As a young soldier and emerging leader, I was sent on a patrolling course to learn a vitally important skill in the infantry. In a sense, patrolling is the eyes & ears of the Regiment and often a way of reaching out and ‘touching’ the enemy. Patrolling happens at all times of the day, but more often in the dark, and the weather is no reason to put off a patrol.
This particular course was held in early spring on cold & wet ground, in cold & damp weather, eating cold & wet food and sleeping in cold & wet sleeping bags. It was terrible, but equally exhilarating & trying as any mental and physical test could ever be. Of the 25 guys that started, we were down to 15 through attrition & injuries.
The final ‘test’ for the course was a 25K patrol through swamps and over rocks and in even worse weather than we had experienced up till then. At the end of the patrol, we were expected to scramble up a significant hill on the edge of the water; the winds were blowing sleet straight into our faces so hard it felt like BBs were being shot at us.
The instructors started yelling and screaming at us to run up the hill. Looking up the mountain as we ran, it appeared like we were approaching the lip of a cliff that fell hundreds of feet into the water. There were instructors at the edge of the approaching abyss yelling and calling us to jump seemingly into thin air and then into whatever lay below. Were we lemmings being run to our death?
At a certain point, I am sure I was thinking, “I quit! I didn’t sign up for this! These crazy bastards are going to kill us!” But I remembered these instructors were my leaders, guys I knew and worked with intimately. They were professionals who I respected. My mindset changed to, “Don’t be a scaredy-cat … they aren’t allowed to kill me; it is against the rules!” So I jumped off the cliff and fell about 10’ into the arms of the instructors, who congratulated me for passing the course.
I had faith in the integrity of my leaders and that they were pros & intended to develop me into the best soldier I could be. I knew they were consummate professionals, and I knew exactly what results in they expected. In short, I trusted them. Sadly that day, three guys didn’t believe, didn’t fling themselves off the cliff and failed the course.
Trust is remarkable; if it is present, it is an exponential force multiplier. If absent, it is a cost that can take down a person, the team and the objectives of the organization