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Old 01-21-2010, 11:02 PM
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Default Adagio For Strings, 8/30/04

Webstral 08-30-2004, 10:00 PM I've been at Fort Bliss for ten days. So far, it's a mixed bag. Here are the positives:

My unit. The company is good. As I've mentioned before, there are a LOT of active-duty veterans. Almost everybody has been active duty. Most of the people with active duty time were infantry in their past lives. This means that everybody in leadership positions knows how it is supposed to go in a general Army sense, if not in a specific infantry sense.

We're old next to our active duty counterparts. It's not uncommon to see a Spec-4 in his thirties. The officers are almost all prior enlisted, which is very encouraging. The NCOs are good.

I'm surrounded by interesting characters. My platoon (2nd Platoon, B Company, 1-184 IN) is much more of a mix-and-match of personalities than my active duty units were. For the most part, I'd say this is a good thing. I'll get to some of the specific people later.

On the drawback side of the equation, we're living in massive tents next to Biggs Army Airfield. We don't even have a permanent roof over our heads, though we've been assured that contractors are working two shifts a day to get barracks ready for us. So I'm sharing an intimate tent with 349 other men. (Talk about a big tent!)

The tent situation isn't as bad as it might be, though. There's a linoleum floor, and the tent is air conditioned. We share latrine and shower facilities with another 350-man tent, and there are plenty of showers and flushing toilets for all of us. The water is hot. The sinks are plentiful. Civilian contractors clean the latrine during the day, so things never get really nasty. At least not so far.

Also on the drawback side, the leadership is anxious and has too much time on their hands. Show me a battalion sergeant major with too much time and some anxiety about how his battalion is training, and I'll show you a sergeant major who comes up with one irksome restriction after another. Basically, we're being treated little better than soldiers in basic training. It's not quite as bad as being in basic, but it's a far cry from being regular, active duty soldiers. We get very little respect from our own chain of command. Oh, they tell us they think we're wonderful. However, this hasn't translated into a day off. We have been promised that we will not have a single day off until Thanksgiving, when we will get just that day. Not only is this going to be hard to stomach, but it's going to seriously affect our morale. Either the battalion sergeant major is a fool or one cruel mike foxtrot. Or he plans to lighten up as we go along. I'm hoping for the last option, but signs of it yet to materialize.

Another good piece of news is that we receive compliments everywhere we go. The cadre here have been training National Guard troops from all over the western half of the United States for several months now, and they seem pleasantly surprised by a unit that shows up ready to learn. Hopefully, this will make our leadership more confident soon.

There are four men in my fire team: SPC Hernandez, PFC Smith, and PV2 Stacey. In an active duty unit, these guys would all be younger than 22. Hernandez is 33, Smith is 38, and Stacey is 31. I'm 34. I'm sure we're the oldest fire team in the platoon, if not the entire company.

All of my guys are interesting stories. Hernandez is a trucker who lives in San Jose. He's a short Hispanic guy (duh!) with a great temperament and a good head on his shoulders. Hernandez has fourteen years in the Army, most of which has been in the National Guard. He's a Desert Storm vet, and he was deployed to Kuwait for a security mission two years ago. He knows his stuff. He should be a senior E-5 at least, but there was an incident that set him back. Hernandez is my ace of spades. He's reliable and knowledgeable, and he can be counted on to look over my shoulder and let me know when I'm missing something or just plain dropping the ball. He knows I used to be an officer, but he never brings it up--and neither do I.

Two days ago, Hernandez took me aside after a very frustrating drill and told me flat out that I wasn't cutting it as a team leader. He wasn't mean or angry--just straightforward. He told me he was saying this to me because he knew I could do it, but that I needed to step up and take better control during tactical drills. And on this particular occasion, he was correct. We were doing a stack, which is a line of men about to enter a building, but we were crossing an open area in the stack. Stacey, who used to be a combat MP, wanted to get across the open area as quickly as possible, and the tightly-knit formation fell apart repeatedly. I didn't do a good job of stepping up and taking charge because I had no idea what this thing we were doing was supposed to look like. Nevertheless, Hernandez was right. Yesterday, at the end of a squad-level movement-to-contact drill, Hernandez told me I was doing my job. He's going to be a good man to have at my side.

Smith is my problem child. He's a really good-hearted guy. However, I'm still working on getting him to think through the consequences of his actions. For instance, one morning last week he was busy polishing his boots when we were supposed to be out at formation. His uniform was lying on his bed. He wasn't ready to go. He was thinking something good--he wanted to look squared away for morning formation. However, he hadn't gotten to the point where he constructed a timeline. Boot polishing and everything else that can be done the night before should be done the night before. This is a basic thing, but I've had to explain it to him. Smith drives a bus for the City of San Francisco. Scary, no?

Smith also doesn't listen very carefully, and he's an alarmist. If someone says, "Man, it's cold in Siberia," within thirty seconds Smith will be running to someone else exclaiming, "I heard we're being sent to Siberia! That's b*****t!" Several times a day I have to repeat what was put out by the platoon leadership because he wasn't paying attention or because he heard what he was afraid of as opposed to what was actually said.

The good news is that Smith is a bull. He has great commitment and violence of action. I just need to get it under control. During our squad-level action yesterday, my team made contact with the enemy first. We dropped down to provide a base of fire for the other team to maneuver. I got my team on line, more-or-less, while maintaining our fire. The maneuver element assaulted across the objective. I shouted for B Team to get up, fix the line, and assault through at right angles to the line taken by the maneuver element. We were in wadi country, so I had lost visual contact with just about everybody during the engagement. Once everyone was up, I could see that Smith and Stacey were ahead of me on my left, while my SAW gunner was behind me on my right. Smith starts running for the objective without looking around him. I yelled for him to stop and wait for the rest of the team to get on-line. He actually looked back at me and said "Assault the objective?" like he was repeating what he'd heard; and, without waiting for an answer turned and started off towards the objective.

Incensed, I bellowed, "Private Smith! Halt! Stand right there while the rest of the team comes up!"

That stopped him, and I was able to get myself and my SAW on-line with the rest of my team for the assault across the objective. This is why Hernandez told me I was doing my job.

Stacey is another interesting character. He's the kind of guy I wouldn't like in the civilian world and can't do without here. He's got a rough, crude sense of humor, but you'll never find a more loyal soldier. He's smart, but he hides it. He's got seven years in the Guard, but he's done things to cost him most of his rank. He's very highly motivated, and I like working with him. I think we understand that we're different kinds of people, except for our love of the service and our devotion to high standards.

Stacey catches little things I miss about my own maintenance. Once in a while, I'll head out to formation without part of the uniform of the day. Stacey comes out after me with the missing item in his hand. He makes sure that while I'm doing my team leader thing, my personal stuff is getting taken care of. I'm going to need him, too.

I think that should do it for today. There's more to talk about with just the few days we've been here, but I don't have much time left. Take care, guys.



Matt Wiser 08-31-2004, 01:42 AM Glad to see things are going OK (relatively speaking). Good luck, keep your head down, and stay safe.


graebarde 08-31-2004, 10:11 AM Web.

What you've said about your team is what MAKES a team. You have realized the Army recruiting slogan "Army of ONE" is NOT what makes a go of things. It takes time to get the little things ironed out, and from what you've said you don't really have any major problems. All I can say is DRIVE ON!! Good luck and as our Brit friends say 'keep a stiff upper lip' (what ever the hell that means, LOL). Oh and I hope your SMAJ comes around too, as I think he probably will, but success in trainig will surely help sway him.

Again keep safe, check six, and learn from others mistakes.


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