Have a read of the Introduction in my new book
I’ve sat down endless times to write this book, and time after time I’ve given up because it was simply easier for me to just keep working with veterans than to write.
Around 2012 I began to make contact with a number of Rhodesian military groups on Facebook, since I am myself a veteran of the Rhodesian military. It soon became apparent that these veterans and their families had a real need for support. Through Skype, email, and from contributing articles and checklists to the various groups, I was able to support a number of soldiers and their partners around the world. Time restrictions soon made it clear, however, that it was not going to be possible to support more than a very limited number of people. From this was born the vision of writing this book so that as wide a range of veterans and their families (not just from the Rhodesian Bush War) could benefit from the insights, understandings, and strategies that I have used over the years. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Rhodesian Bush war, the war began around 1964 and ended in 1979, after which the country transitioned to a new black-majority government under Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. In 1980 the country was renamed Zimbabwe under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
Why the title? What came to me was that, so often in times of transition (from military to civilian life) or with the impact of trauma, much of our behaviour has the tendency to become self-destructive, either inwardly towards ourselves (alcohol, lifestyle, stress, depression) or outwardly towards others and the territory we occupy. The goal would be a constructive and positive movement towards relating to ourselves, others, and our world so that the presence of the “Claymore” of the title is no longer an option. (A Claymore mine, introduced for use by the US Army, is an aimable antipersonnel device that when detonated shoots metal balls into the kill zone of an ambush; the Claymore mine was named for the claymore, a two-handed sword used in medieval Scotland.) This book is not an academic or researched text. Nor is it a replacement for appropriate diagnosis and management. It’s a little book based on endless hours of sitting with men from the Australian military and the Rhodesian Bush War, from World War II through Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s a book based on my own personal insights from being a combat veteran of the Rhodesian Bush War to the many messes and losses I faced during my own postwar journey. It’s based on my experiences of being witness to the veterans’ deep pain, loss, and grief and their depression, stress, anxiety, anger, and everyday struggles to adjust to the unpredictable complexities of civilian life. It’s based on the universal and timeless experience and shared comradeship of veterans gathering with veterans, no matter whether they come from special forces units or regular units. It’s based on the stories of veterans’ partners and children as they have desperately tried to find ways to understand and bridge the traumatic silence so typical of many veterans, as well as to deal with the war that returned home—the rage and reactivity, the alcohol and flashbacks. It’s based on the deep feelings of loss veterans have felt as they’ve tried to connect with those they once knew but still love. It’s based on supporting veterans and their families to create a map and find a compass that will help them operate in the bewildering and unpredictable confusion of civilian life.
Finally, this book is based not just on the trust and insights that have emerged between myself and these remarkable people, not just on my own deepening of my skills in treating trauma, but also my personal journey of healing. As much as I have had an impact on those I have been privileged to speak with, they in turn have enriched, affected, and left me a wiser and better man, veteran, father, friend, husband, and psychologist.
I have kept this book short and simple. I have drawn on operational lessons, principles, and military training and have linked these factors to create a map and resource that veterans can draw on when transitioning to civilian life. I have translated the brain and neuroscience to operational terms. Through this book I hope you will become clearer about how to move from an ambush mode to what I call an OP (observe, plan, think, and organise) mode. (An OP is also an observation post, where the terrain and those moving across it can be monitored without being visible.) You will learn tools and insights to choose which way your Claymore faces. You will find language to support you to communicate with your partner, friends, children, and family. You will find help in identifying tools to learn to do your pull-through, keep your personal “barrel” clean, and avoid stoppages. I will also share resources on my website from a number of approaches that the veterans I’ve worked with have found effective, especially in those tight situations where an immediate “cock, hook, and look” is needed. (This is an immediate action drill to assess and then clear a cartridge stuck in the breech of a weapon.)
There is no rocket science in anything I have written. I leave the academics for others. This is an on-the-ground, in-territory, dusty, sweaty, practical, short, and simple book. I do not suggest anything that I have not personally used and continue to use to this day. Take time, as you move through the book, to put it down once in a while and think about your commitment to your journey and to creating change. Think about some of the insights, understandings, and strategies and then commit to trying one or two things that may make sense to you. Draw on the support of others around you. Remember that a good patrol is determined by the knowledge of the map you carry, your internal compass (your values and judgement), the resources you equip yourself with to manage and survive, and, most important of all, the presence of others in your group. The rules remain the same—teamwork, knowledge, and the willingness to take the first step. I wish you well on this journey and hope that, along the way, you find the peace you deserve and the connections with others that are important to you in whatever territory you currently find yourself.
My website has a number of very practical tools that are freely available for you to try out. I personally continue to use these tools to this day and have seen the benefit they’ve had on those I’ve sat with in my practice. They are drawn from the work of a number of people and organisations. I wish to add that, before using these tools, be sure to clear these tips with any professionals you are working with.
I would really like to stress that you may be recently out of operations, or forty years may have passed since you were on active duty. But it is never too late to get help in order to change and to heal.