Nick Thasarathar, St James’s Operations Director, served as an Infantry Officer in the British Army and commanded a reconnaissance team during the 1990/1 Gulf Ward. He talks about how it’s not what you carry into the desert that counts, it’s what you bring out of it.
The deep desert is an unforgiving but honest environment; sullen seas of ochre sand stretch away to every horizon, risen and ebbed by wind and time. The rippling dance of heat hazes torment your imagination like a revolving mirror, reflecting only that which you bring there; because there is little else to feed them.
Over 30 years ago, sitting in a circle with my soldiers on the eve of battle, I reflected on this. On the horizon, a distant storm of B52 strikes rumbled on; deadly payloads tumbling from on high, flashing and spitting across the desert floor as they softened the enemy positions that we would be attacking the next day.
The only other thing to be seen was each other, made more visible and exposed by this barren backdrop and the circumstances that had brought us here. Looking around my small team, faces barely visible in the low glow of a communal cooking pot, a thought struck me. Whatever each of us had carried with us into the desert had been stripped bare by the time we gathered for this final meal. What remained was humour, humility, fierce camaraderie, and a unifying purpose. Those of us who survived the months that followed, left the desert, bringing those qualities with us.
So, my thought for the week is this; if we take time to tune out the background distractions and unite under a common purpose; the only other thing we need to bring to the task is ourselves; it is not what you carry into the desert that counts, it is what you bring out of it.