Tag Archives: soldiers and warfare

Robotic Beast of Burden

Well, once again, I’m turning to lighter things to end the week. This one’s about a friend for Atlas, the DARPA robot I posted about a week or so ago.

Okay, technically he’s for the Marines. I think he looks more like a giant dog than a donkey or ox, but… kinda cool

Thoughts from Black Hawk Down

I was going through some papers in my office the other day and found the following, which I pulled from the Afterward of the book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden, which I read many years ago. I remember this section surprising me at the time; now it seems profound in its truth , a very clear elucidation of the human condition with respect to volition and something worth recalling and reflecting on from time to time:

“It was a watershed,” says one State Department official . . . “The idea used to be that terrible countries were terrible because good, decent, innocent people were being oppressed by evil, thuggish leaders. Somalia changed that. Here you have a country where just about everybody is caught up in hatred and fighting. You stop an old lady on the street and ask her if she wants peace, and she’ll say, yes, of course, I pray for it daily. All the things you’d expect her to say. Then ask her if she would be willing for her clan to share power with another in order to have that peace, and she’ll say, ‘With those murderers and thieves? I’d die first.’ People in these countries — Bosnia is a more recent example — don’t want peace. They want victory. They want power. Men, women, old and young. Somalia was the experience that taught us that people in these places bear much of the responsibility for things being the way they are. The hatred and the killing continues because they want it to. Or because they don’t want peace enough to stop it.” (pg 334-335)

And then a little later, this from p 345:

“Every battle is a drama played out apart from broader issues. Soldiers cannot concern themselves with the forces that bring them to a fight, or its aftermath. They trust their leaders not to risk their lives for too little. Once the battle is joined, they fight to survive as much as to win, to kill before they are killed. The story of combat is timeless. It is about the same things whether in Troy or Gettysburg, Normandy or the Ia Drang. It is about soldiers, most of them young, trapped in a fight to the death. The extreme and terrible nature of war touches something essential about being human, and soldiers do not always like what they learn. For those who survive, the victors and the defeated, the battle lives on in their memories and nightmares and in the dull ache of old wounds. It survives as hundreds of searing private memories of loss and triumph, shame and pride, struggles each veteran must refight every day of his life.


“Many of the young Americans who fought in the Battle of Mogadishu are civilians again . . . They are creatures of pop culture . . . Their experience of battle, unlike that of any other generation of American soldiers was colored by a lifetime of watching the vivid gore of Hollywood action movies. In my interviews with those who were in the thick of the battle, they remarked again and again how much they felt like they were in a movie, and had to remind themselves that this horror, the blood, the deaths, was real. They describe feeling weirdly out of place, as though they did not belong here, fighting feelings of disbelief, anger, and ill-defined betrayal. This cannot be real . . . To look at them today, few show any outward sign that one day not too long ago, they risked their lives in an ancient African city, killed for their country, took a bullet or saw their best friend shot dead. They returned to a country that didn’t care or remember. Their fight was neither triumph nor defeat; it just didn’t matter. It’s as thought their firefight was a bizarre two-day adventure, like some extreme Outward Bound experience where things got out of hand and some of the guys got killed.

I wrote this book for them. “

Freedom Through Military Victory

November 11, 2009  Veteran’s Day

Written by ROBERT B. THIEME, JR., pastor of Berachah Church from 1950-2003

Belligerent nations wield military force not to defend their sovereignty but to vanquish and enslave other nations. Is resistance to such aggression worth the price of young men marching to war? Each generation must decide. If a nation wishes to perpetuate and inviolate the priceless privileges and blessings of independence, warfare is inevitable.

Every generation must face the refinement of war. Freedom is bought and paid for by the blood of individuals who set a higher value on their liberty than on life itself. If one generation is not prepared mentally and Spiritually to defend such values, if enough individuals in a national entity reject the principle of freedom through military victory, liberty languishes.

Despite man’s zealous efforts to achieve freedom through peaceful means, wars will continue until the end of human history when Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, reigns on earth for one thousand years. (Isa 9:6; cf., Ecc 3:8; Mic 4:1-3; Mar 13:7; Rev 20:4) For man to presume that he can accomplish what only Jesus Christ can accomplish in the Millennium is a total disregard for the Scriptures and the height of arrogance. Jesus Himself declared the certainty of war.

“And you will be hearing of wars [Armed conflict] and rumors of wars; [Cold war’s] see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, [A part of history] but that is not yet the end. [Of the Tribulation] For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. (Mat_24:6-7)

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up. . . . A time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecc_3:3-8)


Karen, here: Thanks to all who have served and sacrificed for the freedoms I enjoy daily — to come and go, to live my life, pursue it as I choose, and most of all, to enjoy the freedom of gathering with other Believers to study God’s word without having to hide or lie or worry that we might be beaten or cast in prison for it, or our houses burned because of it.

Operation Redwing

This will be my last post on thoughts generated from my reading of Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. So far all the material I’ve quoted from and blogged about has come from the first third of the book, the training phase. I haven’t even gotten to the disaster of Operation Redwing, and won’t really. That part doesn’t bear excerpting and discussing really — it just has to be read and experienced for itself.

What I found cool about it all, was that, as bad as BUD/s training was, and in particular Hell Week, on the Redwing mission Marcus ended up using all of it. So much of what he experienced during Hell Week (and I only touched on a small bit of his description — that, like the mission itself deserves to be read in its entirety to get the full effect) he went through again, this time in the face of and at the hands of the enemy. So it not only makes sense of all the training, but it bridges over to our lives, and makes sense of our training as well. If we can remember to see it as such.

One thing in particular that hit me about Marcus’s time in the Hindu Kush under fire, surrounded, badly injured, no way out, was that for the first time ever he had to go it alone. Bear his own cross as it were, another area that coincides with the Christian life. There comes a time we all have to go on alone. Our comrades, our team has been stripped away from us, just as it was stripped from Jesus and from the Apostle Paul. And often, as with Marcus, our own strengths and assets have also been stripped from us. It’s us and God and sometimes all we can do is keep on keeping on. And that was pretty much where Marcus ended up — and he knew it, because God made it very clear to him. I loved it.

Well, I loved LOTS about this book. As I said, I could go on and on, but I won’t. Life is moving on around me and I’m accumulating too many other subjects to blog about without sufficient time or energy to get to them. Besides, I’m afraid if I do any more I’ll end up violating copyright on this book. Suffice to say, I have not read as enlightening and inspiring a book as this one in a long time and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in living the Christian life, particularly where it comes to suffering. It’s an amazing story.

It’s also surprisingly moving.

Hell Week

“First of all, I do not want you to give in to the pressure of the moment. Whenever you’re hurting bad, just hang in there. Finish the day. Then, if you’re still feeling bad, think about it long and hard before you decide to quit. Second, take it one day at a time. One evolution at a time.

“Don’t let your thoughts run away with you, don’t start planning to bail out because you’re worried about the future and how much you can take. Don’t look ahead to the pain. Just get through the day, and there’s a wonderful career ahead of you.”

These were the words of the commanding officer given to the remaining trainees of Marcus Luttrell’s SEAL Class 226 prior to the commencement of the dreaded Hell Week, which followed the first four weeks of BUD/s training. Already 54 of the 98 who’d begun the first phase had quit or been dismissed (on account of lacking physical qualities and aptitudes necessary for doing “the work of a U.S. Navy SEAL.)

Again, I was blown away by how that advice is pretty much the same as given to us as Christian soldiers in God’s army… Live one day at a time, take no thought for tomorrow, for today has enough troubles of its own, capture every wrong thought to the obedience of Christ, don’t quit, no matter what…

Hell Week, “the most demanding six days of training in any fighting force in the world, ” started on a Sunday afternoon, with the candidates locked down in a large classroom, basically sitting around waiting. And then …

“…it was after 2030 and before 2100. Suddenly there was a loud shout, and someone literally kicked open the side door. Bam! And a guy carrying a machine gun, followed by two others, came charging in, firing from the hip. The lights went off, and then all three gunmen opened fire, spraying the room with bullets (blanks, I hoped).

There were piercing blasts from whistles, and the other door was kicked open and three more men came crashing into the room. The only thing we knew for sure right now was when the whistles blew, we hit the floor and took up a defensive position, prostrate, legs crossed, ears covered with the palms of the hands.

“Hit the deck! Heads down! Incoming!”

Then a new voice, loud and stentorian. It was pitch dark save for the nonstop flashes of the machine guns, but the voice sounded a lot like Instructor Mruk’s to me — “Welcome to hell, gentlemen.”

For the next couple of minutes there was nothing but gunfire, deafening gunfire. They were certainly blanks, otherwise half of us would have bene dead, but believe me, they sounded just like the real thing, SEAL instructors firing our M43s. The shouting was drowned by the whistles, and everything was drowned by the gunfire.

By now the air in the room was awful, hanging with the smell of cordite, lit only by the muzzle flashes. I kept my head well down on the floor as the gunmen moved among us, taking care not to let hot spent cartridges land on our skin.

I sensed a lull. And then a roar, plaining meant for everyone. “All of you, out!”

I struggled to my feet and joined the stampede to the door. We rushed out to the grinder, where it was absolute bedlam. More gunfire, endless yelling, and then again, the whistles, and once more we all hit the deck…

Then the instructors opened fire for real, this time with high-pressure hoses aimed straight at us, knocking us down if we tried to get up. The place was awash with water, and we couldn’t see a thing and we couldn’t hear anything above the small-arms and artillery fire.

Battlefield whistle drills were conducted in the midst of high-pressure water jets, total chaos, deafening explosions and shouting instructors…

Some of the guys were suffering from mass confusion. One of ’em ran for his life, straight over the beach and into the ocean… This was a simulated scene from the Normandy beaches and it did induce a degree of panic, because no one knew what was happening or what we were supposed to be doing besides hitting the deck.”

I set all this down because it really spoke to me. There are times when life just devolves into chaos, you don’t know whether you’re coming or going, what’s up or down, what is happening or what you’re supposed to be doing. Sometimes it seems all you can do is hit the deck and cover your ears. The thing that impressed me was that this wasn’t random but a deliberate, manufactured sequence and set of events and pressures, designed to induce panic.  And it was all for their benefit. For their practice and training. For their testing. And all you had to do really was hold your ground and wait until things cleared. Eventually direction would be given and then you could move.

I’ve been experiencing that situation more and more frequently of late. Where I don’t know what to do and just have to sit and wait for God to reveal the steps I should take next. I used to panic a bit because I had no direction, but gradually I’m learning to accept it as temporary and just wait. But Marcus’s description of the Hell Week activities brought into clarity for me the fact that not one chaotic situation that takes over my life is out of God’s control. In fact, it’s not only not out of His control, but He designed it in every detail just as much as those SEAL instructors designed theirs. Better, actually, since He’s God…

In our recent Bible class, Pastor said that God brings glory to Himself by rescuing us. He’ll let us get into a jam or even lead us into one, just to give us the opportunity to trust Him. And it’s in our backing off and giving the problem to Him that we glorify Him. Our problem, Pastor said, is that we keep trying to solve our problems ourselves with our own power. Rather than give it over to Him and wait… Rather than…

Be still, and know that I am God.

Lone Survivor — Revisited

Awhile back I wrote about the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson (Here) . At the time I’d just begun it. This morning I finished it. That I took as long as I did is no reflection on the book, only on the level of life distractions I’ve been faced with. And actually I think I’ve read it about three times altogether now, given my propensity for skipping ahead and then returning to read through more slowly. I don’t often recommend books, but this is one I do. Especially if you know anything about the angelic conflict, the purpose of suffering, the reason we’re here, how to glorify God… because this book presents a vivid, moving and compelling visual/experiential illustration of what the Christian life is about.

It is not a religious book, though Luttrell does believe in God and it’s very clear that God preserved his life in the mountains of Afghanistan. But the similarities between our lives in training as Christians and then executing that training as we begin to come under more and more pressure from the enemy and the training and deployment of Navy SEALS were amazingly apt. I have turned over the corners of over thirty pages of sections I wanted to quote or reflect upon.

For example…

It was just another example of how amazingly sharp you need to be in order to wear the SEAL Trident. Over and over during training, we were told never to be complacent, reminded constantly of the sheer cunning and unpredictability of our terrorist enemy, of the necessity for total vigilance at all times, of the endless need to watch out for our teammates….

He spends quite a bit of time relating his experiences as he went through the training to be a SEAL before going on to describe the events of Operation Redwing, from which only he survived. The training was absolutely fascinating and in that especially I could relate. Often they would be put uncomfortable, painful situations, like being in cold water up their necks for precisely the amount of time their instructors knew they could bear before expiring.

They were also deliberatedlytreated unjustly. After spending the afternoon cleaning his room, getting everything shining and spotless, a trainee would stand agog as the instructor come to inspect his work would proceed to drop sand on the gleaming floor, tear up the crisply made bed, pull out all the neatly packed-drawers and dump their contents on the floor, all the while yelling at the trainee for being a slob and a lazy bum (well, not those words precisely) and then commanding him to “get wet and sandy.” Which meant to go out fully clothed (in your dress uniform even) jump into the cold Pacific off Coronado island and then roll about in the sand.

I read that part about the time Pastor was talking about how as Christians we are going to receive unjust treatment. It’s a part of suffering for blessing. It’s something God doesn’t just “allow” but in a sense chooses and at times even orchestrates. (As He used Pharaoh). Reading that the Navy SEAL instructors were deliberately unjust was a shock. Here’s a quote:

I asked [Instructor] Reno about this weeks later, and he told me, “Marcus, the body can take damn near anything. It’s the mind that needs training. The question that guy was being asked involved mental strength. Can you handle such injustice? Can you cope with that kind of unfairness, that much of a setback? And still come back with your jaw set, still determined, swearing to God you will never quit? That’s what we’re looking for.”

And that’s what God’s looking for. Not perfection. But plugging. Never giving up on the plan. No matter what hits you, you just keep on going. Because Satan knows just as well as those SEAL instructors that injustice is really, really hard to swallow. It ignites all manner of sins from anger to resentment to vengeance, from sulking to self-pity to giving up. He knows that if he comes at God’s people with injustice a certain number of them are going to throw in the towel. Or, to keep with the SEAL theme, to ring the bell that signalled withdrawal.

To fight in God’s army you have to be able to handle injustice. And pain.

Here’s another quote:

I remember [the instructor] said flatly, “You’re going to hurt while you’re here. That’s our job, to induce pain; not permanent injury, of course, but we need to make you hurt. That’s a big part of becoming a SEAL. We need proof you can take the punishment. And the way out of that is mental… Don’t buckle under to the hurt, rev up your spirit and your motivation, attack the courses. Tell ourself precisely how much you want to be here.”

Of course in our case, it doesn’t depend on us. We can bear the pain and the injustice through the power that God has given us. The power of His word and of His Spirit. But it is primarily born through the mind. The attitude we bring to the suffering is what determines success or failure. Suffering is given to us so we can learn obedience, as Jesus did, and later so that we might glorify God while enduring it.  If we get subjective about it, we will fail. If we step back and recognize it as something God has allowed and then ask ourselves what He might be intending fur us to learn from it, we’ll go a long way toward maintaining that proper mental attitude.

And this was just from the first two weeks of the SEAL training. Before they even got to BUD/s and well before they had to face the dreaded Hell Week…

…to be continued.

Back from SoCal

Navy jet 2croppedLast Thursday we left for our second “vacation” of the summer, this time to Southern California, first to see our son and his fiancee in San Diego then to all drive up to Long Beach to visit with my 88 year old stepmother.

Prior to leaving there were all manner of distractions and diversions, which impacted our ability to plan. One of those was that while in Utah we had all gotten spider bites. Mine was first to appear on the Sunday we left Moab, a three-inch diameter, very sharply edged swelling on my thigh, with a dime-sized red spot at the center. I put Vitamin E on it for a couple of days and it subsided.

Stu’s appeared two days later, same presentation except that his was on his calf and did not go away but got all red and began spreading up the side of his leg. He had to go to the dermatologist to get some steroid cream to put on it, which cleared it right up.

Meanwhile Quigley had all sorts of bumps, some of them about the diameter of quarters. One on the front of his left shoulder particularly stood out and on the Monday before we were to leave, I was examining it and realized it was matted hair which fell out as I touched it leaving a swelling that, while much smaller than mine, looked very much like it, complete with the red spot at the center. Fearing it might do as Stu’s had done, we called the vet on Wednesday and got Q in. No problem, and we could use the same steroid on him that Stu used. But it took up a lot of time.

Anyway, work responsibilities did not allow us to leave for San Diego until about 4:45pm Thursday. Then after about an hour on the road, Quigley acted like he HAD to get out of the car and go to the bathroom, but once we stopped he just walked around and smelled things. We encountered  two border patrol stops, one of which took about half an hour to get through. We also drove through a massive cloud of flying insects (termites?) that nearly occluded our windshield and coated our grill with smashed insect bodies. And, being unfamiliar with the route, we almost ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere some time after midnight.

But we made it, checked in to the hotel which took pets and crashed. The next day my son and his fiancee took us to breakfast, then to Coronado Island for a walk and finally to the dog beach there which is situated right at the beginning of the  Naval base’s air field. Two Navy jets (I think they’re F-18’s) came in to land just as we were arriving, coming over us super close. I was going bananas (I love military aircraft) and my son caught a couple of photos with his phone for me. (since we forgot the camera)

As for the dog beach, Quigley found a friend, ran and played in the surf and was even caught from behind by a wave that dropped completely over him. I was alarmed, but he emerged unphased, intent on catching up to  his new (female) friend who had not been caught by the wave and was still running up the beach.

It was a fun day. Here’s another picture of the jet, complete with vapor trails from its wingtips:

Navy jet 1cropped