In 2000, I had gone to St. Louis for some sort of conference, which was completely non memorable. All was well until I got through the security line and was picking up my bag to head to the gate. The agent looked at my hat and asked, “What’s them?” pointing at the hat. I was a bit confused because my one hat hardly constituted a ‘them’. But she kept pointing and I realized she was indicating the crossed muskets on the front, as she reached for the hat.
I started an explanation of the symbology of the muskets, representing the Infantry and she cut in with, “Them’s GUNS! You can’t have them!” She lifted the hat up on high and started yelling across the concourse at another passing agent, apparently a supervisor. “He can’t have this!”
The supervisor ducked his head and just kept moving. Having already lost several small items on previous trips to over zealous popinjays; I was in no mood to lose my one of a kind hat.
I decided I wasn’t going anywhere unless my hat came with me, even if I had to miss my flight. I told her quietly, “You can have me arrested if you want, but you aren’t stealing my hat.” Because of her loudness; everyone in the area was looking at us, and of course, the line was at a halt. You could almost smell the smoke as the tiny wheels in her head tried to gain traction and she finally, grumpily, handed the hat back to me without a word and let me go.
I’ve never trusted the system enough since then to risk flying with ANYthing I couldn’t afford to lose, because it only takes one overbearing idiot to make a difficult situation terrible.
In 1981 I completed OCS and headed off to the Infantry Officer Basic Course. Four months of training so high speed, so strenuous and so technical that it could have easily been completed in one month if anyone had had any sense of urgency. Fortunately, in 1981, there was no particular need for urgency.
Be that as it may, the high points of the course were the several field exercises we participated in. MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) was the new high tech toy at the time and we used it to simulate real gunfire and real hits. It was WAY more effective than the old system of “Bang! I got you!” “No, you didn’t”"Yes, I did……..” etcetera.
The concept was simple. A laser on the rifle turned on momentarily when you fired a blank. If your laser ‘hit’ someone else, the receiver that he was wearing would detect it and sound a horn conveniently situated by his ear. The only way to turn off the horn (theoretically) was to take the key out of the rifle transmitter and put it into the harness. This turns off the horn AND your rifle. You’re effectively ‘dead’.
The transmitters tended to work a bit loose, so it was really hard to keep your rifle shooting to the point of aim. You had to develop a system of; shoot at center, shoot right, then left, then high, then low. You’d usually hit your opponent by the third or fourth shot and move on to the next one. Most new lieutenants hadn’t been shooting much and never figured this out…….
One of our exercises was a force on force; one platoon defending and two platoons attacking. I was defending in a position with a buddy who had a machine gun. The riflemen only had ninety rounds apiece and the machine guns only had a couple of hundred. if you got shot, you’d turn off your horn, take off your helmet and wait for the exercise to end.
The attackers came out of the woods and started maneuvering on us; we started shooting at them. My drill worked pretty well, because everybody heading for my position ended up with a horn and we were untouched. We kept shooting at the people further to the sides and eventually we both were out of ammunition.
My buddy took his helmet off and waited for Endex but I was a little frustrated. No ammo and the second wave, though broken, was lapping through our lines about 20 meters to my left. I couldn’t shoot them. What to do, what to do. Since I was still alive, my helmet was still on. I decided to see just how much attention anyone was paying and climbed out of my hole, walked casually over to the two closest ‘enemy’ who were lying down shooting, and poked them in the backs with my rifle muzzle.
They were irritated. “What are you doing?”
“I’m stabbing you in the back with my bayonet. You’re dead.”
“You can’t do that! You’re dead already!”
“No,” I pointed out, “There’s my key, still in my rifle. I’m just out of ammunition. You’re dead. Take your keys out and put them in your harness. Then give me your ammunition so I can go shoot some of your buddies…..
They weren’t in a position to shoot me and I WAS in a position to butt stroke them, so they gave up. The trainers called Endex just about that time, though; so I didn’t get to make use of my captured ammunition.
So, oh dark thirty, on a bicycle delivering the morning paper. I’d just started so only one had left the bag when I headed down Bartlett Avenue. The brand new blacktop with no paint on it yet made it impossible to see the road in the dark.
A sudden BUMP, BUMP and a bare glimpse of a barely white something wobbling off to the side of the road made me think I’d run over a skunk but, nope. No smell at all. Very odd.
I went ahead and delivered the remaining 80 some papers and went home to get ready for school. When I walked in the door, I was met with a unanimous “Eeeeeeeewwwww!” from the sisters. Now, my sisters were always hurling Eeeeewww in my direction; but not usually in such choreographed counterpoint. WITH harmony.
Mom appeared and confirmed that something was rotten. On me. I still couldn’t smell anything out of the ordinary but she made me call the school where the Dean subtly inquired “So, you’ll be absent because you’re planning to be sick?”
When I told him the real reason he was silent for nearly 30 seconds, then, “That’s too crazy to be made up.”
By the time I got to school the next day, I was the daily sensation and not in a good way. Ah, well. One more lesson in how to tolerate idiots.
In 1992, yours truly was an Infantry company commander in the Oregon Army National Guard.
Annual Training was at Camp Rilea, Oregon that year and we had a company of Scottish Territorial Army (reservists) with us for training. That fact required some sort of social gathering for the officers at some point in the training.
Most of the training was routine. The Scots loved the firing ranges, though, especially the M203 (grenade launcher). They were still using WW II style rifle grenades, which sometimes exploded as they were fired. (leading to loss of confidence in the system.)
Towards the end of the training period, the company commanders were each directed to provide their most junior lieutenant to act as KP (kitchen police, i.e. drudge labor) for the Battalion officer’s social, which was to be a barbecue. I had two brand new lieutenants, who had just graduated from Officer Candidate school the month before and they were pretty much inseperable.
Seniority was fairly simple; the guy whose name started with a K was technically junior to the one whose name started with a C, because diplomas get handed out alphabetically. So I went to LT K and told him to report to the Sergeant First Class at the barbecue site. His buddy, LT C asked if he could tag along and, being a generous sort, I quickly agreed. Failing to ask just what their task was, they departed to find they had been set up.
At the appointed hour, the rest of the Battalion officers and our guests arrived at the location and commenced socializing. The burgers were cooking and the beer was flowing. The Scots had been a blast to train with and they were fun to talk with. I started off with a drink and good conversation with their company XO (Executive officer or second in command). I usually wait for the rush on any food line to die down so I can serve myself at leisure, so I was in no hurry to grab a burger.
“Sir, what would you like on your burger?” One of my lieutenants. Was he trying to curry favor, thinking his assignment was punishment? Nah, just being polite.
“Don’t worry about it,” I told him. “I’ll be over and make my own in a few minutes.”
“No, sir, that’s OK. I’d be happy to get it for you. What would you like?”
Well, OK, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. I told him what I liked on my burgers and asked for some regular potato chips. He was gone and back to us in a flash.
These burgers were lovely. Huge, probably half a pound of meat in each patty. Cheese, onions, tomato, a dash of catsup and two dashes of mustard. It smelled heavenly.
I usually eat chips first, so I nibbled at them as the conversation continued. I happened to be turned so that I could just barely see my two lieutenants at the barbecue grill out of the corner of my eye. Hard to see at that angle, of course, but it seemed like they were staring at me. Odd but nothing really notable.
I finished the chips and picked up the burger; but you can’t talk well with a mouth full of burger, so I just hung onto it until I finished what I was saying, then took my first bite when the Scot started another comment.
HOLY MOTHER OF CORRUPTION, WHAT HAVE I JUST BIT INTO?
The flavor of beef promised by the heavenly smell was virtually covered by … something cloyingly sweet. So sweet it couldn’t even really be classified as sweet but only as disgusting beyond words. So disgusting that it couldn’t be tolerated. Got. to. spit. it. out.
I could still see my two young officers at the grill. They were actually leaning forward, anticipating.
When ambushed and in the kill zone, fight through. Don’t bog down. Attack. I chewed. I’ve eaten forty year old C rations, cold. I can do this. I … swallowed. Then I took another bite.
As my digestive tract went further into shock with each bite, it actually became easier to shove the abomination down.
My young lieutenants were beginning to look distressed. Their victim wasn’t writhing on the ground, or whatever they had expected. With each bite, they looked more and more horrified.
I finally finished the terrible thing. Licked my fingers. Drank down half a can of Coke to get the taste out of my mouth. Kept a poker face.
The Scottish captain finished his comments and wandered off to find someone else, so I headed over to the grill. The guilty twins looked positively apprehensive.
Smiling a happy smile I told them, “That was GOOD! Could I get another one just like it?”
I wish I had a picture of their faces. They looked like abject slack jawed failure.
Then, “You bastards,” I continued, “What did you put in that thing?”
A little color came back to their faces as they realized their joke hadn’t completely misfired. At least the old man had noticed what they had done. They weren’t total rubes……
Turned out that the Mess Sergeant had decided they were short of condiments and needed someone to run into town and pick some up. My two heroes volunteered. One of the items they found was a package of gummi worms, which they liberally applied to my hot hamburger. It immediately melted into a thick, super sweet paste. Something like toothpaste, only sweeter. I’ve never liked gummi worms or bears or anything else gummi anyway.
So, they got to pay the old man back for putting them on KP and the old man had, well, not fun exactly, but he got to show them they’d have to work a lot harder to mount a successful ambush!
1983: Fort Hunter-Liggett, California for Annual training. Hot, dry and dusty. We arrived on air conditioned busses and were ordered to road march (by foot) a couple of miles to our bivouac area in order to condition the troops to the heat. A couple of miles with rucksacks, B bags and all other cargo. No provision at all for the excess gear; this is why grunts love higher headquarters so much. They were expected to carry everything on their backs, with no real opportunity for real acclimatization. Battalion staff had their jeeps to climb into, of course; and the Battalion commander had his air conditioned staff car.
The company XO tracked down the mortar section vehicles (gamma goats) and drafted them to carry as much of the individual gear as possible. He stacked his own jeep and trailer until the springs didn’t spring anymore and we started shuttling gear.
Surprisingly enough, we only had one casualty on this march; an overweight Staff Sergeant who collapsed and couldn’t continue. With no medic available and no hospital designated, we hoped it wasn’t a heart attack but ended up fortunate that he was simply exhausted. We just stacked him on top of the XO’s overloaded jeep.
Once the exercise proper started, we began having regular heat casualties; one or two or three a day. Only one of these was heat stroke, fortunately. By that time, the guys had gotten very familiar with symptoms and recognized the trouble he was in. We got a Medevac bird in and sent him out of there.
The rest of the casualties were ’simple’ heat exhaustion. This being the days before combat lifesavers; indeed, before our medics were allowed to carry IV fluids during training, the treatment was primitive. Pour water on the guy to cool him down, give him a short rest and redistribute his gear so that he could keep up.
The last casualty was like all those before it except for one detail. By now, the troops were reacting a bit too automatically. They had his clothes, boots and gear loosened and soaked him down with water before the XO even realized he was down. Excellent immediate action drill, except that it was nearly midnight and the temperature was a good forty degrees lower than it had been during the day. Thus, his diagnosis wasn’t HEAT exhaustion; it was simple exhaustion, from nine days of heat, heavy loads and constant marches. The secondary diagnosis was now hypothermia caused by over enthusiastic mis treatment.
He was last seen wrapped in every spare article of clothing the XO had, stuffed in the back of the jeep and on his way back to the aid station. He came out just fine but that drive was another adventure all on its own…..
Today, I attended the formal mobilization ceremony for the 1st Battalion, 186th Infantry, of the Oregon Army National Guard. I have a bit of emotional attachment, as I served in this Battalion for a total of 18 years.
As a former member, I had received an invitation to attend and planned to take half a day off work to drive down to Central Point (the county Fairgrounds) for the ceremony.
I had also recently signed up for the Patriot Guard Riders and they put out a notice that they needed riders to escort Charlie Company from their Armory in Roseburg down to Central Point. Well, that sounds like fun, so why not?
I had finally gotten my Sportster back in good running order last summer and this seemed like a good time to finally make a trip out of town, so I adjusted my schedule and took the whole day off.
Since it’s May and the weather forecast was 80% in favor of rain, we saw no reason NOT to make the run. In the event, the skies were grey on the way down but for 90 miles, there was no rain. A few sprinkles just as we arrived but nothing worse.
Great ceremony. I had the chance to talk with quite a few of the soldiers. The Lieutenants that I knew when I was the XO are now all Majors. The Staff Sergeants I knew are either First Sergeants or Command Sergeants Major. Good to see them all.
The ceremony didn’t even take a horribly long time. (Rehearsals ahead of time don’t count. They took all morning.)
And then, back on the road for the 90 mile ride home. Well, that 80% prediction finally kicked in 100%. My old rain pants tried to work. From the knees to mid shin I was dry. Below that, the wind blew water up the pant legs. Above that, water simply ran down from above.
My leather jacket was effective. It kept the rain from pummeling me but it didn’t keep it OUT. By the time I reached Grants Pass, my elbows had become very heavy, as there were small ponds in each one. My Gore Tex gloves worked as advertised and resisted the rain but, when it’s coming down that heavy, “resistance is futile.” Each glove wound up weighing a pound or more.
My shooting glasses worked surprisingly well. Combined with a sniper’s veil to protect my neck and an Afghan shemagh wrapped to protect my forehead and lower face, I suffered very little from rain impact. The worst problem was visibility, so I picked a truck and stayed about 50 meters behind him, trying to stay nominally within his ‘draft’ but avoiding the spray he was kicking up.
Definitely wet by the time I got home, and cold and tired. But overall, a pretty good day.
They say you can’t go home again. Most of us never try. Once in a while, though…..
A couple of months ago, one of my former companies contacted me to see if I would be the guest speaker at a dining out. They didn’t ask me because I was anyone special; they asked me because I was old, a former member, possibly wise and most likely, no one else was available.
They unit is preparing to deploy overseas in a few months. The First Sergeant asked me to talk about history.
It was a great evening. My wife, my daughter and one of her friends and I wentto the dinner and met the Company. The First Sergeant and one of the Platoon Sergeantshad been in the Company during my last tour, other than that, everyone was very young and new to me. But they were all soldiers looking forward to a soldier’s mission. I talked for fifteen minutes and then got out of their way.
A few weeks later, I got another call from the First Sergeant. He had been tasked by Battalion with finding a speaker for their dining out, as theirs had cancelled. Since I already had something to talk about, I agreed to go, this time with just my wife.
There were more people that I knew at this dinner but times had really changed. Every Major that I ran into, excepting one, had been a Lieutenant the last time I saw them. The Battalion Commander had been our Headquarters Company Commander, a Captain. But they were old friends and it was another great evening. I tweaked the talk away from one company for a more inclusive view.
It pays to stay in touch. Even though I’m retired from the military, it’s good to be around the young guys once in a while.
Here’s the original script slightly adjusted to correct a couple of mistakes:
Good evening. I was asked to talk a little bit about history, because it’s not something we do real well in the National Guard and it helps to know where you’ve come from.
The first account I could find of an actual State call up of the militia was for the Rogue and Umpqua Indian campaigns in the 1850s. The first out of state mobilization of Roseburg or Oregon militia was for the Modoc War in Northern California during 1872-73. Interestingly, California didn’t mobilize any militia for the Modoc War but Oregon did.
The Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry was formed as a response to the call for volunteers in 1898, when the Battleship ‘Maine’ was sunk in Cuba. That heritage rests with the 162 Infantry . that the regiment was the first one in the country to fully assemble and report ready for duty. They became part of the Second Oregon and served in the Philippines for over a year during the Philippine insurrection.
In 1903 the old militia way of doing things fell by the wayside and the National Guard was formed.Things got more formal and organized. When the United States entered WW One, they needed a lot more troops, so they called for Guard troops to mobilize. The 1st Oregon Infantry Regiment became the first National Guard unit in the country to be mobilized for service during World War I and the first to recruit to full wartime strength.The motto “First to Assemble”, carried by 162 Infantry, comes from this fact. Guard Regiments began beingformed into National Guard Divisions. The 41st Infantry Division was formed in early 1917. It included Guard troops from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and Montana. After training, the Division deployed to France where it was raided for replacements for other units. Oregon Guardsmen went to war but not in their own unit.
Between WWI and WWII things were pretty quiet. Unless you were on the rifle team. In the 1920s/1930s, most Guard units had rifle teams. There were frequent matches and a lot of bragging rights went with doing well on the range. The 186th Infantry always did VERY well. They did so well that when the Army started replacing the old bolt action Springfield rifles with the new M-1 Garand just before WWII, the 186th was one of the first Regiments to get them. BEFORE most of the active Army. The 186th has a history of excellence, even though most of us on the inside are frequently convinced that things can’t get any more messed up.
The National Guard throughout the country was mobilized in September 1940 for one year of training, then extended past that.The Japanese Navy hit Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the ‘Greatest Generation’ was at war. Barely four months later the 41st Division landed in Australia to help defend that country, because most of the Australian Army was in North Africa. They developed a close relationship with the Aussies and they maintained that relationship when they went into combat in Papua, New Guinea and the Philippines.
The 41st was the FIRST Division, active or Guard, to go to the South Pacific theatre.
The 41st entered combat in January 1943. For comparison, five Divisions went into North Africa in November and December; The Big Red One, the 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions and the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions. The first American Army Division in combat anywhere, though, was the 32nd, another National Guard Division.
Other ‘famous’ Divisions? The 82nd Airborne didn’t get into combat in Sicily until six months after the 41st. The 4th Infantry and the 101st ‘Screaming Eagles’ went into Normandy 17 months after the 41st, and the 10th Mountain was a full two years later.
The 186th has always been ready for duty, we’ve always done a good job aaaaand usually been in trouble with higher on and off. What often makes things worse is that usually, we’re doing the right thing.
Pilots on Mokmer airstrip on Biak filed one complaint with the Corps Commander because of what they called ‘promiscuous firing’ by the infantry near the airstrip, which had disturbed their sleep and sent them into foxholes to escape ricochets.The General’s planned punishment didn’t happen, though. When he went up to the front, he discovered that the Intel and Recon section of the 186th had broken up a major enemy attack and actually saved the airstrip. And the pilots.
After the war, things stayed pretty quiet for the Oregon Guard. We’ve done State mobilizations for floods and fires. This battalion has sent people to train overseas a number of times. Charlie Company spent one Annual Training period in England, while the Battalion hosted a company of Scots here.
The Oregon Guard sent a heavy Maintenance Company to Kuwait during Desert Shield/Desert Storm but the 41st wasn’t called and didn’t go, even though we were originally on the list for the initial 100,000 call up.
When 9/11 came, the Active Army started gearing up for combat and wanted the Guard and Reserve to fill into some of their missions, freeing up units for combat. The 1/186 Infantry was considered to be the best infantry Battalion in Oregon at the time, so they were selected to be sent to the Sinai in July 2002 for the Multinational Force and Observers mission as (non UN) peacekeepers, replacing an Active Army unit.
Nearly a year later, the invasion of Iraq. After the invasion, Oregon provided three rifle companies from 1/162 for security. They served in Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia while things were still relatively quiet. 2/162 replaced 1/162 in late 2003, and included a composite company from 1-186. They arrived just as the country started sliding into civil war. Some of those people are in this room. During a period of intense combat, they upheld every expectation that anyone had of them.
Three years ago, the 41st Brigade went to Afghanistan for a year. Again as a composite of many units, the Brigade worked at training the Afghan Army and then came home again.
So, we’re up to today and you’re getting ready to go to Iraq. Instead of listening to someone talk about history, you’ll be making a small part of it. What are you going to be doing in Iraq?
Probably not what you think you’ll be doing. If you’ve paid attention to the news over the last few months, you may have noticed that you hardly ever hear about Iraq any more. That’s because there aren’t too many ‘dramatic’ news worthy things happening there anymore. They recently had another round of elections; without a single bombing or other violence during election day.
The war in Iraq is “over”. That’s not just my opinion; even the New York Times has said so. Iraq has a government that’s taking more and more responsibility for their own country and the U.S. is backing off, especially off of combat operations. Make no mistake, it’s still a dangerous place but it’s not real likely that you’re going to be doing much, if any, kicking in doors and chasing bad guys.
So the things you’ve been trained for and really know how to do well aren’t likely to be what you’re doing. That means that whatever you end up doing, it’s likely to be something you wouldn’t choose. It may be base security or convoy duty. Ignore the temptation to lower standards because the ‘threat’ has gone down. Don’t get complacent and make sure you know the Rules of Engagement, because we have a new Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. They probably won’t allow you to drive the wrong way down the highways anymore. You’ll have to live within the new rules.
You might be out working with Iraqis, helping rebuild the country. This is where things can get really hairy and not because anyone’s shooting at you.
You’re on a mission to evaluate the security and problems of Anah district in Anbar province. The local sheik is upset because the Iraqi Army came through last week and ran over some sheep with their HUMVEEs. He wants you to get some sheep to replace them. Oh, by the way, his great nephew on his third wife’s brother’s side has been arrested for hiding a weapons cache, but he’s perfectly innocent of course and can you kindly bring him back out of jail to us? And the district center needs a new generator, now! All American soldiers are considered to be the source of STUFF. And everyone wants it. The Iraqis, our allies, the bad guys, everybody.
Your mission is to evaluate the security situation, not solve all of his problems. But alienating him may well make security more of a problem, so you’re going to need to find some middle ground that keeps him happy and doesn’t get you in trouble with your command.
Suddenly, you’re a diplomat. And so are your most junior soldiers. Even if that’s a dirty word to you. You are the face of the United States. Everything you do will be analyzed and, if it impresses them, may be copied. Your suggestions become important and your conduct is under the microscope. And you may hate yourself in the morning because you aren’t acting like a high speed infantryman.
I have seen Corporals and SP4s dealing with village elders and District staff. NCOs dealing with Provincial Governors. Officers are often considered to be equal to the sheikh himself.
There isn’t a whole bunch of good training for situations you may find yourself in, though the Army is getting better at it. Think flexibility. Breathe professionalism. Maintain situational awareness. Keep your soldiers thinking about possibilities.
In Australia, the 41st Division needed to conduct amphibious training. What they got was three cabin cruiser type of boats and some small barges to represent landing craft. Thinking about possibilities, they armed the boats; then used them for both training and running anti submarine patrols outside the Great Barrier Reef. When the Division went to New Guinea, the ‘Infantry Navy’ went along.
The 41st kept thinking outside the box in the Philippines. Instead of trying to bash straight through Japanese defenses, they perfected the amphibious end run and used it to cut off local defenders. You should think outside the box for taking care of each other, too. Big Army tends to be pretty impersonal and the only ones you can truly count on to care about you overseas are your brothers in arms. When the Division began its movement from Australia to New Guinea the only food provided for the trip was C rations. The 2/186 Battalion Commander used his own money to send the S4 out for groceries. A lot of groceries. Brothers in arms find ways to take care of each other. Like most families, you may not like all the other members but you’ll still stick up for each other.
I’m not too concerned about your ability to kick in doors if needed, or to defend yourselves, it that should be needed. I think you’ll do just fine with whatever mission they hand to you, be it convoys, training Iraqi soldiers, working with civilians or government officials. I know you’re a good Battalion and I know you’ve got good leadership in the companies, the battalion and the Brigade. So you’ll do well.
67 years ago, the military and families of what everyone calls the ‘Greatest Generation’ was thrown into WWII. I don’t think it was the ‘Greatest’ generation, though they were certainly great. Portions of the Korean and Vietnam generations were pretty great. Portions of the current generation has been doing some pretty great things for the last eight years. Whether you’re in uniform to go overseas or in civvies and supporting them, the new ‘Great Generation’ is in this room tonight.
Thank you for your service.
Ladies, families and supporters, thank you for all the support you give. They couldn’t do it without you.
In the military, the term ‘The Old Man’, is a term of respect, referring to the unit Commander; old in experience and wise in the ways of the world. Juniors value his advice and normally consider him to be an expert on everything. It’s a good feeling, to have an ‘Old Man’ that you trust and that you can go to when you have a problem.
At a staff meeting many years ago, during a break, several of the Company Commanders were discussing a knotty problem in a corner. The Battalion Commander was talking with someone else near them. I was near enough to hear their discussion but was talking with someone else. (I was the staff Intelligence Officer at the time).
Finally, just before break ended, I heard Ramone (the Bone) Angelucci say, “Well, let’s ask the Old Man.”
Then the group turned toward the Battalion Commander, walked PAST him and brought their problem to me!
I was, I think, the senior Infantry Captain in the State at that point, with eight years in grade. But. I. Was. Not. OLD!
Most enlisted men have perfectly good reasons for disliking officers. Many officers have good reasons for disliking officers. It often boils down to them having a sense of entitlement due to their ‘exalted’ rank.A few years ago, when I was still a Lieutenant, one of our Battalions demonstrated a perfect example of behavior that leads to officer dislike.
At Annual Training in Central California, they had spent the entire preceding 12 days in the field, with 9 of them engaged in a field training exercise. Following a day of cleaning up the training area, (including areas they hadn’t been in) the troops were ready to relax a little bit before heading home the next day. They were looking forward to the barbecue promised to them by the Battalion Command Sergeant Major and an early evening for rest. The officers of the Battalion were going into town for a dinner in a restaurant. Nice end to a strenuous AT.
Then the disappointments started. The CSM had promised a barbecue but he hadn’t bothered to actually arrange anything. Since there was supposed to be a barbecue, the Mess people hadn’t ordered the normal food for the troops. Fortunately, each Company maintained a couple of days worth of MREs, just in case. Kind of a morale buster.
Then, the word came down that the Battalion had ‘volunteered’ to go out and spend ‘however long it took’ to clean the sides several miles of one of the California highways that bordered the training area. Seems someone had the idea that we’d get a good name by beautifying the highways.
About the time the trucks showed up to haul the soldiers out for their clean up job, a bus also showed up. To take the officers into town. No MREs for them! And no highway cleaning, either!
Out of about 35 officers, only one Lieutenant held back at this obvious injustice. Everyone else was trooping onto the bus.(The CSM was with the officers.)
The Lieutenant’s boss, a Captain, hopped off the bus to collect his errant underling and was told, quietly but in no uncertain terms, what would happen if the Captain made the mistake of issuing an order to board the bus. The Lieutenant then boarded a truck and went with the troops instead.
It took years for Officers to be trusted much in that Battalion. Those that were there never got any trust back. They’d showed their colors.