Brothers in arms

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing Commander
H e was now far from his base and Greene's Army was still in the field. His only hope was to bring Greene to battle and destroy him. The trained nucleus of Greene's troops drawn up behind a rail fence wrought havoc among his regulars.

Again and again, headed by their officers, the regiments assaulted the American line. He had lost nearly a third of his men and had no choice but to make for the coast and seek reinforcements. Greene let him go. Greene's Army had done enough. In just eight months, they had marched and fought over 900 miles of swampy and desolate country.

Outnumbered by three to one, Greene had lost the battles, but won the campaign.

This is Winston Churchill's account of our founding brothers-in-arms under the leadership of Gen. Nathanael Greene as they moved toward the culminating battle at Yorktown against Cornwallis in 1781.

Six years earlier on July 3, George Washington had taken command of the Continental Army.
It is to that day and that force we trace our heritage as brothers-in-arms. Eighty-eight years later, to the day, the second generation of founding brothers were in the midst of determining our course as a nation on the battlefield at Gettysburg. And 79 years later, to the day, the third generation of founding brothers were flying the first American bombing mission over enemy-occupied Europe. And so here we are, in essence, fourth generation brothers-in-arms and only three times removed from those that took up winter quarters at Valley Forge.

So, what is the significance of being fourth generation brothers-in-arms? Why is the heritage trace important? What does it mean to us here, now, and today?

The significance and trace of being fourth generation brothers-in-arms is awesome if we pause to consider the deeds of those that have come before us. And so for a moment consider the sacrifices made to bind 50 stars together in a field of blue and then trace their heritage back to the original 13 red and white bars.

Whether on fields afar or near, from the beaches of Normandy to the Yorktown shoreline, from the Red River to the Delaware River, or from the Sunni Triangle to Hudson Valley, we are bound together as brothers across generations and battlefields of blood.

Our trace is rich with heritage, sacrifice, excellence, and pride; it is not one easily dismissed or forgotten, and it echoes forward the encouragement of those who have gone before us. Students of military tactical operations have often attempted to determine why men and women perform as they do in harrowing circumstances -- take a bullet, dive on a grenade, sacrifice their life.

Does it have to do with geopolitical or religious beliefs? Is it the cause? Is it leadership?

What exactly motivates individuals to sacrifice themselves? The answer may surprise you.

They do it for the one who is there right beside them -- nothing more and certainly nothing less. And so the relevance of brothers-in-arms is even more significant in the context of here, now, and today because it is the bond between foxhole-mates, tent-mates, and shipmates that sees us each through the ordeals we face as units and individuals. It is this bond that should encourage us to train harder, to play together, and break down the walls of stereotypes by getting to know the man or woman that will stand beside us when the going gets tough.

Successful small unit tactics are built on trust and coordination.

The bond of brothers-in-arms is the stuff of legend, the trace of our military heritage, and an imperative for every successful military unit.

So the next time you hear our National Anthem and look at our flag, stand proud as the fourth generation connected to our founding brothers-in-arms -- and commit yourself to the brother-in-arms standing there right beside you.