Two Weeks in Hell: Spiritual Lessons From the Green Beret Training Camp

Remarkable lessons in our spiritual walk with Christ, in this life can be gained from the Green Beret’s training program. Discovery Channel aired a documentary showing the rigorous qualification testing volunteers must endure in order to prove themselves fit for the famous Green Beret Armed Forces group. They must prove themselves:

• physically fit,
• psychologically able to endure enormous physical demands; however,
• Integrity: able to carry out their mission alone or in a team as instructed when no one is watching,
• a spiritual component shows itself to be a vital quality,

to most recruits who successfully qualify for the grueling two week ordeal where they are either accepted or rejected for the privilege to continue into Green Beret course training.

Many recruits did not last the first several hours or even the first day. They had a choice of voluntary exit the program or get eliminated. They operated sleep deprived to simulate the battlefield in this test environment with a few hours of sleep; they were called into action at any time of the day or night. Those who were over-confident or even arrogant were quickly eliminated since they had no idea of the difficulty of the program they were about to endure.

• The Green Beret’s Motto: “To Liberate the Oppressed”

To follow formal reason, the achievement of the above motto requires a personal sense of Apriori mission in the soldier’s heart. It must require a sense of non judgmental thinking as if they “deserved it” somehow, but focusing on the tyrannical injustice to the victim of those circumstances inflicted upon those victims, far above their ability to liberate themselves.

That sense of mission resides in us by that sense of “eternity” planted in our hearts as described in the book of Ecclesiastes and Augustine, to inherently know good and evil on the same standard as our Creator-God, Yahweh who says, “I am the Lord; I change not”.

I fail to see how a non-believer could follow that sense of mission, since his foundation is set on his own subjective sense of good and evil which may change from day to day, week to week or whatever situation he may find himself, a subjective shifting-sand type of right and wrong that is so prevalent in our society as God hating entities continue to ram their Godless agenda down the throats of those who believe through fallacy filled legislation, Constitutional error and Judicial decisions by judges who appoint themselves as legislators, ultimately resulting in the violation of everyone’s First Amendment Rights on a defective premise our God fearing forefathers never intended. A soldier on a shifting- sand faulty foundation could never achieve this mission To Liberate the Oppressed.

Two Weeks: Two Parts – Solo Performance And Team Performance

Week One focused on solo performance. They were taken out into the training environment wilderness in the middle of the night with only rudimentary direction finding equipment – a map and a compass. They were specifically instructed to avoid high traffic routes where they could be ambushed or spotted in a battlefield environment, especially traffic route bottlenecks where the enemy would spot them.

Their route finding required them to cross swamps, trackless wilderness without trail, high risk to parasites and other wild beasts, while avoiding the easier traffic routes as they were instructed, all during the middle of the night.

Although they carried flashlights, they were instructed not to use them since the enemy in a battlefield environment would spot them miles away and reveal their location. They were also given packs weighing 50 to 100 pounds. Should they be caught using a flashlight, it would be cause to immediately expel them from the course.

Vertigo: rolling
Volunteers training included rolling on the ground for long periods of time. The rolling induced vertigo and dizziness where many volunteers got dizzy and vomited. They were instructed not to vomit on the course but rather outside the area. Many got quite sick; some could not continue since they were both sick and disoriented. Not continuing meant they were out of the program. Many were eliminated in this step, which was only in the first day or so.

Climbing
Volunteers were required to climb rope ladders, walls and log devices up to about 50 feet high. Some volunteers were not originally afraid of heights; yet, having gotten up high without any safety net caused some volunteers to freeze and had difficulty getting down. Delays in getting down meant they were scrutinized for possibly getting ejected from the program, depending on how they did in that situation.

Heights
Some who were previously not afraid of heights because a bit freaked out when thy discovered they were 50 feet in the air with no safety rope or net. Numerous obstacles in the course included poles, walls and other obstacles the volunteers were required to scale quickly.

Integrity: Following Orders
The definition of integrity has been described as to whether or not a person does what is right whether or not anyone sees them. In this rigorous program, the volunteers were taken out into the middle of the wilderness, dropped off and given a destination with a time limit to arrive at. They were unaware that the program Officers were observing them using night vision equipment (FLIR), which revealed the activity of the volunteer as if it were noon day. Those that were observed to be using flashlights, sleeping or failing to follow orders were eliminated immediately.

The volunteers were also required to wear Geo-location GPS satellite navigation equipment to monitor their location for safety and monitoring reasons. Some recruits were caught sleeping, some were lost, some lost their sense of direction and did not arrive at their required destination either in the time limit or failed to arrive at all. Both were eliminated. By the end of the first day approximately 50 out of the 250 were eliminated.

Those volunteers who were observed to take the high traffic routes were eliminated immediately. Those routes bottlenecked the volunteers into areas where the enemy could easily ambush them. Although other routes were far more difficult including snake or wild beast infested swamps, deep waters, they were required to take those routes which avoided ambush.

Preparation
The video showed some volunteers were poorly prepared physically. Upper body strength was lacking to the extent that some volunteers were in such poor shape that they could not finish their mission. Muscles were obviously flabby, big bellies and soft arms like the Pillsbury doughboy.

The Source of Orders
The volunteers orders came only from one source: a white board posted in the middle of camp. Orders were changed and executed any time of the night or day; volunteers were expected to execute them immediately with no delay. Delayed execution of the orders was reason for expulsion.

Team Performance.
Week one focused on individual performance, obedience and personal resolve to execute their mission quickly and efficiently, to simulate the battlefield. In week two, volunteers were placed in groups of 10 – 20.

They were given orders to move a 400 pound, 50 gallon drum of liquid about 7 miles. They were only given 4 poles, several wheels and some ropes. Each team appointed a leader; afterwards they devised a plan to use the poles, wheels and ropes in a makeshift system to move the barrel.

The most efficient teams took their system, filled in for those parts that lacked such as wheels falling off the poles, balancing the drum or whatever. They made their mission in good time.

Some teams lacked good leadership. Their system was poorly designed, causing excessive failures and ultimately low morale. Some gave up and just laid down by the side of the road from exhaustion and hunger. Several men had left their weapon behind and had to backtrack several miles to get it. Not to have a weapon was grounds for immediate expulsion. Inefficient teams argued and engaged in excessive discussion while the other teams worked together, filled their part and made the system work in a way where each man filled a need.

A critical function causing several teams to fail their mission was a lack of navigational skills. Their navigator failed to read the map correctly causing their team to take the wrong road, wasting valuable time in a hard lesson where they were required to move the barrel back several miles to the correct road, expending valuable time and energy.

Eventually, the last team arrived approximately 6 – 8 hours after the first, but long after the deadline had passed to fulfill their mission.

Lessons we can Learn

Personal Integrity v. Self Assured Destruction – S.A.D.
This author finds the lessons we can learn in our daily life, spiritual life, business life remarkable and long lasting. We as Christians are given a mission to “Liberate the oppressed.” We can’t liberate the oppressed until we ourselves are liberated. We liberate ourselves beginning in the times we are alone, when it seems no one is watching, as those volunteers found themselves in the middle of the night, in the middle of the wilderness, with only basic provisions for direction finding and given a mission to complete in limited time. Most failures were self inflicted; therefore, I will coin an acronym: SAD – Self Assured Destruction.

Arrogance and Pride
The first device for SAD is pride and arrogance. Regardless of how well even the few prepared, even the most confident were shaken by the difficulty of the course. Life brings us curve balls, ambushes and unexpected grief many times from our own shortcomings or something we have no control over. Those who successfully endured to the end reaped the prize; the prize and honor of the Green Beret; a heritage to be passed down through the generations of the family and nation. Those who were self absorbed in the glory of their own abilities found themselves SADly mistaken.

Disoriented in the Dark
Like those volunteers, we find ourselves in life seemingly dropped off in the middle of the night, we don’t know where we are and have few resources, save a map which is our Word of God. Self pity would be our second device for SAD.

If we sit down and wait until things are better, like those who hid themselves in a field, covered themselves until daylight, failed their mission, their fellow soldiers and their own integrity. We don’t have forever. The Psalmist says, “teach me to number my days.”

Alone in the dark, secrecy gives us a false sense of our ability to “get away with something”, to cheat the system. What those volunteers failed to know or remember is that their supervising officers were watching their every move, even though it was pitch black in the middle of the night, through their night vision glasses (Infra Red FLIR).

Their every move was being observed through the night vision binoculars, just as God watches us as well. God will hold us accountable for every SAD device we engage in. Jesus said, “What is done in secret will be shouted from the housetop.” Let’s remember to do good things in secret, when no one watches, save God, so those things shouted from the housetop will be a pleasant return of honor, rather than shame and humiliation.

24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord.
Jer 23:24 (NLT)

Taking Shortcuts: Another device for S.A.D.
Those volunteers were monitored by GPS – satellite; their every move was known, just as God watches us from his Eye in the sky. If we were outside of His knowing, He would cease to be God. They were instructed not to take routes which led them into a closed area, limited for escape, even though it was a shorter and easier route, where the enemy could ambush them.
Their alternative (and instruction) was to take those paths which assured their safe arrival, if necessary cross swamps, through snake or other hostile environments with their heavy 50 pound or more packs and weapons. Those volunteers who took the short cut were eliminated.

Just as Jesus said, 13 ” Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

Matt 7:13-14 (NASB77)
Although us as Christians may not lose our salvation by taking the easy path; that license for grace cannot be assured since it is God who judges. For the volunteers, the easy path was another device for S.A.D and ejection from the program. Officers intercepted those even in the middle of the night when it was most unexpected, who took the easy path and eliminated them from the program.

Teamwork
The physical, moral, spiritual character and ability of those volunteers shown brightly when teamwork became essential. Leadership qualities each of them demonstrated as a requirement during the 400 pound barrel mission where navigation, map reading and direction finding became essential to complete the mission on time and on course.

As is in our Christian walk, our direction is not subjective, subject to the shifting sands of our whims, moods or societies ever changing standard. Our directives are given to us by our Commander Jesus Christ, they do not change and neither does He. His truths are Apriori- they are true in all times and all places. His truths and Word is a Lamp to our feet and a light to our eye even when it’s dark outside, there is no one around and we don’t know where to go; we can depend on the light of His Word and Spirit to guide us.

When those Volunteers were dropped off in the middle of the night, it appeared they were alone; we too seem like in life’s situation no one is around to help, talk to or guide us; but the Holy Spirit is God’s down payment of the promise He has given us that He will always be with us and never forsake us.

Those Volunteers, when in a team, had no room for ego or arrogance when they were focusing on their mission; neither do we have room for ego or arrogance to accomplish that mission (or purpose) God has given us. The ability to work with other believers is essential to accomplish those purposes.

The timing of the mission also determines a mission successful or a mission failed. Martin Luther King said, “Justice delayed is Justice denied.” If we delay the Justice of God’s directive, we are an accomplice to rebellion. To those Volunteers, bringing in that 400 pound barrel 8 hours behind scheduled mission was a failed mission. To those Volunteers that failure happened by, A) Lack of leadership, B) Lack of direction or navigation, C) Lack of Unity (or ego), D)Lack of preparation (lack of physical, moral or Spiritual strength.

The ability for each team to prevail or transcend their difficult mission, was determined by the ability of each Volunteer to prevail in each person’s Spirit, Soul and body; to focus on the prize of the glory of a mission accomplished and a job well done when they operated days or weeks sleep deprived, hungry, exhausted, doubting their abilities; but their strength of character; self talk must prevail against those inner voices screaming out JUST QUIT!

When David was at Ziklag, he found his wives and children taken captive, his village was burned, his men ready to stone him and Saul was still after him, but David encouraged himself – he made a deliberate choice for encouraging self talk, not to listen to those internal or external voices screaming for our defeat, but he remembered how God had been faithful to provide, protect and meet his every need. When he humbled himself, asking God’s direction; God directed him to go and recover his wives, children and goods. David executed that directive with all of his might like those Volunteers; David did not sleep until his mission was fully accomplished; he continued all night pursuing his enemies… to “liberate the oppressed.”

Our self talk also determines what outcome we will have as well. Like the spies who spied out the promised land; they prophesied their own victory or defeat. Those who said “we are like grasshoppers” were defeated and died in shame in the desert exactly like they professed in their fears. Those who professed they could take the land did exactly that; they went forward and took the land. They watered the Word with faith, on the Word they received from their God who promised them victory. They chose courage, faith and reaped a harvest of honor and victory, ultimately demonstrating the eternal strength of their God in the face of overwhelming circumstances where their enemies were bigger, stronger and were on their home turf.

Summary
It is the opinion of this author that those Volunteers for the Green Beret’s have much to teach us if we stop, look, listen and acknowledge their dedication, strength of character and integrity they demonstrated while in the middle of the dark wilderness, crossing swamps, bearing enormous physical burdens, bearing up alone or with others, while given strict time constraints, sometimes disoriented, puking and exhausted. Prevailing against those burdens require a strength of spirit that prevails over those without a sense of the eternal good and evil. I say it is our forefather’s character in the WWII generation that sometimes overshadows ours.

In contrast we see our societies icons of fame, wealth and power falling like dominoes in shame and humiliation by moral failings where they forgot their fear of God while, dirty deeds done dirt cheap while they were in secret, forgetting that God will shout their unfaithful deeds from the housetop. Many athletes, corporate executives’ fortunes and honor have ended up in divorce court, prison, dishonor or all of the above.

We got it wrong. Our icon’s of the latter are a paper moon of self, immediate gratification. Our real icons we have overlooked are those men and women, who like those who Volunteer for the Green Beret’s, may never be known for fame or fortune; yet, their Apriori strength of character is what gives those iconic failures the opportunity to fail. We as Christians should learn from them.

Let this article honor the demonstrated character of those Green Beret’s… and let us learn from them.