Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do I Miss the Army?

You know Jonn Lilyea is one of those guys you have to meet, I can imagine getting a dressing down from him was probably about as pleasant as masturbating with broken glass, but his post about why he misses the Army, got me thinking.  Perhaps Mr Twisted is right that there is something to be said for jointly embracing the suck.  Perhaps it is the Realities of facing death that draws men closer, but there had always been an ineffable element to why I loved the Army. 

If you actually read back, Oh my God did I hate this NCO and that.  I got screwed over and I had a PA that regularly threw temper-tantrums.  I've had Officers that had zilch for people skills, and would say the most insanely wrong things ("the Golden Bullet has been fired at all of us" for instance.)  I had an NCO that "lost" my paperwork to West Point.  I had an Officer write a review that made me look like the biggest shitbag that ever existed, thus killing my chances to ever get accepted (I still believe that I might have made it there and actually would have made a good Officer). 

But then I've had Great Officers.  Major (then Captain) Steven J. Richter, who sounded like a bad John Wayne impression, had an Audio Nervousa, a tumor in his ear, that prevented him from deploying.  He fought that off, taught himself how to walk again after the Army messed up the surgery, then deployed so he could lead his company.  He was a figure chiseled from stone, running marathons and loving that Army shit way too much.  How could you not love and follow a man like that?  I found out recently that he received a Soldiers Medal for his actions at the Fort Hood SRP site when Major Hassan tried to shoot it up.  A great man.

I had a CO that was built like a freaking tank.  Major (then Captain) Jermain Hampton, he was short, broad shouldered and to me looked like he could kick Ahnald's ass.  He always wore these really goofy Ranger Goggles when out in sector, and carried a shotgun as a secondary weapon instead of a pistol like most Officers.  He seemed so in control and confidant, that it was hard not to trust him when he gave you a command.  I only saw him lose it, twice, and both were truly memorable occasions.  This Iraqi we were questioning was lying to us about things we found in his house (a Russian mortar sight for instance was a toy "for baby baby mistar") Captain Hampton picked this guy up and slammed him into the wall.  "do you think I'm fucking around?"  I don't think any Hollywood action star could match the deadly seriousness in his voice. 

Despite that, this man really cared about his troops.  Shortly after assuming command, we had our first casualty.  He was moved to tears at losing a man he was just starting to get to know.  He always had time for his troops needs.  Even in the middle of his work out, he'd stop what he was doing and make sure his troops were alright.  Once in the middle of a pull up set he actually stopped me because I looked down in the dumps, and asked me what was wrong.  When I told him I thought my Girlfriend at the time was cheating on me he stopped everything to listen to what I had to say.  More than that, what really impressed me, was how he could keep total control of a company spread out over hundreds of meters, blocks, you name it.  He would snap out orders as if he was right next to them.  Truly amazed me. 

There were NCOs, too many to name, that put in long hours, and fought hard for the welfare of their troops.  They'd intentionally expose themselves to punishment, to let their troops go home early, or make sure that they got to meals.  On more than a few occasions, when meals were missed, I had NCOs pay for the meals of their Joes out of their own meager salary. The NCO is one of those positions that offers little reward or rest-bit, and yet we see so many that wear that mantle in ways that truly defy our understanding. 

I don't for a second, hurry up and wait.  I don't miss Mandatory Fun Days.  I don't miss CQ, or Staff Duty.  I actually do kind of miss cleaning weapons and shining boots, though I definitely don't miss having mirror shine boots for Motorpool Monday where i would proceed to scuff them up PMCSing vehicles.  I miss the ritual of bartering MREs bits, and the hilarity that would come out of that.  I really miss feeling like a total bad ass every time I "put my make-up" on.  But you know the one thing that I really miss above all?  It's the people.  From the Clueless Private to the General that just Will, Not Shut UP!   The Army is made up of people, from all walks of life, whose only binding similarity is the uniform they wear.  The coolest vehicles, the best weapon systems, the greatest gizmos, all fail utterly to make up for the people that make up our great military, and it is that which I miss most of all. 


Nicholas Darkwater said...

So true, not just for the Army. That would be the military in general, even internationally because I've served with foreign units in my time.

The military is a different concept, a different way of life, that civilians can never really truly understand.

And it certainly isn't for everyone, so if someone doesn't want to join, then I don't want him to. That's not a judgment, just a recognition that he needs to be somewhere else, because I want someone who knows why he is there, even if at that particular moment that isn't the most pleasant place to be.

But if that someone doesn't want to join the fraternity, then he shouldn't criticise it as if he knows what he is talking about. He is running down my family or telling me how my family is supposed to function. Butt out -- leave that to the professionals. We'll work it out.

It has been said among our ranks that the military is a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots. The system of duty, honor, & country will win out over the personal shortcomings & vicissitudes to which we are all subject.

I am retired now & live in the world of the clueless civilians, many of whom have never faced the difficulties of just getting through an average day in the field, much less successfully completing boot camp, not to mention all the follow-on training that goes with any specialty. Their sense of what is important pales in comparison to the reality that veterans have been through, even the 'one enlistment & out' fellows who served their duty & decided to move on (& God bless 'em).

I'll never really be a civilian.

RunPatRun said...

Great post, I think it's definitely the people and shared adversity. I met and worked for people I absolutely loathed, but the comradeship and bonds formed with friends cannot be matched. I've also been mentored by some exceptional NCOs, and when challenged I still think back (what would SGT ____do?) I've been retired for a number of years and nothing out here comes close to the friendships formed while serving.