The gripe: A military tradition as time-honored as dehumanizing the enemy, as expected as giving your rifle a feminine name and persona, and as innate in the soldier’s soul as feeling abandoned by the kinsmen they fight for. After all, you don’t worry about the soldiers who bitch, you worry about the ones who aren’t bitching. Such comprehension doesn’t change the fact that bullshit always rolls downhill - or that at the platoon level, said bullshit rolls in like a crashing avalanche, steadily progressing in size and strength, arriving with a reeking stench of mundane regulations and asinine humorlessness.
With that analogy in mind, I bring to light a sampling of the current gripes of the Gravediggers. Stoicism certainly has its’ time and its’ place, and that is usually out of the wire. In the wire, though, venting catapults itself into even the hardiest of hearts in this man’s Army. Let’s just say that if LT G were Lord Protectorate G of the Desert Cavalry of Pure Raw Awesomeness, things would be a little different. Gathered over the course of assorted grievance councils, usually held in the post-mission unwinding that occur on the combat outpost’s front stoop over some cigarettes and profanity-laced jokes, this is how things should be – and would be, in my Army…
-- I’d be able to be a scout platoon leader for the next 20 years.
-- The electronic leash commonly referred to as a radio would only work once every hour, for only one minute, and CPT Whiteback and Headquarters would be cool with such.
-- SSG Bulldog’s poker games with some of the other NCOs would end just before I burst through their door with the latest Frago, instead of having just begun.
-- Not everything that ever occurred in the entire country of Iraq would be an immediate emergency. Mesopotamia has been at war with itself for at least two millennia. Seriously, what’s the big deal if I need another 20 minutes to finish dispatching my vehicles? What’s the freakin’ rush?
-- The meat-eaters would outnumber the leaf-eaters 16:1, instead of the way it is, which has leaf-eaters outnumbering the meat-eaters 16:1. (Think dinosaurs and evolution if you’re failing to grasp the awe-inspiring depth of this analogy. Then relate to the military branches, and you’ll be golden.)
-- Garrison regulations would’ve stayed back in Hawaii; combat regulations would only exist here. As a result, I wouldn’t have to live in a world of cafeteria combat, where a manatee pushing a lottery ball with its’ nose randomly chooses when and where soldiers should’ve employed kinetic force, and when and where they shouldn’t have. (I.E. abusing all that is hindsight and retrospective from behind a desk, where the only thing to fear is carpal tunnel syndrome and great joy occurs in crushing the occasional cheeky junior officer who thinks he knows everything.)
-- (*Some*) staff officers would have a little comprehension of history, and realize that “winning over hearts and minds” is more than just a poor choice of words when discussing the local population’s temperament towards American military forces in their country. I sarcastically suggested they watch Platoon during one of their meetings instead of arguing about the color scheme and numbers on a PowerPoint slide. No word yet as to whether my proposal gained any support.
-- CPT Whiteback’s computer conference calls with Squadron wouldn’t be the most unintentionally hilarious thing this side of SPC Doc’s propensity for rummaging through trash. I like to laugh, but listening to one of those things caused me to laugh for all the wrong reasons.
-- The punkass pogue warrant officer who barked at my soldiers at the chow hall on the FOB for not having haircuts, needing showers, and wearing their Army-issued fleeces over their uniform after we rolled back after fifteen straight days of patrolling would still be eating mud, three days later after it happened. If I hadn’t stayed back with SFC Big Country to check on the maintenance of our vehicles, such would’ve occurred. Seriously, when I find out who you are, Fuckstick, I will systematically destroy everything you hold dear, and do so rockin’ my fleece and eating a bowl of mint ice cream while my Joes giggle hysterically as they watch in the distance.
-- (*Some*) Field grade officers would have more serious things to worry about during a war than the size of PV2 Van Wilder’s moustache, or LT G’s wear of the Army-issued fleece cap during the day while off-duty. (Hey, I’m a skinny guy. I get cold easily.) Like, oh I don’t know, ensuring that the Iraqi Police have an equal balance of Sunnis and Shi’as on their force to avoid allegations of corruption. That might a good place to start.
-- Other units would stick to their own showers, and not take our hot water when we finally do get back to the FOB. However, if this changed, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure to witness SFC Big Country turn off the hot water heater while four Grunts showered in our stalls, so perhaps this was worth it. Check that. The high-pitched shrills that resulted definitely were worth the sacrifice.
-- I wouldn’t see the same brain-dead “source” walk in to the combat outpost every day, feeding us the same crap over and over again, just so he can get some snack food and a warm place to stay for a few hours. Actually, I can sympathize with the source, living in a third world country clearly sucks. My ire lies with our intel geeks who continually fall for his ploys, and end up convincing higher to send us out pursuing wild, unsubstantiated rumors, instead of building up rapports with the locals in our AO like we’re supposed to.
-- I could sleep for more than two hours in a row without waking up in a panicked frenzy, checking to ensure that the batteries to my radio haven’t died.
-- The dog and pony shows that inevitably occur whenever anyone with any rank whatsoever swings by (always during the day, and never too early in the morning, by the way) wouldn’t be painful, nor uncomfortable, nor throw a monkey wrench the size of an orangutan into current operations. (And yes, the simile zoo of animal analogies in this gripe is intentional, and being abused to illustrate the cattle-car nature of the military bureaucracy.)
-- 12 hours of a bureaucratic trail of tears and papercuts would not be what sends a detainee to jail; finding a freakin’ Soviet-era sniper rifle in his backyard in a water pipe would be enough.
-- Instead of a Stryker, I’d be able to drive around Anu al-Verona in an up-armored version of Rufus, my 1974 baby blue Volkswagon Bus, defiantly blaring the hippie proclamations of Bob Marley and giving the Hawaiian shaka’ to the local populace. Talk about legit.
-- I would never go to bed weary and sore and drained, absolutely convinced that the details of me and my men’s lives were nothing more than a PowerPoint slide being passed up the chain-of-command on memory drives. Not even our own presentation. Just one little slide. This happens at least once a week.
Whew. I feel better. See? Venting can be therapeutic. We all have our outlets. Rock stars have heroin, soccer moms have Oprah, even my golden retriever back home barks at ducks to relieve stress. All I need is a warm cup of coffee, a computer to vomit my raving brain into, and fifteen minutes of freedom. I’m good now, thanks for making it this far. I appreciate it, and certainly hope you aren’t one of the individuals I railed against above. That would be … awkward.
Just so you know, I’m still going to castrate that warrant officer when we return to the FOB.