Last weekend, as many of you know, Sandy and I were at “America’s Game”… the annual Army-Navy football game.
For those of you who don’t know… or who care to forget (Sailors and Marines, I’m talking to you!)… Army handed a smack down to Navy in double overtime… Now to be fair, both teams played well (and poorly depending on the play), but in the end, Army came out victorious and “sang second”.
That is really not want I want to talk about (or gloat about)… rather it is two seemingly unrelated things that both happened during the weekend which served as my muse for this blog.
The first was a meeting Sandy and I were having on Friday in the hotel bar while she worked on one of her Power Point pitch decks for Orion, the other was a fly-over by Army aviation right before the game on Saturday.
On Friday, Sandy wanted to spend a little time working. She was in the process of developing a new slide deck for our VR system and wanted to talk through a philosophical block she was dealing with. The issue had to do with the purpose of training in a modern world. To make matters more difficult, she could not predict the level of understanding regarding weapons training that a potential viewer of the slide deck would have, so it had to be done in the most generic way possible.
This was not an easy task.
In the end, though, we were able to come up with a “turn of phrase” that encapsulated what we do.
The next day was game day at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia. The game kicked off at 15:00, but at noon we were offered the spectacle of “March On”… This is where the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point take the field in their regiments and companies, then take their seats in the stands, followed by all the Midshipmen at the Navel Academy. It is unbelievably impressive.
This then leads into the “fly-over”… one of my favorite parts of the game. As the Army team took the field, a coordinated fly-over of a Chinook, a Black Hawk, and two Apache helicopters flew over the stadium.
Under normal circumstances this is unbelievably bitchin. This year, though, has a special meaning. Last week Chaney was given her branch assignment for her first “job” after graduation in May. As a 2LT she will be attending flight school at Fort Rucker and actually flying one of those beasts that flew over the stadium last week.
It was during the precision fly-over that I began thinking about the work Sandy and I had done the day before. Watching those young men and women pilot those helicopters in perfect formation you could see… no… you could feel the culmination of countless hours of training.
These pilots were not simply experienced in manipulating their airframe… they had reached a point where their airframe had become an extension of themselves. In a real sense, they had become their helicopters.
Naturally this got me thinking about what we do… what you do… at Artemis and wherever you train.
There is a history here that is transcendent beyond cultures. Be it an Italian Renaissance man learning the art of fencing for potentially defending his honor or himself, or the Samurai learning the nuances of his own craft… again, for self-defense and honor… there has always been an understanding that masters of skill-at-arms are crafted, not born.
Everyone has certain traits, gifts that give us a unique advantage over others. But make no mistake, those gifts are double-edged blades. The gift of athleticism often comes with an arrogance that mentally interferes with the drudgery of repetitive practice. Extreme situational awareness often comes with stimulation overload and the inability to quickly execute an action. Extreme strength is at the expense of agility, and agility often negates strength.
A balance between the positive and negative gifts requires a maturity and an awareness of sense of self, and that comes from countless hours of training.
During the early stages of the Renaissance there were more than one young noble who lost his life to a challenger because he thought the ownership of a sword necessarily equated to the mastery of a sword. His opponent either did not share that same attitude, or was extremely lucky. Either way, arrogance has a way of thinning out the herd.
When those helicopters flew over, you could see them (well the Apaches at least) with their exposed-weapons mounts. (I doubt they actually had weapons on them… that could have been problematic, no?)
These weapons platforms, these extensions of the pilots, are the same as our carbines, our shotguns, or our pistols. They are natural ballistic extensions of ourselves. They are the equivalent to the sabers and rapiers of our forefathers.
They must fly, they must train, they must drill daily with an urgency and dedication that the fate of the Union rests on their shoulders. Because it does.
We must do the same.
We must train constantly, consistently, repetitively, and with purpose.