- On August 15, 2019
Last week I had the immense pleasure of serving as a team leader for a diverse group of Army and Marine veterans at Semper Fi Odyssey Leadership camp. The program re-energizes their warrior spirit and helps them create a plan to move their life forward through rebuilding family relationships, going back to school, pursuing a new career, starting a business, or meaningful volunteer work.
When they show up for the program on Sunday, many of the vets have isolated themselves emotionally, and often physically as well. Challenged by memories and mistakes of the past, their shining light has been extinguished. Many believe they do not have anyone in their life who they can rely on and draw strength from.
When they leave 5 days later, every one of these compassionate warriors has at least two committed members on their ‘fire team’ and most have made solid connections with four or more people.
In the Army and Marine Corps, the ‘fire team’ is the core operating unit. The fire team receives and executes missions, but more than that they are one integrated element, not a collection of parts.
These are the guys (and gals) you train with, laugh with, sweat with, and bleed with. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You can’t hide the truth from your fire team; they will know without a word spoken. Being part of a fire team requires the courage of vulnerability, knowing that their understanding of your challenges will only make the team stronger. The team literally has your back and will save your life.
Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., pioneer in the field of interpersonal neurobiology and author of several ground-breaking books, says “In a relationship, integration entails each person’s being respected for his or her autonomy and differentiated self while at the same time being linked to others in empathic communication.” This is the essence of the fire team.
Started me thinking, “Who’s on my fire team?”
I have a large network of connections, but who do I feel would truly have my back?
Husband or wife, mother or father would seem like obvious choices. Yet, they love us so much they will overlook a lot. The fire team is designed to hold you accountable and family dynamics are too complex for that.
When I think of sharing something I’m embarrassed about and want to change, of pulling back the curtain a la Wizard of Oz, of revealing myself, of needing someone to give me the hard scoop…who would I trust to be totally present and compassionate while helping me find the strength to move on?
I’m fortunate that a few people come to mind.
My best childhood friend, a relationship 50 years old now. We’ve been through a lot and our genuine care and concern for each other has never faltered.
A friend from high school. We live on opposite sides of the country and I don’t see her as often as I would like, I know that if I needed strength, she would be the first to offer. When we get together it is like time has not passed.
An Army friend, we were lieutenants together, then our paths diverged for years. She’s important in my team because she reminds me of the fearless person I was once, and still am once I can let the doubts subside.
There’s a friend I met through fitness training a decade ago. Our athletic connection began the relationship and she has become a long-time accountability buddy, mutually challenging each other in our growth and development.
And then, there’s someone from my coaching career. We collaborate on ideas, challenges, and honest appraisals. Every few months I NEED the interaction our synergy brings. It enlivens me, refocuses me.
As I look at this list, which bubbled up so easily in my mind, how blessed I am to have these people in my life! There’s such security in feeling I can call on them anytime day or night and they will drop everything to have my back.
Now, I need to let them know I will always do the same.
Who is on your fire team?
Photo: JMaliszewski 2019, Semper Fi Odyssey, August 2019, Jane’s team after Ziplining