We each brought to the battlefield our own knowledge, experiences, and equipment. A fair fight was never a fight we sought. The odds should always have been two to one, or greater. A fallen Ranger meant a broken link in the chain. The equipment they carried was distributed among the others because it was necessary for success. No one person could possibly step foot upon the battlefield with every tool of the trade. Teamwork was paramount.
We trained until each individual became one fluid being. From day one, soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen are instructed to never go anywhere alone, and NEVER leave anyone behind. To violate this is a cardinal sin. To violate this meant an endless barrage of lectures during repetitive physical exercises. To violate this sacred maxim could mean the ultimate sacrifice. This is the maxim bestowed upon us from day one. This is the question that arises after every arrest, DUI, or stupid decision made by a single individual… “Where were your Ranger buddies?” This maxim was not a maxim of TRADOC, it was THE MAXIM.
This maxim is one of but many maxims and reasons I struggled to transition from Ranger to veteran. There was no more Brotherhood. It was just me. It was me in a world where the maxim seemed to fall on deaf ears. It was a world where such a maxim was often nothing more than lip service. A world where teamwork was just a word, not a verb. It was a world where it was not a maxim to live and die by. It was a world where it was not even a maxim to succeed or fail.
When I left college and entered law enforcement, I hoped the maxim would rear its beautiful head once again. I hoped that I would stand among other men and women who considered the maxim paramount to all others. I had heard all about the “blue family,” the “brothers and sisters in blue,” and the “thin blue line” … What I quickly realized was the maxim was but one of many weakly bestowed upon us. One vigorously flung from mouths during lectures, but one apathetically enforced.
In the academy, I found myself physically pushing those who had fallen behind in runs. I physically lifted and pulled those exhausted. I answered every phone call at every hour. I did the things the maxim I so cherish demanded of me. I did what one is supposed to do. I watched as many others, my future “partners,” ensured they would be first at any and everything. I watched as they left others behind to do so. I watched as they became cops, my “partners.” I watch and cringe when they engage in fair fights, at best. With every passing call, I wonder who will leave me alone when it matters most. I must weigh this at times when there is no such time to do so. When the world comes crashing down, I watch as their partners are forgotten and left without a moment of hesitation.
It is not to say that law enforcement is void of the maxim, but it is to say that law enforcement is a product of our society. We are everything from veterans to college graduates without a day of professional experience. We are everything society is with just a flavor of academy indoctrination. We fail to create a foundation upon the maxim. We fail to engrain this upon officers. In doing so, we fail. We fail to ensure that there stands a vibrant blue line of dependable officers. We fail to bestow upon our civil protectors a vital maxim that could protect life. A maxim that could save their own. A maxim that could create one fluid being one could depend upon.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.