DOES THE SHOE FIT? There isn’t one person or group called out in the below post by name, location, or identifiable trait….unless the shoe fits, it’s not describing any reader personally. If the shoe does fit, the reader might want to sit back, evaluate why, and go from there.
The argument continues to rage in the blogosphere between two factions: Prior military w/combat arms experience and those people, who for whatever reason, aren’t, and the perception that those who were won’t let those who weren’t be viewed as ‘the same thing’. See this post, here.
My thoughts on military service from the perspective of a retired Senior NCO that spent 12+ years in his branch’s combat arm out of 21+ years active duty: Since 1974, we’ve had a volunteer military. To my mind, that means that if you don’t want to go, don’t. Do your thing, whatever that may be (so long as you don’t harm others in the pursuit of ‘your thing’). To that end, I hold no grudge or look down on anyone who didn’t join the military and serve wherever their potential, skills, and talents allowed. However, I’d suggest to those who made the choice not to go, be strong enough to give credit where it’s due when discussing the exact area and skills those who did are choosing to dispense knowledge or provide perspective on, whether you like it or not. Does this mean take everything as Gospel and agree? No, not at all, but do yourself and everyone else a favor and turn off the ego and the emotions. Especially if what’s said or written punches a button or two.
My thoughts on the ‘militia’ from the same perspective, added to by a period of helping train one to no avail, since that group refused to heed anything but their own ego: Since the early 90’s, we’ve had a resurgence of the ‘militia.’ Not an issue, either. I believe their intent is pure, but their execution (to whatever extent they choose to go) causes extreme limitation in the increase of capabilities (think of it as organizational learning disability, aka, ‘short bus mindset’) exacerbated by unrealistic perceptions of who and what they are, most likely influenced by Hollywood, conventional ‘wisdom,’ and personal pride (ego’s writing checks that can’t be physically cashed, getting consistently butt hurt when spoken to directly about their actual capabilities when compared to active duty units, etc).
I recognize also, and am glad that there are some STRAC (Skilled, Tough, Ready, Around the Clock, as the acronym was defined in my branch and day) militia, survivalist, and NPT groups out there, and that they are very low key and don’t advertise who they are, where they train, and when they train. Most likely, these groups are led by combat arms veterans (which is exactly why they know what they are about). If you’re ever invited to join one, know that you’ve been watched and vetted from afar, and you’ve passed the primary entrance exam: “Are you trainable and can you keep your mouth shut?” If you keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut, you’ll learn more than you can possibly imagine. All to the good.
The groups/individuals I, and many others (if I may be so bold as to write on their behalf) who served in a combat arm have issues with are those more outspoken and/or well known groups (based on contacts from them on face book, group websites, twitter, instagram, and/or actual face to face time with some of them, etc) that have developed tremendous egos, are easily butt hurt (watch the fireworks this post brings about) and, for the most part, are not led by anyone serious about what they do. These individuals/groups demand the respect of those who actually did what the overblown ego individuals/groups are claiming they are capable of doing (without proving a thing by doing) without earning that respect from the combat arms veterans.
Oh, sure, they give great speeches and post inspirational quotes about tyranny, fighting invasion, providing succor during national disasters, etc, but that’s about it. A lot of talk and no walk…literally. All one has to do to see how much ‘walk’ happens is note the portable front mounted food storage unit on many of these guys, and the ‘no walk’ part is evident (cheap shot? Sure, but it actually proves a point — the butt hurt from that comment will bring about an emotion based flame fest of epic proportions). Further, most members of these groups, for the most part, are not willing to sit down, shut up, take copious notes, and learn better ways to do things, whatever that may be, when someone who, by virtue of what they wear/wore on their head, left breast, and collars/sleeves, have proven themselves as a subject matter expert, decides to lend a hand. To do so takes dedication to your cause and the humility to know that instructor knows a hell of a lot more than you do and did/does this as his profession.
An example: Back in my active duty years on occasion, in our little corner of our branch’s combat arm, we’d be graced by Marine infantry, Army Airborne, Ranger, and rarely, SF NCO’s (never Navy, for some reason) who, while on a training mission of their own, one or two NCO’s would drop by to practice their teaching skills and by providing us ‘advanced’ (meaning more than what we knew) training on a variety of subjects. It was pretty much ‘win-win.’ We absorbed information like a sponge, and they were able to practice teaching INDIG’s who were not known to them. About once a year, our instructor cadre would be asked to play ‘aggressor’ during war games for some of these same groups which were never scripted. They wanted to see what we could do with the training we had, and what their own troops would do when faced with an unknown. Both sides would cheat their asses off, but I digress.
When asked if we wanted to participate, we’d jump at the chance, so much so, that sometimes, if we had to, we’d attend during our non-duty hours (we were so aware of the opportunity presented and so anxious to learn that on two separate occasions, about a dozen of us took a 3 day permissive TDY to get to attend). When we got to the training site, we sat down, shut up, and took copious notes. If we got the chance to go to the field and practice with these guest instructors, we’d do whatever was necessary to get the training. We’d provide their weapons, pyrotechnics, food, whatever, as they were doing us more of a favor than we were doing them. It should be noted that most of us were rated as, “Master Instructors” already, and as far as our branch was concerned, didn’t necessarily need to put ourselves through anything additional, training wise. We were smart and knew better, so we learned what we could when we could, especially from those who’s training acumen dwarfed our own. And, yes, that meant acknowledging they were better than we were, and to gain anything, we had to subordinate our own egos and open ourselves up to constructive criticism, no matter the intensity of the sting. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, but it was always warranted. After all, these guys were on our side and helping us get better made their jobs easier if war came. Interestingly enough, on a few of these training sessions over a five year tour, when they were completed, and we had done well and learned what was presented, and performed the skills to the level required, we were complimented with, “You guys are alright! Let’s get a beer.” And they’d buy a round. Lack of ego, acknowledgement of higher skills and expertise, and courteous attention made all the difference.
Fast forward to today, many years later: If offered training by anyone who’s had more experience in a skill I want to get better at, whether they be Army, Marine, Navy or Air Force, or Airborne, Ranger, SF, Marine Infantry, Force Recon, Seal, PJ, Security Forces, or whoever, I will bring a huge note book, no ego, and learn everything I can….why? Because these are what I refer to as ‘solid gold.’ Unless I know the man/men personally, I won’t expect to be their ‘coffee buddy’ during breaks; I’ll give them room until they approach me.
Does that equate to my being arrogant and condescending? No, not at all. It simply means I’m fairly well-skilled now in a variety of areas, and still want to add to my training and personal capabilities and am willing to learn from those who are better than I am in the area I wish to learn more about.
The groups/individuals I refer to are basically ‘problem children’ that would rather model the latest and greatest ‘tactical-just-back-from-the-sandbox-look’, confer ranks with no criteria of skill mastery or leadership capability, demonstrate by their own statements, writing, and performance (or lack thereof) that they do not study or practice effective leadership, tactics, training methodology (and especially Adult Learning Theory), weaponry, OPSEC, INFOSEC, acceptable fitness levels (how many pictures do you see of these guys smoking and not sweating?), but always have more patches on their clothing and jackets than carter has liver pills, face book, twitter, instagram or other pages announcing every thing done, planned, thought, etc, etc, etc, as the more well-known and out spoken militia representatives are and still wish to be viewed by former and retired combat arms veterans as peers in skills and capabilities. Basically, these guys actually believe their own press, and are a tad narcissistic, in my view. These are the guys who yell and scream the loudest that we are arrogant, elitist, and don’t care about them after many countless hours have been spent by these same vets developing training and lesson plans, blog posts (giving information out because it’s the right thing to do), and conducting training (even if for a fee) to help them get the basics down pat. These are the guys who will naturally feel friction with the combat arms veterans who provide articles and commentary in the blogosphere.
Bottom line: Anyone who really wants to learn, I’m willing to help, so long as they are sincere and can swallow the ego long enough to get something productive done. That’s the purpose of this blog and the reason we do private training. Otherwise, I’m wasting time teaching someone who really doesn’t want to learn when I could be helping someone who does.
People will gain a lot more knowledge and skills if they can get past the emotional responses and defensiveness born of insecurity. That’s my post on the subject.