By James Craig Hartz Jr.
MLTR 1005—Killing for Non-Majors DEPT. OF THE ARMY
SPRING 2016, MONDAY-SUNDAY 0000-2359 OFFICE: Washington, DC 22202
GAROUA, CAMEROON PHONE: N/A
This semester you will personally investigate the ethics and repercussions of being a non-combatant who may be asked to kill to protect yourself or others. You are a Combat Medic, tasked with healing—this does not matter. You are a Christian, whose God deems murder a sin—this does not matter. You enlisted to go to war, and you knew this the moment you raised your hand while your father watched in pride and unspoken fear and swore a holy oath that bound you to your country in a covenant only to be broken by the offering flow of your blood. This matters, because this is the whole of your contract. The Government and United States Army has seen fit to entrust forty-four highly trained Infantrymen to your care. This matters, because their contract is to complete the Mission. Despite our best efforts, they will matter more to you than all the rest.
Learning in this course will be hands-on, abrupt, and aggressive. All your knowledge up until now has been theoretical and is therefore useless. You have learned how to march and run and fire a rifle so steadily you can perch a dime on the muzzle without it falling. You have studied anatomy and physiology and pharmacology and trauma, how to perform the first eleven steps of a cricothyroidotomy in under two minutes, how to pack gauze into the hemorrhaging femoral artery of a dying friend, enemy, or civilian, how to set ruined bones and pull ragged flesh back together with smooth supple sutures wreathed with blood like lace, how to perform a needle chest decompression. This does not matter. Your Platoon Sergeant will teach you how to move, shoot, and communicate while bullets fly around you, how to breach a locked door and clear a room with a cold and deadly efficiency, how you are a Rifle first, and only after that a Medic, their Doc, a Man. When you refuse to leave a man behind, even in training scenarios, he will instruct you that the Mission comes first, whatever the cost, whoever the cost may be. You will be told that a dead Doc doesn’t treat anyone. This will not be the Platoon you deploy with, but they will teach you, mold you, sharpen you, and you will learn quickly or be left behind. You will learn.
OFFICE HOURS: N/A
Combat Veterans, Platoon Sergeants, etc., will be provided for your unit. Direct all questions to them. Follow the Chain of Command. The higher you go, the less we will listen.
No appointments, phone calls, emails, or other arrangements. Open door policy is in effect, officially.
1. The Four Fundamentals of Marksmanship: Steady Position, Trigger Squeeze, Aiming, and
Breath Control. When you fire a rifle, your hands will not shake.
2. Value Judgments: Your life and the lives of your guys will be weighed against those of the
Enemy. You will not have a choice. Not really.
3. The Allegory of the Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs: The Enemy are wolves who seek only
to feast on the defenseless sheep we protect. And wolves are deserving of no pity or mercy
from the sheepdogs—they are faceless, nameless, silhouettes. Find your place in this
metaphor. Ensure it is the right one.
4. Life, After: There will be no training, hand-holding, or coddling in this. We will provide
no answers. There will be little, if any, guidance. Those were not a part of your contract.
Grades will be determined on a PASS/FAIL basis in response to stimuli while downrange. All tests and quizzes will be spontaneous and unknown, both to you and your entire unit, so ensure you are thoroughly prepared well before you find yourself alone and surrounded with one less bullet than you need because the last one is for you, or are charged by a dark vehicle on the savanna in the pale hours of the morning. No matter how much training you conduct, how many trauma lanes you perform, how many silhouettes you hit, you will not be prepared.
Remember that there is only one test that matters. This will constitute 100% of your final grade in the course, and only you will know for certain if you pass or fail. Whether you squeeze the trigger or not, there will be one moment, at least, in which you will know if you would have. You will never forget this moment. You will never, perhaps, forgive this moment. If you survive, you will dream of this moment and wake up disoriented, unsure of where you are, panic when you cannot find your weapon, and clear every room in your house with the hatchet inscribed with your name before you realize it has been years since you were pressed into the dust with sweat blinding your eyes as you tried to aim at the man who may have been your Enemy while he hovered within the casket of your sight. This does not matter. It is the test, and there will be no grading on a curve.
Willingness to Squeeze: 100%
Life, After: 0%. (This is extra credit that will not be added to your
grade. All readings and assignments will be completed
individually. Office Hours policies will not apply.)
Participation & Attendance: Compulsory. (Lack of participation will result in
demotion, dishonorable discharge, and/or imprisonment
in Fort Leavenworth.)
Willing – 100%
Unwilling – 0%
Grades will never be posted, and you will be angry when you are asked if you passed the course. Prepare yourself anyway. You will be asked. You will not know how to respond, and we will not give you an answer. It will be up to you to decide whether to say “Yes” or “No” with the full knowledge that both of these answers are true in their own way. Your belief that truth is fixed—constant, invariable, singular—will buckle under this and this alone, but if you choose to cling to your non-required reading it will hold, just.
None. All equipment will be provided for you.
A Bible of your preferred translation is recommended, but you must learn to use it on your own. Instruction in faith under fire is not a part of this course. You may search and pray and scar those pages for hours and days uncounted over the course of this semester, but you will do so alone. Take whatever comfort, peace, or guidance you can, but the weight of them is yours to carry. We did not provide space for them in your equipment. They were not a part of your contract.
James Craig Hartz Jr. is a fiction writer and essayist based in Denver, CO. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Oregon State University. Previously, he spent four years as a Combat Medic in the U.S. Army. His writing has appeared in Witness Magazine, the tiny journal, F(r)iction, and Watershed Review, has been nominated for Best American Short Stories, and was the winner of Witness Magazine‘s 2022 Literary Award in Nonfiction and the tiny journal’s “(re)tell me a story” contest. He is currently at work on his first novel while pursuing an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. jamescraighartzjr.com