The rush of battle

“The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Chris Hedges

The movie The Hurt Locker, opens with that quote on the screen. I saw it yesterday, an excellent movie about a U.S. Army bomb squad, or Emergency Ordinance Disposal team, working in Baghdad, Iraq in 2004. It is a very gripping movie that as Kenneth Turan, a film critic for the LA Times said,  “it simply blows you apart and doesn’t bother putting you back together again”. The movie has been nominated for nine academy awards.

The interactions between the individuals in the bomb squad, and the tense drama as improvised explosive devices are being disarmed, are fascinating. The leader of the unit, Sergeant First Class William James, is a risk taker, a reckless cowboy sometimes putting not only himself but the rest of the unit and innocent bystanders in peril.

After Sgt. James put out a vehicle fire with a 20-pound dry chemical fire extinguisher, and then disarmed a huge bomb in the car’s trunk, an officer called him repeatedly a “Wild Man, a Wild Man”.  At first I was not sure if that was a compliment, but the officer thought it was. He was proud of the Sergeant, while the rest of his unit had been advising him to abandon the rigged car, since everyone had been evacuated from the area and it was much too hazardous to attempt to disarm the bomb in the still-smoking car which could have been detonated at any time by an insurgent with a cell phone.

You may know someone like this in the firefighting profession.

But I hope you don’t.

I don’t know that I would go so far as to say that firefighting is a “potent and lethal addiction”, or is a “drug”, but a person could draw some parallels between warfighting and firefighting.  Well, on second thought, it might be a potent addiction, while being occasionally lethal, unfortunately.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “The rush of battle”

  1. Some people relish living on the edge. Others for the sense of comaraderie, others out of duty and honor. I did it because I was told to, the draft and as a way to change my life and escape a small closed world. It opened a whole new world for me and I never looked back.

    “As long as there are brave men ready to step foward to face danger I will never fear for our nations freedom” ADM. Richard O”Kane USN. CMH recipient.

  2. Amen, Nobody signs up to do mop-up or to work in the finance section or move bags butts and boxes of water on a helibase. We got in as GS-3’s to slay teh dragon and take pictures of when it is “blowin’ and goin'” And to catalog our memories of the “Major Rager’s” We sit through the WFSTAR every year and think “what would I do if I had to deploy” Not, “How am I going to prevent the spread of camp crud as I manage a shower unit”.

  3. “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Chris Hedges

    Before a drug is prescribed there must be a sickness.

    What ails young American men today to choose to enter a non-compulsory armed forces?

    1. Ergo-

      I don’t want to give away the ending of the movie, but the last two scenes address your question about why someone would voluntarily join the armed forces.

      By the way, The Hurt Locker has been released on DVD.


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