“Force protection” is a phrase that is used often in the military today. We wrap ourselves in body armor, erect cement barriers by the gates, and place concertina wire around the perimeter, all in an effort to remain safe from danger.
There is no doubt that this world is a very treacherous place, full of people whom would do us harm. In our haste to don armor and build obstacles and barriers, however, we must not forget that prayer is the essential element for our security and salvation. Our actions alone cannot eliminate the perils that surround us. Force protection begins with an appeal to the Lord for His grace and mercy.
I recently commanded the 1,200 soldiers of Task Force 1-10 Cavalry during Operation Intrinsic Action. The nine troops, companies, and batteries in the task force bristled with armament: Abrams tanks; Bradley infantry fighting vehicles; Paladin howitzers; mortar, scout, engineer, and air defense fighting vehicles; along with Apache attack helicopters and MLRS rocket launchers in support. Task Force 1-10 Cavalry was a powerful unit, ideally suited to its role of deterring aggression and reassuring coalition partners in the Gulf region.
Equally important, the task force contained a strong Christian community which prayed continuously for safety and protection, adhering to Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18:19 “that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”
Photo by US Army
Prior to our deployment, I asked the officers, noncommissioned officers, and soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry to meet together and pray for a safe and successful operation. They answered the call in large numbers, with over 400 turning out for a prayer breakfast dedicated to an appeal to God for safety and protection for the troopers and their families. I read a passage from Ephesians 6:13, the Apostle Paul’s commandment to “put on the full armor of God” in order to stand your ground against the sin of this world.
The message was clear. Our unit could–and would–protect our positions with sandbags, barbed wire, and guard posts, but unless we appealed to the Lord for his mercy and protection, we would be defenseless in the day of evil. King Solomon put it another way when he said, “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
Deployments are not a modern phenomenon, nor is God’s promise of protection during such travels. When the Lord told Abraham to move to the Promised Land of Canaan, God promised protection and blessings along the way. When Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the Lord went ahead of them in a cloud to guide their way in the day and in a pillar of fire to give them light at night.
Our journey took us to the middle of a vast desert in Kuwait, ironically, less than 200 miles from Ur of the Chaldeans, the birthplace of Abraham. The soldiers quipped that if we weren’t in the middle of nowhere, you could certainly see it from our camp. The desert is a demanding environment–physically, mentally, and spiritually. In the vast, harsh, open spaces of the desert, people may discover things about themselves that would otherwise be lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The Christian community in our task force grew very close. We lived together, trained together, and most importantly, prayed together. By our example we also attracted others to the faith, with sixteen soldiers accepting the sacrament of Baptism in a moving ceremony in the desert one memorable Sunday.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
Chaplain (CPT) Randy Robison was critical to the success of the task force. He provided ministry, counseled hundreds of soldiers, and lent a sympathetic ear to whoever needed one (including me when my mother passed away three months into the operation). A strong, healthy relationship between a commander and his or her chaplain is one of the keys to effective ministry during a deployment. Commitment from them both is necessary to maintain the focus of the command on its goals, both temporal and spiritual.
During the four months of Operation Intrinsic Action, the soldiers of Task Force 1-10 Cavalry accomplished their mission in commendable fashion. They came to the Middle East as soldiers of peace, willing to answer duty’s call to stand as sentinels in one of the most troubled areas of the world–visible reminders of America’s commitment to peace and stability in the Gulf region. When the operation was completed the Task Force returned without loss. God had delivered on His promise of mercy and protection, while we had done our best to stay true to our calling.
Intrinsic Action was an important deployment, and I am thankful for the opportunity to serve once again as a guardian on Freedom’s Frontier. I will never forget the 135-degree heat, the intensity of our training, the closeness of the Christian community in the task force, and the outstanding discipline and conduct of the troops while deployed half a world away from their homes in Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
But most of all, I am grateful for the opportunity provided by this deployment to a far-off land to demonstrate to the Task Force soldiers that force protection begins with the armor around the soul, not with the shield around the body.
LTC Pete Mansoor, USA, is the commander of the 1st Squadron, 10 Cavalry, 4th Infantry division (Mechanized), stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. He commanded Task force 1-10 Cavalry during its deployment to Kuwait for Operation Intrinsic Action.