Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jumpinjarhead, Aug 19, 2009.
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A thoughtful and timely commentary:
Good piece - though what was the news story? An ode to the USMC - and tremendous anecdote about Sen. Mansfield's headstone.
I would add that William Manchester's "Goodbye Darkness" is one of the finest first person accounts of men at war I have read. Gruesome, but very thoughtful, honest and chilling - his meeting with the "Whore of War" is remarkable. It is also far deeper than most of the "Bravo Two Zero"-type material that lines the shelves today.
One possible caveat to the piece:
Whether Sir Colin "loved" his men I am not so sure, though he certainly loved the regiment...so much during the Indian Mutiny that he made sure it spearheaded all assaults. I am not quite sure what the soldiers in question would make of that kind of "love."
I understand that. I'd put my best mate in harms way if he was the best man for the job. You use your best people for a task - that way you have a better chance of success and suffer less overall as a result.
I'm sure the same often holds true further up the COC. That said, I know there are exceptions such as sending a battalion on public duties down to the South Atlantic.
For most soldiers the desire to walk in the valley of the shadow, is not due to bloodlust or suicidal tendancy,but the desire to practice those skills he has spent years learning and refining and to test their individule mettel
I'm not quite sure what you are asking. If you are asking what do troops fight for, then the answer will be varied.
Although the article is interesting, most soldiers in battle are not fighting for the same reasons that the politicians say we are fighting for.
They may start out wanting to fight for Queen and Country or the US of A against the 'enemy', but once the fighting actually starts they are fighting to preserve their lives, and the lives of their comrades.
The reason for being there becomes blurred and unreal. Instead of fighting for an ideal, they'll fight to gain a hill, a strategic point, for the Regiment, for each other.
A classic case of this (although there are many) is the battle of hill 235 (renamed Gloster Hill) in the Korean War.
29 Bde (inc The Gloster Regiment) of the British Army were all that stood in the way of the Chinese Army and the UN forces that were protecting Seoul, and were still trying to reform after earlier attacks by the Chinese.
In what became known as the Battle of the Imjin River, 29 Bde delayed the 63rd Chinese Army. The Gloster Regiment were defending the strategically important Hill 235, their orders: "Hold on were you are".
And they did, for 2 days one Regiment under constant attack, and cut off from their own lines defended the hill, against overwhelming odds.
29 Bde held up the Chinese advance so successfully gving the UN forces chance to reform and reorg. The 63rd Chinese Army lost an estimated 10, 000 men, and was removed from the fighting lines.
The Chinese General was reported to have said (to British prisoners of war), "If this is how you defend a hill in the middle of nowhere that means nothing to you, then I pity the Army that try's to invade England..."
Further reading: Wiki
Excuse the mis-post if this belongs elsewhere. I also did not consciously post this as a paean to my Corps to the exclusion of other warriors. Given the current optempo and casualty rate I thought it timely in the sense of a reminder about the essence of being a warrior as we otherwise wax eloquent or otherwise on everything else. I also agree with your caveat, having served on occasion with other "leaders" of the same ilk.
I was not asking about it but merely posting it for thought and comment for the very reason you cite--the disconnect between those who have and haven't experienced it as to what motivates people to do the sort of things our fine troops do every day.
Soldiers fight because they are told to, but once in combat they fight for themselves and their comrades. Queen, country, politics and even family come a long way after.
But asking what troops fight for is an interesting question to compare to why they joined up in the first place.
As we all know young men and women will join the Armed Forces for a myriad of reasons.
Asking a recruit straight out of Basic training 'what are you fighting for?', will probably get you the standard Chain of Command, Political response.
However, once they're actually in the fight, their reasons for fighting will become less idealogical and more practical.
That has been my experience. As the article suggests and as numerous authors and behavioral scientists have shown, the very personal motivations for a warrior are quite different from those that prompt someone to join a military force or even volunteer for combat. The same is also true for the perceptions of politicians and the public as to this motivation.
In recent years, I believe the services have tried to close this gap of understanding a bit in their recruiting and PR efforts by focusing on the incredible bond that develops between warriors. I believe, however, there is a limit to how well this can be done since it is such a profound and primal phenomenon that people cannot fully appreciate its occurrence, much less its power, without either intimate knowledge of those who have experienced it or through personal experience themselves.
For example, I can tell of my experience watching a 19 year old Marine decide (I could literally see this decision process occur on his face) in a split second to shout a warning to his mates while leaping onto an enemy grenade that then took his life. I can describe the event (it never dims in my memory) but it is extremely difficult for those who have not been in similar life or death situations to really understand the selfless and incredibly strong bond that is created among men in combat.
As a combat leader, I of course relied on other dynamics and factors to get intelligent human beings to leave places of relative safety and expose themselves to what at the time appeared to be imminent and near-certain violent death. Such things as youth (naivete' and a feeling or immortality), rigorous training, enforcement of discipline and pride of unit all contribute to this ethos, but at bottom I believe the catalyst that activates these lesser components that in turn prompt men to do the hard work of warriors is the unbelievably close and powerful bond of each for the other and the abhorrence of even the thought of letting the other down in the hard times.
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