Remembering Our Freedoms July 04 2018

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

Last week, I was privileged to see a presentation by Colonel Seth Krummrich, Garrison Commander for the National Training Center (NTC) located at the U.S. Army’s Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County, CA. The NTC serves as one of the Army's premier training centers. Following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, the NTC mission was transformed to focus on training for counterinsurgency operations, especially those that take place in desert environments such as those in northern Africa, the Middle East, and southwest Asia. With the July 4 U.S. Independence Day remembrances approaching, it seemed appropriate to provide a little window into how the U.S. military strives to keep this nation and much of the world protected from terrorist threats, working closely with other nations. The operation of the NTC is fascinating, and tells us a lot about training, equipping, and readiness for conflict.

Equipping the Soldiers

The NTC, with 996 square miles of land area, is almost the size of Rhode Island. The center brings together 6000 soldiers 10 times a year for a month each. It is designed as a “super laboratory” to replicate conditions as they might occur in the field for a range of current and future conflicts. One of the features of the center is the presence of 12 mock "villages" which are used to train troops in urban military operations, prior to their deployment. The villages mimic real-life, and contain a variety of buildings such as houses, businesses, religious sites, hotels, traffic circles, etc. filled with foreign language-speaking actors portraying government officials, local police, local military, villagers, street vendors, and insurgents.

One of the settings is a 600-building complex to model urban guerilla warfare, creating situations just like many soldiers will face in the field. See photo below. There is also a mountainous area to model situations such as they might find in Afghanistan. Air space above the training center is reserved for military exercises up to 26,000 feet.

One of the points the Colonel emphasized was that they create scenarios in which the soldiers must make decisions under extreme stress, understanding that it is much better to make their mistakes in training so that they are less likely to make them in the field. They are able to bring in all branches of the military to replicate coordinated ground and air combat and interaction with the local community, including the use of translators as would be experienced in the field. They recreate insurgent networks, terrorist networks, security threats, cyber attacks, etc., to help soldiers be prepared for almost any situation that may occur.

The center routinely brings in multi-national partners as well. The NTC strives to get all the operational details worked out before the units deploy, and this is typically the last stop for each unit before deployment into the areas of the world listed earlier. The Colonel Krummrich repeatedly stated what they tell the troops: “if you are going to fail, fail here in the simulated environment, not the real one.”

The combat theaters are instrumented so that they can track every person and every vehicle. Their training weapons are laser-based and calibrated to how the guns actually work. A resident “enemy squad” can make life very difficult for the trainees. It is as close as you can get to reality in the field. Feedback to the troops can be instantaneous. The debriefs and corrective actions are critical to preparing for the real-world threats, and the after-action reviews are brutally honest.

What struck me about the approach to military training embodied at Fort Irwin and at other military installations is that the training is all about preparing soldiers for real-life combat. Lessons learned in training can save one’s own life and the lives of fellow soldiers. There is no mention about being sensitive to the soldiers’ self-esteem, when helping them deal with life and death situations. Emphasizing self-esteem does not win military battles. Training, teamwork, and selflessness does.

Equipping the Saints

What also struck me is the strong parallel between physical and spiritual equipping. One of the primary reasons we gather together as bodies of believers is to be trained and equipped for interaction with the world, the Bible being our God-inspired training manual for real life. There are numerous reminders of this:

  • Ephesians 4:11-12 – And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 
  • 2 Timothy 2:3-4 – Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
  • Hebrews 5:13-14 – For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
  • Hebrews 12:11 – All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

The Scriptures also characterize the Christian life as a type of ongoing battle:

  • Ephesians 6:10-11 – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
  • I Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
  • Galatians 5:17 – For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

Yes, we study the Word of God and get together with other believers so that we can praise the Lord of the universe together. But we also do these things to be equipped for the work of service in everyday life. The temptations around us are like our spiritual insurgency, seeking to disable us and cause us harm. Perhaps we could think of the church as our “mock village,” preparing us for our daily battles and struggles.

BCF’s Bible study booklet titled “Living Victoriously in the Battles of Life” was developed to help believers be better equipped for facing and dealing with the every-day tests and temptations of life. It recognizes that real life can indeed be a battle in many ways – at work, at school, at home, financially, in our relationships, with our health, and in many other ways. This seven-week study works well with a group, personal study, or one-on-one discipleship. It can be thought of as a lead-in to Self-Confrontation: A Manual for In-Depth Biblical Discipleship, which has been BCF’s core curriculum for over 40 years, helping believers see God’s Word as the ultimate training manual for life. If you would like more information on these and other materials, please contact the BCF office at or access our home page at

Please also join us in showing our appreciation for the men and women in our armed services, along with our first responders, as the reason we can continue to speak openly about these things and celebrate the Fourth of July.

Steve Smith