Flying helicopters was my childhood dream and in my 20’s it was my reality. but before I could fly I had to pass basic training and officer training. You probably think that flight school is a bit difficult because of the movies you have seen. You’re right — many wash out. Fewer wash out of Warrant Officer Training. If you think that almost everyone graduates from basic training, you are correct. But when you are in basic training, it feels a bit different. Especially when your life’s dream is on the line.
My thirteen weeks at Fort Jackson brought defeat, endless unsolvable problems, exhaustion, and many moments of wondering what I had done and whether I would ever make it out. The program is good at what it does – it breaks you where you are and I was a performance oriented person. In the midst of all this breaking, they very wisely pick you back up and teach you. The greatest lesson that I learned during basic was that ten seconds is a really long time. Here’s how it went.
I had never held a weapon in my life and I was required to learn to shoot and qualify on the range and in mock combat. I have to admit it was fun but I wasn’t very good at it. I faced what everyone faces, I rushed. I had to learn to squeeze the trigger rather than pull it. I had to learn to hold my breath and slowly exhale as I shot. I got pretty good at the short and medium range targets but that 300 meter target would pop up and I would watch it just stay there, un-hit, until time ran out. That target was my nemesis. It grew in my mind. It was going to be the thing that stole my dream of flying. The more I thought about it, the harder I tried, the worse I got.
Finally, a range instructor knelt by my foxhole and said these words, “Ten seconds is so much longer than you think. Take your time.” He had me close my eyes and count slowly to ten. He had me do it again. He told me to start counting slowly the next time the target popped up. Two seconds to orient myself. Two seconds to line it up. Two seconds to relax. two seconds to pull. You know what? It worked. I finished testing with a perfect 300 meter score and always with seconds to spare.
When I catch myself panicking a bit when I face writer’s block, a deadline, or a quick decision, I remember two things. An hour or so is actually a very long time and it gets longer the less I panic. I stop and count. I lay out a plan. I breathe. I pray. There is hope in this simple truth, there is peace in the moment, and there is joy that wells up in my life.
What feels like ten seconds in your life? What are you going to do about it?
Doug Burrier © 2016