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      GUNFIGHTER TREATISE
      VALOR

    While it is nigh impossible to state with certitude clear and exact rules about how warriors will act in various combat situations and since there are not any universal rules which will infallibly predict either cowardice or bravery; nevertheless, certain psychological trends can be recognized.

    From the sights and sounds I came up against in one violent encounter in the jungles of the Central Highlands in Vietnam I can put together a mosaic of the feelings and impressions that arose from my perceptions. My sister rifle companies had been in a fierce firefight and my unit was alerted to go to their immediate assistance. As the Huey helicopters landed at our improvised airstrip cut from the dense jungles I could see dead and wounded door gunners being dragged off the shot up choppers. Jumping onboard my chopper I saw the floor covered with empty shell casings and bandages soaked in blood. As we lifted off and flew to the hotly contested landing zone (LZ) I can recreate the build up of disquietude from the sights seen by me on the Huey and the almost insufferable tension en route to the firefight, to the vanishing of fear as we became completely absorbed in the furor of close quarter battle for the coward turns away from the fight while a brave man's choice is to atta! ck into the fight. No one can answer for his courage if he has never been in peril.

    Thrust into this emotional kaleidoscope and faced with oscillating thoughts of life and death, a warrior does not act with predictability for how he acquits himself will depend upon his patriotism, comradeship, shared experiences with his buddies and most importantly, his desire to avoid the shame of dishonor. As we flew toward the LZ clutching our rifles we had a brief amount of time to examine our thoughts and feelings as we nervously contemplated what fate awaited us.

    This quiet introspection was fleeting for the closer we came to battle I could see the anxiety build on the faces of my buddies as they struggled with their emotions; frayed nerves causing them to fidget with their weapons. Once off the choppers and plunged into the violence of the firefight the sheer lunacy of combat replaced the anticipation of battle. The paroxysm of fear quickly faded, replaced by tranquility as we entered into the zone known only to those war fighters who have "seen the elephant." In a firefight you win or lose, live or die and the difference is often by an hair.

    Ardant du Picq wrote in 1880, "even the bravest are frightened by sudden terrors." Fear is an emotion involving the whole psychological pattern induced by the action of our sympathetic nervous system characterized by trembling, weariness and a desire to run away. Fear will persist and grow but can be conquered if you have pre-programmed yourself to face it. Fear unhinges our will to fight and by unhinging our will it causes paralysis of action. Fear is our personal barometer to danger and thus knowing what danger confronts us we can better prepare ourselves to conquer that threat. Moral fear can be overcome by courage based on reason, physical fear must be overcome by courage based on physical action, i.e. pulling the trigger. There are two types of fear: valid fear (when you see the blue-white muzzle flash of your attacker's weapon as he shoots at you) and self induced fear (created in your mind, twisting reality, causing a peril to become ominously menacing.! ) We can inoculate ourselves against fear by anticipating someday we may have to fight for our life. I've known agents who can B.S. their way through life but in a firefight there is no B.S. either you have the fighting spirit to live or you die.

    In my experience all men are frightened but the courageous man forces himself into the battle in spite of his fear due to his fighting spirit. Many hardened combat warriors, myself included, learned early on our combat tour that the best way to accept the threat of being killed is just assume you are already dead and get on with the mission and force all other thoughts out of your mind. When you feel fear coming on, welcome it as a friend; having felt fear before and lived through the fight. Fear will enhance your survival skills. There is nothing wrong with controlled anger. Get angry that your attacker has the temerity to shoot at you; react by focusing on your front sight and press the trigger. Take solace in the fact that you are in the "Company of Heroes" who are willing to fight alongside you. Don't be self- centered thinking always about yourself, you must keep fighting because your teammates need you to stay in the fight.

    I was most fortunate to have served in the "Company of Heroes." Several of my team members in DEA and our two progenitor agencies have personified the qualities of skill, daring and personal bravery. My teammate, Paul Sennett, stood inches away from the two assassins who had murdered my partner, Frank Tummillo, and shot both miscreants dead. Vinnie Mazilli took a .357 to the gut and stayed in the fight and later became a personal inspiration to me. George Auflick, an excellent man with instinctively sound judgment and the qualities of courage, boldness and determination who with quick thinking one fateful night in Miami kept his four partners alive. And Gene Bachman, my friend; lean, athletic, coolly professional, personally brave who walked with me through the "Valley of Death."

    William Shakespeare wrote in King Henry V, 1600:

    "Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste death but once."

    Frank E. White


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