This one is not on my list as I was not told not to do it. Back when I got “deployed” to Ft. Bragg in 2001 with the North Carolina National Guard – I have to use the quotation marks since I still can’t understand how you can be deployed in the same state that you live in – I had the opportunity to be attached to the XVIIIth Airborne Corps G-2.
Quick explanations: the XVIIIth ABC is the parent organization over the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Air Assault, 10th Mountain, 3rd Infantry and a few other smaller units. G-2 is the Intel Section.
I quickly noticed that all of the officers carried black notebooks around everywhere they went. Within a few days our officers were also carrying around the black notebooks. Being the nosy sort, I asked a few of them what the notebooks were for, thinking that maybe I should be carrying one too. I was told to mind my own business.
Back home, my seven year old son had been collecting Pokemon cards. It was a neat piece of brainwashing, and as a REMF clerk in Intel, I know brainwashing when I see it. He would carry around his black notebook that held the plastic sleeves full of Pokemon cards singing, “Gotta catch them all…” practically all day.
That got me thinking. Since I could not actually see what were in the black notebooks that the officers were carrying around with them everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, even to PT, I postulated that they too were collecting Pokemon cards. Having seen my son jealously guarding his cards from the other kids, I decided that the officers didn’t want any of us lowly enlisted types looking at their Pokemon cards because we would try to steal them. I mean, do you know hard it is to get a Mew 2 or Blue Eyed Dragon? I had it on very good authority, my son, that it was very hard.
From time to time, as I strolled through the corridors of HQ, I would watch the officers range walking down the hallways, sprinting up and down the staircase, grasping their black notebooks with firm visages.
No one could doubt that they were on a mission, an important mission, the balance of the free world held in their hands. As I observed this I could not help but sing, quietly, “Gotta catch them all…”
This lasted until 2003, when my unit was mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom. We were supposed to go to Balad, Iraq, but, depending upon which story you believe, either ARCENT Kuwait needed us more, or our commander begged and pleaded for us to stay in Kuwait due to a few soldiers having premonitions of an attack on our unit and the commander being killed in it.
It was in Doha, Kuwait on a fateful day in July, during a staff meeting, that I got to see what was in the black notebooks. The base colonel was trying to make a point. To make himself better understood, he picked up my colonel’s black notebook and threw it across the room. Papers fell out of the notebook and scattered everywhere. Oh yeah, he didn’t like my colonel.
Papers. Not a single Pokemon card. What a let down. I think I even saw a training schedule. Training schedule? Who had time for training? I barely had enough time in an 18 hour work day to shuffle all of the papers that I needed to shuffle.
I found out later that day that the black notebooks are called “Battle Books.” Battle books? WTF? Black notebooks that will NEVER be carried into battle, by people that do back flips and twists to avoid combat, are called battle books? I was so embarrassed for my officers, even LT Dish.
LT Dish would respond in a humorous way about the Pokemon card comments. I see now that she was too ashamed to admit that she had to carry all sorts of paper around in her notebook and call it a battle book. It was better that we believe she had Pokemon cards, that was much less embarrassing and, I believe, could even be considered more professional.
Battle books. Six years later I still have trouble getting my brain around that. Back in Kuwait, after the notebook throwing incident, I was asked by a Marine sergeant what those notebooks were. I told him.
We both could only shake our heads. We both then shared a laugh as I told him about my Pokemon card theory. I knew at the end of our conversation that that theory was going to be told to an entirely new audience before the day was over. I knew that the legend would live on.