Warrior’s Creed: A Life of Preparing for and Facing the Impossible by Roger Sparks and Don Rearden (St. Martin’s Press, August 13, 2019, 306 p)
“Absence of self is my sword” comprises the final line in The Warrior’s Creed, a 14th-century poem written by an unknown Japanese Samurai, and this is the code Master Sergeant Roger Sparks embodied as a Recon Marine turned Alaskan Pararescueman. A living legend in the military, Sparks first made a name for himself within elite Marine Reconnaissance units. He went on to become an instructor where he trained future Reconnaissance Marines with unorthodox and ancient indigenous warrior techniques. A decade later, the same methods would keep him and others alive, when he hoisted into a maelstrom of violence to rescue an embattled platoon in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
Roger Sparks was a senior Air Force pararescue jumper at the time of OPERATION BULLDOG BITE; he rescued a platoon of soldiers from a well-planned, up close, and unrelenting enemy ambush in the Afghanistan Watapur Valley. His actions earned him a Silver Star. Spark harnessed a volatile upbringing during his journey and had the ethos to seek the most difficult military training available. Along with integrating ancient philosophies to build mental resiliency, it wholly prepared him for his missions. Sparks’ book reads like a half “how-to” manual for preparing for a single impossible task and a half spiritual guide through extreme uncertainty. As a reader, I get the impression Spark is a reluctant storyteller not motivated by recognition and aggrandizement, but an obligation to inform future generations, unlike other authors who tell stories of similar exploits.
The words in Warrior’s Creed are those of a deep thinker who put decades of contemplation and action into planning for the possibility of doing something on the edges of human capability. Cover to cover, Sparks’ presence as a special operations instructor is palpable. As a reader and lifelong learner, I found myself fully engaged from beginning to end. Not only was I tabbing pages and highlighting pearls of wisdom for reference, but I was also applying some of Sparks’ methods in real-time.
Sparks’ pathway to the military starts with family volatility, violence, interactions with law enforcement, and associations with people on the fringes of society: which is a story familiar to many junior enlisted personnel. Spark articulates how these experiences strengthened his resolve and informed his ethos. His gritty start is the foundation on which he continued to distinguish himself from the norm. As a marine infantryman, he volunteered to attend the Commando Brevet-an objectively grueling selection course for the French Foreign Legion. Emerging unbroken, Spark continued to lean into military hardships by becoming a reconnaissance marine and later a pararescue jumper. Warrior’s Creed builds on all previous experiences and accomplishments without diminishing the communities he inevitably outgrows. His inclusivity and thoughtfulness in weaving metaphysics and spirituality into his recipe for success make his story feel both approachable and widely applicable. Sparks’ candor with speaking about his foibles, his disenchantment with military politics and pageantry, his post-military healing journey, and his experiences raising a special needs son humanizes an otherwise superhuman individual.
Warrior’s Creed struck a chord in me like few other books in this genre have. Being able to identify with Sparks’ story elements, I became emotionally invested in the outcome of his journey within the first few pages of his book. Through reading about Sparks’ fulfillment of some of my past military aspirations, I had a hard time putting the book down and could pull powerful insights directly from its pages. Warrior’s Creed is thoughtful, well-written, and easily digestible and I would highly recommend the book for both enlisted and officers alike.