Around the time we were fighting in Vietnam, the Army decided that officers and senior NCOs needed to spend time in staff jobs to get a better understanding of the system works, and to help them become more professional. Whether you believe it or not, that’s the official word. In short, to get promoted, you have to get your ticket punched.
One problem was in the lack of training of staff officers, etc. Anyone can type up a report and fill out the paperwork for training schedules, ordering toilet paper and such, but no one was getting trained on how to move the flags on the maps and how to order subordinate units around. Thus the “Warfighter” training was born, just in time for Desert Storm.
Because it is training for office workers, it was named Warfighter. That’s a little bit of an army oxymoron, like the overused “Army Intelligence,” or the ever popular “Meal Ready to Eat.” Call it what is not and maybe, just maybe the troops will believe it.
So there I was in the National Guard. Even though the National Guard still has line units, I was in a REMF unit that was the rear command post for the XVIII Airborne Corps, thus availing me of the many opportunities to take part in Warfighter, after Warfighter, after, well, you get the idea. We did this training two to three times a year. Two weeks a year? Not in this unit, bud.
I did not do the job I was trained for, in fact, as my bosses never knew how to use me, I got stuck receiving messages via email as I used to be a signal operator when in the Regular Army. My captain would say, “Intel is intel and a clerk is a clerk,” and other pearls of wisdom. My guess is that I was an intel clerk and that I needed to get clerking in an intel fashion, even if that meant manning the message center.
I would make a page copy of every message that came through the system and make extra copies if the night boss – I always worked nights – would need the message. I guess I was his email screener.
We had a Regular Army 2LT that had just made rank. Prior to that he had been an SFC in the Special Forces. I gave him a few messages, about one every half hour, when he became aware that I was screening the email. He ordered me to give him a copy of everything and to make an extra copy for the 1LT that worked during the day. Heh.
A couple of hours, and a couple of acres of rain forest trees later, 2LT ordered me to go back to screening his emails for him. I was bored, so I did a quick review of the two and a half foot high pile of papers sitting on his desk, tossing out the dross into a good sized box.
That was an example of a typical night at a Warfighter. I still had time to finish up and send out my version of the Top Ten Reasons You Might Be a Jedi Redneck, and to gin up fake messages to insert into the read file.
My section sergeant liked a good laugh as did our captain and major, so I knew that I was on safe ground with the fake messages. One message was about Godzilla attacking nearby villages wearing nothing but an enemy helmet and the words painted on his chest “Serbs Rule,” according to the translators – this was in the mid-90s.
I had another one that was supposed to be a translation of a radio transcript of a “Peoples’ Testimony of Great Belgrade Chicken Factory: For to Make Chickens Laying Eggs.” My major almost swallowed his dip when he read it and said, “I’m keeping this one!”
But all good things must come to an end. The officers got their tickets punched and moved on. One replacement officer had the first name “Candy.” She looked like candy too. My buddy Arturo, Marine/82nd Airborne/3rd Infantry Regiment, would walk around singing that song from the 80s, “I want Candy…” while we did our time at the Joint Task Force compound.
In spring 2001 we had the blow-out ending of all Warfighters; it was almost if we had a prescient warning that the good times were coming to an end. The night before we headed back home, the entire unit went to the Sports Club on Bragg. We drank too much, made too much noise and took over the dance floor.
Somewhere along the way Arturo discovered it was karaoke night and sang in his deep gruff voice, the Divinyls song, “I Touch Myself,” to a standing ovation.
The funniest memory of the night was the Moult-Dog out on the dance floor with two very large women. I guess that just about everyone had danced with the women and they were as intent on having a fun time as we were; Special K, our first sergeant had even danced with them.
The Moult-Dog was a kid about 5’8″ and maybe 150lb.s. Prior to coming into the guard, he had been an SP in the Air Force and spent his time working with SAC. We’d ask him if he had to get some sort of medical profile or if all of the Air Force SPs were as thin and wiry as him.
Out on the dance floor, one of the women was on her hands and knees and Moult-Dog was riding – grinding? – her like a horse, slapping her butt with his hand. The other large woman was standing behind them and grinding up against Moult-Dog, slapping his butt. Just saying it is not nearly as funny as watching it. Imagine a stick figure caught between two Michelin [wo]men. I literally was laughing so hard I just about pissed myself.
But as I said before, all good things must come to an end.
We mobilized after 9/11 for a year, and again for OIF for just under a year. For the most part, we got to put our skills to good use both in the US and a couple of countries in Asia. Kenny didn’t get killed and everyone got medals.
First Sergeant, Special K, retired as soon as we got back. A little while later Arturo retired after 20 years and a day. The Moult-Dog is now a leader of men and doing a fine job. He’s bulked up some too, no longer the stick figure he used to be.
The unit was decommissioned a couple of years later, its proud colors just one amongst a bunch of dusty flags at the state headquarters. I met a lot of good people from both the reserve and the regular army in those Warfighters: Bobble Head, who helped me get hired as a contractor; CJ, who I ran into at a Ft. Bragg Warfighter, then in Bosnia and then back again at Bragg. I even met the guy that was in the “Army of One”
AWOL commercials – the ones where he is running one way in the desert while the tanks and helicopters go the other way.
During the daily trek to my contractor job at Ft. Bragg with the other old farts, when I pass the JTF compound, sometimes I swear I can hear Arturo singing, “I want Candy…” and I laugh out loud. On occasion it’s loud enough that the strapping young lads of the 82nd, out running their morning PT, hear me and you can tell that they wonder, “What does that old guy find so funny?”