Fear and Fortitude

“Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood.”

William S Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Fear exists at the core of so much of  what we do. Most in our modern society have little need to summon physical or even moral courage when there are truly meaningful consequences: death or serious injury or the loss of livelihood or social status or support systems for standing up for what is right.

Two books addressing the development of the kind of courage needed to do just that, particularly in soldiers and “other professions that go in harm’s way” are:

Conquering Fear – Development of Courage in Soldiers and Other High Risk Professions

and

Power of Courage in Combat and Danger

both by Halim Ozkaptan Phd, Gen. Crosbie Saint (Ret.) and Col. Robert Fiero, (Ret.).

Essentially they are the same book, the latter an expanded version published later, with Appendices and more background information. It -let’s actually call it the same book – is specifically addressed to Army leaders interested in the elements of fortitude, and instilling, developing, and maintaining it in combat troops.

Essentially it boils down to character and courage – the “strength of mind allowing one to endure pain or adversity courageously,” which of course applies to anyone hoping to manifest personal integrity in times of danger. Liberal use is made of historical quotes providing examples defining the topic, offering perspective and wisdom from times past, and confirming that we have known for a long time how to develop fortitude in people…

It’s just that the prescription is hard to swallow.

The book breaks it down into leader training, individual training, and collective training. Specific to military applications, most of what is discussed is universal. There will be nothing groundbreaking for those in the Multi-disciplinary/Interdisciplinary tactical training world, spanning as it does the elements of sound character traits and actions of the leader, inculcated personal ethics and knowledge, and skills and physical attribute training. All are spoken of in general, though a few specifics are mentioned in passing: specific symbolism, rites of passage, and esprit de corps; the difference between leadership and management (spot on, this bit!), sports and games (“boxing, judo, wrestling and pugil sticks”…sense a theme?), maneuver training, etc. Each is attached to a particular realm: leader, individual, and team training, and all are geared toward allowing the individual warrior to manage fear under duress, as well as just going about life with integrity and resilience. The effects of military life and of managing fear over time and with repeated exposures are addressed at length.

As a collection of general principles for developing fortitude through constant attention to training the inner self as well as leader and warrior skills, or as a resource for anyone who is in a position to lead others into combat, this book has much to offer. It could stand some editing, and once again, while nothing earth-shattering is presented there is often value in having our belief systems – and life path – confirmed.

 

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