remember thinking, why are we pulling security? There is no enemy out there, not even some of our guys pretending to be bad guys. Why did we need to yell out in the middle of pretend war, TWO- OOOO–THREEEE to let everyone know we had indeed fired an imaginary Grenada and that our “budenimes” were indeed dead. “I got you” is an argument you never when in pretend war.
I never really got it until I got to combat. Then, amid an ambush, it became crystal clear why we did.
We had been traveling back on a convoy mission when all of a sudden, I heard a heavy machine gun open up. At the time, I thought it was one of our guys until I rotated my turret only to see the NTV in front of me getting lit up.
We were getting attacked from across the road and over four lanes of traffic. As I turned to engage, I heard the bullets crack the air around my head and then felt the vibration run down my arm from the one hitting turret. Half an inch of steel is the only thing that saved my life that day.
As I acquired a target and went to open up, my .50 jammed, not once, but twice. I assure you, nothing brings on the pucker factor quite like your weapon jamming in a gunfight!
But what happened next is what was the most telling to me. I reached over and grabbed my M203, aimed at the building, and lobbed around into it, ending the ambush. What would typically have filled me with a great sense of satisfaction embarrassed me because I did the most “boot” thing I could have done.
I yelled out “two-o-three” as I fired out the round.
In the middle of a gunfight, on a busy highway, vehicles getting lit up, I resorted to doing what I thought was stupid all the year leading up to that fight.
The important take away I hope you get from this is the understanding that the trivial matters—the small things matter. Suffering in training will save your ass in the game called life.
Stop lying to yourself and me and say, “Oh, I’d do it better if this was for real.” It’s not true, and if it were for real, you’d be dead.
“Train how you fight.”