In the words of Sergeant Casey: Former member of Britain’s Special Forces and active member of the Metropolitan Police Service Firearms Unit
I’m not one for essays or speeches, and I’m not permitted to disclose any details of training or missions. I can, however, describe the most important element in military success: the warrior’s mind.
The first priority for a warrior is mental preparation. No one speaks of the “warrior’s body” because physical preparation is a given. If you can’t get your mind straight, you’ll not succeed even if you are physically fit. Discipline and focus are essential elements in the mindset of a warrior.
When I was sent to the Persian Gulf, I went into combat prepared for what I would encounter. I had never performed under fire, so when I loaded my magazine, I named each round with what I thought I needed. Focus. Strength. Endurance. Calm. There were others. When I had a few ops under my belt, I boiled it down to mindset. My gear was in order, and I was physically ready. It all came down to a constant state of mental readiness. My rules of engagement were clear: Assess the odds and do whatever is necessary to tip them in your favour. And do it quickly and decisively to reduce the risk to yourself and others.
Make no mistake. Everything depends on mindset because the mind drives the physical and provides the motivation to excel in training and to master all weapons and necessary equipment. Training is rigorous and ongoing because the challenges are always evolving. There’s no such thing as too much training. The stakes are too high. Equipment is complex, but a warrior must be able to utilise each tool without conscious thought.
The mind plans each mission down to the last detail. The mind chooses not to dwell on the risks inherent in each mission. We understand that risk can be reduced but never eliminated, hence we endeavor to prepare ourselves for more than any enemy can throw at us. When an objective is identified, a team is designated. Everyone has a function, but you work as a team. You practise as a team. Battleproofing – simulating battle conditions – can offset any emotional reactions. Going over the elements of a plan with others builds confidence.
Warriors are never satisfied with what they know or with what they can do. They are persistent. They are impatient. When the planning is complete, a warrior wants to get on with it, to do what he has been trained to do.
Once under way, there is only the mission and the men. No thoughts of home or family or time on leave. When in the thick of it, our focus is on the immediate and on our mates. In the best scenario, each man feels responsible for the success of the mission. If a mission fails, each man feels responsible for that as well. No mission is over until all involved return to base. Many times a mission is completed in spite of injuries, but no mission is a complete success when men are lost.
In his professional life a warrior is spare, using an economy of words in his language and wasting no energy in his movements. He monitors his breathing. Proper breathing can help a warrior focus or calm him down. Proper breathing can minimise the impact of injuries, particularly bleeding.
Warriors are confident but not cocky and never complacent. A cocky man will think he’s prepared when he’s not. A complacent man will think he knows enough. A warrior’s confidence comes from his preparation, because he knows that he has considered everything and overlooked nothing.
I was fortunate. I served with men who were intelligent, able to achieve intense mental focus. They were physically fit, understanding that the body had to be capable of responding to demanding circumstances. They were willing to push themselves beyond pain and fear. Knowledge and self-control were factors; it took the combination of the two to apply training appropriately. Understanding how their mission fit into the larger picture gave them an edge. And a sense of humour was essential. We were confident because we knew we were good at what we did, and we didn’t do it alone.
A word of caution. When a mission’s over, leave it. It’s not realistic to expect your loved ones to share the weight you carry. Nor should you want them to do. Step out of your world and into theirs with thanks. You have returned, breathing.
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