Since coming on Active Duty I’ve spent more time in the field than I have in probably my entire career in the Guard. Don’t hear me wrong. We went to the field in the Guard. We just didn’t do it with the regularity that I’ve now experienced on Active Duty. Part of that is due to the type of unit and brigade that I serve in but, nonetheless, it’s been a bit of a stretching and growing experience for me.
If you’re into MBTI, I’m an ISFJ. I thrive in quiet. I thrive in small groups of people with whom I share strong relational bonds. I really enjoy teaching (Which may seem counterintuitive but I’ve met a lot of introverts who enjoy teaching. We just need a nap afterwards.). Large groups of people draw heavily from my emotional well. Typically, after engaging with large numbers of people I need some time to find a quiet respite.
Being in the field means being with a sizable group of people for as long as it takes for us to accomplish our particular field problem. As a Chaplain, I make an effort to get out and see my soldiers as often possible. During our last field problem, I was able to do battlefield circulation where I spoke, face to face, with upwards of half of my unit for numerous days in a row. This was absolutely fantastic for getting to see my soldiers and get to know some of them better and provide a lot of on the spot counsel. Some of the conversations were just a few words while others were much more in depth.
What I discovered was that at the end of the day I was completely spent. By the end of the field problem I wanted to find a quiet corner, put on headphones, and read a book completely undisturbed for about 32 hours. So I’m being stretched. God is pulling me out of my comfort zone every time we go to the field. It wears me down emotionally and spiritually but what I’m finding is that it builds bridges with soldiers that never would have been there otherwise.
It has also forced me to look for those quiet moments in the midst of our field problems where I can recharge my batteries for a bit. For me this might mean that during a lull during the day, I find a quiet tree and read and pray for awhile. It might mean that if the mission allows, I go to bed a little earlier and use the time before I fall asleep in my little tent to read a book (I always bring a book to the field with me). On a spiritual level, it has reminded me to look to God for my strength and sustenance. One of my go to Psalms for a quick field devotional is Psalm 3 which speaks of David being sustained by the hand of God when he has reached the end of himself. That’s a reminder I need all the time. To try to do this on my own, to fill my well on my own, is folly.
I’m grateful that my first experience on Active Duty has been with a unit like this. It’s forced me to start to stretch my introversion a bit and also to work to develop healthy ways to recharge in the challenging environment of the field.