Throughout my entire military carer I was challenged both physically, and mentally. However, it was always my mental toughness that saw me through whatever hardship I was facing. I watched PT (physical training) studs wash-out of various attrition schools because they lacked mental toughness.

I wasn’t the best Ranger, nor was I the worst. I wasn’t the strongest, or fastest, but there wasn’t anything you could do to make me quit, or to break me. I wanted to be a Ranger more than I had wanted anything in my life, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get it. That being said, there were obstacles I had to overcome, probably similar to any other man who made it to Ranger Regiment.

I always wondered why they put us through so much sh#t during training, couldn’t they already figure out who really wanted to be there? Or, who they thought would be a good fit? The realization of the why, came to me during Operation Red Wings. Made famous by Lone Survivor, during Operation Red Wings my platoon (1st Plt Cco 2/75 RGR RGT) was tasked with roping down to secure the crash site (of the QRF force), and subsequently searching for any survivors of the missing SEAL team. We were the first to reach the crash site.

Ranger Loadout: Mental Toughness
Soldiers attending Ranger School. Image courtesy of wunc.org

After day two our unit was out of water, however we continued to do our job, there were people who needed us. I learned to break through both mental, and physical barriers I had once thought impossible. In true Ranger fashion, my platoon sergeant, and 1st sergeant truly set the example for others to follow. Never once did they seem fatigued, indecisive, or shaken while operating at elevations over 10,000ft, without water. Eventually we were able to receive a resupply via air-dropped pallets, which made the operation easier.

So that’s why it mattered. When you think it can’t get worse, it can, and you need to be able to operate under those kinds of conditions effectively. So how do you get mental toughness? I believe that exposure to difficult situations can help, but the true grit of mental toughness is a part of who you are. Some people have it, and others don’t. Mental toughness is not unique to Rangers, it is found throughout all branches of the Military, in all occupations. It is also found outside the Military.

Recently my sister and I decided we would try out a Spartan Race in Seattle (Super 9 Miles, 25+ obstacles). It was difficult, and it was rewarding because neither of us quit, and we worked together effectively (I won). I highly recommend trying a race like this (Tough Mudder, Spartan, etc.) to test your mental toughness (maybe just bang the rust off like me). Team X-T.R.E.M.E takes mental toughness to a whole different level.

Robert McCartney's EDC

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Team X-T.R.E.M.E is a non-profit, whose goal is to empower wounded Veterans. In the video below they tackle a Spartan race in a manner which demands respect.

(Video courtesy of SpartanRaceTube YouTube channel)

When I encounter something difficult in my life I think about my time in the military, and realize it can be overcome. Sometimes with planning, and sometimes with sheer will. Without mental toughness, I can honestly say I would have failed at many things in my life. What are some events that challenged your mental toughness? Let me know about them in the comment section below. 

(Featured image courtesy of army.mil)