My moment came amidst one of my worst experiences. This specific moment is one that I will never forget.
As a leader, I was very fortunate. I had an awesome group of Soldiers under me. We had every battle drill rehearsed. Every situation we encountered had an immediate reaction. When someone went down, someone else immediately stepped up.
This type of training and rehearsal is automatic. It reduces stress. It removes the thought process and chances for error, you become a single collective machine accomplishing a programmed function. This is a pretty honest description of how I felt sometimes. Truck 1 gets hit, equals truck 2 and 3 move up….establish security, evaluate casualties, report to higher, and so on….
On this night we got hit pretty bad. All of my reactions were so automatic that I do not remember some of them even now. Alot of things happened that night and I am still working on trying to put them into words, but I remember this one moment sooooo clearly that as I think of it now my body will physically react to my thoughts.
I was outside of my vehicle with the injured Soldier. My driver was in charge of my vehicle and had assumed my responsibility of sending reports to higher. The gunner had been on mission with us before, but was not our usual gunner. My driver was preparing a SITREP and MEDEVAC request, he looked back out of the open door to ask me about the injuries. I automatically replied with the Soldier’s name and extent of injury (lower leg amputation, priority medevac.)
<BOOM, slow motion> Every one of my immediate reactions and pre-rehearsed drills stop. It is only an instant, but it seems much longer. I had no problem telling the driver, but I think… “Did that just happen? Did the gunner hear me? What will their reaction be? What did I do?”
I knew that I was one of only a few Soldiers on the ground. Everyone else in the squad was still pulling security for us, requesting support, or some other activity. Up until the moment I made that statement, only those Soldiers on the ground knew how bad his injuries were. The gunner was pretty close to the Soldier who lost his leg. To be honest, he was a great guy all around. No matter how serious I was, or how shitty of a day I was having…he ALWAYS made me laugh or smile. He never said “No” or “I cant.” He was great, but the gunner and injured Soldier were pretty close.
At that moment everything stopped becoming programmed for me. “Did they hear me? Do they know? How are they going to take it? What are they thinking?” Holy shit!!! Now, there were suddenly not only actions and reactions, but now there was a third or fourth dimensional effect to an event. I could understand how I felt(push aside, worry later) but how did the other Soldiers feel? Could they function? Did I have secondary emotional casualties? It would all be my fault. What the hell will I do now?
<BOOM, time rushes back to normal> continue mission…WTF?