The following article is a piece I wrote up after I came back from Afghanistan. People were always asking if it was tough over there with the equipment, conditions and bad guys. This answers that question, but also gives you an insight into why circumstance can bring out the best and force you to be mentally strong.
You'll also discover why I love pizza shapes SO much!
Quitting is not an option
People use this phrase all the time, but what does “Quitting is not an option” really mean. Isn’t there always an option to quit?
If you go for a run and get too tired, it gets too hard, just stop. That’s quitting.
If you’ve always had a burning desire to climb Mt. Everest, but life gets in the way and you never get around to it, you eventually give up on your dream. It’s too dangerous anyway; too expensive. That’s quitting.
You’ve attempted Special Forces Selection three times and have failed each time. Don’t go back a fourth time… that’s quitting.
What would happen if your only option was to succeed? To continue without fail, to persevere against all odds, to stay the damn course, to be that annoying person who looks like crap, all sweaty and bloody and dehydrated and babbling incoherently. Who, after all the torment and knock backs and ridicule and self-deprecation, still has that look on his face of calming resilience because he knows something you don’t… and that is, that he will eventually cross that finish line, reach his goal, climb his mountain or, on his fourth attempt at Special Forces Selection, actually pass.
When I talk about being in Afghanistan as a Sniper, carrying a 70kg pack, with 17 litres of water, 2 rifles, binoculars, and a good supply of pizza shapes, while walking up mountains at 10,000ft density altitude in 56 degree heat… people ask…
“Wasn’t that hard? Didn’t you want to quit?”
I tell them, “There was no option to quit.” And that’s not a tough guy’s response to look hard and war-dog like. It was the truth, there was no option to quit.
Once a person goes through something like Special Forces Selection, which is 5 weeks long and at the 4 ½ week point you don’t sleep for the next 4 days and don’t eat for the next 3, losing 10kgs of bodyweight, hallucinating that you see pretty and bright painted buildings in the middle of the bush and you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, not knowing when it’s going to stop, until it finally does. Then you have something permanently, from that point on, ingrained in you, imprinted on your brain, carved into your character, that you will always continue, always trudge forward, always put that next foot forward for any mission, any goal or achievement you set yourself for the rest of your life.
So when people ask if Afghanistan was hard and did I want to quit? I tell them there was no option to quit and that’s the truth. After all my previous training to get into Special Forces and all the continuation training with the unit prior to deploying, I couldn’t simply turn to my team commander and the rest of my mates and say, “Sorry fellas, this is too hard, I’ve had enough”. Even if I actually did say that and sat down and refused to move, what then? The Army certainly wasn’t going to call in the choppers for me because it was too hot, or the mountains were too steep or I was too tired.
There was no option to quit. You simply took a knee, pulled out some of your crushed pizza shapes, then your water bottle and washed those pizza shapes down with near boiling water.
And as hard as that mission and other missions were on my tours of Afghanistan, I consistently saw and continue to see today, with my Special Forces mates, that look of calming resilience.
Make your world one option only… succeeding!
I wrote a short post recently on Facebook where I talked about my first experience contracting in Iraq.
Rocking up to Baghdad airport without much of a clue as to what was going on, being met by an overweight American who was profusely sweating and extremely anxious, my foray into private security contracting started nervously.