Barney Barnes

I’ve posted insights from my former Chief of Staff, Barney Barnes, before (we had the running joke that every Sheriff needs a Barney…). In his retirement, he has taken up his passion for writing, including an awesome book (that I highly recommend) called Born to Be a Warrior.

This past Memorial Day, Barney penned the following piece on the Warrior Code that I thought would be particularly fitting for the Police Dynamics site because it incorporates so much of the character-based principles necessary to be a great leader.

The Warrior Code                                 

“The warrior code takes a soldier and makes him a knight.  It connects the natural life of a fighter to the supernatural understanding of the warrior calling.  His duties are transformed into holy sacrifices; his sense of self is reformed into the image of the servant in pursuit of valor.  He becomes part of a fellowship, a noble tradition that flows thru him and carries him beyond the mediocre and the vain.” — Steven Mansfield, The Faith of the American Soldier  

I have worn a warrior suit, of one form or another, most of my adult life–first as a navy pilot, then state guardsman and law enforcement official. Now at age 66 I can say, without reservation, that Steven Mansfield has uncovered a great truth.  In fact, the truth of his statement transcends historical and cultural divides.

A warrior code is necessary in our fallen world because of the presence of evil and the chaos and violence it produces.  We become aware of this violence early on in the Genesis text. In chapter 4, we learn the details of a homicide in which Cain, in an outburst of anger, murders his brother Abel.  This violence continues today often serving as the lead story on local, national, and international news reports from around the world.

Ten chapters after Cain killed Abel, we find the first evidence of an established and functioning warrior code described in Genesis 14.  Initially we learn of two different armed alliances doing battle against each other over a large area. During the ensuing conflict collateral damage occurs when some of Abram’s (later known as Abraham) kinsmen are taken hostage.

In this remarkable account Abram quickly musters and leads a force of 318 “trained” men on a hostage rescue mission some 90 miles distant.  It is worthy of note that once Abram found the enemy camp he chose to launch a surprise night attack. It was a stunning success!  Such a complex operation requires seasoned and well disciplined warriors who live by a code.

The Hebrew word chaniyk is used in verse 14 to describe the 318 warriors who carried out this rescue mission.  Chaniyk can be translated as trained, initiated, or practiced–all terms that describe warriors who are readied for battle.  This is the type of officer needed in every agency…men and women trained and readied for battle against evil forces. 

In the opening quote, Steven Mansfield alludes to the fact that all soldiers are not warriors.  After over 37 years of first-hand experience, I can attest to this fact.  It reminds me of the Samurai precept which says:  “A warrior who wears two swords at his side but does not put the spirit of combat into his heart is nothing but a peasant or a merchant wearing the skin of a warrior.” Code of the Samurai

You see, living by a warrior code is a heart issue.  It is not merely a cerebral process or a matter of earning a number of qualifications, although a good intellect and martial skills are very useful to the warrior.

The transformation from soldier to warrior that Mansfield describes is a matter of the heart that involves moving into the realm called the warrior ethos.  This realm is characterized by “the passionate desire and determination in the heart of men to prepare and to perfect themselves for the stance against evil in the service of others.” This is what I call the “warrior spirit. ”

This passionate desire and determination of the heart will compel officers to actively seek ways to develop and strengthen their core.  This is a process, not a single action, requiring months and years to define, strengthen, and refine the values that comprise that core.

These core values such as love of God, duty, honor, courage, and self-less service give form and substance to the warrior code. They give soul to both the masculine and feminine gender and strengthen the community and the culture as a whole.

This critical dynamic is often missing in the life of many law enforcement officers because the leadership imperative to impart an overarching vision is missing in action.  For this reason the flame of passion goes out in the hearts of many officers turning potential warriors  into passive wusses.  Our officers drown in a sea of rules and procedures so that the quest to be transformed is often lost in the fog of bureaucracy.

Therefore serious-minded leadership is a strategic imperative for establishing a warrior culture and defining a code to live by.  With this dynamic in place, modern Abrams can muster chanyik officers to stand, fight, and defeat the evil forces of our culture that are arrayed against them and their communities.

Barney Barnes — Memorial Day 2013

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