Why I Love My Army
It’s why I love my Army. I do, every day. Some days she’s a fickle mistress. I hate her sometimes. I still love her despite that. She will use you to fulfill her mission, all day, every day, every month and every year until you retire or you die in your country's service. But you should have known that coming in. And I love her still. The Army has taught me about all kinds of assorted and asymmetric things. I want to lay a few of those things out for you today. This isn’t a complete list and you should feel free to add you own in the comments.
But these are the things that have kept me going for 19 years and probably keep me going for a few more years at the very least.
It has taught me:
How to get along with anybody, in all circumstances and sometimes great stress. Even and perhaps, especially when they are assholes.
That sometimes just doing your job means pissing people off.
The best leadership technique in the Army today is the “just wandering around” theory. Getting out and seeing your equipment, battery and soldiers. Knowing the standards, asking questions and holding leaders accountable. Good leaders don't, can't sit in their office.
How to find the humor in any situation. If you can laugh your ass off in the frozen mud in an ice storm, wet, cold, and miserable, you can survive anything.
How to appreciate the great youth that comprise America’s armed forces. If you wanted to know what the latest incarnation of the greatest generation is, look to your soldiers. It’s them. They have the same spirit of our fathers and grandfathers in WWII and Korea. They know what freedom is worth and know that they are defending the Constitution and the freedom of the greatest nation on earth. Baggy pants and bad music notwithstanding.
How not to take youth for granted.
How to outrun at 38 an 18 year old with no conception of what heart is.
How to train that 18 year old to get and recognize heart.
How to seperate those 18 year olds and older who don't have heart and will never get it.
How it feels to show up at your 20th High School reunion in shape and fit (even after breaking an ankle on a night jump) and knowing for what your life has been lived. Knowing you did not wander through life and found yourself in a career you never envisioned at 19. Knowing you have seen and done things that most won’t or can’t understand. Knowing that you chose this life and this life chose you.
That knowing the previous does not make me smarter or a better person. It just makes me a soldier.
How to argue my position forcefully and with respect with superiors and then salute and execute legal orders I don’t necessarily agree with to the best of my ability. “Sir, I think that’s fucking stupid, and I reserve the right to tell you I told you so, but we will execute.”
That what you train on for years may not be the way you actually fight a war. After spending years training to fight a Soviet style enemy and learning how to identify and destroy Soviet style vehicles my first combat convoy was riding behind a Romanian BTR-70 (they called it an APC 77) with huge American and Romanian flags. Supported by Romanian 82mm mortars. Go figure.
That life ain’t fair. If you have any doubts about this go to just the first phase of ranger school.
That sometimes the enemy is smarter than you.
That sometimes I am smarter than the enemy.
That there is no way to tell the difference until it is too late.
That sometimes I am fighting the wrong enemy altogether and the greatest operational distracters can come from us
That life is at its best when it is at its most absurd.
That I can accomplish any given mission given a reasonable amount of like minded soldiers who want to get the job done.
That life sucks sometimes and you still got to do the job. Like on the 3rd day of an operation at 0300 without any sleep and still making it happen. It isn’t pretty and it isn’t perfect but it better than what most could do.
That being cold sucks.
That being hot sucks.
The previous things are absolutely true but not as much as being cold and wet at the same time.
That you should appreciate chow of all kinds and sleep of all kinds whenever you get the chance to get some of them.
How to sleep in any kind of military vehicle or aircraft in any situation. Even in combat.
That all you get after 65 jumps is hurt. And that life is good when you are the number one jumper.
To always carry a map and know where the hell you are.
To always have a filled radio that I know works.
That having an M4 is nice and an M9 is also nice. But it is better to have both, and an ample supply of ammunition.
That the greatest military on the face of the earth can’t deliver fresh bread and eggs without KBR.
That I would not now be as well educated (2 Masters degrees) nor as world experienced without the knowing complicity of my Army.
That few things were as nice as getting married in an Army chapel in my dress blues at Fort Campbell by a military chaplain and riding in a horse drawn carriage to the O'Club for the reception.
How to wait on line for everything. It’s what I am doing right now.
How to wait and like it.
That paperwork and email has it's place. And the paperwork gods must be appeased. And that a firm and cool knowledge of what paperwork must get routed where can expedite impossible problems.
That email does not constitute proper staff work. An action passed is not an action complete.
That incompetence you can depend on is better than technology you can’t.
To always check the batteries in my GPS, NODS, radio and M68. And take spares.
How to tell someone that he is full of shit while smiling in his face.
For every action there is an equal and opposite overreaction
That’s all for now. Share your own.