Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage

I’d brushed aside the informal inquiries for months now. No, not me. Not interested. Keep me on the line. I want nothing to do with a lateral promotion to XO (Executive Officer) that involves becoming a logistical whipping boy and terminal scapegoat for all things NOTGOODENOUGH. I’ve been out here in the wilds too long, dealing with matters of life and death, to go back to Little America for PowerPoint pissing matches. Not me. I’m that too skinny, crazy-eyed mustang who drives a hippie van with a McGovern bumper sticker and keeps his hair long and actually read the counterinsurgency manual rather than pretending he did, even quoting it during meetings and out in sector in this era of recentralized warfare, remember? You aren't gonna break me, no matter how enticing the fires of the FOB are.

Semper Gumby.

I guess they forgot, and instead focused on matters of competency. Cue outright offer.

Cue LT G “thanks but no thanks” response.

Cue illogical backlash from higher, acting like a spurned teenage blonde whose dreamboat crush tells her point-blank that he prefers brunettes.

Q finding myself on the literal and metaphorical carpet of multiple field-grades, sometimes explaining, sometimes listening.

Mostly listening.

Yes, Sir. I’m getting out. No, I’m sure. Definitely sure. Surer than sure. What am I going to do? Don’t tell him Option A, he’ll scoff at Option A. He believes dreams are only for children. Option B will suffice. Well Sir, I’m going to go back to school, somewhere on the East Coast. Haven’t decided if I’ll focus on the Spanish Civil War or Irish History yet, though. I think I’d be a pretty good wacky professor. I already like to ramble and I look good in banana yellow clip-on ties. Sir.

No, Sir. I’m not saying that at all. I would absolutely bust my ass as an XO, and perform the job to the best of my ability. I’m just saying I’d be screwing a peer of mine, who is staying in, and could use this professional development, benefiting both him and the big Army in the long run. Uncle Sam agrees with me.

No Sir, I don’t think I’m selling myself short. Recognizing one’s own weaknesses isn’t a weakness in and of itself. Crushing balls is only my thing with people who aren’t wearing an American uniform.

If I throw enough clutter in the way, something will stick.

This is the Army, son. Your opinion doesn't matter.

Roger. Acknowledged. I'd figure I'd proffer it, just in case.

You need to start thinking big picture, Lieutenant. That’s what officers do.

I roll out of the wire everyday to bask in a third-world cesspool craving my attention for nothing more than the most basic human need - hope. Is there a bigger picture than that, or just different vantage points from safer distances?

Yes Sir, I will remember to think things out more rationally next time. (Pause long enough to make the point that this was already a well-thought out decision.) Of course. Sir.

No Sir, this isn’t just because I want to stay with my platoon. (Maintain eye contact so he doesn’t think you’re lying, for the love of God, maintain eye contact!) I won’t lie though, Sir – it was a factor. Just not my motivation.

Nice work, liar.

Another reason? Well, Sir, two of my best friends in the world are LT Virginia Slim and LT Demolition. If I were to become their XO, I would be extremely uncomfortable with possibly having to order them and their men to their deaths. As their peer, I should be right there next to them. Hell, I probably would insist on it.

Yes, I know that was a good point. Don’t say that out loud. Don’t say that out loud. Phew. That was a close one. I almost out-louded rather than in-loaded.

Yes Sir, I have full confidence in my platoon to be able to succeed without me. SFC Big Country would be more than capable of performing the job of a platoon leader. But he’s an NCO. He shouldn’t have to deal with lieutenant bullshit. That’s my bullshit to deal with. I’m the soldier’s buffer. (Cough. From you. Cough.) If a butterbar were here, I’d understand. That’s the natural order of things. But since an opening occurred without a backlog, I really strongly really definitely really definitively believe that it should go to a LT who wants it. Hell, there are some of them out there who NEED it. Aren’t I being a team player here?

The ballad of a thin man walking a thin rope. Moonwalking a thinly-veiled rejection of his superiors’ life decisions. Wondering why they are taking it personally. People are different. They want different things out of existence. Let’s not act like I’m a ring of Saturn stating the case that Pluto’s planethood should be reconfirmed.

Don’t fall on your sword, Lieutenant. No one likes a martyr.

Can’t help it, I’m Irish. And. Yes. They do.

Fine, I’m not going to make you do it. (Even though I spent three days trying to do so.) But you are now on my shit-list, and I want to fuck you over for daring to defy and defying to dare. A bullshit tasking will eventually come down the pipeline, and I got a rubber stamp with your name on it. And yes, I know your performance has been outstanding, and we have consistently rated you above your peers, at the top echelon. Doesn’t matter now.

You’re right. It doesn’t. Doesn’t matter at all. Even if I’ve only haggled a few more months with the Gravediggers, it was worth it; I came here to fight a war, not to build a resume. My men need me. And. I need them. It would have been worth it for a few more days.


Mustangs don’t blink.

You know where we learned how not to?

It wasn’t behind a desk.

Every day of free-roaming makes it worth it.


Anonymous said...

A Mustang attitude is a joysome thing. An old SF grunt.

Anonymous said...

How freakin' selfish! You could do so much more good for your platoon and all the other platoons in that Company by moving to XO, but no...all you can think about is yourself.

I lost a lot of respect for you today.

Anonymous said...

LOL...Lt G, just so you know, it's not just officers. I had a similar experience finishing out my enlistment. Top wanted me to go to Ranger school...he was convinced I needed to stay in...I wanted to get out. I caught all kinds of shit for saying pretty much what you said...I'd be fucking my buddy who wants the slot...I mean, c'mon...I had about 8 months left, why the fuck would I want to slog through that mess? He got over it, and I moved on.

Still, a good XO makes one hell of a difference, and I think you'd be a good one.

Little Z said...

This is one of your kiddies from the OX days. I have been following your blog for some time now and I find it hard to believe a man with drinking gloves and a taste for Guinness could be such a poetic writer. I respect your decision on the matter and am glad you'll maintain your position with the Gravediggers. Your commentary on the happenstance over their with them has given me a whole new perspective on the war. If you are as good of an Lt. as a PM, as I am sure you are even better, your platoon is lucky to have you. Take care.

Macy said...

Wow, please ignore that "selfish" comment.

Anonymous said...

What's Option A?

OldGrouchy said...

LT G, well now, so this is the great sacrifice but then perhaps for the best. You're going to do good regardless even as a civie. But, careful on that mustang stuff, don't let your City Girl learn about what range life is all about!

On the other hand, even Dick Winter turned over his unit command, which is hard to do.

Good luck and be careful out there! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm already envious of your future students learning history through vivid narration and depiction. Gotta do what you gotta do. Take care.
Cathy B

2sbct mom said...

I'm proud of you for standing your ground. You're going to be awesome at any future civilian endeavor.

Only a few more months with the Gravediggers? :(

RangersGirl said...

LT G - - way to stick to your guns. Same thing can happen in the Civilian world too. I'd offer up a great Dan Daily quote to you, but being that you are in the Army, a Marine NCO quote might not get you far.

BTW, I hope your option A has something to do with writing. You are excellent at it.

Tania said...

What is option A? And who is this "anonymous" calling you selfish? I think we had a run in with the massive asshole of the blogosphere...he's been popping up on various blogs I like to frequent!

Anonymous said...

"Don’t fall on your sword, Lieutenant. No one likes a martyr.

Can’t help it, I’m Irish. And. Yes. They do."

Guffaw out loud! You'll do fine wherever you go. I love ya, dude! Ignore 1:28 p.m. You know where your many talents will best be used.

Anonymous said...

Well now, I am even happier that I wrote my senator today to ask him to pass the Webb Bill that will give our returning service members better education opportunities. Here's to all of our continued education whether reading your blog or being lucky enough to sit in one of your classrooms. Stay safe, the world needs you.

Thank you for service.

sue said...

I really appreciate your blog. Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more.

Earl said...

Well, heroes live on to fight another day. Good work, and from my view point he wasn't worth working for as an XO. But you knew that, if it had been the right leader (there are some of them left aren't there? you are one) you would have taken the job. I loved your debrief, excellent writing LT.

Grandpa said...

”Can’t help it, I’m Irish.” That good Irish gift with words and with the help of a good “City Girl”, options A and B are not incompatible. Just take care that none of that Irish blood leaves its current confines. God keep you and your “Gravediggers” safe for the next 10 months, at the very least.

BigD said...

Hi Lt. G,
Sorry I am coming so late to this little party, but, here's my two cents.

Phew! That was a close one, that "spurned teenage blonde" little bi-atch almost had her clutches on you. Hey...NO means NO!!
This post was simply mah-velous darling!

Now you get your yellow bow-tie wearin', tight rope walkin', skinny Mustang ass back out in that cess pool and please be careful not to fall on your sword.

Hold on to your dreams...for "dreams are the touchstones of our character." (Thoreau)

The gravediggers are lucky to have a crazy-eyed mustang, butterbar like you with them. Hang tough Lt.G!!!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear you stayed where you wanted to stay. Sounds like it was a battle to the finish, but you won it. For now, at least.

Hang in there and stay safe in the cesspool!

the walking man said...

Heya Boss...right the fuck on! let some career do that job, build their resume and be happy.

Don't even think about that shit list, sir. When the rubber stamp falls "yes sir can I have another" is the right response because it pisses the suits off. AND it is just another stretch of time filled with bullshit.

Actually though I believe that with your mindset, even though you would make a good career, you make a better platoon CO and will get your men home. What is a bigger picture than that?


Anonymous said...

G! Peepole ax me how am duin? I tell dem im da king. I liv betur dan 2/tirds of de folks on de earf. ur sitiatun baks all dat up.keep fitin da powuer. TARBOY

Jacob said...

LT- Good job sticking to your guns and standing strong. You are right you are going to get some shitty stuff thrown at you, but at least you can continue with the mission with your men and bring them all home! Good job and good luck!

Sgt Cooke

Black Oak said...

You are right on Lt G. Roll in the au jus that is being a line platoon leader. Fill you hot tub with it and steam it into your soul.
Because when it's over - NOTHING will ever replace it. There is nothing that is like it in this world. Nothing!
And being XO sucks. In the grand scheme on anyone's military "career/resume" it's nothing but a fart in the wind. (no one got passed over for CPT because they didn't have XO time - not that you'd care).

Trust me on this. 9 years active in the waning years of the Cold War and 12 years civilian pogue and I can remember more memories of my 29 months as a line platoon Leader than anything else.

Stay safe.

former paratrooper - now fat old man

Anonymous said...

"But you are now on my shit-list, . . . "

Nice to know some things never change. They wanted me to become an officer. There were a few officers in my division that even the thought of sitting down to mess with made me sick. I told them I didn't think I was good enough to become an officer.

And yeah, it was like telling a psycho soon-to-be ex-girlfriend, "It's not you, it's me . . ." And yeah, I was Ichi-ban on the total shit-list. Boy, did my cup runneth over.

What is it about total assholes that make them such ardent pursuers? Do they not grasp 'Irony'?

Oh, yeah, sending your former buddies out to die IS a part of your new (woulda-coulda-shoulda) job description.

Total 11Bravo Mister.

Dennis said...

Career types HAVE to do staff time at some (several) points. But that isn't the purpose of being an officer. Leadership and troop time IS. The only reason I didn't rebel as an XO is because in those old Guard days my additional duty was as the platoon leader. (two officers, four platoons. No worries about gaining weight.)

Dick Winter gave up company command, sure. But he became Battalion commander in fact if not in name. Never actually served as one of us staff pukes.

Anonymous said...

I harken back to a line from Wendell Barry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" which goes "Every day, do something that won't compute." I once saw someone's addition to the line: "that way the generals and admirals cannot predict the motions of your mind".

For me, you remain a modern day Kerouac (even if you're hitching around the sandbox on a Stryker rather than a '47 Ford). Your stuff is always totally awesome.

I spent quite bit of my time in uniform doing little things here and there that wouldn't compute. Not enough for them to send me off to the headshrinkers in a wet sheet, just enough to keep them off balance. Oddly enough, this served me well as an NCO. They knew I would simply not kiss their asses no matter what. It produced some really tight relationships with some officers that mattered, the few who understood what it means to have an honest relationship.

Stay safe, LT G, and bring the Gravediggers home.

membrain said...

"That’s my bullshit to deal with. I’m the soldier’s buffer. (Cough. From you. Cough.)" LMFAO

Good on ya LT G.

elizabeth said...

This is a random suggestion, but if you're interested in the Spanish Civil War, you might consider getting in touch with a man named Ira Latour. Ira's a World War II vet, a former art history professor at California State University, Chico, and a big Spanish Civil War buff who has spent a lot of time in Spain and might have some interesting thoughts on studying the Spanish Civil War. He's a very, very nice guy (I interviewed him for my college thesis on WWII) and easy to talk to. If you're interested in contacting him, his website is And if you're not, you might just check out the website and look at his (spectacular) photography. Just a thought.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 05/29/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

Anonymous said...

What was he thinking...taking you away from our front row view. Although I am sure you would provide us with the best view from any point.

You and the Gravediggers take care!

Eirc S. said...

Why is it the suits always think that doing duty with them is what every "Soldier" wants to do?

I hope option A is best selling author, because I know I for one will be standing in line waiting for the first issue of your novel.

Eric said...


I very much - I say again, VERY much - respect your wish to stay with your troops. But ... I'm going to go against the grain here and say you ought to move up to XO. Why? Because you said this:

"I’m that too skinny, crazy-eyed mustang who drives a hippie van with a McGovern bumper sticker and keeps his hair long and actually read the counterinsurgency manual rather than pretending he did, even quoting it during meetings and out in sector in this era of recentralized warfare, remember?"

... emphasis on all after "hair long" (but liking the part before it, too). By your own admission, LT, you're one of the (surprisingly!) few officers responsible for this counterinsurgency mission who's taken the effort to learn in-depth counterinsurgency strategy.

Therefore, it seems to me that the greater good would be better served by widening your influence from your platoon to your company. Right now, as a PL, if you get it, that means your platoon gets it. Move up to XO, though, and that means your company gets it, at least as far as your CPT and 1SG allows. So again, IMO, as much as it may pain you to move away from your soldiers, you can do more good by widening your area of influence.

Anonymous said...

should take it best for the men best for you. If you can help change things that were fucked up maybe it would save the lives of your crew and the next to go in. just my .02

Anonymous said...

Kudos for sticking to your guns Lt. Staff can put a lot of pressure on you when they want something. I turned down the S-4 Plt. Sgt. job twice because I didn't want to deal with their bullshit. Stay alert.

Sgt. B.

Anonymous said...

The Gravediggers are very, very fortunate to have a platoon leader like you. Good job on dodging that bullet Lt.

Keep writing and keep your head down.

Anonymous said...

1. Do what you want to, LT.
2. Don't let your superiors, troops, murmurings about the "greater good" -or anything else sway you.
3. Life is real, real short and you might as well live it the way you want to.
4. They ask why. Best answer: Because.

Former Cav Trooper said...

Stick to your guns. In seven and a half years the only staff time was the ten months before I got out. The only job I ever wanted was to be a platoon leader, and with the same boys for 34 months (OIF I)...then they moved me next door to commander (OIF III). Any field grade that tells you it is more important to be an XO than to stay with your platoon is full of it, this fight is on the streets not in his maintenance meetings on the FOB...focus on your boys and everything will take care of itself.

another LT said...

your writing is awesome. You tell it like it is. I think people are scared to stop you because they dont want to be portrayed unkindly in the great war novel you are destined to write. keep it up, and keep it real.

mutt said...

I roll out of the wire everyday to bask in a third-world cesspool craving my attention for nothing more than the most basic human need - hope. Is there a bigger picture than that, or just different vantage points from safer distances?

lt G: You. Are. The . Man.
right move........

XO Tom said...

just my take:
1) I moved over to XO because I'm staying in. I miss my platoon every day, it's just not the same. I'm a part of "The Man" now, rather than "The LT with the guys."

2)Most field grades I've come into contact with are absolutely illogical, so yeah, you probably are fucked. It's like they get their brains zapped at Major school, and forget what it's like on the ground. I wouldn't expect too much understanding on their end, not that it seems like you were. What you did took guts- however, if your field grades are like mine, you've now become a target. Good luck with that.

Take care bud.

ice said...

"I came here to fight a war, not to build a resume."

where were u in 03/04 in sadr city???? my plt coulda used u instead of the asskisser we had.

Soup said...

LT... although your choice may come across as selfish, at the same time your logic trumps the selfishness.

Why take up an XO slot that would be more beneficial to an officer who plans on staying in?

On a different note, your higher up comes across as a petty officer by not accepting your choice and instead planning on punishing you for it.

You pissed on his parade, and not he's going to take his ball and go home.

You're an officer I would have been proud to have served under.

Unfortunately, the military needs more officers like you and less like your higher up.

- a Former Marine Grunt

Patrick said...

For a really good school out East, consider UT Knoxville. One of my best friends in the world got his paper there, but the community is excellent. They will accept both your weirdness and your contributions as a soldier.

If you go to a coast school you'll very likely be dealing with a bunch of twits who will treat you like a retard because you served or act like retards because they didn't. It's a lot different when you have to face the enemy without your platoon backing your play. Because you refuse to toe the line of leftist extremism, you will be their enemy.

Also, if you decide to spend some guard time (where you can pick up some XO time without abandoning your post), the Tennessee Guard doesn't suck like some of the coast states will. By the time you're eligible to pick up another tour the war in Iraq will be over...or the war in Iran will just be warming up.

SFC SKI said...

"A bullshit tasking will eventually come down the pipeline, and I got a rubber stamp with your name on it."

What'll the Army do, send you to Iraq?

Good on ya, LT!

Eric said...

My question: If Lt G doesn't take this assignment, will he still be able to take the sequence of steps necessary for him to become GEN Petraeus or at least COL McMaster someday?

Chap said...

I don't have the information to say whether this is a good decision or not in terms of which choice is better overall for you or the nation, but I defer to the guy what is in the situation. You wanna go Rodger Young, go for it. And if you want help later on I can provide, then just let me know. Try to only make enemies on purpose, eh?

It took me a little time, when a much more junior pup, to realize that sometimes the competent guy I was counseling shouldn't always be pushed into things he wasn't ready for or wasn't suited for. It takes a little ego reduction to remember that just because you think it's a good idea doesn't mean it really is so. The Ranger school non-goer has a point.

That and it's tough to be a really good link between higher and the guys actually immersed in the work...

Anonymous said...

You're the only one that can decide what makes the job tolerable. Please keep that skinny butt in one piece, and good luck! Keep writing. You are awfully fucking good at it. Keep walking, thin man.

GeekAlpha said...


Anonymous said...

It's sad, but true: I spent the day today with a very-recently retired Marine Corps officer, who was responsible for developing a thing of beauty (doesn't matter what), but he started off by saying, I was retiring within the year, so I was free to do what I wanted.

That's what it took for the Corps (and also the Navy and some civilian agencies) to benefit from this innovation: The freedom from hope of career advancement.

bullnav said...

Good luck. Only you know what you need to do. Fuck everyone who thinks they know better, and fuck your superiors who have been/will be childish because you won't bend to their will.

It is best to leave on your own terms. Go forth and do great things and don't look back.

Anonymous said...

I did 21 years in the army as a grunt. The same thing happens from PVT/2LT to MSG/LTC. At some point you just have to do what's right for you and tell the 'careerists' their path is not your path and cut away come what may. I'd have been happy to serve in your platoon!

Anonymous said...

From an old LT (also mustang) who told the AF to %$#@ it: Ya done right, son. You need to go where your head and your heart tell ya to go. I did that, myself, and went the way of the "Purge of '91." I can't say I miss it, or miss what the AF has become in my absence. Too much BS, too much politics, and too little real work. For someone who was "dismissed," I had a helluva great party going out the door, and many of my men still keep in touch.