by LTC Greg E. Metzgar, USA
A professor of military science at a state university prays for the cadets in his reserve officer training program, and for those he recently commissioned who are serving in combat zones of the war on terrorism.
An infantry platoon leader fighting in Iraq devotes his daily devotions to pray for the men in his platoon that they may have divine protection and be spared from injury or death. Both pray that the Holy Spirit will speak to the hearts of those they mentor and lead to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Both of these leaders recognize that they are fighting both a physical foe and a spiritual enemy. As one officer noted, “The well grounded Christian has prepared to be a brave, compassionate and unselfish fighter. We are at war. The closer we are to God, the more the enemy [in this case Satan] wants to separate and weaken us. His tools are not limited, he can cause fear in the masses by the spiritual weakness of the leaders, or create division of those seeking self-glory on the battlefield, or killing for the thrill of it.”
There is an “irregular threat” that our senior military leaders all talk about which exists in our physical world. We are engaged now in a global war against this form of terrorism.
This is a new application of an ancient form of warfare devised by our adversaries to counter our greater conventional strength. Many of us will be directly involved in training, equipping, employing, planning, and leading soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to fight this new adversary.
But in order to “win” in this protracted conflict, we must recognize that there really is a fight between good and evil.
Irregular warfare has been raging since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. In his book Behind Enemy Lines, Charles Kraft states “as we Christians serve our Lord and Master in this world, we are living and working behind enemy lines.”
In 1 John 5:19, we are assured that we are under God’s protection, but reminded too, “…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The Bible’s message is clear–we operate in an environment of spiritual terrorism.
As military leaders we must recognize and commit ourselves to train and lead our personnel in both operational environments–the physical domain of direct action, and the domain of unconventional spiritual warfare.
While physical training strengthens our bodies, and battle drills build the muscle memory to act automatically under duress–we often overlook the “moral, ethical, and spiritual strength” required for combat.
As Christian leaders we must comprehend Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” To survive in this battle, our prayer orders become just as important as our operations orders.
Major General Ellis W. Williamson, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam noted, “Combat is a horrible experience. No commander that is close to it could ever enjoy it. However, all is not on the negative side. A man who has faced death, faced his God and lived properly with his fellow soldiers comes out of combat experience a better man.”
The platoon leader mentioned earlier who prayed for his men each day personally led five of them to Christ after a horrific fire-fight in Iraq, where many had their equipment and clothing torn to shreds by shrapnel and bullets, but emerged overall unharmed.
These five soldiers knew in their hearts that they weren’t “lucky” but had come under God’s protection due to the power of intercessory prayer offered by their leader.
General Carl Stiner, while commanding the US Special Operations Command, summarized our task: “How well our soldiers perform in combat is directly related to how well we prepare them in peacetime, and only part of this preparation is training related.”
The big part, in my mind, is moral, ethical, and spiritual strength. Most soldiers don’t pray. Most young leaders don’t pray. Not until they stand up to put that snap fastener on the anchor line cable do they start to try and get serious, because when they go out the door they know it’s them, that equipment, and the Lord. Or they don’t pray until they get a contingency mission.
When they get to Green Ramp, suddenly the chaplain becomes the most important officer in the unit. They all want to see and talk to him… Most soldiers who fall into this category will enter into combat with an overriding fear, a fear that will overshadow what we’ve tried to instill in them in the way of confidence to perform under fire. Everyone will be scared, but there is a difference between scared or frightened and fear. Fear will dominate judgment.
Those who don’t have an appropriate relationship with their God and an inner strength to live and function a day at a time in combat will be dominated by this fear.