Recently the starter went out in my Land Cruiser, named Jenny. There is some other work that needs to be done as well so, after a late night drop at the shop, I prepared myself for a conversation with the mechanic that could’ve gone in any direction. At least I thought I had prepared.
It was late morning the next day when the shop manager – we’ll call him Tom – got ahold of me. It seemed the best-case scenario worked as Tom informed me that, indeed, all we needed to get into travel shape was, in fact, a starter. He could drop one in that afternoon and Jenny’d be on the road by dinner. Easy day, it seemed, until he asked for my contact info. I was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, coffee in hand, rattling off my personals, when Tom interrupted, “Wait a minute, what is your email address? Did you say ‘grahamcombat’?”
I had already given it to him once but now he was questioning, asking again. So I started to spell it, again, when he cut me off, “No, I got it. I get it,” he said, “but, what do you do?” And so it began, one of the most not-having-anything-to-do-with-the-original-reason-I-called phone calls that I have had in a while.
I started to explain, succinctly I thought, what it is that I do for those that I do it for, and as I finished, Tom says, “Cool. I’m a member of a club that gets together and trains in tactics and shooting and stuff…we learn military tactics and practice clearing houses and stuff.”
“Why?” I said. Curious.
So Tom explains. Says they are a good-sized group that gets together and does tactics training. Talks a bit about active shooters and terrorism and the war. Talks a bit about the need for training, for him, in his own life. As I listen it sounds similar to quite a few conversations that I have had before: just a guy, or gal, looking to get answers that might save their life one day. And then he says, “we do a lot of stuff from Ranger battalions”, and I just couldn’t go any further.
“Why?” I said. Baffled.
So Tom elaborates. Says he has a family, a couple of little kids, a house, the typical kinds of situations and responsibilities that we all collectively understand. As I listen it sounds similar to quite a few conversations that I have had before. But I can’t let this one go. I can’t let this conversation pass – however shallow Tom and I may have been in our depth in passing the time as he enters keystrokes into his computer – I just can’t let this myth perpetuate.
“Do you have a wife, Tom?” I ask, “and kids?” He answers quickly with a “yep” to both as I get to the point. “Are they Rangers, Tom?” and as I say it I can hear the keystrokes stop in the background, as he repeats my question in his mind – are they rangers? “Because if your wife isn’t a Ranger, Tom, or your little kids aren’t Rangers, then why the fuck are you using Ranger tactics?” I’ve written it here as a question…but then, as now, it feels more like a statement. As I listen to Tom’s silence it sounds similar to quite a few conversations that I have had before.
A United States Army Ranger is the most highly trained and capable direct action raider the world has ever known. Military special operations units have specific specialties and missions, and they train extensively to be successful within those environments. The Army devotes extensive resources to The Regiment specifically to “maintain exceptional proficiency, experience and readiness” so it can, to fulfill a portion of their creed, “gallantly show the world” their fighting skills. I have a hard time accepting the notion that Tom – or any of us, including me – has resources comparable to that. And I wasn’t going to end the conversation with Tom by letting it go unsaid. It is one of the most important principles I learned: know your limitations.
Tom is just like me, and I am just like Tom. I am alone. I am a fighting element of 1. Like most, I don’t need to learn how Rangers tackle a tactical situation, I need to learn, and then refine, how I – a man with a wife and a family – tackle tactical situations. It becomes a different template when there is just one gun in the fight. I am breacher. I am medic. I am sniper. I am driver. I am both point and rear. I am security. It is only me. Accepting this helps me acknowledge one of the most important principles I know: no one is coming to save you.
It is my responsibility and my responsibility alone to fix and finish threats to me and mine. So I have learned and refined one-man clears. I have learned comprehensive medical skills for combat trauma. I have learned combatives that finish fights quickly. I have learned weapons skills that help me address problems from near and far, and big to small. I have learned offensive vehicle skills. I have learned how to maximize myself in the darkness. And learning these skills reinforces one of the most important principles I practice: I am the master of my own destiny.
You set yourself up for success. Do the things that put you in a position to control your fate. Awareness and mindset are practices, they are habits. Act. Do. Actions. Doing. Jung said “you are what you do, not what you say you will do”.
Photo of Jenny at work