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Thoughts on the mission

February 25, 2018

I started my military career as an E-1 in the United States Coast Guard. A good part of my USCG time was spent in law enforcement, primarily chasing those who sought to bring various and sundry forms of recreational pharmacology into our Fair Land. Occasionally, we even caught some. Understand that in spite of 22 years of military service split between the USCG (semper paratus!) and the USN (anchors aweigh!), I was never some sort of high-speed low-drag operator. On the other hand, I have been places I had no desire to be, doing things I did not wish to be doing in response to people who were doing Truly Bad Things. What I learned from that, is this: when at all possible, do not try to second guess the decisions of those who are in situations remote from where you are sitting in relative safety. Though I did, in a fit of pique, answer a question on Quora regarding my thoughts, that “learning” has been sufficient reason for me to not comment here on the recent school shooting in Broward County, Florida.


I also learned some other things. For instance,

  • Whether in law enforcement, search and rescue, combat or healthcare, you have a job to do, a mission to complete
  • Though you do everything you reasonably can to protect yourself, to make sure you can “go home at the end of the day/deployment/sortie/whatever, this is always secondary to the mission
  • People who forget the primacy of the mission can be counted on, at some point, to sacrifice the mission for some cause far more convenient
  • This can be expressed this way: The Mission Comes First*

People have suggested multiple reasons the deputy in Florida did not enter the building to engage the shooter. Among those are

  • He did not want to get shot
  • He was scared
  • He is not paid enough to risk his life

My responses to those are

  • I doubt the coach who shielded students with his own body wanted to get shot, either
  • I suspect the young man in JROTC who held the door so other students could escape was scared, too
  • My understanding is the deputy made just over $100,000.00 last year. By way of contrast, the median pay for a Navy Hospital Corpsman who is an E-4 (HM3/petty officer third class) is $27,260.00 For that paltry sum, these folks deploy with the Marines and crawl out to retrieve and tend the wounded while under fire.

So, you will pardon me if I find the bull**** excuses questionable justifications for the deputy not entering the building somewhat less than compelling.

Years ago, when I was much younger and believed life would be simple and easy, my dad told me something that made all the difference when I was scared or facing the possibility of something profoundly unpleasant, or when thinking I was not being properly appreciated for what was being asked or required of me. He had been an Army combat medic in the Korean war. To paraphrase, he said that a person needs to think about every eventuality he can and decide what he will do if he faces it. You can’t think of everything, but you can think of general situations. That way, you don’t have to spend time making the decision then. Instead, you can just do what needs to be done.

Law Dog, who undoubtedly has far more tactical experience than I ever will, puts it this way

“In 2006 — 12 years ago.  Bloody hell — I banged off a thought about bright lines in which I opined that every adult should sit down and decide where the line was at which point they would use Deadly Force against another mother’s son.

My opinion on this matter goes double — a hundred-fold — for those who put on a badge.  Before you get out of the Academy you should have decided where that bright line was.

And I’m here to tell you:  if that bright line isn’t on the proper side of “shooting up a school full of kids” then don’t you dare pin on that badge.”

I would apply that standard to anyone who purports to serve others or to put the safety of others above his own. If you cannot do it, do not put on the uniform, pin on the badge or take the damn oath.**

*NOTE: the only thing that arguably comes before the mission is honor. Leaving schoolkids to die when you had the opportunity to do something about it is a lot of things. Honorable is not one of them. My question: when did honor become such an oddity?

**NOTE: it is reported that at some point there were other officers on scene who stood behind their cars while the shooting was still going on. The same observations apply to them.


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One Comment
  1. OldNFO permalink

    Agreed! Thanks for your thoughts on it.

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