Friday, July 31, 2009

Suasion of the Battlemind

The Army starts us on our redeployment bureaucratic milestones about 100 days out from taking the freedom bird. There are all kinds of administrative tasks that needs be accomplished (evaluations, awards, follow-on orders, etc), property must be accounted for and prepped for turnover to the next team, and mandatory classes must be attended to ensure we're ready to assimilate back into "the world."
I'm posting on the training that the Mungadai did today because, for once, I was reasonably impressed by the Chain Training we were given by the unit Chaplain. The training centered on transitioning from the mental state required here to the mental state that you need to adopt when you get home (if you want to avoid jail, disciplinary proceedings, divorce court, etc). The training was centered on the keyword BATTLEMIND.
Keywords are basically mnemonic devices for finding the "key" to succeeding in different situations. For example: stuck in a cold weather survival environment? Don't forget keyword COLD (stay Clean, don't Overheat, dress in Layers, stay Dry). Screw up your knee yesterday diving for cover when Voodoo snuck up behind you and yelled "bang?" Keyword ICE (Ice, Compression, Elevate). Today was the first time I've seen BATTLEMIND, and I thought it did a good job of breaking down the dimensions in which returning soldiers need to adjust their mindset.

Buddies (Cohesion) vs. Withdrawal
In Combat: No one understand your experience except your buddies who were there; your life depended on your trust in your unit.
At home: You may prefer to be with your battle buddies rather than your spouse, family, or friends; you may assume that only those who were there with you in combat understand or are interested; You may avoid speaking about yourself to friends and family.

Accountability vs. Control
In Combat: Maintaining control of weapons and gear is necessary for survival; ALL personal items are important to you.
At home: You may become angry when someone moves or messes with your stuff, even if it is insignificant; You may think that nobody cares about doing things right except for you.

Targeted vs. Inappropriate Aggression
In Combat: Split second decisions that are lethal in highly ambiguous environments are necessary. Kill or be killed; Anger keeps you pumped up, alert, awake, and alive.
At home: You may have hostility towards others; You may display inappropriate anger, or snap at your buddies or NCOs; You may overreact to minor insults.

Tactical Awareness vs Hypervigilance
In Combat: Survival depends on being aware of your surroundings at all times and reacting immediately to sudden changes such as sniper fire or mortar attacks.
At Home: You may feel keyed up or anxious in large groups or situations where you feel confined; You may be easily startled, especially when you hear loud noises; You may have difficulty sleeping or have nightmares.

Lethally Armed vs. "Locked and Loaded" at Home
In combat: Carrying our weapon at all times was mandatory and a matter of life or death.
At Home: You may feel a need to have weapons on you, in your home and/or car at all times, believing that you and your loved ones are not safe without them.

Emotional Control vs. Anger/Detachment
In Combat: Controlling your emotions during combat is critical for mission success and quickly becomes second nature.
At Home: Failing to display emotions around family and friends will hurt your relationships. You may be seen as detached and uncaring.

MissionOPSEC vs. Secretiveness
In Combat: You talk about the mission only with those who need to know; You can only talk about combat experiences and missions with unit members or those who have "been there, done that."
At Home: You may avoid sharing any of your experiences with family, spouse, and friends; You may avoid telling your family etc where you are going or when you will get back (and get suspicious when they ask).

Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
In Combat: Your responsibility is to survive and do your best to keep your buddies alive.
At home: You may feel you have failed your buddies if they were killed or seriously injured; You may be bothered by memories of those wounded or killed.

Non-Defensive (Combat) vs. Aggressive Driving
In Combat: Driving unpredictably, fast, using rapid lane changes and keeping other vehicles at a distance is designed to avoid IEDs and VBIEDs.
At Home: Aggressive driving and straddling the middle line leads to speeding tickets, accidents, and fatalities.

Discipline & Ordering vs Conflict
In Combat: Survial depends on discipline and obeying orders; Following orders kept you and those around you safe and in control.
At Home:Inflexible interactions (ordering and demanding behaviors) with your spouse, children, and friends often lead to conflict (ooh; apparently these guys know Mrs. Mongo).

The training presents templates for transitioning the combat skills into acceptably peacetime behaviors, with modification tips and mental health resources. I thought it was post-worthy because a) somebody obviously did a decent analysis of combat vs homefront mindset and behaviors and b) the Army is often portrayed in the media and popular culture as an uncaring monolith that views soldiers as expendable, disposable means. This is untrue and unfair, and I thought an example of our redeployment (mandatory, hours and hours long) training was a good counterpoint to that.
I'm not saying I agree with everything here (scan down for Mongo's Rule #1), but I'm saying a more than significant effort was made to help troops make the jump with the least amount of friction--and there always is friction. The first time you go to a mall or Walmart when you get home (excluding those adjacent to military posts) you are generally overwhelmed with a sense of "who the fuck are these people? Don't they get it?" As the keyword above intimates, tempers are pretty volatile, mostly because, for over a year, whenever someone absolutely needed a world-class ass whuppin', you By God administered a world-class ass whuppin'. From what I hear, that's generally frowned on in Walmart.

1 comment:

  1. This is absolutely wonderful Food For Thought. I'm going to read and reread this several times-thank you for this!