HOW TO STAY ALIVE IN COMBAT

By: Louis Perosi Jr
Viet Nam Combat Veteran
Sgt. 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, First Cavalry Divison

You may be called on to defend our country. You've trained hard and you've learned your job well. You're ready. Or are you? Although you have been highly trained, there's still some things they can't teach you. It's not that they don't want to. They simply can't recreate the circumstances of real combat and war to teach you these things. If you are going to defend our nation in the next weeks and months and find yourself outside the protective borders of our country and directly in harm's way, then read this before you go. When I say directly in harm's way, I don't mean spending your time in a tented camp watching for scud missiles or flying bombing missions 10,000 feet over the target area or firing long range artillery into a suspected enemy strong hold. I'm talking about the 1 out of 10 or 12 men that actually look into the face of their enemy as they squeeze the trigger. If that's you, read this. If it's not, maybe you should read it anyway because you may find yourself in harm's way some day.

1. Forget your American ideals.
When you find yourself thrust into a combat situation, you have to stop thinking like an American. American's are compassionate people. We care about others. We are more educated and respect life more than any other country on this planet. Killing is not something we like to do. It's against everything we believe in. If you continue to think like an American when you are in combat, you will die. You must be hard as steel. You must not hesitate to pull the trigger when you have to. You must put compassion on the shelf and close the door on it. In Viet Nam, we had women and children strap explosives to their backs and walk into our camps to blow us up like Japanese suicide bombers. If you can't imagine yourself shooting a woman or child right now, you need to get that frame of mind to live. The Army has many sayings in training. The one that describes what I am talking about is, "You're a lean, mean fighting machine." Forget you're human. Become a machine and perform your duties like a machine without feelings or emotion. Do this and you might live to tell your grandchildren about it.

2. Your family will kill you in combat.
Forget you have a family. Focus on your job. You need to concentrate all your attention to the task at hand. You must focus on the enemy every waking moment. You can't allow yourself the luxury of daydreaming about your wife, girlfriend, mother, father, family, etc. Put them out of your mind. If you ever want to see them again, concentrate on your job and killing the rag head trying to put your lights out permanently. Write your letters and read your mail when you have a break and there is some level of protection in the form of a guarded perimeter, etc.

3. There's no way out but over the top.
Look, you are not going to be able to run home once you get there. It may be cold, hot, dirty, smell different or scare the hell out of you. Hey, it's not a vacation, it's an adventure. I remember the first thing I realized as I stepped from the plane in Viet Nam was I suddenly became covered with flies. You see those TV shows about kids in Africa with flies walking on their faces and you say to yourself, "Why don't they swat those things". It's not until you actually experience it that you understand. In Viet Nam, the flies are everywhere, and if you don't come to grips with it, you die. Everything will be difficult for you cope with. From the climate to the insect life to the people. You must come to grips with everything, accept it and then concentrate on your job at hand. Over the top. That's the only way home. Remember in the movie "The Abyss", when the diver suited up with the naval deep diving suit which was made for the diver to breath air from a liquid? In the movie, the diver was told to stay calm, don't fight it, as the liquid filled the inside of the helmet. He held his breath until he couldn't anymore, then breathed in his first breath of liquid. He jerked back and forth while two other men held him down. The naval diver supervising said, "It's OK, it's OK, wait until he realizes he can breath the liquid and he'll be OK." That's exactly what you have to do. You have to realize that you're in a foreign environment, come to grips with it, realize you can survive that part of it and then concentrate on your job. There's no way out but over the top. Start climbing the moment you get there and don't stop until you're home again.

4. Expect the Unexpected.
You need to be on alert at all times. Be aware of your surroundings and be suspicious of everyone not in your unit. When you least expect it, the unexpected can happen. Remember the World Trade Towers. No one expected it. That's what I mean. Never let your guard down. Be ready for your enemy at all times. Even when it's time to sleep, don't sleep, just rest your body enough to get through another day. The military says all you need to continue each day is four hours of sleep. Get your four hours or more of rest. Do your sleeping when you get home. Be careful to read the signs around you. Let the world you are in talk to you. Learn to listen and hear what it has to say. It will tell you how many enemy are up ahead if you can learn to understand the signs. See through and beyond everything. If you are always ready for the unexpected, you may live through this.

5. Become your enemy.
You are fighting an enemy that has no respect for life. This enemy is not afraid to cut his hand off, crawl through the blood of his comrades, and kill women, children and older people to obtain his goals. Your enemy is willing to die for his cause. He cares nothing about his family because he does not love life like we Americans do. To defeat an enemy like this, you must become him. You must think like him, act like him and do as he does. You must be willing to sink the knife of righteousness deep into the heart of evil when he stands in front of you. If you don't become your enemy and act as he does, you will certainly feel the knife of evil as he ends your life. Think like him, act like him and become your enemy. In this way, you may live your confrontation with him.

6. Don't pick up anything.
Booby traps can be expected everywhere. Americans in war love to pick up souvenirs everywhere we go. Even in war. Our enemy knows this. Be careful about picking anything up or even rolling over a dead enemy soldier. Sometimes they are booby trapped. That's where the name came from. Guys in uniform can't resist picking up the spoils of war. Their a sucker or, as the trap is so appropriately named, booby.

7. Keep your butts down.
If you smoke, don't smoke on guard duty so the enemy can have a target. If they don't have night vision scopes, then don't give them a target by smoking at night. Keep your butts down.

8. Stay away from the locals.
The locals don't care about GI's and they never will. You're fighting a holy war here and the locals support the enemy. Be careful! If you must go among the locals make sure you go in numbers and cover your back.

9. Don't go anywhere without a weapon.
Your weapon is the only thing that stands between you and your enemy. Don't stray too far from it. Sleep next to it at night. Keep it in good working order. But most important, don't go anywhere without it. I mean anywhere, even to the latrine.

10. Fear.
Let's talk about fear. I know you're afraid. Especially if you have never experienced actual combat before. Combat veterans know fear and live with it. If this is your first time, you will know fear soon enough. The test of your training is not whether you can do the job, but whether you can execute your assignment with your life in the balance. Fear can overcome you or, you can control fear and make it work for you. To overcome fear in a combat situation you must acquire a silent anger. I don't mean get careless and I don't mean an outward visible anger. I mean a silent anger. An anger of the heart. Silent anger is a state of mind that allows no room for fear. Remember the innocent people killed in New York. Think about whose fault it is that you're there in the first place. Think about how you could be drinking a beer back home but instead you have to be in some remote part of the world to deal with a bunch of crazy people who don't know how to live in peace. Think about how these people have been getting away with this stuff for 20 or 30 years now. Enough is enough. Build a silent anger inside you that becomes a great shield against fear. Remember, I don't mean for you to be careless, cocky, smart mouthed or even show any outward signs of this anger. Let it be the fire that burns in you and let it represent all Americans. To perform your job in combat means you are a hero to your family and friends As a soldier, I promise it will be some of the proudest moments of your life. You will never forget them and thank God for seeing you through.

11. Talk to God.
Talk to God. Get personal with him. GOD IS YOUR ONLY FAMILY IN COMBAT! Bring him along with you every day. Let him share the sorrows you face and ask him to strengthen you and see you home safe. He'll be there for you, I promise. He was there for me and my buddies in Viet Nam. Good Luck to all you young men. You're in good company boys. Since 1776, American's have been fighting and dying for liberty. The sons of liberty fought the American revolution and the sons of liberty will continue to fight the good fight as long as we are one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. I'm sure that if the guys that fought in Viet Nam had a chance to defend this country again, we'd all jump at the chance. We are all with you.

All America stands behind you.

America asks just one thing of its military forces. WIN!

You can email Louis Perosi, Jr. at: smallstock@verizon.net

 

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