[November 27, 2021] The crusty, old Master Sergeant at our Battalion Command Post was the man we all gravitated to. If you wanted someone in your foxhole when the enemy was attacking, you needed him there with you, operating the machine gun and killing enemy soldiers. His greatest advice, Keep your cool, man!
I was in a meeting with our operations officer when I heard one of our Second Lieutenants come running in to report that the Opposing Forces (the “enemy” played our Soldiers) were attacking the unit’s left flank. In fashion with this old Sergeant’s demeanor, he said, “Settle down, Lieutenant, keep your cool, Sir!” And, “If you don’t panic, all will be just fine.”
In a firefight, you don’t panic, at least if you want to stay alive. That’s the way it has always been and will always be. Fear grips us quickly and can overwhelm the unprepared and unexpecting Soldier. All of us are susceptible to panic. We show it in raised voices, increased heart rate, and desire to run. Panic on the battlefield can lead to terrible consequences.
No one knows how they will act on the battlefield when confronted for the first time by the enemy. The same applies to emergencies of great danger, found during human or natural caused disasters. The old Boy Scout saying, Be Prepared is on target. We must be ready and mentally prepared for the worst situations, else we might panic and run away.
I didn’t get much from this particular military exercise – I was the Battalion Intelligence Officer – and there wasn’t any actual data to analyze (one of the difficulties in this type of military exercise). What I did get from it was a better appreciation for the Sergeant who had the experience and military bearing of a true warrior. The man was a hero, and I knew it.
He and I were to converse on many topics over the years. I enjoyed them all and learned a great deal from this man. He was dangerous, cunning, and easily angered, but he was also the kind of Soldier you wanted on your side. He had your back, never let down his Soldiers, and could tell you anything at any time about any of our weapons. He was indispensable.
Don’t panic! It became a sort of motto of our unit while out in the field. We laughed when we said it, but the idea was profound, and we knew it might just save our lives someday.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).