I consider myself to be a bit of a subject matter expert on this topic. Prior to co-founding MissionX, I was one of the architects behind the successful development of KASOTC’s (King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center) Annual Warrior Competition.
Back in April of 2009, I was selected along with several other key persons to work alongside the Jordanian Army to stand-up the operations at KASOTC. I was one of three initial people on the ground in Jordan awaiting for the remainder of our team to join us. The other two were legendary former Delta Force operators Major General Gary Harrell and Norman Hooten. Both of who were portrayed in the movie “Blackhawk Down”. Norman had experience competing in events similar to the Warrior Competition and hatched the idea to create KASOTC’s competition in tandem with the grand opening, and the idea was born. Our goal was to push and plan toward KASOTC’s grand opening set for May 2009. With the new team all together and less than 30 days to put it together, we had only 3 Jordanian teams participate..humble beginnings. Over the next few years I became the primary organizer of the event in addition to my other KASOTC duties. I invested a lot of time building relationships with international units and drawing them to KASOTC and it’s competition. When our 4th addition of the annual event rolled around in 2012, we had 32 international teams participating from 18 countries. We had an international team of dedicated staff behind the scenes putting all of this together. I was last original team member when I left KASOTC in June 2012, one month after the 4th Annual Warrior Competition. Now you know the history, lets talk about why the Warrior Competition exist.
A recent article in the New York Times covered the Warrior Competition at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Center and left some readers thinking it was a “Waste of money” or “Involved a bunch of immature cowboys”. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/magazine/sleep-away-camp-for-postmodern-cowboys.html?pagewanted=all
However, with full support and leadership from the Jordanian Armed Forces, the competition is really about one thing; breaking down cultural barriers and building relationships. The competition just happens to be the vehicle that drives all these warriors together under a common bond. Firstly, lets touch on the term “Warrior” and get a little philosophical for a moment. When some people hear the term, “Warrior”, they instantly associate it with the negative, i.e. warmongers, killers, etc. If you grow up around warriors like I did (Father, Mother, Brother, Grandfather, Uncles) and serve among warriors, you come to know the absolute truth as to what drives the large majority of them…love. Yes, I said love! It sounds so sappy, how can that be? Well, in a complex world we sometimes miss the most simple things, I’ll explain my position. The large majority of warriors possess a deep love for the principle of protecting other members of their species, countrymen, families, friends, brothers-in-arms and most of the time, complete strangers. A love so pure and strong they are willing to fling themselves into the jaws of death in the name of protecting something other then themselves . Maybe this sounds a bit naive and exaggerated but it has been alive and strong throughout the history of mankind . Some warriors may never fully understand the yearning, as it can reside in their subconscious yet drives them to dive on a grenade to save those around them. It lives in firefighters, police officers and even ordinary citizens who suddenly find themselves acting in the capacity of a good samaritan…all warriors at heart So, what greater love is there than a man who would lay his life down for his brother (meaning another human)? None! This totally unselfish trait found in warriors is love. The kind of love that makes a warrior wish he or she had been present at places like Sandyhook, Winnenden, Osaka, onboard those planes during 911, in Oslo, Port Arthur and every other scene where predators found themselves alone with the innocent beings that the warriors so desperately yearn to protect. Now that is the fitting description that should be synonymous to the word “Warrior”.
Now back to KASOTC’s Warrior Competition. OK, so I will admit that these guys from “Team America” did not do the mature professional soldier any favors, at least not the way the article represented them. After being deeply involved in the first four Warrior Competitions I can tell you this, I never witnessed anything but professional soldiers and police officers who represented their countries and units with the utmost care and respect. All the while, respecting their Jordanian hosts and their culture. In addition, the setting was not that of braggarts telling stories of their latest “kills” but instead guys from different countries showing each other pictures of their families on laptops and inviting one another to visit them in their homes one day. I vividly remember talking to a U.S. Marine competitor at the 4th Annual Warrior Competition and him praising the event for giving his team the opportunity to make new friends and expand their experience working with other units/countries. Specifically, he mentioned the Palestinian team and how he and other Marines played soccer with them after the day’s events, shared personal stories and bragged about each other’s kids (I guess there was some bragging after all). This competition had broke down biases, misguided expectations and exposed the human element in what were once strangers. Now, that is exactly what the event is about and that is what has been achieved year after year. Is it a venue for the teams to test their combat skills? Yes. Are there lots of weapons, explosions, hazards and a desire to win the event? Absolutely! But, having been involved in this makes you feel that on some level you might be effecting future peace and tolerance through building camaraderie among strangers. Most will agree that one of the strongest bonds that exist is between those that share hardship, specifically war fighters. That bond is the backbone of this competition and what draws these men, and now women, to one another. After they finish and return home, those strangers who looked different and had “weird” cultures don’t seem so different anymore. They all learned about one another, laughed together, pained through the events together and ended up on the backside as friends. One could argue that in contrast, this competition is a tool for peace.
C.K. Redlinger – Co Founder MissionX