Wow what a month. For the most part training was way more relaxed than I expected. Day by day we would have our first formation at 0550, do a quick workout which really wasn’t a workout (it’s called Physical Readiness Training (PRT) and is a very minimal exercise plan for sustainment and minor strength growth). But as up and coming military leaders we had to get evaluated on our ability to lead a squad through PRT. Following PRT and breakfast we would then be grinding in the classroom until 1700 in the evening. I learned a heck of a lot of information that probably for the most part went right over my head (no not because I’m short!!) I think overall I could say that the most important aspect of being a non-commissioned officer (NCO) is acknowledging that your soldiers are under your care and someone somewhere is entrusting you to keep them safe…and that’s a heavy yet honorable role to play.
After a summer of small group leading and diving into what it means to be a spiritual leader, I found it so intriguing how many things I could correlate between the two leadership roles I am now a part of. At first I had it in my head that as a military leader, I have a lot more responsibility over my soldiers than a small group leader does over his guys (or girls). As a sergeant, it could come down to a life or death situation and my soldiers making it home will be on me. Yeah that’s pretty heavy stuff, but that’s the exact same responsibility a small group leader has! Now chances are a SG leader won’t experience something that extreme, but assuming that role means you have laid your life down to love and lead men and women all the way home. Not that you are responsible for their specific walk, but you now have the honor of influencing and walking with them!
Another correlation I found is my interaction with higher ranking NCO’s. Without a doubt I immensely respect them, but there also is no denying that NCO’s and lower enlisted feed off of each other. Our instructor had some knowledge of artillery, but not as much as my friend Eader and I did. We had soldiers from all different military backgrounds and we all learned from each other. I learned so much from the guys in my group this summer and even in the short time I was on campus before training. I think I’d be failing as a leader if I wasn’t learning anything from those I’m leading.
After we finished all our classes we piled into busses and drove up north somewhere near Cleveland to complete our tactical leadership phase. I’m currently on a bus back to Columbus after 5 exhausting days of rolling in mud, getting shot at (ok it was notional shooting (blanks) but it was still intense at times) and getting to see how real this type of leadership could be someday. The first 3 days consisted of land navigation which honestly was loads of fun. They sent us out into the “wild” with a map, protractor, and compass and we searched for our points which for some (like me) ended up in the middle of a field with bushes way taller than my head (lucky for me my height advantage allowed me to use the deer trails to find my way around).
After successfully completing that evaluation we began running through training missions and we were evaluated on our ability to develop a plan and explain and execute that plan with our squad. I can say without doubt I would’ve loved going into battle with any of the guys and girls in my class because we killed it.
So training is done with and I’m very happy about that, however spiritually I have had to dig deep to find joy this month. I’ve known this all along that the military is often a very emotionally hostile place. And my gosh, when compared to the amount of loving and caring community I’ve had for the last 3 months, there is practically 0% of that with the guys I know in the military. Going into training I had some things I definitely needed to process and while I didn’t really have anyone to genuinely talk to about life, I had Jesus and when I did choose to talk to him it was exactly what I needed, but again I had to dig deep to find that desire to talk to him and more times than not I choice to avoid him.
A great help during this tough time was the phone calls I got from friends back home. I was and am so thankful for the ability to connect with them, but I for sure felt the distance (even though I was literally 15 minutes away) from them and from the community I was missing. I am insanely excited to be back home with them in just 2 days.
So yeah I am really excited to be finished and to be going back to campus. Not to mention I am released Friday and that evening is the first night of my church’s fall retreat (so stoked for those 24 hours)! It might be tough trying to re adjust to small group leading after being gone a month but like I said before I left, God has a plan for all this so whatever challenges may arise they will work themselves out one way or another.