Early on in Ch. 5 of Bel Canto it mentions that the Generals are having a tough time keeping their soldiers in the mind-set of battle. They were beginning to become comfortable, and were getting bored and starting to play rather than be disciplined soldiers. The Generals combated this by putting them on more of a routine, doubling the guard duty, and making them patrol the house in the rain. I wonder if things would be different if the Generals had psychologically prepared these children for this hostage takeover as if they were going to be going to battle. This led me to think of what our governments tactics are for preparing them for battle.
I didn’t want to research this topic unless I could talk with my brother in the Navy about how the military psychologically prepared him for war. I have heard a few stories here and there of the experiences he has had in training and then on the ground in other countries. I wanted to know more about this specific topic and then more of his personal experiences, but I wasn’t sure if he would be willing. Fortunately he was, and that is where I began this research is with a couple hour long Skype call to my oldest brother in Arizona.
My brother started off in training when he was 18 up in Chicago. Here they improved his hardiness. He said that they weed out all of the soft people that want to come into the military by making the training so hard that a substantial amount of these people drop out and don’t finish boot camp. They force anyone who wants to join the military to become more hardy by showing them violent and gory videos of war, this also strengthens their psychological resilience for when they are deployed for war (which I will talk about later). He had many stories of training during boot camp where his officers above him would try and make him quit by psychologically tearing him down with words and with physical exhaustion.
After he graduated boot camp I could see a huge difference in my brother, he was no longer just a goofball who had no head on his soldiers. He had become a strong and disciplined man. He handled stress so much better in all walks of his life, and there was no visible anxiety displayed by him when heightened situations arose. My brother was a completely different person from the hardiness training that he endured those several months. He then moved on several years later to a Navy base in West Virginia where he started to train with Navy Seals before deployment to Afghanistan. My brother wanted me to make it clear that he was not a Navy Seal, but he did train with them prior to deployment.
During this training, the built up his physical hardiness as well as mental again. The military wants the Navy Seals to be extremely prepared before going in to battle. Their missions are much more important than others who are deployed so they have to be mentally stronger so that they will never break down during a mission, no matter what happens. My brother had one particular training event where he was pepper sprayed, hands and feet zip tied, and then thrown into a pool while someone pins him down and he has to get out of the water without drowning. By putting him through this, our military prepared my brother for the stressful events he would have when he got off his boat.
Psychological resilience is the hardest thing to prepare soldiers for in my brother’s and many other military personnel’s’ opinions. How do you prepare my brother to go overseas and watch his friends and his bosses die right in front of him. Think of the psychological toll that this would take on someone if the person leading their team was blown to pieces by an explosive or shot and killed. This is why so very much of our military comes back to the states with PTSD. Our military does its best to prepare our soldiers by making them watch videos of other members of our military have these things happen to them, but it just isn’t the same until you’re put in the situation. It’s the same with gunfire, they can simulate by training and having teams have what I would call “high intensity paintball matches” with rubber bullets. How could this be the same though, those guys you’re up against in training are your friends, not the enemy trying to kill you with real guns and ammo.
The biggest thing along with hardiness training and psychological preparation that my brother said prepared him for war and all of its atrocities that he experienced was his own ability to mentally prepare himself before deployment. I don’t feel that he would want me to go in-depth, but some of the situations he would play through his mind were his own friends being killed in front of him, his superiors being killed, having to shoot other people, and other things of this nature. These were not easy things for him to do, but when he did this he was able to cope with the traumatic situations when they actually happened. The combination of these 3 things psychologically prepared my brother and many others in our military for war.
(PSYCHOLOGICAL RESILIENCE: PREPARING OUR SOLDIERS FOR WAR BY COLONEL RICARDO M. LOVE United States Army)