You want to be in combat?

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by scoutpilot, Dec 6, 2011.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    As a frequent observer and generally active member of this forum, I've noticed a trend as I've scrutinized posts made by candidates and cadets as they attempt to decide what path they want to take in the Army (or any service, really). More often than not, I see young folks who are just beginning their journey toward service as an officer proclaim, in some form, a desire to "be in combat." That viewpoint is no doubt the product of youthful vigor and bravado, as well as a desire to be a part of what the military ultimately exists to do. It's admirable in some ways. In some ways it's troubling. So I address what follows to our candidates and cadets...

    No doubt you have heard some permutation of Sherman's famous quip that "war is all hell." It has been rehashed and parsed and flown aloft on countless political banners for a multitude of purposes, both for and against the act of waging war. Drawing from my own experience, it's my conviction that the reason the old general made that remark is because it's absolutely the bare-knuckle truth. That is not, in my mind, a condemnation of the warfighter or the ultimate necessity of making war. It is a condemnation of the glory we place on warfighting in our personal and collective consciousness.

    "I want to be in combat," a candidate says. What does that mean? In our minds, it means pushing the fight. It means placing effective fire on the heathen enemy and saving the lives of the innocent. It means standing tall in the face of danger. It means CPT Dick Winters sprinting across a Dutch field, scrambling up a dike, and firing the first shots in the eradication of a company of German SS troopers, because books and films really do a wonderful job of capturing our finest moments and helping us define our heroes. It means SFC Paul Smith standing atop his track, furiously and fearlessly engaging an enemy that outnumbered him 100 to 1 and earning his Medal of Honor. But the real Dick Winters had nightmares. Paul Smith is dead.

    Make no mistake. This is not an attempt by a guy who thinks he's "been there and done that" to dissuade you from your goals. Far from it. Your choice to serve is noble and laudable. America will always offer up her best and strongest youth to protect our ideals. As Kennedy told us, we will bear any burden and pay any price to ensure the survival and success of liberty.

    I think there is value in having some idea of what that price might be. It is easy to believe that the invisible and sinister hand of fate will not touch you in combat. I know because I labored under that delusion for two years of fighting. We all did, and in some ways we all still do to one degree or another. Few things can make a young man feel more sure of his place at the top of the food chain than riding a jet-powered steed bristling with rockets and missiles and all the bullets you can carry. The moment you find that the enemy's bullets are just as effective as yours is a cold and sobering point in your life, because the theoretical and ethereal consequences of losing become very real and concrete. For me it was the sight of a HMMWV consumed in flames with a brand new female 2LT trapped inside. They rolled over 100 lbs of explosives. She couldn't get the heavy armor door open fast enough.

    Those moments of realization come in any number of ways, like a random mortar round into a chow hall, or hearing your best shouting across the net that they're taking fire from three directions and just went winchester. You wonder if you're hearing the prelude to his death.

    I firmly believe that our young men and women, whenever able, should seek to serve in the fighting branches of our military. I have said as much on here time and again. I will always believe that those formations are where the bulk of the mission is accomplished and where the true crucible of leadership is found. You will love your soldiers as though they are your flesh and blood (for the most part). Please, though, do not wish to be in combat. To want to serve in combat is to want to take someone's son our daughter there with you. MacArthur opined that the "soldier above all prays for peace," though we may mask that fervent prayer with bravado and a vocal desire to get in on the action.

    War is all hell. Actually, I take that back. Perhaps to call it hell is to give it too much credit. War is sad, and lonely, and degrading. It's often senseless, and almost always brutal. It brings out our worst as often as it brings out our best. Combat is neither glorious nor horrendous. It's merely a cold calculation. Which round finds its mark first. Which footfall triggers the explosive that rips a body apart. An invisible scythe that cares not about the unique and beautiful creature that you are, or the years and memories that make up your life. That brutal math is meted out on both sides of the dividing line. Our weapons and training tilt the odds in our favor, but they cannot stop the dice from rolling. You get a vote in a good fight. So the does the enemy.

    There are many more folks on here who can tell you far greater tales of the bravery of our servicemen and the human cost of war. None of this is intended to scare you off. These are merely my thoughts from a narrow and purely personal perspective. My hope for you candidates, as we glide toward the close of another year, is that you'll enjoy continued successes in your endeavors and end up on the pathway to a bright career. I hope that none of you join the military "get in on the action" or "be in combat." Join to be a leader, to give the very best to your superiors and subordinates, and to do a service to your nation. Don't wish to be in combat, though. Too often the wish is granted.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2011
  2. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Scout, Thank you for this. I have had this conversation with my son but without your perspective. I will suggest he read this.
     
  3. clamelken2

    clamelken2 Member

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    Wow. Thank you for your time to put this into perspective. As a hopeful future Cadet, sometimes the adrenaline of this process moves our focus away from what we are actually getting ourselves into. Not saying that this will deter me from hopefully serving in the Army, but I appreciate the perspective.

    Thank you.
     
  4. br1ankim24

    br1ankim24 Member

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    Thank you for providing a wise insight on war's reality, sir.
     
  5. MomWPgirl

    MomWPgirl Member

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    Mostly an occasional lurker here but wanted to thank you for your post. Well written message that should be read by all.
     
  6. educ8

    educ8 Member

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    Amen brother...Well said.
     
  7. Chockstock

    Chockstock "Forever One Team"

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    Great post, really written eloquently and drives the point home. I've been told that anyone joining for the adrenaline rush is better off enlisting and that as an officer, you won't be, nor expected to, partake in heavy combat
     
  8. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    You absolutely missed the entire point. And whoever told you that is full of it.

    When your platoon is in the thick of an engagement, you sure as hell better be pulling that trigger and leading from the front. Anything less is unacceptable.
     
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  9. BigNick

    BigNick Member

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    Scout Pilot -

    Excellent post. As a combat veteran of several wars (2 Silver Stars and 2 Purple Hearts) I fully understand your points and concerns.

    I have a son in the Class of 2015 who is "gung-ho" and wants to be an infantryman in combat. I hope with all my heart that he does not get that wish. However, if he does, I think his West Point training, and his dedication will make him a good leader who is able to accomplish his mission, serve his country, and protect his men and women as effectively as possible.

    Of course, as soon as the first bullets fly he will realize that combat is not glamerous or fun and that he can become a casuality. That is when the training kicks-in and the desire to work as a team with your comrads becomes all important.

    Thank God we have young men and women who are willing to be combat leaders for our fine soldiers - it is an awesome responsibility.
     
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  10. BillSL

    BillSL USMA Class of 2016

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    Amazing read, scoutpilot.

    Amazingly well written.

    Amazingly clear.

    Amazingly sincere.

    Thank you.
     
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  11. oldcorpsdad

    oldcorpsdad Member

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    This is all excellent counsel. I would add, make sure the decisions you make are really yours. There are always some who end up at the Academy because mom or dad or someone else thought it would be good for them. My son’s roommate was one of those, he had no idea what he was signing up for. The ramifications of the career you have chosen can be severe, for you and others so it needs to be your choice. The combat part reminds old grads of stories, there are always stories. In my office there are several grads, quite a few in fact, from many classes. One is a retired Armor Colonel. His daughter, a QM LT was married to an IN LT. He kept telling all of us how he was encouraging his son in law to get to a unit that was going to see combat. He eventually did. On a patrol one night an IED took off his arm and leg. The relationships in that family are now very different. The Colonel is more broken than the ex LT, at least mentally. Story #2. I was a CPT in the 10th MTN. None of us had ever seen combat (1990’s). The unit went to Somalia. One of our CPTs on staff asked to ride along on a short convoy. He was your typical airborne ranger infantry type who had been a PLT LDR in the 75th RGR. High speed low drag and whatever other buzz words you want to use. On this short drive Somali insurgents jumped in front of his HMMWV and opened fire. He pissed himself. He got control of himself and helped coordinate the fight back. In the fire fight he shot and killed one Somali in the face at quite close range. He changed. He began drinking, became a problem and was kicked out as a major. It is seldom like the movies.
     
  12. dunninla

    dunninla Member

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    Yes, this subject came up on the ROTC forum about four weeks ago, on ROTC Branch day. Several cadets commented that some MSII (sophomore) cadets were considering leaving school and enlisting, so they "could get some action before it's all over, over there."

    Get some action.

    Interesting phrase.

    Last month I saw on TV a General (*** or ****) being interviewed, which was probably originally taped about two years ago, sorry can't remember the name, and he was very clear "I hate war". He said every Warrior is prepared to do his/her duty, but wishes above all for peace./
     
  13. futureusna

    futureusna Member

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    im not going to be in combat, im going because i want to do the job that nobody wants to do, i want to be the person than can be counted on when/if its time to step up
     
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  14. 50stars

    50stars Member

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    Nice and a question please

    Very well done there, thank you on sharing

    btw, this may be off topic but I guess this the best place a I can ask this
    What does it mean that the AK-47 has a distinctive sound over other weapons? Which is louder and can be heard farther away, the AK-47 or a M4 carbine in 5.56 NATO? Which has more of an echo? Doesn't the M4 sound like a sharp popping sound off in the distance? Is it as loud as the AK-47?
     
  15. futureusna

    futureusna Member

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    AK 47 has more powder in the cartridge, so probably louder i would say
     
  16. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Not really sure what this has to do with the thread. An AK variant sounds like AK. Just like a .45 sounds different than a 9mm.
     
  17. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    This has been an "enjoyable" thread. The intersection of perception with that of reality.


    Well done. :thumb:
     
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  18. Momof2cadets

    Momof2cadets Founding Member

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    Probably the best post I have ever read on here.

    My oldest (2008) began as one of those cadets who was afraid things would be over and he would miss out on something, despite what his father told him about the reality of it. As an INF PL in the 2/327th In Bn, 101st Abn Div, he got his wish in spades (by then he had already changed his perception). After his first operation during which one of his soliders took an RPG to the face, and he was saved by his ballistic plate, he called his father who was in Kabul to talk himself down. When my husband asked him what his first thought was when the contact began, he told him he was lying in the dirt wondering "Why the f*** did I ever want to be infantry?", quickly followed by taking what action he needed to to get his guys out alive. He too has nightmares, and what we have come to call "excessive startle syndrome" -- you don't want to sneak up and surprise him. I found him standing in a corner at his brothers graduation party in May looking at the cadets about to graduate with tears streaming down his face. When I ask him what was wrong, he replied "They don't understand, and I feel so old". Did I mention he was 25?

    I am also disturbed by the kids who wish to "get into combat" and hope they never get the chance for that wish to come true.
     
  19. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Concur, one of the better posts ever written on this site, and very appropriate. Bravado and trying to show just how gung-ho you are is one thing, reality is usually very different.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience on this with the young men and women on here. Sage advice indeed....
     
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  20. TacKLed

    TacKLed Member

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    Great Post. While everyone is on here saying the bad experiences of it all, I want to chime in. I am a current applicant to NROTC, ROTC, and (after this week), West Point and I have to say that I am leaning towards infantry. Like most of you are saying, there is a want for a combat in most instances with people going infantry. For me, however, it's more of chance to break out the monotony that we have been pre accustomed to all our lives. I am pretty sure that some of you would rather have the monotony then put your life in danger but the way I see it is that the Infantry position is a more a desirable when you put things into perspective. For one, you feel like you are actually doing more with what you learned since you are the boots on the ground talking to the people of the nation you are sent in to help (if that's what we are doing in four years time), and it is generally a more spontaneous existence.

    I am an athletic nerd, so I generally get a lot of, and emphasize my work out regimen, but other then that I lead a sedimentary life style full of computer, video games, and school. It's not an exciting existence. It's just boring and instead of getting an IT job, or get in Military Intelligence, like my parents would probably prefer, I will do Infantry because it is the most out going and most, in my eyes, beneficial to the betterment of the Army. It also helps that my Uncle went to West Point and my cousin is a cow, or Junior, so I can also go to them if I need advice.
     

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