In Transition: Veteran, It’s Not All About You (me)

Maybe you’ve bled, literally.

For years, maybe longer, you’ve sacrificed.

You’ve toiled countless days under the bright heat, trudged the jagged Konar, patrolled the filthy Baghdad streets, never knowing when death might call. You’ve eaten dirt and eaten like a king, squeezed in a few minutes sleep on the floor of some foul-smelling crapatorium, all while being crushed to death by a thousand pounds of miscellaneous kit under the harsh desert sun.

You’ve sweat and wept and bled and taken a dump under the most impossible of circumstances. You’ve lost. Friends maybe. Any lingering innocence, certainly. A few poignant moments haunt your conscience—an unspoken word, an ill-fated decision, the unmistakable smell of charred flesh.

The blood-soaked sand forever testifies.

You’ve served.

You’ve given.

Now the system is telling you it’s time to receive.

You lay down your arms to a bevy of voices trumpeting the consideration you’ve earned, bestowing honor and praise…and benefit. You merit special handling.

I affirm this. I affirm your earned stripes. I’ll buy you a beer in Valhalla, if there were such a place, but the mindset troubles me. There is a prevailing attitude among many(some) veterans that betrays the attitude that shaped their service from the beginning.

It is an overwhelming desire to be served.

I’ve given, now it’s time to receive, no matter what it may cost another.

A Right Heart

Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, details true, biblical love.

Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

In other words, love, true biblical love, involves sacrifice, putting your own needs and requirements after those of another. Paul, curiously concludes this section with this, one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

In other words, the business of a man is to love…to love in a biblical way, to love sacrificially, to love selflessly. The way of a child is to issue demands, to impose requirements, to place self ahead of others.

Paul exhorts the men of the church to…be men, to act like men, to love like men.

What if we exhorted one another to the same, even after leaving the profession of arms…especially after leaving the profession of arms.

Another Look

Allow me to level the bubble.

Your wife, your children, they’ve sacrificed as you have…possibly more.

My oldest daughter seemed to get it the worst. Every year, despite my best efforts, I’d be deployed on her birthday. Year in and year out, more of the same. She’d cry a bit and then get over it. She’s a good army kid.

The last time was the worst.

It must’ve been the third or fourth year in a row when I found out. Once more I’d be deployed on her birthday. I couldn’t believe it! With dread, I sought her out to break the news. Expecting the usual tears, what I got was infinitely worse, a shrug and a slight, sad smile, “That’s okay, Dad. I understand.”

Ouch!

I hated deployments, every one of them, every time. I longed to be home with my family. I resented the lost moments. I begrudged the dreadful months. I hated every single day away. Every. Single. Day.

Except I didn’t.

You know.

          “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

                    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

The higher call gifted me a reason. My brothers delivered me a purpose. Engaging the enemies of righteousness in battle drove my ambition. I trembled at the prospect, enamored of our audacity, descending from the darkness alongside my brothers-in-arms onto the unsuspecting heads of wicked men, standing as sword and shield against the tyranny of oppression.

My wife was left behind. Period.

The Tightest Grip

“Hold the rope.”

This was William Carey’s plea to Andrew Fuller before embarking upon his mission trip to India. As the father of modern missions, Carey’s plea was for support. He would go. Would Fuller and his church support him, prayerfully and tangibly?

She’s held the rope.

While you’ve sucked down the desert sand, she’s cleaned a thousand runny noses, wiped a thousand butts. She sat up all night with sick kids and tear-streaked cheeks knowing she had to rise early the next morning. Exhausted, she put on a smile each morning, not wanting the kids to see her struggle, only to sit with her head in her hands the second they left for the bus stop.

And she wondered about you. Okay, she didn’t wonder. She agonized. 

What were you doing? Were you okay? Were you safe? Who were you with? Why hasn’t she heard from you in awhile?

Did you meet somebody?

She had to hold it together, hold the rope. She had no other option. Maybe she put her life, her hopes, her dreams on hold…for you. Maybe she did it gladly. Maybe she did it begrudgingly, but she did it.

Must she do it once more?

A New Look

Conflict beckons. Bitterness knocks. Families disintegrate.

Many warriors struggle off the battlefield and perhaps it’s because of the message.

We’ve trained them that they have a right to feel disenfranchised. We’ve communicated to them that they have a reason to misbehave, that it’s normal, it’s okay. And most of all, the system trains them to feel entitled, to desire to receive. We’ve taught them to exchange the spirit of love and service for a regard for self. We’ve taught them that they are the center of concern, the focus of affairs.

I’m convinced that many of the problems our veterans face stem from this clash of intersecting and competing attitudes.

Let us reshape the narrative.

Quit emasculating the veteran and empower him. Exhort him to continue to serve, to continue to give, as able. Let us reject the notion that he is automatically damaged and incapable, requiring special consideration.

Consider your family, your wife.

Instead of focusing on your struggle, on your affliction, on your needs, see this as an opportunity to be strong for her, an opportunity to love her unconditionally, to put yourself in the backseat and let her reach for her dreams and goals. Consider this opportunity to serve once more.

What if, upon sheathing your sword, your call was to lift her up, to empower her to become who she always wanted to be? What if, upon laying down your guns, your wife and your children became your mission?

Would you be satisfied with that?

Should we shelf our heart for service just because we’ve removed the uniform?

We must reject being shaped into a caricature of who we once were by forces concerned with political expediency and social leverage.

Noble warrior, with all urgency I plead with you to take your turn at the rope. They deserve it. Indeed, they always have.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

In Transition: I wanted a mission…

and for my sins, they gave me one. (CPT Willard, Saigon, 1969)

Clarksville…shoot, I’m still only in Clarksville.

Each time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the desert. I hardly said a word to my wife…until she told me to take out the trash and play with the kids. When I was there, in the desert, I wanted to be here, but now all I can think about is the desert…and what’s for dinner.

I’ve been here six months now…retired…waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I spend in this house I get weaker. Every minute the muj squats in the desert, he gets stronger.

Each time I look around, the walls move in a little tighter…the kids scream a little louder…my pants get a bit tighter…

First Call

I always felt called to be a soldier, even before I knew Who was calling me.

As a young boy, I played war in the woods, shot bottle rockets at my friends, and led legions of imaginary men into battle. I bayoneted bad guys, crushed my enemies, saw them driven before me, and heard the lamentations of the women…well, in my mind anyway.

Between sports, my play existed in recreating battle scenes and heroic last stands, fighting robots, Cobra, Russians, or whoever I deemed worthy of battle.

As a teenager, while my friends decorated their walls with rock n’ roll pinup girls, I had a single poster bearing an image of Eisenhower, Lee, MacArthur and Grant. I liked pinup girls, don’t get me wrong, but military service resonated with my soul.

Something about combat drew me…the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the shared sacrifice, maybe the purpose or the mission.

At some point, I graduated from sticks and fireworks to rifles and helicopters. At the age of 22, the nation entrusted me with the lives of 20 or so young men. My first platoon! I exalted in the call. Preparing for war was our mission.

All that changed on September 11th as Al Qaeda handed us a mission… “brought it up like room service,” you might say in your deepest, gravelly Martin Sheen voice. As such, I spent the next 17 years leading men in and out of battle and it was glorious. The crucible of combat, of a shared mission realized, drove my purpose, channeled my existence.

Fighting the bad guys. Defending our nation. Confronting evil. Destroying tyranny. It defined me, combat did, gave me a mission, a mission that resonated with vitality. Who was gonna do it, you? So don’t stand there in your ****ty white uniform and tell me what you think you are entitled too!…sorry, I get carried away.

And then it was gone, leaving me one very important query.

Now what?

A Worthy Call

Every man wants to matter.

I was reminded of the fleeting and fragile nature of life this week. A friend of mine from college died unexpectedly, at the age of 48. He left behind a wife and three kids and his death reinforced Paul’s words to the Ephesians, to make the best use of the time because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:16)

Why are the days evil?

The days are evil because time, if left unspent, will spend itself. If not spent deliberately, time will still pass. And tomorrow, you’re going to wake up and be 40 or 50 or 60 or older, wondering where the days have gone. My 45 years, a mere vapor, attest to this reality, our inevitable march to the grave.

Approaching the end of life, all men must reconcile their legacy. They must answer for themselves a very critical question. Did my existence make a difference to anyone? Was it worthwhile?

Did I even matter at all?

Soldiering gave me many things—direction, structure, education, motivation. Most of all, it gave my life meaning, a purpose that mattered.

A Passing Call

I never wanted to be Joe Paterno.

Joe Pa roamed the Penn State sideline for 45 years! setting the record for most wins by a Division 1 coach (409). 45 years! As long as I have been alive, Paterno held the same job, coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions and the longer he coached, the tighter he seemed to cling to the job.

He came to define Penn State football.

They were inseparable. One could simply not imagine Penn State without Paterno. Unfortunately, the opposite became glaringly true. Without Penn State football, who was Joe Pa?

On November 9th, 2011, due to fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, Joe Paterno lost the defining aspect of his life. He was fired. He died 74 days later, ostensibly due to lung cancer. Yet, I wonder about despair. The thing that had come to define him, Penn State football, had been torn from his life and the disgrace of the scandal threatened to forever tarnish his legacy.

Without this, who was he?

Who could he possibly be?

A Fleeting Call

At some point, you gotta drink the kool aid.

About the time you are eligible for retirement, the Army dangles a sweet promotion in front of you but you gotta buy in. It is this time that you make a call, either all in or not. The upper echelons of the Army demand a “new level of service,” to quote a former commander of mine who attained the second highest rank in all of the military.

At some point, you become a company man, and buy in lock, stock, and barrel.

And they own you, all of you.

I asked a General Officer I worked for once how much control he had over his existence. “About 5%,” he joked, “and that’s an illusion.”

Not that I would’ve qualified for the upper echelons. I was doing decent enough, but did I want to buy in for another decade? And even if I did, at some point, it would still be taken from me, leaving me still to answer…

Who am I?

A New Call

Men need a purpose.

Men need to do, to conquer, to attain, to move, to engage. I joined the military and found my purpose and took great satisfaction in closing with and destroying the enemy in battle, locked at the elbows with my brothers-in-arms.

In this purpose, I found honor. I took pride.

What could I do without it?

Thankfully, in March 2005, God called me to the true fight, the battleground of souls.

In Christ, we find our ultimate mission, an enduring mission, a mission that spans continents and countries, a purpose that supersedes boundaries and borders, a call that endures across epochs and eras.

The battlefield of the soul surpasses the most contested battles in history. Stalingrad, Antietam, Verdun: mere skirmishes compared to the battle for the eternal destiny of all men. Our enemy is not the flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12) He is organized and motivated, showing no quarter to even those claiming neutrality.

It is in serving Christ, loving my wife, discipling my sons, pleading with the lost to be reconciled to God, taking the Gospel to the nations, that some might be saved, it is in this that I find a mission, a purpose that transcends any previous call.

This purpose can never be taken from me. This mission can never diminish or change.

The fields are so white for the harvest, as the workers are so few. Beyond my former call to arms, the newer call, the superior call, it consumes me.

Absent such a call, I’m just not sure what I could do…or who I’d even be.

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

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

FOLLOW THE 413!

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).

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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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