At War With The Army

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#militarylife Post 9/11, a true story about a dysfunctional battalion's unbelievable misfits, by John Ingram.

The world changed on #September11, and so did many of our lives both personally and professionally, civilian and military. The economy had begun to change for the worse and uncertainty filled the air like a dense and thick fog rolling in at night during a fall evening.

After the world and America lived each breathing heartbeat in shock, young adults feeling compelled to do something had decided to answer the call to service and join the military. For those of us who were already members of the active duty, reserve, and guard forces, we know that something big was about to happen in response but we just didn't know and it was unlike anything we experienced during the #GulfWar – this time is was personal and it was different.

As a member of a #NationalGuard unit, I had plans of retiring within a few years but then “9/11” happened and so our lives would be turned upside down. As an artilleryman, my battalion was initially called up in response to the governor and some were called to report to the major airports in and around the #DistrictofColumbia (DC) area. Within six months post – 9/11, my battalion had received mobilization orders en masse and so we reported to our home station for in-processing and training. As an artillery battalion with a unit lineage dating back to the #Warof1812, we had embarked into uncharted waters commonly referred to as #Title10 aka active duty.

The battalion had lost any hope of organizational integrity and this had concerned me in regards to the section which I belonged within the headquarters battery of the battalion. It was quickly determined by my senior leadership that my battalion, like so many other soldiers, did not have adequate membership strength to conduct any real missions so it would be combined with another unit. We had spent a little more than two months before being given orders to report to our new mission location – stateside supporting Operation Noble Eagle for homeland support. Once the battalion was combined with another National Guard unit from Ohio, we were a real and complete battalion in terms of manpower and organizational size.

Once all of the soldiers from my battalion and the other unit had been combined operationally and organizationally, schedules were rapidly established so that we could replace the permanent party soldiers and begin one year on our mission. The ground rules were simple, no one leaves to drive back home without permission and everyone will have a room in the barracks.

For many of us #non-commissioned officers (NCOs), we quickly determined that we need to instill organization, training, accountability, and everything else to “Herd the cats.” 

... Government efficiency at its finest...

As a new platoon sergeant, I quickly delegated some authority to other NCOs and established scheduling, administration, physical exercise, personal and career-related counseling, and enforcement of policies for 24 soldiers.

We were collectively supporting the provost marshal (PMO) for the Army Post and specifically the military police (MP). Typically, we would perform our daily guard mount – this is a formation of the on-coming shift to prepare for and be provided information prior to replacing those soldiers who were awaiting their replacement shift. I was the #SergeantoftheGuard (SOG) and was responsible to ensure that everyone remain safe despite having live ammunition and weapons.

“ID-10-T,” a favorite acronym among most soldiers means calling someone an “idiot” in a polite way. Nothing could have prepared me for some of the outrageous and almost unbelievable characters that I had the pleasure to work with and responsibility to oversee. For example, it started out with one soldier who was riding in the back of a high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle (#HMMWV) having lost his weapon while the vehicle crossed a major highway and in en route to a security check point. Luckily, we had retrieved the #M16 before having to explain the circumstances to PMO and the civilian county police department. 

- It was during Halloween when parties were being held on Post that one of our HMMWVs was discovered missing from guard mount. A “#BOLO” or be on the lookout was transmitted via radio for anyone on Post, “BOLO for one Count Dracula who is driving a HMMWV last seen at the Post Community Center at 1831 hours along with one prostitute and one pimp as passengers.” - They were soon found after one hour of joy riding around the Post. This truly is the Army, “#Be all that you can be” or just be anything you want to be.

- A young Army civilian and supervisor at the main gate of the Posts’ Visitor Control Center (VCC) and I had become friends during the mission on Post. I had decided to perform a social, non-Internet, experiment on unsuspecting soldiers and civilians alike. While visiting the main gate on Post, I would check on my soldiers and their welfare daily. On one particular day, I visited the security over watch person at the main gate.

I noticed that a visitor had just pulled into the adjacent parking lot when I had asked if the gentlemen was at the VCC to get a visitor pass – of course, so I reiterated the fact that he need proof of insurance and drivers license BUT to speak with Michelle, the supervisor. I continued to explain that she would expedite the process; HOWEVER, she was a little hard of hearing so please speak LOUDLY and ENUNCIATE. After the visitor had initially shouted instead of talking to her from inside the VCC during which he was given his visitor’s pass, he exited the building and asked where I went. One soldiers at the gate commented that I had left. The man just wanted to pass on to me that Michelle can hear perfectly well but he was puzzled – “Here’s your sign.”

- I had one very “high speed, low drag” Specialist, E-4, in my Army field artillery unit and he had been an exemplary Soldier. While my battalion was in-processing for mobilization, I had visited the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on Post and, in particular, the USMC recruiter. I had expressed interest in receiving some Marine paraphernalia because I was a former Marine and, more importantly, I had a mission for a certain Specialist in my outfit. The Gunny agreed and so he provided me with a couple of bumper stickers, a Marine Corps coffee mug, and a “Marines” T-shirt.

I did not dare tell a soul in the battalion but I had privately spoken about this covert mission with the Specialist and asked if he would be interested in accepting the challenge so that he might prove himself worthy of a promotion to Sergeant, E-5. He gladly accepted the mission and was provided with the essential tools for success. No one was the wiser and after two weeks, a senior NCO was riding with the battalion Sergeant Major (SM) in his personal car (POV) around the post when the SM was informed of some USMC paraphernalia which was affixed to the metal bumper on his car – “Semper Fi” and “Marines!” Immediately, the SM just assumed it was me and after he had asked around whether or not I had been directly involved he had finally confronted me directly. I told him no – I had not been involved but that he might want to ask one of the newly minted Sergeants instead.

- Never pass up a chance to challenge your leadership - case in point, my battalion commander (BC) was a ballsy, short, Napoleon-like leader who talked a great Army Hooah game. He proudly wore his Ranger Tab and always talked up the Hooah schools and tabs: Ranger, Airborne, Infidel, Jedi, Sniper, Pathfinders, Sapper, The Special Forces tab, and others. This BC had only his Ranger tab and rightly so. There was one ate-up, piece of shit Soldier which every unit has at least one and, although he was a nice guy, he required the services of an electrician – basically, he needed to get his head and ass wired tight so that he would get with the program; we’ll call Specialist Snuffy. 

Acting as the unqualified, resident psychologist, I had started to work on Specialist Snuffy by asking him about his career goals and ambition. In short order, I had him convinced that he needed a way to ‘fast track’ his long overdue promotion. He had been a career Specialist for so long that he vaguely remembers when General Electric was a Captain. I was able to persuade Snuffy to seriously give some thought to Ranger school because, after all, the BC was a graduate too. Snuffy pushed back initially because he could not attend the resident school and be gone from his family for so long without a major hardship – the door was now open.

I quickly pointed out that the BC was a prime example of what he should do instead – he should just take the Ranger correspondence school and in no time at all, they would just mail the tab to him! Snuffy first had to get the BC’s permission so I had instructed him to visit the BC but I had to warn him about how Rangers are and how tricky they can be. I said for him to knock loudly on his office door and he would most likely be ignored until about the third or fourth knock. Further, I informed him to report to the BC and state that he wanted to become a Ranger just like the BC! Well, Snuffy did exactly as I had instructed perfectly, even the BC began to eat out of his hands too. Once Snuffy expressed that he would pursue the same route which the BC took to get the coveted Ranger tab, via correspondence, the BC began to scream and shout expletives in four different languages. Result – the BC refused to speak with me for almost one month.  

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