Two days ago I posted about my experience with my unit's annual weapon qualification. I had not expected it to end up as one of the most recommended or even more than 30 comments.
Now I had picked a title that was a bit shocking: I shot an Assault Rifle this weekend, It was FUN! I figured it would get people to look at some of what I wrote better than something like this "Reserve weekend review of our Qualification Range". (maybe marketing could be a fifth career path)
However while reading through the comments it was interesting to see the different paths the comments went. Towards the end one poster presented the title of this in the comments. UntimelyRippd asked "what you were having fun doing was practicing to kill people". It struck me as a question that should be answered in the thoughtful manor it was asked. It is one of two comments that did that to me.
I am going to expand on it after the fold.
UntimelyRippd stated the following: "
Even though the essential gist of your diary is something with which I'm quite sympathetic, I nonetheless feel a compulsion to point out to you that what you were having fun doing was practicing to kill people. It wasn't a game, and it wasn't camping with your pals -- it was preparing yourself to be the effective and unapologetic instrument of the evil designs of the next Dick Cheney.Well I do have a different view. (I will expand on my reply in the original thread, I hope this is as informative as my last, I know it will be about as long)
I realize that you very likely have a different view -- perhaps that you were preparing to defend your community, your friends, your nation from some unspeakable depredation.
History, unfortunately, suggests otherwise.
The initial reply was from Vet24 who wrote:
we were fully aware of what we were training for. Many Guard/Reserve are prior active duty. Even in my day many had seen combat. Todays reserve component have had tours of duty in Afghanistan and/or Iraq.And this is true, the military and police do not hide the fact they are training you to shoot and kill other humans. Years ago they use to keep any human image away from you when you trained but this created problems. Notably that Soldiers and Police officers would not shoot people, but rather if they shot at all it would be towards them. Even when being shot at by bad people.
Some have not come home from those 'camping' trips.
I don't believe that the Iraq war was right or even legal, but until/unless the Congress does what they are supposed to do to stop that type of stupidity instead of voting to support it the soldier has little recourse but to fight the battle as ordered.
When the military and police train it is on human shaped targets or human images. Not bullseye targets or or deer or funny shapes. Human. You are told you may have to shoot others. You train to do that. BUT it is not indiscriminate shooting and killing. It is under controlled direction with strict rules that are not allowed to be bent or ignored.
A Soldier and to some extent the Police officer operates under the direction of higher command. The Army takes its direction from Congress through the Commander in Chief. Your Police Officer from her chain of command as directed by the Charter or Constitution establishing them. Often a City Council through the Mayor. The Soldier/Police operate under their authority and direction.
That direction can be direct orders or regulations on what and how activity will be preformed.
For example, right or wrong, we have soldiers in Afghanistan. While there they have been directed to seek out and destroy Taliban and other terrorist groups. The Congress has funded them, directed the President to send them there, they then get directions from the President through the chain of command that establishes limits on what the Soldier can do. (Rules of Engagement - ROE)
It would be easy for the US to drop 10,000 pound bombs on every building in helmand province then follow up with a mass of men who shoot everyone left. It is not easy to say "you can only point your loaded weapon at someone who is taking actions that could lead to them shooting at you, you can't shoot unless you have been shot at, can clearly ID the shooter, can return fire with out putting other non-combatants in danger to include miss rounds and pass through." These are limits to what Soldiers are allowed to do. Same goes for Police, you can't just shoot anyone walking down the street you think might have a knife on them. You have "ROE", you have to stop the person, give a reason for stoping them, can't search them with out a warrant or special circumstances, can't deny them rights, etc.
Rules are what the Soldier and Police have to follow. When they violate those rules, they should be harshly punished. Society that does not punish the rule breakers among the military and police soon devolve into thug/gang like abuse.
This ties in with the whole training to kill people thing.
As a Society, the people of these United States have elected Representatives to the Senate and House which granted the military limited authority to use violence against others. We did the same at the State and local level for Police. In all cases we allowed our Representatives to give Soldiers the permission to use more force against others than an individual would be justified in using. Just as a Police Officer can use a higher level of force against someone than a citizen could. (If someone is throwing wiffle balls at you, you can not pull out a gun and shoot them. You can throw them back and try to get away. A Police officer can move in and grab the wiffle whipper and restrain him. Something an average person could not do.)
The Soldier accepts the risk that he can become the tool of the next warmonger like Cheney or Obama. (Yes, I feel Obama has failed to end the wars like he said he would and have seen friends come back from Iraq and Afghanistan maimed because he has failed to do what I voted him in to do in '08.) The Soldier hopes the Citizens, the people who rule the nation, will choose Representatives who will not lightly shed their lives.
Well simply because there are bad people in the world.
LTC (ret) Dave Grossman, the formost expert on violence, combat and killing (really he actually wrote the book on it here at Amazon) presents a very good description of this.
He says there are three types of people in the world: Sheep, Wolfs, and Sheepdogs.
Sheep are most people in the world, kind, loving, gentle, peaceful and can only hurt each other by accident. They work hard and find it very hard to be violent. They don't go out and attack others, and if they do it seldom results in death. Keep in mind that the murder rate is around 6 out of 100,000, but the assault rate is 4 out of 1,000 a year. This means that a vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt others except by accident or extreme provocation. In the grand picture, out of 300 million Americans, there are less than 2 million violent crimes committed. While that is a huge number, it is not really. Yes, I know, if you're attacked it is a big deal, but the average person faces a 1 in 100 chance of being a victim of violence in any given year. But you face a 1 in 23 chance of being in a car collision, and a 1 in 5 chance of having heart disease in a given year.
But this does not mean that there are 2 million violent people in the US. Most violent crime is committed by serial criminals. The guy who holds up a connivence store and pistol whips the teller, likely has done several other such store robberies and muggings. These people are the next category LTC (ret) Grossman talks of, The Wolf.
Wolfs are psychopaths. Like a real wolf in a herd of sheep it will bite and try its best to kill every one of the sheep in the most painful manor it can. It has no mercy, no compassion, no restraint other than the fear of being stopped.
Sheepdogs are just like wolfs except for one difference. They won't harm the Sheep. In fact they will confront any wolf that shows up putting themselves between the wolf and the sheep. They are just as capable as wolfs in conducting violence but it is controlled and directed and limited.
Now don't assume that being called a "sheep" is bad. It is not. LTC (ret) Grossman uses the robin's egg as an example:
"Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful! For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators."Sheepdogs in society are your police, military, EMS, Fire Fighters. All those people who run towards the flames, gun shots, screams, when others are running away. They feel a calling to help others and stop the violence, with violence when needed.
If you don't have the ability to use violence, that is good, you are a healthy productive sheep. If you have the ability to use violence but have no compassion for your fellow citizens, you are a wolf, a psychopath. But, to quote LTC (ret) Grossman again,
"what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed"Sheep don't like Sheepdogs. The Sheepdog reminds them that the wolf is out there. Sheep want to paint the sheepdog white, make it say "baaa" and muzzle it. But when the wolf shows up, they all hide behind the lone Sheepdog and hope the wolf is stopped.
Sheep think differently, they want to pretend there is nothing wrong with the world, that crime is an intellectual event. One wrote "If someone broke into my home, I would help him load his car so he would leave, i'll get new stuff". The idea that the person breaking into his home while he is there might hurt him is not in his mind, he tells himself that as long as he does what the robber wants, he will be fine. Reality says otherwise, he is in denial.
Sheepdogs think differently, They are on the alert, looking around for possible problems. Planning and preparing for a time they hope won't come. She is looking for things that go bump in the night. She wants to make a difference.
This does not mean the Sheepdog is morally superior to a Sheep. Being a Sheepdog is a choice. Some are "primed" to be Sheepdogs, just as some are "primed" to be wolf, but the choices made are what directs the person. You can choose to become a Sheepdog, many do.
Again, LTC (ret) Grossman:
"In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.Me and my 109 "friends" are taking the roll of Sheepdogs. We train to be able to stand between the wolfs. We train to be able to conduct that violence needed to protect others. We train to control that violence. Note how we only fire when directed to, in specific areas, and under close supervision. We train to follow rules in the use of violence and the limits for that use.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door."
Yes, we are "practicing to kill people". It is not a game. But the mindset that allows us to move towards the bad guys requires us to invoke some "game" aspects to it. Trying to get the most hits, the best accuracy, or best control helps us do the hard thing.
My "friends" are willing to die for this nation. But first we are willing to kill for it. I sleep better at night knowing there are hard men and women willing to inflict violence on the wolfs of the world when needed.
Sheep have only one response to the wolf, denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.
Yes, I would prefer to NOT be sent to violence to others. Not here in the US or in where-ever-stan. But I am ready to. I could not live with my self if I avoided it and my fellow Soldiers were hurt because I was not there to help. This is why citizens need to hold the Congress and President accountable for ordering troops to fight.