Continuing on with the theme of the article, What it Means to be an “Educated” Man in Today’s America, it’s time to get a little more focused. Given the readership here, the logical place to start is with the warrior class.
So, what does “education” for a warfighter look like?
In today’s military, many lament the tremendous amounts of time spent on what seems to be useless teaching—SHARP, EO, “don’t-rape-that-person-or-that-one,” etc.—and a lack of relevant training. Whether or not the former examples are pointless is, although an interesting topic, a discussion for another time.
What is relevant now is addressing the issue of what should the modern warfighter know?
The best place to start is by reintroducing and then defining basic terminology. We can start by casting aside our preconceived notions of overweight guys in pajamas in strip malls wearing black belts they awarded themselves and digging into the often misunderstood name, “martial artist.”
Oxford Dictionary defines martial as “relating to fighting or war.” The same source offers multiple definitions of the term artist, the second of which is “a person skilled at a particular task or operation.”
It seems rather obvious, then, that if a modern warrior—be they a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, LEO, security contractor, or someone who just takes home protection seriously—starts with the premise that they are a martial artist, it offers a solid method for beginning to understand what being educated means in this environment.
This is an important distinction simply due to the fact that, once those terms are truly understood, one inherently derives a different mindset for looking at being a warrior that is at once fundamental and more fully developed. A martial artist isn’t someone who just owns a gun and learns how to shoot it—he or she is one who knows about things like marksmanship, weapons maintenance, and proper selection.
Once we establish a starting point, we must ask where we go from here. I posit that the logical progression from there is to address what applies to every situation imaginable versus what is situationally dependent. The best method for understanding this comes in the distinction between fundamentals and techniques.
Allow me to explain.
One of the first things a new Infantry recruit will learn in the US Army is the marching/slow jog cadence that repeats, over and over, “shoot! Move! Communicate! Shoot! Move! Communicate!” What is the purpose of this?
It’s simple: shooting (i.e. engagement with the enemy), moving, and communicating are fundamentals of infantry tactics (which is to say all of combat tactics, really). These concepts are always relevant—they apply in every instance. A unit must be proficient in all three of these areas in order to dominate an opposing force.
But we can take this concept a step further. When we consider the individual aspect of martial arts in the context outlined above, what are the fundamentals—those attributes that apply in every situation?
It’s not too difficult to figure out if we imagine ourselves entering into personal combat with another human being sans weapons. Strength, endurance, speed, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and the ability to think clearly during extreme levels of stress immediately come to mind as fundamental attributes that apply in every possible situation. There will not be any type of combat where these qualities won’t help in some way—the warrior will only benefit by developing these.
Contrasting these attributes with the development of techniques helps us clarify. For one-on-one combat, being physically strong and fit always applies, whereas a spinning wheel kick or rear-naked choke does not. They may be the perfect choice for a specific situation, but they might be terrible for others.
Similarly, on the battlefield, the small unit will always benefit from high functionality in the realm of shooting, moving, and communicating, but the techniques they use to employ those fundamentals can change depending on the mission, the enemy, or the overall strategy of the war.
Once we understand this premise, how we answer the question of what should a warfighter know becomes much more straightforward. We begin with fundamentals and move into higher-level techniques the more accomplished we become at the basics.
So strength, endurance, and the ability to move your body are all pretty important, right? Again, there really aren’t any situations where these attributes would be considered negative, so it’s essential that a warfighter have a solid understanding of them in relation to their own personal selves.
Notice that I said “understanding.” That doesn’t mean you just work out and get in decent shape. You need to understand the basics of fitness, including anatomy and physiology, diet, and proper training/rest cycles.
Some of these areas of knowledge serve a dual purpose. That anatomy and physiology stuff you should be learning? Guess what all EMTs, nurses, PAs, and doctors study? The educated warfighter needs to know how to patch up their fellow warfighters when things go wrong, so topics like those are doubly important.