My first unit after basic and infantry school was with Marine Corps Reconnaissance. Not the special ops Force Recon, but with a division level reconnaissance battalion. I was a basic Marine Rifleman (MOS 0311) and part of the training cycle for newbies was to be placed in an reconnaissance indoctrination platoon. We were all hopeful 0321’s and were learning the skills necessary to attend Recon School and hopefully pass and return to the unit. We would often head to the mountains and practice tactical movements, or run around the HQ with a zodiac, or tie knots. Man, we tied a lot of knots. One time we were invited to Ft. William Henry Harrison in Helena, MT to train with a group of Army Tankers. They had Bradley and Abrams’ tanks and were the Army’s go-to OPFOR trainers. We spent the weekend snoopin’ and poopin’ trying to get into position to call for fire on the tanks before they spotted us. We were taught the skills necessary for a reconnaissance-man to successful identify, target, and destroy enemy tanks. I remember being on the range practicing and getting the concepts down rather quickly. In fact, my best showing was when I nailed a target tank with my spotting round on the unknown distance range. It was then a simple command over the net, “Fire for Effect!” That is the command given when you have confirmed coordinates and are asking for all fire support missions to open up. It is difficult to put into words what the massive arsenal that our Armed Forces have looks like in action. You see the explosions before you feel and hear them. It is truly awesome, and the biggest tactical advantage that we have. To be able to coordinate fire support and ground forces movements keeps us in the fight and gives options that few other military’s can utilize.
This morning I was reading about the effects that our individual choices have on our lives and on those around us. I started to think about how the things that I do affect my wife and my children. Yesterday, I wrote the word sleep with an asterisk. I meant that to signify that in fact I did not sleep. Like many veterans, I struggle with getting sleep. I often feel exhausted and agitated all day because I just can’t seem to get rest. It is no surprise that I often am irritable and have some anger issues. Often about the stupidest things. The other evening I yelled at my 6 year old at the grocery store because he held a container of cupcakes in such a way that some of the icing smeared on the top. In front of everyone. He began crying, my wife looked at me (not happily) and said, “You embarrassed him.” That is just a small example of the many times that I have reacted in anger towards my family. I imagine that my irrational anger is like sitting on a hillside and just randomly yelling out coordinates and then asking for “fire for effect.” Talk about a dangerous and ineffective situation. Not knowing where the impacts are going to be or where they are coming from? Horrific.
I won’t pretend to have had some amazing breakthrough or found some new technique that makes everything better. But I think that using some of the skills that I learned could be useful. There was a lot work that went into calling for fire. The first thing was that I had to hump a long way to get into position. Then I had wait, sometimes for quite a long time, for everything to come together. Then I had to coordinate my target with my position and with the available fire missions so that when I called for fire it would converge on the target from different areas at the same time. This took patience, it took fortitude, and it took focus. So how do I apply this? I remember that when I was on the hillside and the stress and excitement was starting to build that I would close my eyes and take a slow deep breathe. That sounds really stupid, but truly it would calm me down and help me to focus on reacting to the information I was seeing in a way that would eliminate the target. Then I would just get to work. I think that trying anything to break that cycle of un-aimed chaotic fire around the lives of my wife and children has to help. I won’t pretend that I won’t still get angry or that I will react in the best way possible, but perhaps the first step here is finding a way to coordinate and direct the fire into a safe vector, preferably away from those I love the most.