If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. ~Attributed to General David Pataeus, in the book: Obama’s Wars.
One thing that I’ve found in the military is the importance of setting goals. It’s very easy to maintain some hazy vision of what we want, but never really considering what those visions really mean or what the steps will be to ge there.
The Army makes it fairly easy to set goals because the requirements for getting promoted in the enlisted ranks are clearly outlined. It’s a points based system and all a soldier has to do is see where he has the fewest points, be they civilain education, physical fitness, rifle, and address that area.
Of course we cannot always meet our goals. Still we need them, as they pull us up from our proverbial couch and get us to better ourselves. Last year I set a goal of being accepted by ODA (Operational Detachment Alpha–US Special Forces). I had to undergo the most extensive physical screening I’ve ever experience; 6 vials of blood removed, leaving me dizzy as I walked out the door of the doctor’s office. Chest X-rays, electro-cardiograms, urine samples.
A few weeks later, the doctor’s office notified me that there was a problem with my urine sample. The doc wanted me to come in for some follow-ups. Apparently I had more blood in my urine than the avergae person. They took another sample to ensure that the first was no fluke. It wasn’t. I have 5 times the amount of blood in my urine as the average person. The doctor told me that she’d have to suspend my process for ODA until they could figure out what was going on, or at least rule out cancer. I went to Landstuhl Hospital, the largest overseas US military hospital, to see a specialist. No cancer cells popped up in their tests, but there were more extensive tests they wanted to perform just to be sure. My ODA process would have to wait even longer.
At that point I decided that it was not worth it to me, that my future endeavors likely lay in another mission. At my age, I had little time to waste. The train-up time for an SFODA soldier is already almost 2 years from the beginning of selection, depending on the assigned MOS. Even six months meant a huge chunk of time in relation to my Army career. And I was no spring chicken. I dropped out of the selection process.
Dropping out would have upset me a lot more were there not lots of options in the Army. It’s one of the things that I love about the Army (there are plenty of things I don’t love); there are tons of options. I’m planning on submitting my warrant Officer packet 60 days before the end of my deployment to Afghanistan. I have back up plans if that doesn’t work out, too. I’ve set the goal of being promoted to E6 in 4 years and E7 in 7 years (if I reenlist). Both are the minimum times one can reach those ranks. I see no reason to wait around for more rank…
I’ve also set a goal of learning each of the Level 1 Warrior Common Tasks like the back of my hand, when I get back. I’ll drill them on my own time until I’m an expert.
The point is, we should have a destination in mind and a roadmap to get there. Plus, we need a Plan B. And C.