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July 5, 2007
A rescue, of which a movie is certain to be made: an American helicopter under enemy fire crash lands beside a canal. Its two-man crew calls in backup and then hides in the water, up to their knees in silt and under ground fire from all sides. Backup arrives, disperses the enemy, covers the strapping of one of the crew of the original helicopter, and one of its own crew, to the gun mounts on the exterior of the aircraft, then takes off back to base at 120 miles per hour. The original crew emerges from the experience with a few scratches and some bruises.

Good Lord.

Brave. Smart. Well-trained in a protocol of how to hit the ground running and think fast under tremendous pressure. There is no time in a situation like this one for panic, and so they have learned not to.

Does your training always work? If you're brave and smart, is your victory guaranteed? No, nothing is ever guaranteed, not in battle and not anywhere else in life. But brave and smart beats panicked and dumb in increasing your chances to prevail, so it's worth cultivating those virtues.

We must acquire these things before we need them. A healthy fear is part of our equipment as human beings; it keeps us alert to trouble. But panic is never useful to us, and so we need to train for trouble so that panic does not overtake us, to learn to scan a situation, assess its possibilities and then act on them. We can train to act instead of to panic, and then our training can take over when the chips are down. All of us need to learn to take a risk, and we begin to learn this from a healthy appreciation of what can happen if we refuse risk when there is no other choice.

And, in yesterday's papers, an incredible example of what people who have learned not to refuse can do.
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