What I Learned While Dodging Pretend Bullets in Southern Idaho

Dodging Bullets in Idaho

The poignant words of a salty old combat training instructor still ring in my head…

“For good or for bad,
decisions need to be made.”

Playing War in Idaho

I was on a long training exercise in the middle of southern Idaho. Our combat communications unit conducted these exercises pretty regularly. A couple of times a year, we’d practice heading out into the desert, setting up our radar site, and developing a defense perimeter around it.

After we got things running, our defenses would be tested repeatedly by a team of pretend enemy combatants known as the “aggressors.” These agressors would act out certain scenarios in the name of “training.” To be frank, it was really no more than a crew of belligerent meat-heads who loved blowing things up and shooting M-16s with blanks in them, but I digress.

Under Frenemy Fire

One of these scenarios involved a diversion on one side of the site, while a sneak attack mounted on the other side. It all kicked off with a mortar explosion to the north side. Initially, our leadership responded well. They followed protocol and scrambled the appropriate response.

According to the aggressors’ plan, however, we started to get lit up by the aggressors on the south side, where I was in a foxhole that I had joyfully dug myself. Instead of responding to the developing situation, our leaders went frighteningly silent. Our frantic calls into the command center were met with confusion and a total lack of direction.

They had got themselves tied up in committee. Unable to reach an agreement, they left us out on our own. The result? I got to play dead for an hour on the hot Idaho sand in mid-July while a team of crotchety old combat instructors chewed us out.

Cue the opening quote…

What Happened?

The same thing that happens inside your head when you’re faced with a tough decision…

  • The struggle that leaves you waffling endlessly between two perfectly viable options.
  • The fear of making the call and potentially being wrong/looking bad.
  • The Resistance.
  • The sound of a window of opportunity slamming shut, never to be open again.

We had a command center full of “leaders” who were bickering about the finer points of standard procedure while their people were dying in the field. I was in a foxhole completely cut off from the rest of the site and didn’t know where to go or what to do.

I didn’t need the Air Force Regulation 37A response. I just needed a decision.

Melodramatic Much?

Yes, but I think you understand my point. In our lives, there come times when we just need to make the call and move forward. I’ve got nothing against due diligence. By all means, you should check your facts. What I am speaking against, however, is fear.

Fear will cause us to check our facts, check them again, check someone else’s facts, make up some new facts to check, chew on those, pretend to pray on them, and then wait until time and circumstances take the decision out of our hands altogether. In my story, the decision was no longer necessary once we were all dead.

I pretend-died so that some young’n out of the Academy could avoid looking pretend-bad.

You Can Do Better

That’s what’ll happen in your business and/or your life if you let fear keep you from making important, timely decisions. You’ll waffle around while your people and mission fall victim to your indecisiveness. Don’t let that be your story. Be a leader who takes responsibility.

A great leader understands that for good or for bad, decisions need to be made.

What decision do you need to make today?

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5 Responses to What I Learned While Dodging Pretend Bullets in Southern Idaho

  1. Morgan MacGavin August 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I actually turned down 2 job offers this week because I’ve finally made the decision to truly pursue my passion and not my love. In that decision I swallowed, and am still forcing it down, the fear that I won’t have the patience to take the steps I need to now in order to achieve my goal later on.

    • Kenny Silva August 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

      That’s a tough call to make, Morgan, but an important one. I know a lot of people who are miserable because they chose to settle for less than what they were truly passionate for. 

      Even if its a long, hard road, you’ll be happy you did it.

  2. Matt Martin August 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    The tough thing about fear and doubt is that its not one thing that you can pin down. Its different for each person based on what they fear. Some fear success, some fear failure, some fear standing out, some fear fitting in.

    I always try to look symptoms versus the illness. Not getting that job you want, being afraid to go back to school, not embracing Christ’s love, are all symptoms of fear. Face what you are afraid of and watch that baggage melt away.

    Ran across a similar post over on C.S. Penn’s blog on breaking our addiction to easy that I thought I would share.


    Facing fear is never easy, it takes time and effort, but its so worth the results.

    • Kenny Silva August 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      Good point on looking at the symptoms of fear. I like to peel it back from there, however, and try to identify the root of the issue. 

      For example:
      You’re not afraid of getting the job you want, because you’re afraid that you won’t find fulfillment, satisfaction, and provision in the job that you do end up landing. That fear is rooted in the assumption that a job can provide those things for you fully. That assumption is based on a view that would put the full weight of your joy in work/occupation (a created thing) as opposed to putting it all on God. 

      Then you realize that what you have is more than a job problem and more than a fear problem, but a worship problem. It’s with that kind of perspective that you can attack the heart behind the issue and really ask God to come in and strengthen your faith in that area.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Matt!

  3. Eric August 4, 2011 at 11:56 pm #

    Great point to make about decisions. Lately I’ve been doing this more and more in my life. Most of the decisions that we make in our lives are not life and death. Many are just what’s best at the moment. Fear is definitely our greatest adversary!

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