Insight - Then and now

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bradley M. Crites
  • 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron commander
Visiting our nation's hallowed war memorials not only reminds us of our profession of arms, but strengthens our sense of duty. I recently had the opportunity to visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. What military members will notice immediately are the 15 Medal of Honor recipients and 177 documented acts of heroism earned that day of infamy. Interestingly enough we can all draw parallels from our fellow service members' heroic actions at Pearl Harbor to our present day military experiences. Every day I apply several guidelines I've learned during my military career which have striking and corresponding similarities.

I learned my first valuable military rule, "never let them see you sweat," from an old Strategic Air Command warrior as I served as a maintenance officer on Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot AFB, N.D. while preparing for a nuclear surety inspection. Some scholars of leadership believe this axiom is no longer relevant in today's military because it's best to have leaders who are transparent about their shortcomings - I beg to differ. Flashback to the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 as Lt. Cmdr. Samuel G. Fuqua regains consciousness after a large bomb ripped through the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Arizona and started a severe fire.

"Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua continued to direct the fighting of fires in order to check them while the wounded and burned could be taken from the ship and supervised the rescue of these men in such an amazingly calm and cool manner and with such excellent judgment that it inspired everyone who saw him and undoubtedly resulted in the saving of many lives," according to Lt. Cmdr. Fuqua's Medal of Honor citation.

To "never let them see you sweat" one maintains a cool head in the face of not only combat dangers, but everyday military challenges while engaging subordinates, peers and leadership alike. It's not the idea of hiding one's weakness, but being entirely prepared for every eventuality which in turn motivates fellow airmen.

I gained the next tenet "limit your exposure" while in Air Force Special Operations Command. Its relevance is apparent to both an AC-130U Spooky gunship dogging anti aircraft artillery over the skies of Kosovo and daily military activities while at home. By continually challenging oneself, training hard and having a warrior attitude, one will be prepared for combat and thus "limit your exposure."

It's easy to see the fruition of having a warrior ethos through the actions of Pfc. Raymond McBriarity of the US Army Air Force's 86th Observation Squadron at Bellows Air Field, Southeast of Pearl Harbor, which eventually became the 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron, as he battled an overwhelming enemy aerial attack.

"Private First Class McBriarity proceeded under fire to obtain and mount in his assigned airplane a machine gun which he then manned to deliver fire against the enemy. With complete disregard for his personal safety and during overwhelming machine gun fire of the enemy, he remained at his station until the conclusion of the raid," according to Pfc. McBriarity's Silver Star citation.

This attitude can also be applied by following regulations, having a proactive safety mindset, adhering to set standards and practicing sound security principles. In turn this defeats complacency and other behavioral pitfalls to "limit your exposure" in these efforts.

While stationed with EC-130H Compass Call aircraft at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., I acquired my final principle, "keeping emotions out of it." It is especially important when having to make difficult decisions. I've found that anger and fear are two significant emotional states that can drastically hamper rational judgment. One can see the culmination of making a calculated and unconstrained decision through the actions of 30 year naval veteran Chief Boatswain Hill as he courageously carried out his duties during the Pearl Harbor attacks:

"During the height of the strafing and bombing, Chief Boatswain Edwin J. Hill led his men of the line-handling details of the U.S.S. Nevada...he dove into the harbor and climbed onto the dock to cast off the lines and swam back to his ship," according to Chief Hill's Medal of Honor citation.

The guidelines of "never let them see you sweat", "limit exposure" and "keep emotion out of it" are not the quintessential elements necessary for a successful military career. However, comparing them to real world military actions gives one insight into their application and if applied purposefully, will definitely assist one through daily military endeavors.