Why Are You Here?
My back slams hard against the concrete wall as I slouch to the ground. I’m sure it hurt, but my adrenaline masks the pain. I sense sweat finding its way down my back and my glasses begin to fog, forcing me to remove them from my face as I attempt to gather myself.
The screaming from one of my soldiers penetrates my consciousness, “I’m hit!” I focus my thoughts and slide on my belly to the edge of a concrete wall and peer around the corner to assess the situation. I spot a few of my soldiers engaging the enemy. They’re pinned down by enemy fire.
“We need some help over here!”, another soldier from my platoon cries out in the opposite direction. I slide to the other side of the wall to see what I can do. My radio man follows my every move. He stays by my side and I can hear the panic in his short breathing. “LT, the platoon sergeant’s asking for our next move.” My radio guy announces as he answers a call from the radio. My platoon sergeant is stationed with a squad of soldiers on a hill about 200 meters behind me and waiting for my direction. I peer around the corner of the wall and can see another one of my teams engaged with the enemy in a fierce exchange of gun fire. They’re pinned down as well. “LT, we need help over here!” I hear one of my soldiers cry out from a short distance from a second story building.
I pull back from the chaos and crouch against the wall to gather my thoughts. I frantically assess my options and try to contemplate my next move. I panic and sense fear dominating my thoughts, I become paralyzed by the situation.
“What the hell is your problem, Lieutenant?” A short, but confident man hovers over me. He stands about 5’9” with coal black hair, there’s a visible scar just below his left eye that carries an intensity in his stare, which forces me to break eye contact from him. He’s the Captain in charge of the field training exercise and he can sense I’m losing control of the battle. He decides to step in and get things back under control. I put my glasses back on and look up at the Captain. “Um, were pinned down, sir.” I answer his question.
“No shit, Lieutenant. You’ve proceeded to totally screw up my exercise and embarrass yourself up to this point, what’s your problem?” His hands move up to his hips as he stands firm, despite the chaos around him. His gaze burns a hole into my soul. “Why are you here, Lieutenant?”
My mind races for an answer as I struggle to focus my attention. I look down and try to remember my mission as I hear the cries for support and help from my soldiers on the battlefield. “Dammit, answer the question!” He kicks dirt in my face, in attempt to get my attention. I make eye contact with him and take a deep breath as I run a mental checklist of the objectives of my mission for this exercise. “I’m here to get the rocket.”
I’m the platoon leader of 30 person military police platoon stationed in Grafenwohr, Germany. We just returned from a real-world mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and were conducting field training exercises to keep our units sharp. My platoon is going through a Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training rotation. I’m given the mission to sweep through this “fake” town held by Opposition Forces (OPFOR) and secure a rocket propelled launcher and then depart the city.
“That’s right, you’re here to retrieve the rocket. Is that what you’re currently doing?” The Captain shouts over the noise of the skirmish. “Let me answer that for you. Hell no!” He shakes his head and bends down so he can grab my attention. “You’re doing everything, but finding that damned rocket. Focus your efforts, Lieutenant, complete the mission, and then get the hell off my range.” He shakes his head, stands up, and then disappears in the cloud of dust and smoke from the battle.
I take a deep breath, shake off the fear and assess the situation. I slow my breath and get on the radio and order my platoon sergeant to shift his fire to cover the squad pinned down by enemy fire. I order that squad to join me behind the wall. There’s a fury of gunfire and one by one the squad members make it back to me and my radio man. I radio the Platoon Sergeant and order him to shift fire to support and cover the other squad pinned down further to my right. I move with my squad towards that direction and link up with the squad leader and get a situation report from him. He notifies me that one of his soldiers is injured and needs to be evacuated and that he has a team pinned down on the second floor of the building immediately in front of our position.
I arrange the evacuation of the injured soldier and use my remaining elements to secure the perimeter around the team pinned down on the second floor of the building. Once the building is secure, my two squads bound from building to building and focus our efforts on the rocket that we eventually find hidden in the ceiling in one of the buildings we clear. I’m able to evacuate the city with only one causality and a feeling of accomplishment. It wasn’t pretty at first, but once I refocused on my primary objective, I was able to clarify my actions and take the necessary steps to complete the mission.
“Why are you here?” That was the fundamental question the Captain asked me that forced me to reassess my actions. It’s a powerful question that I continually ask myself in all endeavors of my life, to make sure I’m taking the right steps towards meaningful goals.
Let’s face it, life can be a distracting endeavor. We’re bombarded with seemingly urgent tasks at every turn and we can easily find ourselves following the wrong path without even realizing it before it’s too late. Allow me to ask you, why are you here? Why are you doing what you’re doing right now in this phase of life?
It’s a simple question, really, but deeply important and one that you must ask yourself daily. What are you busy doing and is it worth it? Is it time to refocus your efforts and are you losing the battle? Don’t be afraid to refocus and change your path, just don’t keep pursuing meaningless activities that do nothing but distract you from what you should be doing. Why are you here?