Balls. Today was not my best day. You can’t have a bad day when you are getting shot at.
Today’s class was urban combat. We spent the morning on tactics and the afternoon on execution. I thought I had a good grasp of the concept. When it came to showing what we learned, I had a problem that got me pulled from the exercise.
Now, I’m pretty honest. If I fail, I’ll say so. I failed.
Before we started, we put on safety gear in addition to our body armor. There was a groin protector, a neck strap that surrounded our neck firmly, and a face mask that locked onto the helmet and wrapped around our head. The smart folks might see where this is going. Compressed chest, neck held, wrapped head…
We swept up the street, kicked in a door and cleared the front room. I cleared the back room and noticed I was a little out of breath.
Huh, that’s odd. I’ll just catch my breath. This air isn’t really flowing through the face mask… It’s just my imagination. You’re smarter than this; you know what’s happening. I do, I can’t breath. No, you can breath, just relax. I’m suffocating and this body armor is constricting my lungs.
My fingers went up to pull off the mask, but I stopped myself. I doubled over. Just breathe, just relax. You are panicing now for no good reason. My hands reached up to rip at the Velcro holding my body armor. I stopped myself again because that’s just asking to die.
The captain looked over and asked if I was okay. I tried to shake my head no, but remembered the mask was holding my head firmly in place. I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t get air. I motioned for him to come over. He asked what was wrong. Somehow I made the international hand sign for I’m not breathing properly, which is a hand in front of your face that moves rapidly to your chest and back again three times quickly.
He yelled that I was hyperventilating (the hand signal worked) for an instructor and he and another guy got my mask off. Within the 10 seconds it took the instructor to halt the exercise and come in, I was already better.
I got pulled out and a stern talking to by an Army Ranger who thought I didn’t have my head in the game and that I need to pull my shit together because I’m going to a war zone. I wanted to explain that it was the mask and not the fighting, but sometimes it’s best just to take the butt chewing.
He asked if I thought I could go through again. Definently, I said. He said I need to get over my shit and find a happy place if I have to. I nodded instead of saying what was on my mind. He said he’d let me go though again, which clearly looked like it was against his best judgement.
I lined up, got strapped into the mask and instantly started to freak again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got a little fresh air and felt better.
We repeated the scenario. We got to the same room and I had a panic attack again. A few years of psychology told me it was not only in my head, but being set off be being in the same place in the same situation. I tried to find a happy place and endedup doubled over again. I hooked a thumb under the mask and got some cool air on my face. I was good to go. I broke the cycle.
We exited the building and swept up the street again. I applied the speed shooting trick I learned the day before and shot one guy up the street, one across the street and one behind us as fast as it took you to read that. Three rounds each.
We stormed the next building with a couple teams. We went upstairs and cleared the room. I sniped another guy who was hiding in the trees from my window.
They called a halt. I checked myself for paint and didn’t have a scratch.
So, what did I learn? I don’t know. I guess no matter how smart I think I am, the body is going to do what the body is going to do. No matter how in control I feel, random chemicals in my blood stream sometimes have a different agenda. I learned my adrenaline jacks up my reflexes without causing tunnel vision, but screws with me if my head is wrapped up, neck is held and chest is restricted.