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The Shield Wall: Why Readiness Is More Critical For Support Personnel

  • Published
  • By Maj. Yancey Cowen
  • 43rd Mission Support Squadron Commander
17th Century Japanese sword master Yagyu Munenori stated: "First see with your mind, then with your eyes and finally with your body."

He also said warriors should cultivate all facets of themselves, not just the martial, so they are as empty vessels or without form.

The meaning is clear: A person must hone himself to cutting lethality so that when action is required, no thought is needed.

To be even blunter, you must be ready -- always and regardless of your Air Force job or position.

It has been proved time and again that when our enemy strikes "steel on steel" against our main force or special operations units, the results usually mean tyrants are the ones watering the tree of liberty that day. Our adaptive, agile and ruthless enemy does not always strike "steel on steel," and the Air Force fights from the base.

Two facts that should be of particular interest to support personnel (like me). I am talking when our enemy's "steel" strikes the support "shield."

I would not be so gauche as to pass along "combat lessons learned" as I have never seen the elephant, but would encourage each of you to hone yourself in each of the categories of mind, body and spirit.

For the mind:
Reading is not enough. You should both professionally and personally find texts that are of interest and learn from them.

Professionally, you should be the very best in your career field and seek out historical warrior-leaders and theoretical treatises which make you mentally broad and deep.

Day, Boyd, Warden, Galula, Hackworth, Boehm, Plaster and Bank should be as familiar to you as Mitchell, Spaatz and Ryan. You should be able to tell me your job and why non-cooperative centers of gravity and internal organizational friction are important. You must couple that with anything else that you want to learn about; samurai were encouraged to pursue painting, poetry and gardening among other non-martial pursuits for centering. You are no different.

For the body:
Just passing your physical training test should represent the barest minimum standard -- entry into the game. It is what you do over and above the PT test that represents your readiness. Just because you can max pushups does not mean you could drag someone from their Improvised Explosive Device wrecked HUMVEE, remove them from danger, and have enough presence of mind to start self aid and buddy care. Learn a martial art so that when someone stuffs a bomb in your pocket for the purposes of kidnapping, they end up on the ground, in pain and with the bomb somewhere else. Vigilance makes the base a hard target. Preparedness makes you an even harder one.

For the spirit:
That is an intensely personal and private series of decisions only you can make. I am simply encouraging you to explore and embrace your own spirituality.
All of these things combined equal our readiness to stand in the phalanx. Your readiness in mind, body and spirit could determine whether our Spartans return with their shield or return on it.

See you on the shield wall.