I don't like to say that i ain't a team player, but i always find it hard to count on others. I hold myself to an extra high standard and if i am forced to work with someone who not only isn't up to my level but doesn't even care or try to be(that goes for anything whether it is basketball or whatever). I know that last statement sounded self-righteous but i, in no way, meant it to be. I am just trying to say that i have always thought it would be hard for me to trust other people in a war zone. If i had to trust someone who might have never carried a gun before basic training and doesn't care if he allows me to be in harms way as long as he saves his neck.
Now i hope i didn't offend anyone, because i give huge props to all those who are serving and have served, i am just trying to set the stage for my question- which is: Do you have trust in your fellow soldiers in a combat type situation or am i blowing it out of porportion? Is everyone in that situation equally capable? I guess i have heard too many horror stories claiming most deaths in some wars are friendly fire. Am i justified at all in my "fears". Are you watching out for yourself from your own guys "sweeping" your head with a rifle? I know the elite forces would be "safe" from this type of stuff, but how about when they had the draft way back when and they were taking city kids who had never seen a gun before and putting them right into combat.
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I can tell because in a firefight, your ego is the last thing you worry about and the trust of your fellowman is implicit. The reason is because if he doesn't make it, you might not either. I never was in day to day, close proximity fighting, but I got close enough to know that those stupid thoughts you expressed are the very last things crossing your mind.
Few people study history anymore, but your "friendly fire" story is just a fairytale. In Vietnam, many times commanders actually called in fire on their own positions. That's war, not fairytales. Do you realize that today, every day for the last 10 years we have lost 8000 old men who were just in their teens when they actually saved the world? They were from all walks of life and they performed amazing feats regardless of their birthplace or their familiarity with firearms before they went into service. How would YOU react to an order to take out a Jap pillbox on Iwo Jima when only two members of your squad were still alive. How about those 5 Marines who raised the flag on Sirabachi? Three of them never came back down the mountain and only one survived till war's end. They were just KIDS. The oldest was 23, the youngest 18.
It's easy to set in front of a TV and pretend that football games are "war". It's another to sit in a war and wish you were playing football.
The military has a little ritual they call basic training. It starts when they strip you all down to your skivvies and shave your head. PhD's and morons all look the same and are all treated the same. That ego you're proud of quickly diminishes with that humiliation. Once they have you on common ground, they rebuild you in the military mindset where you don't question how many of your squad are still living, or whether you might get hurt if you fall on a live grenade to protect your squad. I can understand your pomposity, but I know it would be fleeting at Fort Jackson, or Parris Island, or even Lackland. When your ego is gone, you find that only your character remains and that's the only thing that you can take to the grave with you. When your peers don't question your abilities and depend on you to "watch their backs", the last thing you worry about is if this guy came from Center City, Philadelphia or Ashland Kentucky.
You should be thankful there is no draft today, but if you knew what military training was all about, you'd be saddened that you'll never know the real meaning of comraderie and trust in your fellow man. Those without it have my sympathies, but they'll never have my respect for their opinions about the "problems with the military". That's like talking bad about your own family. It's OK if I do it, but if you want all us old GI's to form a tight group, try having someone who hasn't been there try to do it.
I appreciate it very much. I respect older/experienced peoples opinions very much and you have continued to live up to that respect. Cecil responded to another post today and although alot of people disgree with him on different things, i respect all of his opinions as well. Same thing for alot people on here. I know what i said is a little pompous(i didn't mean it to be but it was a hard thought to express), but from what you said everyone going into basic training has that same attitude. I was sincerely wondering if people in squads really trusted one another. They don't trust each other going in, and i was wondering from someone who knows if that trust ever came about. From what you say- it does- tenfold. I was not at all trying to talk myself up. I am unbelievably grateful there isn't a draft, but if there were and i was called i would gladly go.
I am just a "kid" myself (just turned 21) and my friends are "kids". And that is what makes me wonder what i was asking about. What if you were put with a bunch of us? Could you trust us to cover you? I just ask that question to put it in perspective. I would want to trust a bunch of 17-20 yr old "kids" as much as you, especially this day and age. Do you think that the everyday senior in high school is a responsible as they were 50 years ago? But as you implied in your previous response i have sorely underestimated what boot camp does. And how it changes a bunch of "kids" into a "squad". That is what i was looking for.
You asked me how i would react and i dont know, that is why i was asking. I am just like all the other young men, and i would probaly react the same way they did and do and hopefully will continue to. Well i hope i could react the same way. And i hope that the other guys my age would also. I wonder if the young people of today could handle what you guys went through. From what i see happening, or hear of happening in the colleges and nightclubs and high schools today it is way different from years past.
I hope some other people comment as well.
I was in the US Marine corps over 20 years ago & at that time I fully trusted my life to my fellow marines & I would have done all that I could to save any of them, including getting shot.
We had a brotherhood that is hard to explain to anyone who has not been in the military.
I believe that if you got all of the guys in my company together today & we went to action the same disipline & Espri Decorps would be distributed evenly in the whole group.
You dont worry about the guy next to you because you have a job to do & the guy next to you is your Brother, no matter what color the skin or ethnic back ground.
Some say its brainwashing, but we former Marines call it
SEMPER FIDELIS ( ALWAYS FAITHFUL )
Bravo company 7th Engineer batalion Ist FSSG, Camp Pendleton Ca.
Griz. It applies to all branches of the military. I served 2 tours just before and during the first Persian Gulf - Desert Shield / Desert Storm on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Though we hadn't fired a shot, we had situations where your training was put to the test. When you lay down in your rack and hear General Quarters - the call to your battle stations, that does not have "This is a drill" attached, everything goes into automatic. It has too. Your shipmate, whether 360 on a small ship or the 6000 on our carrier all know what to do and have to do it because your shipmates lives depend upon it. George is right, Basic Training takes all factions and breaks them down to nothing but equal naked men, then shapes and molds them through training into, hopefully, an act on impulse knowledgeable person. It does not matter if you are a Sailor, Marine, Airman or Soldier, your training is there to help save you and the other people around you as well as fight. Know one ever knows how they will react in combat. Iv'e many friends who have told me about their experiences in Nam, and at one time I thought I wanted to know what it was like to be there. Experiencing a combat zone and the BASIC stresses that come along with it(shipboard), just from the not knowing exactly whats happening around you, coupled with what my Buds have told me, says I was close enough. There is a comfort in knowing that the people around you have had that training. You have exceptions to the rule, but under duress, you would be surprised at how much you really remember from your training. It stays with you all your life. Trust is earned, but once earned you typically know you can count on your "Brother in Arms".
Griz, that's the easy one. Sure I could because to get TO a squad, you'd already been tested and trained and you'd have passed muster with the other squad members. Everyone going through basic doesn't always make it. Many "wash out" or are declared unfit for service, or have psychological problems that get them "administratively discharged". You don't just walk in one gate and out another. You're intensely tested under circumstances that words don't describe. IF you're going to break under fire, you'll be found first breaking under training.
To many people ascribe their thoughts to the combat side of the house, but imagine withing 6 months after receiving a high school diploma, an individual working on a multimillon dollar jet engine whose performance will decide if a pilot lives or dies. How about working electronics systems that are right out of Bill Gates dream works. There are thousands of careers that support that team in the field from munitions experts, to parachute riggers, to tire changers. Each and every one of them HAS to be trusted. That's the military way of life and that's why we can't explain it to those who've never been there. You may read about "sweeping someones head with a rifle". Do you know those people LIVE with that rifle and it literally becomes an extension of their arms and bodies. A "normal" civilian will have no concept of sleeping with their gun, carrying their gun through the chow lines, and cleaning it COMPLETELY once a day, every day for as long as you carry it. (Bet you've hunted a whole season and MAYBE cleaned your gun once at the end of it.)
Basic training is the most monumental process a person could ever subject themselves to. It's humbling, humiliating, enlightening, ingratiating, and a supreme confidence builder. People who survive it often relate later in life that that period was the benchmark of their lives and that they never felt strong and more independent than at that time. Ask around and see if you can find ANYONE who will deny that.
You're almost 21 and you're already an "ol man" by military standards. When I retired, I was 48 and I was considered ANCIENT, but when I made Staff Sergeant, I was only 22 and had already had two long (over one year) overseas tours and a stint in Vietnam. By 25, I'd served in every free world country in the world where military bases were established and I'd seen most of the other countries during leaves and R&R. When I turned 28, I went to my high school reunion and was amazed at how "adolescent" my old classmates were and how most of them who'd gone to college and "avoided" the draft really didn't have a clue. They were doctors and lawyers,some were on their second or third marriages, but they really had not begun to grow up yet. Most were already out of physical shape, and damned right I stood peacock proud. I said a silent prayer thanking the military for making me not different, but unique and giving me the confidence to look anyone in the eye without regret or shame.
So all I can say is that I feel sorry more men (and women) don't HAVE to go through basic training. It's the best thing anyone could ever do for themselves.
The rivalry between the navy and marines run deep. Often they make cuts upon the other. from the outside it would appear that the two truly hate each other. But that is not true. In reality they are bonded together. I entered the navy in 1963, And became a Hospital corpsman. in 1966 I was attached to a marine Battalion. to serve my first tour in Viet Nam. I found Myself in the midst of the very same guys I brawled with in Rosy Roads. But there was no animosity, no ill will. The brawls were entertainment. Now it was business. I was as much a part of the platoon as anyone. they all without exception were my friends, My family. It may be a difficult to understand. But even guys that one would under ordinary circumstances not care for. Becomes your friend. In combat it becomes easy to overlook someone's flaws. and value them as a friend and confidant for their qualities. so Much so that is often all you see in them. there was not one among them I would not have laid my life down for. and I was without a doubt sure they all felt the same toward me. the lives of everyone in a platoon, or squad become so entangled that there is no Differentiation between one and the other. You become more than a part of their lives. you become one in the same. Call it training. call it loyalty, call it honor, call it Semper Fi it makes no difference. it is something that can only be felt or understood by those that have been there. and those that have, will forever remain (Always Faithful)
Thanks again for the time to answer my question. The answers were very enlightening. Sometimes you get a distorted view on how things are and were with all the "war" movies and "documentaries" just showing the facts, they don't always convey the atmosphere and feelings. I appreciate you taking the time to write.