Well Dear Reader, I've decided something: I actually prefer the chaplain in my unit, that venomous Evangelical, to the other sort of the chaplain I've seen, the weak willed and lukewarm, Spiritual Care Plan who recite nothings. Sure, my chaplain may be a devil who hates people for their sexuality and gender, but at least he means it. At least he isn't worshiping his job.
Well Dear Reader, I have got to tell you my theory on NCOs. NCOs are non-commissioned officers. Basically, we're talking about corporals and every species of sergeant. Now, there are many good NCOs out there. One of my daily hopes is that you are reading the blog of one, even though there are many places where I could do better serving the folks who work for me. It's a trite thing for commanders who treat their units like crap to say, but NCOs really do run the Army at a very basic level. But friends, sadly there is many a sergeant out there who could rightly be called a "bafoon."
There is one such sergeant in my unit who has been hanging around the armory for years. He's stayed on through an ever moving stream of commanders, first sergeants, sergeant majors, everyone. This is a person who has happily maintained his rank of sergeant, E-5 and shown no ambition of ever advancing further. I once asked a friend of mine who has been in the S1, a former beurocrat if you will, how long it's been since this sergeant put in a promotion packet. My friend, who's been with
the unit more than a decade, gave me a blank look and said, "never, as far as I know."
This sergeant, let's call him Manny, nevertheless has the single most concern for appearances of anyone I have ever met. He is always pointing out to people how things would fall apart without him. Manny's always reminding his soldiers of, what he assumes, is their absolute incompetence in his abscense.
Despite his belief that not a one of his soldiers have the brains to shave unless he instructs them to each morning, SGT Manny regularly fails to remember all the members of his squad by name. Hilariously, he often believes that soldiers from other parts of the unit are in his squad. In fact, he once complained to out his first sergeant that a certain PFC was never showing up for formations. A PFC who, it turns out, wasn't even in the same company.
However, SGT Manny's most delightful trait reveals itself after any formation where information is put out. After these formations, he gathers his soldiers around him and puts the information out again. Now, don't misunderstand me, plenty of responsible NCOs do this sort of thing. Saying it twice is a good way of making sure people hear it. However, what sets SGT Manny apart is how he gets the information wrong. Instead of repeating the actual information, he angrily and forcefully says whatever sounds good to his own ears. Thus misinformed, SGT Manny's soldiers spread across the hinterlands looking for the right place to be.
Now, Dear Reader, don't think I'm being too judgmental. There's a simple equation I use judge leaders. At the top of numbers one through ten, you rate how much a leader honestly cares and works for her or his soldiers' well being. On the bottom, you rate how much recognition a leader wants. Simple and easily mastered criteria. Guess how SGT Manny measures up?
Hey there Dear Reader, I want to apologize for the gap in posting.
As happens occasionally to those off in a war zone, I have
been incredibly busy for the past two weeks. I've been posting things
written before I headed in country, but uh, my little store has run
out, so I'm going to have to start writing new stuff.
Anyway, due to security concerns, I still can't tell you many
details about where I am. On one hand, there are people very nearby
trying to kill not only me, but also every other American and
Coalition individual with whom we're working. The possibility that
something I say here could be used to harm one my people here terrifies
me. It has actually given me the sweaty, awful nightmares that aren't
immediately blinked away by the daylight. My first priority is making sure
that my people are safe. Telling the truth about being a queer in the
Army, for the moment, comes in a distant second.
The other reason I need to be careful is that, hey, queer in the Army,
don't what to get outed, beaten to death, all that fun stuff.
So here's what's going to happen. I'm going to keep talking. We going
to call this place "Klatch." All you Terry Pratchett fans out there
enjoy the reference. For those of you who have not read the stories of
the disk world, please, go out and read some Prachett books. I
recommend starting with either Feet Of Clay or Going Postal. Both are
Without further ado, straight from Klatch, here's the Combat Queer.
Dear Reader, I'm about to do something that I have promised many people I would never, ever do. I am about to buy a Contemporary Christian Music album.
One of my unit's Chaplain's favorite stories involves one of three privates who were involved in a truck rollover earlier this spring. This private is a self proclaimed atheist. The way the chaplain likes to this story, and I have heard him tell it four or five times, and I spend very little time with the chaplain, well, Chaplain likes to say that he asked the private. “Well, were you praying to Jesus last night?”
Now, this private is a friend of mine. He tends to sort of keep to himself, but he's a hard worker and I like him a lot. I was sitting with him when the chaplain came in so, joy of joys, I managed to witness the Genesis of this little tale.
The chaplain did indeed ask the private that question. The private, the chaplain likes to say, admitted that he had prayed to Jesus and more or less admitted also that he lack of faith in any deity was basically a sham, that really and truly he believed in God, in Christ, and in the absolute truth of the Bible, in a specific and narrowly defined understanding of morality and all goodness.
The private, according to the chaplain, knew the truth, deeply believed the truth, but out of hard handedness and a whole set of character flaws actively rebelled against the capital T Truth.
That's the chaplain's story.
But I was there too, and here's what happened: The chaplain asked his question and the private didn't answer. He just laughed and wagged his finger. He wouldn't say either was.
I the truth doesn't always make for the best story.
Now Dear Reader, there's a phenomenon in my unit that I see every day, and while I have some theories, I remain honestly confused about.
So I've been eating rancid food all week. I'll admit it's more than little strange that it took be about five days to figure it out, but if you listen to the story Dear Reader, you'll probably agree that I'm not entirely at fault.
We've been out in the field on a training mission. The basic deal is that you call the place a Forward Operating Base, a FOB, and you get some of the guys to play to Opposing Forced, the Op4, and you carry out little scenarios. It's hot, you get tired, but really, it isn't bad in any way.
Except the food. See I've been working the night shift. It's usually an eight hour deal, but I tend to work an extra two on either end. There's a lot to get done, and a lot of time stuff fails to happen when I'm not in the office. Well, working the night shift, I tend to just barely miss the food actually prepared by the cooks. Of course, I don't really work that had to hit the chow hall. Among the cooks, there is one or maybe, maybe two people who I would trust to be around food. The cooks tend to boil everything to the same soggy, slimy consistency. It's a really amazing thing when the only way you can tell the difference between Mac 'n Cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken is the presence of bones, well, you know there's something wrong.
But for those of us lucky enough to avoid chow hall food, there is another option. It used to be MREs, the famous “Meals Ready to Eat,” but for various reasons, probably something to do with the cost, the MRE is no longer the Army's primary food for folks in training. Now we got these delightful things we lovingly call “Jimmy Deans.” They actually used to be made by Jimmy Dean, had potted meat, and were as terrible tasting as a mass produced food. They're no longer made by Jimmy Dean and they are ever so slightly better than they used to be, but uh, they're still not great.
Every single one has a bag TGI Fridays Bacon and Cheddar Potato Skin chips, a can of tuna, chicken or ham salad, a packet of cookies, a can of Vienna Sausages, and a can of Brisk Iced Tea. Every single one. And I've probably eaten a dozen of those this week. It's kind of gross in and of itself.
But these new fangled Jimmy Deans, it turns out that they need to be stored at temperatures lower that 80 degrees. Why? Because they rot otherwise. They putrefy. Well, my brilliant friends in the mess section, knowing this, decided that they best way to get the Jimmy Deans out to the soldiers of the unit would be to leave them out on a folding table in direct sunlight.
Something else I found out very recently: You should never eat a Jimmy Dean if the plastic package is distended or expanded. Why? Because that's a great sign that it is putrefying, swelling up just like a body dumped in a lake. I of course learned this on te last day of the train exercise.
My unit's Jimmy Deans, the ones left out in the sun all week, well Dear Reader, if you'd of tied a string around one you could have had yourself a balloon. They smelled like cleaning fluid when you tore into them. But, ha ha, if you were working the late shift, there was nothing else to eat, and we were assured they were fine.
I felt like shit all week. I was getting headaches, nausea, weird, weird feelings like I was outside of my own body... lot's of fun, when you're working in 110 degree weather. After the first day of that I actually went to one of the medics and asked what was going on. “Dehydration” he tells me. You need to drink more water. Now, I'd drank about five canteens and two camel-backs of water already that day, and was spending about 5% of my time running back forth to the urinal, but “Hey,” I says, “I'll go drink some more water.”
Because, hey, what else could it be?
So, we've just watched the sun go down on another solstice. I've spent the day today out at a range with my unit cooking the back of my neck in the long sunlight. I happened to point out that it was the summer solstice, and that it was a good day.
Well, the fellow I was speaking to did not take kindly to that. He felt that by my mentioning the solstice, the longest day of the year to him, that I was somehow attacking him for being a Christian. "We don't pay attention to that sort of thing," he told me. 'Cause, you know, Christians are forbiden to notice the passing of the seasons.
He then went into a long explaination of how Christans, by which he meant Evangelicals, were a persecuted and hunted group in America.
It was a wake up call to me that I needed. A lot of Conservative, Evangelicals feel so victimized by the world that the very mention of a word that they in any way associate with other traditions(in the case of my story, I guess the fellow was afraid that I was a pagan or something) causes them to fall into a defensive fit of anger.
That anger, I guess, insulates them, and helps to protect them against that most terrible of all fates, the becoming aware of knowledge of the Other.