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“Gotta Catch Them All”

May 12th, 2009 by Speed

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.

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18 Responses to ““Gotta Catch Them All””

  1. Stickfodder Says:

    The Pokemon card theory really would have been a much better way for them to be spending their time.


  2. NO-GO Says:

    Goooosh! Get it right!

    -The correct spelling is Mewtwo!
    -Blue Eyed Dragon is a Yu-Gi-Oh card, not a Pokemon card!

    Oh my god. I can’t believe I just did that.

    Hell, I’m ashamed that I even know those bits of info among other things.

    captcha: jack uranus… I’ll be making sure it’s secure!


    Chris reply on May 13th, 2009 3:39 am:

    Don’t feel bad, you’re not the only one who’s first instinct was to correct Speed with extreme nerdiness. You just beat me to punch.


    Speed reply on May 13th, 2009 4:48 am:

    In my defense, my son later collected Yu-Gi-Oh cards and stole my Mewtwo card – I got it when I took him to see the movie.

    Now I have to surrender my Nerd Pro Card and go back to amateur status. At least I can still do a good Pegasus imitation, “Yugi-boy.”


  3. StoneWolf Says:

    So what was actually in these vital to National Security battle books?

    When Pokemon first came out my little brother was all over them. Wanting to actually have something to play with him, I bought some. I sucked at it, but mostly because I don’t understand how you can miss with earthquakes and tidal waves. Its like missing by a mile with a nuke. They’re still vapor! So as a joke I make up my own card once. He throws down whatever it was. Me, “I choose you M82!”


  4. Jim C Says:

    Battle Books are the standard issue side arm for Power Point Rangers. Side arms are important you never know when you will run out of ammo for you primary weapon, the Laser Pointer.


    StoneWolf reply on May 13th, 2009 6:25 am:

    Burn the power point! Power Point Rangers have infected all levels of government work. I work for the FAA and even I have to deal with their evil. What happened to chalk boards?

    Now what’s wrong with laser pointers? They are very helpful when boresighting my rifle ;)


    Speed reply on May 13th, 2009 9:25 am:

    In 1994 my guard unit was taking part in a Warfighter Exercise. The G-2 OIC was briefing and an NCO stood in the back with a laser pointer hitting points on the mapboard.

    The XVIII OIC – Gen Shelton? – had only one question: where did that red dot come from? He spent 10 minutes playing with the pointer after that.


    Ihmhi reply on May 13th, 2009 6:39 pm:

    It’s actually a spoiler from the upcoming new rangers season: Power Rangers: Library Lords.


  5. Kurt Says:

    Not only would pokemon cards be less of an embarassment to be carried around like they were, it would also make the term ‘battle book’ actually somewhat accurate.


    Stickfodder reply on May 13th, 2009 10:17 am:

    Hmm now that I think about it that game also helped teach some strategy.


  6. CCO Says:

    Speed, you think that’s embarrassing? In the ’90’s, I was assigned to a chemical decon company (meaning that we washed trucks for a living, no, really folks that’s basically what decon is). Not me; I was supply; I did paper work for the people who washed trucks for a living. (Oh, occasionally, the paper would at least relate to stuff blowing up. The flame range was pretty neat.)

    We were, like yourself, under the umbrella of the 18th ABN Corps, in our own round about way.

    Our company motto? “We clean quick”, perhaps? Nope. It was: “First to Fight”.


    Speed reply on May 14th, 2009 4:31 am:

    We didn’t have a motto per se, but while everyone else was yelling “Airborne” when they saluted, we yelled “In the Rear” as we were the rear command post- at least that was the story we stuck with.

    While describing our mission during a dog and pony show, our XO actually sketched out an umbrella on a white board to show our placement under the 18ABC.

    Good times.


  7. soulex? Says:

    i collected these when they first came out. if i can find them in storage, i have a lot of the first edition cards for the original expansion, and the second expansion.

    call me a nerd, but i still love pokemon. that was the best thing growing up. the MissingNO. cheat. GO HAUNTER!

    NidoKing was the best though. he could learn surf and water attacks were super effective against him. he was like “Bring it ugly! i use an attack that i’m weak against.”


  8. Maj Mac Says:

    Yeah, I had a “Battle Book”, but I was a “Battle Captain” in Iraq. I used my book. I even had stuff in my book that wasn’t supposed to be in my book. Come to think of it, I don’t think it was supposed to be in Iraq. I had the “Haji Mart” guys make me a “RANGER.ppt” tab and sewed it on a uniform. The commander let me wear it for a while, but the novelty of it all quickly wore off.


  9. Eric Says:

    Thanks Skippy. I only became aware of your list yesterday and, like most people, found it hilarious. I wonder what happened with the vodka mouthwash?

    Anyway, I sent it to Joe, my son, who was with the TA (reservists) in Iraq a few years back. It was the second wave, (OpTelic 2, I think) and he was bored. He learned Arabic while he was there but obviously found time for a few more activities.

    Joe was inspired by your list to write his own Twenty Lessons, which I have taken the liberty of posting here.

    The one thing you need to know is the identity of Bombardier (later Sergeant) Fish. Whenever Joe was given exceptionally stupid orders, Bdr Fish miraculously popped up to countermand them. When Joe was caught doing something he wasn’t allowed to do (plenty of scope there), it transpired Bdr Fish had told him to do it.

    I should also add that Joe was great mates with the Fijians.

    I hope it amuses you as much as it did me.
    Thanks for that Dad. I have wracked my brains, and these are my top twenty “lessons learned” in the Iraq War:

    1. Fijian soldiers do not eat missionaries. I should not imply that they do;
    2. Fijian soldiers cannot climb palm trees like rats up a drainpipe. I should not imply that they can;
    3. Shouting “Tether the Fijians!” is not an appropriate response to a Rover becoming irretrievably stuck in a marsh;
    4. An underslung grenade launcher is a formidable weapon, with or without grenades;
    5. We come to liberate, not to take photos of burnt out AFVs;
    6. Bombardier Fish did not order me to load, unload, make my weapon ready, get my head down or collect geckos;
    7. Regular soldiers are the epitome of professional soldiering. They were not flipping burgers at McDonalds three months ago. I should not imply that they were;
    8. Regular soldiering is not a punishment for shoplifting. I should not imply that it is;
    9. Regular soldiers know to wipe from front to back. They do not need anyone to tell them this;
    10. Haggis neeps and tatties served to the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders on Burns Night is not “ethnic food”;
    11. The Royal Welch Fusiliers speak Welsh, not Arabic, Kurdish or Assyrian;
    12. The Green Gimp does not have the authority to excuse TA soldiers from parade;
    13. “Pop the dog” is not an approved army sport;
    14. Bull ants are not “nature’s little cleaners” and their marches do not lead inexorably to Bombardier Burton’s cot;
    15. Jam from the cookhouse is not to be used to influence the migration of bull ants;
    16. Bombardier Burton’s rapid movements do not attract flies;
    17. Jam from the cookhouse should not be applied to Bombardier Burton’s helmet;
    18. Bombardier Burton does not sweat more than real people;
    19. Two French soldiers were not stripped bare of flesh by camel spiders in the first Gulf War. It is bad for morale to tell regular soldiers that this is the case;
    20. Mole crickets are not venomous.


    Speed reply on May 15th, 2009 7:21 am:

    We had some Samoans in the 2nd armored. A little guy from Chicago asked one what his first name was since he didn’t want to keep calling him “alphabet” like the sarge did. The Samoan said something like “moo-moo.” Chicago guy did a quick laugh, saw the Samoan’s face and immediately said, “I wasn’t laughing at your name, honest, I was laughing about something else!”

    That’s the only time I saw the Samoan guy laugh.


  10. Sean Says:

    Now, now, folks. Don’t be TOO down on PowerPoint Rangers! After all, if they don’t keep the REMFs busy, the REMFs will have time to think of creative new ways to employ the troops…

    Besides, I take pride in being one.

    About a year ago, I was sent to Bahrain to participate in a conference being hosted by 5th Fleet. Not a bad deal; see a new country, give a presentation, head home.

    Problem is, I’m military on detached duty to a civilian agency. When I notified my service of where I was being sent, they immediately processed me for entry to a combat zone. And combat pay. And the ‘combat pay’ tax exclusion.

    I tried to stop ’em, really.

    But the military SOP mindset was at work.

    So I led off the presentation with a PowerPoint Ranger logo slide – and the story.

    Everyone but the Admiral laughed…


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