Mental readiness... the warrior's vow

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Bontrager
  • 45th Mission Support Group commander
As men and women charged with defending our country, we have a responsibility to maintain readiness in every area of our lives -- our equipment, our training, our attitudes, and even our minds. Mental readiness is the most important, for, without it, all other readiness is ineffective. 

While there are many components of mental readiness, such as courage, honor, perseverance... the one I would like to focus on is our internal motivation for what we do.... how we can shape our internal drive to protect and defend. 

A few years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speak and capture an audience of military, law enforcement and firefighters with this story about sheep, sheepdogs and wolves. Here's what I recall from the story, if it captures your imagination like it did mine, you can find the original story in his book "On Combat." 

"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident..." These people simply want to live their lives unhindered by violence. 

The problem is that there are wolves in the world. Wolves attack sheep. They use violence mercilessly against the sheep. These wolves may be evil men, bent on destroying America and our way of life, or, they may be psychopaths that violently attack unprotected people. 

We have seen the wolves in recent years - from 9-11, to the War or Terrorism, to the recent school shooting incidents. Moreover, many of our Airmen deployed into theater see the wolves personally every day. 

So, how do the sheep survive against the wolves? Fortunately, there are the sheepdogs. Sheepdogs live to protect the sheep. They have the capacity for violence against wolves in order to allow the sheep to continue to live and flourish. They derive pleasure from protecting the sheep - keeping them safe from the merciless wolves. So, what are you, a sheep or a sheepdog? Did you know that you have a choice? Where animals have no choice but to follow their nature, we humans actually can choose to develop ourselves into people who have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for our fellow citizens. If you chose that path, they you will quickly become a sheepdog, a warrior, a very valuable person in the world today. 

However, be prepared for some challenges. "The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence." Yet, we know that we must continue to strive to protect the sheep. The capacity for violence enables us to protect them.