Shadow Warriors

I have been reading an amazing non-fiction book (Shadow Warriors) co-written by Tom Clancy, Gen. Carl Stiner, ret., and Tony Koltz about the US Special Forces and their transformation from an outsider force to the elite of elites we known now (e.g., Green Berets, Navy SEALs, U.S. Army Rangers, etc.). The book provides firsthand accounts of members of these units and I have been consistently blown away by the stories they tell.

Far and away, the most interesting stories are told by Gen. Stiner. His early life was dedicated to hard work and taking on the values instilled in him by his parents. Gen. Stiner's parents were simple people whose education didn't extend much passed 8th grade, but they were far-sighted enough to realize education was going to be key in providing their children with long-term success and encouraged all their children to pursue a college education, which they did. One of his father's sayings has stuck with me: Never accept less than your best effort in all you do.

Gen. Stiner's accounts from his training to become an elite member of the US Special Forces borders on the unbelievable. The training is designed to push the limits of physical, mental and emotional endurance. For example, during a 17-day grueling training session through the marshes and swamps of Florida Stiner was in charge of keeping the sleep log. At the end of the training session, Stiner recorded 8.5 hours of sleep during the entire period! Suddenly, getting about 4 or 5 hours in one night doesn't seem so bad.

I would like to highlight one further point emphasized by Gen. Stiner. We have probably all come to think of our elite troops as little more than hyper-efficient warriors (thanks in large part to popular movies/books). While it is true that they are extremely capable warriors, that is only a small part of their overall mission and certainly their motivation comes from other, more deeply held beliefs about our country and their own personal commitment to defending it.