In Transition: Time and the Transitioning Warrior

As I approach six months of civilian puke life, I thought some self-reflection might be in order.

I’d heard of men having trouble transitioning out of the military and I couldn’t quite fathom the issue. I would now have plenty of time to square everyone else away, get the family up to standard, maybe improve the foxhole a bit. I’d have so much time, I’d likely have to go to 2-a-day PT.

I could practically hear myself getting even more jacked!

Could I still drink Rip-It as a civilian?

Approaching Retirement

Ami and I didn’t exactly waltz across the finish line.

Our reality was a bit different from what I’ve perceived to be the norm. Usually, the man desires to continue to serve and it is at the behest of the spouse that he reluctantly resigns or retires. She just cannot take it anymore—the pace, the optempo, the uncertainty.

For us, it was the opposite. Ami implored me to stay in.

“You’ll make a horrible civilian,” she advised. 

“How hard can it be?”

Up until the end, she held out hope that I’d reconsider and remain in the service not realizing that the ship had sailed over a year prior when I announced my intentions to retire to my boss. My subsequent evaluations reflected this decision. At that point, retirement became imminent.

How I See Time

I see time in rectangles on an Outlook training calendar. I do.

It’s impossible for me to see it any other way.

As I consider the coming weeks and days, I visualize a calendar with rectangles on it annotating what tasks I’d be accomplishing during any given period of time. Where the blocks overlap, that connotes a friction point of over commitment that must be reconciled. White space, space not covered by a rectangle, designates “free time” and must be fenced with a rectangle labeled, “Block”, if I desire it to remain “free”.

Gotta protect the white space.

I served nearly 23 years in the military, really 22 and a half if you consider the sham time following my final deployment including block leave—thanks Uncle Sugar! Add in 4 years of military college and I have 26 and a half years of militarization!

My Reality

Some men retire and continue to dabble.

They join the National Guard or Reserves and play Army on the weekend. In my circle, many folks retire and become a mercenary, working for one of the numerous firms that provide para-military service overseas while affording the government the ability to tout lower troop levels. The pay is great but no thank you.

When I hung up my boots, I hung them up for good.

I don’t even have a 9 to 5.

As the pastor of a small church, I have no imposed structure to my life. I am completely free to do whatever I like. I have a few external demands here and there, but by and large, I am unregulated. I went from complete structure—most days in the Army, I would be booked from start to finish—to a complete lack of structure.

So what could I do but…impose structure?

I created an Outlook calendar for myself and began getting things together.

I generated a weekly battle rhythm for the two other elders in our church, one meeting with my worship leader to synchronize the message with the worship, another with all three to conduct an AAR of last week’s service and finalize the details for this week’s service.

I put myself on a PT schedule.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the rectangles returned…and with it, stress.

I began to miss some requirements. My calendar began to look just like it did previously. I began to have to routinely reschedule events. So let me clarify.

I was getting stressed about missing self-imposed requirements that had absolutely no bearing at all on anyone or anything external to me.

Seems reasonable enough.

Time Management

I’ll proclaim it.

I’m an expert at time management.

Years ago, I discovered the value of time and I began to pour myself into the study of time management. I consumed books on efficiency—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People remains near the top of my list. I tried different methods and techniques. I actually resisted digital calendar synchronization initially as I am, by nature, an analog type of dude. However, once I realized the power of synchronizing my calendar with other people and organizations that have bearing on how I spend my time, I was sold.

Routine became the engine of time management.

“I’ve got a 95% efficiency on my morning routine,” I once boasted to a colleague.

For years, I honed my morning routine, balancing the termination of my rest period with an orderly, productive, and synchronized transition into the day’s activities. My morning routine included daily hygiene, in a prescribed order of course, fueling the machine for PT, getting dressed, a devotion time of Bible reading and prayer, culminating with a hands-free walk to my truck where I already had my bag and uniform pre-positioned.

I discovered that preparation the night before was absolutely critical to a successful morning routine.

I tweaked it for years, always adjusting and seeking to squeeze more out of the morning. If I shave before I shower, I can save a bit of time by rinsing in the shower. If I stack my clothes in order of putting them on, underwear on top, I can expedite getting dressed. I found intense satisfaction in being able to get dressed in absolute darkness without waking my wife—my clothes in the prescribed order on my dresser.

Walking into the kitchen to the smell of the pre-programmed coffee pot already boiling brings me absolute delight.

I at the exact same breakfast for years.

Once I find something I like and that contributes to my overall efficiency and effectiveness, I stick with it.

My wife thinks I’m a bit of a psycho.

Christ and Time

Do you know that not all people see time the same as I do…unfathomable.

Whereas I see rectangles on an Outlook calendar, Ami sees time as a glob, a nebulous pool of opportunity that she manages from an inherent priority list (IPL?—whew, that’s better). I struggle to articulate her non-process process.

She is one of the busiest people I know, but operates with very little in the way of obvious structure. And she will admit that her technique is not without its flaws. She is frequently challenged by punctuality, but what she has is flexibility and priority.

If one of our girls needs to talk, she will stop and talk as long as they need to.

If someone has a need from the clothing closet, she will forgo all other demands to meet that need.

If a foster kid shows up in the middle of whatever, she will cease work and go to receive the kid.

How did Jesus see time?

Looking to Scripture I see that most ministry took place in terms of “as they went”, with no planning, gasp! The Holy Spirit placed men and opportunity in front of believers and they saw it for what it was.

Jesus stopped and chatted over a drink of water with a “random” woman at a well. Many Samaritans from the nearby town believed as a result. (John 4) “As he passed by,” Jesus stopped and healed a blind man, changing his life forever. (John 9) Peter and John were on their way to the temple (church) when they stopped and healed and ministered to a lame man. (Acts 3)

They immediately cast aside whatever they had planned for what the Lord had planned.

“But how on earth did they ever get done what they had planned?” 

True Effectiveness

Among other things, I consider myself a life-long learner. In transition, the Lord has impressed upon me some points concerning time.

Not all things that happen must be scheduled to be considered effective. And is effectiveness and efficiency the best Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) when assessing our time management?

Is there a better way to honor God in this?

The other morning, my wife got home from work—she works at night as a nurse in an assisted living facility—and needed attention. She wanted to talk and then she wanted some affection. One of her love languages is touch. She wanted to snuggle.

It wasn’t on my calendar. Instead, I had a long morning of sermon preparation scheduled. She would’ve understood but the Holy Spirit stopped me in my tracks.

And I took a risk…and I lay down and snuggled with my wife.

I accomplished nothing. I achieved no clearly defined goals. I checked nothing off my to-do list…and it was absolutely fantastic, the best thing that I accomplished that day. Unplanned intimacy with my wife, how could I have ever planned for something better?

Maybe I’m getting the hang of this civilian thing after all!

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Godless Army, Thoughtless Army—the Death of Mission Command

The second and third order effects of the widespread godlessness across the ranks resonates in a surprising way.

German Trust

In 1939, the German Army, the vaunted Wehrmacht, sliced through the bulk of Poland in just over a month, making short work of the defenders. Less than a year later, they would accomplish the same in France, defeating the well-prepared defenders in less than two months.

Much has been made of the combined arms maneuver capability of the Wehrmacht, of the concept of Blitzkrieg (Lightning War), and the quality of German weaponry though France actually possessed greater quantities of artillery and armor. How then had the Germans been so successful?

It was the concept of Auftragstaktik, mission orders, that fueled the agility of the Wehrmacht, enabling them to outmaneuver their enemies and subsequently overwhelm them. The Prussians developed mission orders after defeat at the hands of Napoleon.

The revolutionary concept involves the dissemination of the mission, and more specifically the intent, to the lowest level. Inform subordinate commanders what your intent is, what effects are desired, resource them appropriately, and allow them to express initiative and figure out how to accomplish the mission.

Mission orders/command relies greatly upon trust between the lower and higher echelons as much as the competency and dependability of the subordinate leaders. The initiative demanded by the concept starkly opposes previously rigorous and hierarchical implementation of orders, whereby the senior commander dictates to the greatest extent possible the actions of his subordinate units.

Mission orders found a home in American military doctrine as Mission Command.

Trust, the Foundation of Mission Orders

Arab armies lose battles and wars because of a lack of agility as they cling to hierarchy. They have no bearing for subordinate leaders, for sergeants, and as such, they quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the superior mobility and agility of armies executing mission orders as fuel for combined arms maneuver. See the Six-Day War or even the Yom Kippur War for verification.

It is the Arabic religion, Islam, and its subsequent devaluation of life which impedes the operational agility fueled by mission orders. Mission orders relies upon trust and a fundamental understanding of the value of each human life and mind.

I may be a General, but my value to the mission is not greater than that of the squad leader. In fact, I could say that the summation of the value of the squad leaders, in any conflict, yields the decisive balance. A religion such as Islam suppresses initiative and ingenuity, essential aspects of mission orders.

Conversely, Christianity frees the mind, fomenting the necessary trust in subordinates that mission orders demands. Christianity insists upon the dignity and value of each man, their intrinsic worth as the Image of God. God is no respecter of persons and as such all stand equal before Him.

Germany developed mission orders before World War One and it was firmly entrenched in German doctrine prior to Nazification and their collective descent into madness. It persisted in their doctrine which they implemented with remarkable efficiency.

Interestingly, it is Hitler’s departure from mission orders that inevitably doomed the Reich.

By July 1941, the Wehrmacht was closing on Moscow. Inexplicably, Hitler directed them to pause and deviate south, overruling his military commanders who argued for an immediate push to the Soviet capital. This ‘summer pause’ severely hampered the offensive as the Germans became bogged down in Kiev after encircling and capturing some 400,000 Red Army soldiers. From there to Stalingrad, the tide of the war on the eastern front turned against the Germans and they would never again regain the initiative, all as the Fuhrer violated the basic tenant that had enabled the Wehrmacht to be as successful as it had been.

American Trust

The American military thrives on mission command, the Americanized version of mission orders.

The initiative and ingenuity of subordinate leaders drives the operational agility and audacity of the combined arms team. At least, that’s how it is supposed to work.

The SOF community executes mission command routinely and effectively.

Early in my SOF career, I remember informing my roommate that I was taking a handful of aircraft down to Key West for a few weeks for some internal training. A commander in the Division, he could only shake his head at both the resourcing and the latitude to train my soldiers as needed, the operational freedom afforded by the command.

This has persisted over nearly two decades of persistent conflict though I observed more than a few battalion commanders who felt the need to direct platoon leaders on the objective via the radio.

          “01 this is 11, Building 1 secure, moving to Building 2.

          “Negative, secure Building 3 and conduct TQ prior to assaulting Building 2.

          “Roger.

Subordinate leaders executing Mission Command destroyed ISIS in northern Iraq.

On my second-to-last deployment to Kurdistan, I noted that a darkened room of 4 or 5 Fire Support NCO’s slaughtered thousands of enemy fighters. Meanwhile, we dispatched a handful of SOF NCO’s to establish the SDF (Syrian Defense Force) which made a decisive and audacious push from the north, critical to the fall of ISIS.

As we hosted the Theater Commanding General, he remarked with surprise that not a single officer was on sight overseeing the effort with the SDF. As a conventional officer, this level of trust seemed unprecedented and possibly even reckless to him.

While serving in Division, I used to field phone calls from general officers like this,

          “Hey Brad, General so-and-so, I noticed on your report that Specialist Snuffy in 1st battalion missed two physical therapy appointments but he’s still on profile. What’s the deal with that?”

          “Sir, I’m not sure. I’ll have to get back to you.”

At some point, untrusted subordinates become uncomfortable with being trusted.

My CSM and I decided to take our battalion to the field for a week with no tents, trucks, etc.,—a big deal for an aviation unit—just what you could carry on your back. I vividly recall a conversation.

          “Sir, we can’t fit all of our cold weather kit and our chow in our rucksacks.”

          “You guys figure it out.”

          “Is there a packing list?”

          “Bring what you need.”

          “Where should we set up camp at?”

          “Wherever you like, just be ready to train each day.”

The sergeants wanted to be told how to execute. It was what they had grown accustomed to.

As the Army has become increasingly paranoid about readiness and answering to its civilian masters about the affliction of soldiers, leaders have increasingly abandoned the mission command that our very doctrine centers around. This abandonment has its roots in trust, or lack thereof.

Leaders, fearful of failure and reprisal, simply do not trust subordinates at some level. Now, obvious exceptions exist.

My last boss was an intense mission command leader. I would go weeks without speaking to him and then start to feel guilty and give him a call to let him know we were still doing stuff, still executing his intent.

“No problem, Brad. I’ve been keeping track.”

It has seemingly not occurred to some of the senior leaders that accepting a bit of risk on behalf of junior leaders actually bolsters the organization as it strengthens trust and increases the competence of those same junior leaders.

Mission command functions best in a climate of trust yet micromanagement permeates the Army, at least the part of the Army that I have observed. I blame the darkening of minds and the abandonment of true knowledge for secular solutions that actually provide very little in the way of value.

Godlessness foments mistrust at every level, anathema to the lifeblood of our Army, mission command.

Brave Rifles: The Theology of War

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

Godless Army—Thoughtless Army

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

Godless Army—Thoughtless Army

America will lose its next war.

This was the conviction of a former boss of mine. The force, though well-equipped and well-funded, lacks heart. Commanders have no time to prepare their soldiers for battle as they tarry with administration and deal with the affliction of soldiers. Present skirmishes aside, the force dallies with much minutiae and political correctness as our soldiers self destruct and our enemies gather. We may continue in the low intensity conflicts of yesterday but someday, someone’s gonna rise up and punch us in the mouth. How will we respond?

The godlessness that has spread across the force has introduced another plague, thoughtlessness.

Thoughtlessness pervades.

And because thoughtlessness pervades, we scarcely scratch the surface of whichever issue and soldiers continue to die in their affliction.

An Indication

I sat in stunned silence, crestfallen. “That was it…?”

Our commanding general had assembled all the company grade commanders and higher for some professional development which I definitely looked forward to. I have always loved to learn. I have always loved to read and I love academically rigorous discussion. I arrived at the assembly with no small measure of anticipation.

The subject was…driver’s training.

Our division had experienced a rash of vehicle accidents and the division leadership attributed it to an improper understanding of what a driver’s training program should look like. Several hundred of us sat for a couple of hours while the Division Master Driver explained the standard to us.

“Okay, that was helpful, I guess.”

A particular colonel stood to speak.

At some point, a first among equals emerges. In my circle of battalion commanders, there was one officer who everyone already knew would be a Brigade Commander and eventually a general. It wasn’t me! Well, the same was true of the Brigade Commanders and he had my attention.

This was it. I was literally poised, pen at the ready, prepared for deep wisdom, enlightenment.

     “I like to think of it as the five ‘T’s’,” he started with.

          Okay.

     “You have to have the troops available to do the work.”

          Yes.

     “You have to have time to do the work.”

          That’s right.

     “You need the training for the soldiers to do the work.”

          Uh huh.

     “You definitely need the tools.”

          Say it.

     “And most of all…”

          This was it!

“You need the task. You have to have the task. These are what has worked for me, the five ‘T’s of vehicle maintenance.”

Again, I was crestfallen. Here was this man’s chance to impart wisdom and what he had for us was…’the five T’s’? 

I sat stunned, amazed at the surface-level, shallow nature of this thought. Now, this officer was unquestionably highly intelligent and extremely well-educated and I’m sure he participated in frequent instances of deep, higher-order thought. But this instance highlighted, in my mind, a rampant issue throughout much of the Army leadership that I observed: the absence of deep thought or higher order cognition or at least the open display thereof.

Of Transformed Minds

Christianity is a thinking man’s religion. The Bible calls the believer to be transformed by the renewing of his mind. (Romans 12:2) God calls us to question, to consider. If you truly believe what you say you believe, the blinders have finally been removed, the veil lifted. Your mind is no longer darkened and enslaved to sin, free to think clearly.

The believer is a thinking man.

If you ever find yourself doubting this aspect of Christianity, secure a copy of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ—I’ve never actually met anyone who finished it—or spend some time in Romans chapters 9 through 11.

Thinking itself, reason and intellect, are a function of being created in the Image of God. God has given us the capacity for cognition, the capacity to reason, and the Christian is to implement it, to think.

Of Darkened Minds

After our second suicide, one of the senior division leaders called my boss who was deployed at the time, “Jim, we need to stop these suicides!”

My boss was speechless. How do you respond to something like this?

“Well we have, Sir. It’s been two days since the last. They are definitely stopped.”

As we confine ourselves to the secular, as we examine the affliction of the force, we are left with nothing to do but treat symptoms, or attempt to treat symptoms. We may have no real discussion of issues and solutions. 

Our division maintained a council that I was a member of as a brigade-level leader. The council sought to promote the health of the force and the community, and it consisted of several working groups. There was the suicide prevention working group, the crime prevention working group, the health and welfare working group, and the sexual assault working group among others. At each meeting, the group lead would present the status of their program, give updates, entertain questions, and perhaps discuss the way ahead.

The sexual assault working group always infuriated me.

Most recently, they discussed a motorcycle ride to bring awareness to sexual assault. This spawned much discussion despite the fact that this will likely not prevent a single sexual assault. Did they actually think that the drunken soldier alone in his barracks room with his passed out drunken female friend would ignore his erection and think to himself, “Oh yeah, the motorcycle ride…I shouldn’t do this.”

Please forgive my sarcasm, but this type of activity does nothing to truly address the affliction of soldiers as born out by the facts. Sexual assault, if anything, becomes a greater issue each year despite the commands frantic efforts to display otherwise. Things like the motorcycle ride allow the command to say, “We are really getting after sexual assault,” which never fails to frustrate me.

At the monthly Sexual Assault Review Board (SARB), the Division Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) expressed a similar frustration, that they had been implementing the Army SHARP program for over three years and the trends continued upward. Young male soldiers continued to assault young female soldiers while under the influence of alcohol.

Unable to contain myself, I raised my hand and mildly suggested that as long as young men and young women were essentially living together with access to alcohol then there would be an issue. Why not segregate the young men and young women’s living quarters? The silence was deafening. I looked around the room to a few nodding heads but mostly blank looks. The Commanding General dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand and continued with the meeting.

Segregating the sexes would, in essence, acknowledge that there is a difference in the sexes…a thought that runs contrary to prevailing secular notions.

As we remain confined to the secular, we may only turn the red bubbles green.

The Thoughtless Charts

Charts! I can make some charts now.

The Army loves to codify things into charts, and over the last several years, stoplight charts became de rigueur. Each issue is denoted by a bubble and if it’s red, that means the issue is not being handled. It’s still a problem. If it’s amber, then it’s being worked. Green is good. The issue is addressed, no more problem. With a quick glance, the senior commander can pass instant judgement on a unit based upon the predominance of color.

The more a commander can brief green on his charts, the better for all involved.

At some point, the green bubble becomes the goal…aside from addressing the actual issue.

It is not as if leaders do not care or understand. Almost any military leader will acknowledge frustration with the approach and the limitations of programs. It’s just that they are confined to the secular and as such, have no other option than to focus on the bubbles, particularly because their boss wants green bubbles…as does his boss.

The Army standard for readiness is 10% or less, meaning that less than 10% of the assigned soldiers can be non-deployable. Our division solved this problem be declaring our standard to be 8%.

Genius!

By meeting our own internal standard, we effectively always met the Army standard though it changed nothing in reality other than the integrity of commanders forced to bend facts and manipulate data to obtain the requisite 8%. It reminded me of the band in This is Spinal Tap, talking about their speakers going to 11.

          “Well it’s one louder, isn’t it.

          “Why don’t you just make 10 louder and make that the top number?”

          “…these go to 11.

Again, the facts on the ground never once changed, just the color of the bubbles.

As we fought the war of the bubbles, the fact that soldiers actually languish in their affliction became secondary. If the bubble was the right color, all was right with the world. Never mind that soldiers continue to self-destruct independent of the color of the bubble, a side effect of pervasive thoughtlessness generated by an even more pervasive godlessness. 

For them, the bubble is always red.

The Brave Rifles Series 

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

THE 413 REPORT

If you loved this article, and would like to learn more about foster and adoption care, and to stay up to date on our projects, missions, and programs, as well as the release of Bradford's third book, Brave Rifles, please sign up for our Newsletter. The 413 Project is made up of common people empowering and serving others to accomplish an uncommon good.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

The Love of My Brothers—a Memorial Day Reflection

Everything is tainted these days.

Everything is corrupt.

A potpourri of dissonance floods our collective conscience. Some idolize veterans, making heroes of all who serve. Some equate the flag and the pledge with righteousness. Others find it necessary to desecrate that which others hold sacred. Still others denounce it all, scorning all displays of social, political, and even civic activity.

I ask you to set those things aside, however briefly…gaze upon the heart of Christ.

Ramadi

Michael Monsoor was confronted with a decision…him or his friends.

Ramadi, Iraq in 2006 was a nasty place. Al Qaeda, local insurgents, and straight up criminals controlled much of the city as the troop surge implemented by President Bush was still a year away, along with the Sunni Awakening of local tribes who would weary of bloodshed.

With temperatures approaching 100 degrees on a sweltering Friday, September 29th, SEAL Monsoor, three fellow SEAL snipers, and three Iraqi Army soldiers occupied a rooftop during a gunfight in downtown Ramadi. A local mosque broadcast a continuous call to arms as insurgents flooded the area.

The SEALs found themselves in a fight for their lives.

Monsoor, positioned near a stairwell, engaged the enemy. The others were spread out across the rooftop when it happened.

Grenade!

An insurgent below lobbed a grenade onto the roof, striking Monsoor in the chest. It fell to the ground at his feet. Monsoor, crouching next to the stairwell offering immediate cover, instead dove onto the grenade absorbing the blast with his body.

His friends, though wounded, lived. Monsoor, though evacuated immediately, died within an hour.

Michael Monsoor saw the imminence of death and in a split second, a fraction of time, made a decision that had to have been made in his mind, in his heart, and really in his soul some time before. There was simply not time to decide.

At some point, he had already decided.

He loved his friends more than himself.

Jerusalem

The scribes confront Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28)

Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy, responds,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (verse 30)

And,

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (verse 31)

Jesus tells us that the entirety of the Law can be summarized by these two commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor…with all you have. Who then is your neighbor? It is whoever God places before you…your friends, your family, your co-workers, your enemies even and in the case of Michael Monsoor…his teammates, his brothers-in-arms.

I have no idea of Michael Monsoor’s spiritual status, but on that dusty rooftop in Ramadi, Iraq on September 29th, 2006, he displayed the heart of Christ in loving his brother more than himself.

Laghman

Dennis Weichel knew who his neighbor was…and he loved him more than himself.

In March 2012, in eastern Afghanistan, the 29-year-old Army specialist was part of a convoy of MRAP’s (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles), 16-ton heavily armored vehicles designed to shield soldiers from IED’s, the weapon of choice of most insurgents.

Kids were in the road.

The soldiers dismounted the vehicles to shoe the children from the road. As they boarded up and began to move, one little boy ran back into the path of the hulking MRAPs to retrieve spent shell casings that he might later sell.

Weichel reacted, racing to pull the young boy from the path of the MRAPs. Just in time, he shoved the boy unharmed from the path but was himself run over, mortally wounded.

He died a short time later.

Weichel was survived by his own son, two daughters, and a fiance’.

“He would have done it for anybody,” said a friend, “That was the way he was. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.”

Providence, Rhode Island

The Warrior Spirit, the true Warrior Spirit, not the one of fiction and pop culture, comes from Christ.

The fruit of the Warrior Spirit is a willing self-sacrifice, not to take life, but to give.

What would possess a man to sacrifice as such, a father. Perhaps it was exactly that, thoughts of his own young son, seared into his soul, that would compel him, without hesitation, to protect another young boy.

His own son, Nicholas, wrote a letter to him in his death.

“I really, really miss you,” read a portion of that letter. “I promise I will protect my sisters, Hope and Madison, like you told me to. You are my hero. I know you are in heaven watching over me. You are the brightest star.”

Yusufiyah

Wake up the night crews.

This command set in motion the chain of events that led to the death of two noble warriors, Major Matthew Worrell and CW5 Jamie Weeks.

There exists a sacred trust between gunship pilots and the ground forces they protect. Nowhere was this more evident than in the special operations community. The gunship pilots, as both angels of death and ministers of life, unflinchingly place themselves in harm’s way to rain steel upon the heads of those who would seek to harm their brothers on the ground.

“God will judge our enemies, we’ll arrange the meeting,”—an ominous motto of one such organization.

On May 14th, 2006—Mother’s Day—Major Worrell and CW5 Weeks were awakened from a deep slumber to the bright desert heat and their comrades in danger. A wicked gunfight had been stirred up in Yusufiyah, Iraq, the heart of the Triangle of Death. Several of their brothers had already been shot down. Out of ammunition, they limped their battle-damaged aircraft to the nearest base.

Matt and Jamie, the other crew, and the liaison officer did a quick huddle planeside and within minutes, they were kitted up, bringing the aircraft on-line. Confusion greeted their ears as the sounds of battle emanated across multiple nets.

At some point, they turned their aircraft west…toward the sound of the guns.

They ran to the sound of the guns.

Into the shadow of death they stormed, into the hornet’s nest. Their brothers were in the fight, with no gunships overhead. Without hesitation, in the full fury and righteous anger of a brother defending his brother from harm. With full assurance, fueled by the love of their brothers, they blazed into battle.

Within one pass of arriving over the objective, an insurgent round found its home and blew these valiant warriors from the sky.

Clarksville

The Bearded One once exhorted us at SERE School, “You gotta love your brothers!”

With eyes blazing like hellfire and brimstone, this bearded giant, the most intimidating man I’d ever met, implored us…to love. Not to fight, but to love. And for that love, for the love of my brothers, I would fight. For the love of my brothers, I would give of my own life.

Matt Worrell left behind a young wife and two young sons. Jamie left a wife and four daughters. For love.

They loved their brothers more than themselves. This is the Warrior Spirit, this is the Spirit of Christ. They loved their brothers all the way up to and including their own death and if we could ask them, any of them, I’m sure they’d do it again, with no hesitation. Perhaps they’d want to go back and love on their wife and sons, their daughters, a bit more when they had the chance, but I’m sure they’d not relent.

They died that a brother may live, and for this, I honor them this day, all of them.

A Memorial

Set aside your politics.

Set aside your nationalism. Set aside your obstinate resistance to anything righteous. Refuse patriotism in this moment and see.

See love, Christ-like love.

Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

There is no greater love than a man who would lay down his life for his friends. Our lives are the most precious thing we have been given, our very breath a gift of the Almighty, an undeserved grace. The hero willingly gives of his life, not to take life, but that others may live.

When I meditate on the sacrifice of men like Monsoor and Weeks, Worrell and Weichel, I stand in awe. Again, I have no idea if these men were of Christ or not and I’ll make the necessary caveat that apart from a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, all men stand condemned.

Scripture affirms to us that we, Christians, can be known by the fruit of our lives. Did we bear fruit? We will be known, most of all, by our love, our love for our brothers.

Just as these men gave their lives, so too did our Lord Jesus, saying this is how much I love you, as He stretched out His arms and died…for the love of His brothers, the love of His friends, and amazingly, while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8)

In contemplating the life of these men, the love of these men, let us consider the source of such love, the risen Lord Jesus and let us ultimately turn to Him.

Let that be our tribute this Memorial Day. More than fitting don’t you think?

The Brave Rifles Series 

Brave Rifles: The Problem of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: The Danger of a Godless Army

Brave Rifles: Sex in a Godless Army (part 1)

Sex in a Godless Army (part 2): The Illusion of Gender Equality

Sex in a Godless Army (part 3): Do We Really Want Equality?

Affliction in a Godless Army: The Sins of Generals

Affliction in a Godless Army: An Army of Junkies

Affliction in a Godless Army: Suicide in the Heavy Rain

Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).

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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen

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