The Sheepdog Mentality

Over the last decade, a number of groups and individuals have adopted the “Sheepdog” mentality into their lives, almost to the point of diluting its initial concept. First explored by then US Army Ranger, LTC Dave Grossman, in his book On Combat he wrote;

LTC David Grossman, US Army (Ret.)

LTC David Grossman, US Army (Ret.)

Here is how the sheep and the Sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the Sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The Sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

The sheep generally do not like the Sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the Sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Still, the Sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the Sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa”…Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely Sheepdog.

This business of being a sheep or a Sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheep hood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth. [1]

The concept of being a Sheepdog has not been without its detractions. In recent years it has also been exploited as a means of justification or as self-gratification to those of the security and preparedness community that feel themselves as the last bastion between freedom-loving Americans and those on the Left and Right who wish to strip people of their rights. This has led to some wild interpretations, radicalism, and outright hijacking of the Sheepdog ideology. It has become something beyond what Grossman intended in his psychological investigations into the fight v. flight mentality of those in combat.

86th IBCT Soldiers Visit VillageIn my personal view, the Sheepdog ideology is much akin to Grossman’s initial findings, and I base my views on multiple tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, standing up for the 2nd Amendment here in the United States, and in dealing with my own life’s trials and tribulations in a nation of sheep. The Sheepdogs (the informed people) are indeed guardians of the sheep (the uninformed people). The sheep do not fully understand the role of the Sheepdog, nor do they appreciate the value of having Sheepdogs present in their lives. The sheep easily forget the lessons of history and pay little attention to their surroundings, making them easy prey for the wolf or other predator that seeks to take advantage of them.

Likewise, the Sheepdog is part wolf themselves, and part domesticated dog, representing both the world of predator and prey. It is in the nature of the Sheepdog to protect, guide, and maintain the sheep. But Sheepdogs never are loud, boisterous, or belligerent. They do not act from a place to “prove” their capabilities nor subjugate others despite the knowledge such is within their power. The entire point of being the Sheepdog is to serve as guardian, not warrior. Warriors pursue their own such tradecrafts and are indeed only higher-level guardians. But the Sheepdog is humble, joyful, and acts from a place to serve the community and greater good.

Wolves (and taken in this context – other such predators) are only sometimes easily recognizable. They are experts at taking advantage of their surroundings and situation. They seek only to gain from the sheep, and have no compunction that others must sacrifice to ensure the wolf and other predators stay at the apex of the paradigm. Wolves and other predators care little for the rights of the sheep to exist and see them only as a food source, and will use any means by which to impersonate or separate the sheep from the Sheepdog. Sometimes their actions are overt, others are much more subtle. Wolves and other predators seek only to consume and destroy, and will use any disaster or footfall to their advantage.

Goldblack-GadsdenSo regardless, I chose to be the Sheepdog. As a veteran I have written a blank check payable to the United States of America, its Constitution, and its ideals up to and including my life. Our Founding Fathers sacrificed greatly to ensure a Republic would go on and flourish, and it falls to both the Sheepdog and the Warriors that such a nation still exists today. It is debatable if the Republic this nation was founded on remains, but if the day comes when a Warrior’s shield and spear rust, the Sheepdog becomes too weak or feeble to protect – then that will be the day the wolf wins. So ask yourself, which are you?

Work Cited

1. Grossman, Dave, and Loren Christensen. On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace. NYC, NY: PPCT Research Publications, 2004.


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