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Herding Cats

November 3rd, 2009 by Speed

Years ago, ailment when Bosnia was the only thing going for the military [officially!], vialis 40mg my national guard unit was sent there to act as a brigade headquarters in Slavonski Brod, cough Croatia. Various regular army, reserve and national guard units fell under our command, and we had the glorious name of Task Force Pershing.

In truth, we were little more than a glorified truck stop, but were a very good truck stop. The various sections were pro-active and kept the LSAs liveable. The Brown & Root head cook did a bang up job on the food, the best I have ever had on a deployment; the British Navy cooks beat the US Army guys hands down. The locally supplied fresh, bakery bread was just the icing on the cake.

Into this little slice of heaven some rain had to fall. The unit that “owned” Bosnia – 1st Infantry – was going home to Germany, and their replacement – 1st Armored – was driving on down through Austria and Hungary. Some of us were tasked to man the catch teams – the guys that would link up the various convoys and guide them in, or to man the various filling stations.

These filling stations were given names that incorporated the cardinal directions, like “Auto North.” They were manned by locals, who ran the fuel pumps, had an officer and an NCO, and a couple of fuel trucks. Sounds simple, right? But this is the army we’re talking about.

I was one of the NCOs “in charge” and was teamed up with two different officers. These captains would alternate their days on site, and I would go every day. But don’t cry for me Argentina, I got over like a bandit, which is another story.

This is about herding cats.

A little background. Decades ago I was in the 142nd Signal Battalion of the 2nd Armored Division down at good ole Ft. Hood, Texas. That unit had four companies in it: HHC, A, B and C. Bravo company was the “line unit.” These are the guys that ran the wire between the different brigades and their forward units, provided signal support to the guys at the front lines, and so forth. These are the guys that had the low life expectancy. These were the rough, tough gorillas of signal, the guys most likely to bust up a bar, to collect Article 15s the way others collect NASCAR plates, the kind of guys that make Clint Eastwood look like a pussy and sing the Meomix song.

1st Armored Division came to town. Their signal unit, the 141st Signal Battalion rolled in one day. HHC, A, C companies, no sweat. Then Bravo rolled in.

To keep things simple at the fuel site there were signs everywhere. When the catch team brought them in, the leaders got the quick briefing which was whichever side the vehicle fuel opening is, go into either the right side of the left side line. Easy right? For everyone but the baddest moe-foes in the Signal Corps.

About a quarter of the vehicle drivers couldn’t tell their left from their right. Fine pull through the line and go back to the end.

They would whine, “But I don’t want to go to the end!”

My standard reply was, “Sucks to be you, move it out high speed.”

Then there was that guy that went straight instead of left or right. Luckily his humvee had a rig on it and was pulling trailer with two generators on it; that kept him from getting any kind of real speed. He pulled forward about 50 feet only to realize that if he continued he was going to T-bone the big trailer full of fuel.
I’ll be nice and only say he was just a kid, a private at that. I knew that tempers were short, I’d already had a few shouting matches with dill weeds that didn’t want to go to the back of the line, so I decided to be nice to the kid.

I walked up with my best, friendliest smile on my face. I said, “Hi, what are you doing?”

He stuttered and stammered. I saw a bead of sweat roll down his face. He tried really hard, but he broke down into tears. Aw shit. His section sergeant came over, prepared to tear some ass: his, mine, it really didn’t matter.

After a few minutes of shouting we quickly worked out that he would back up the vehicle and pull into the correct line. I felt sorry for the kid and for the once and only time did not enforce the back of the line rule.
The entire refueling area had engineer tape and signs around it, including on the trucks and fuel trailers, that clearly stated “No Smoking.”

Did you know that colonels do not believe that this applies to them? The battalion commander was leaning up against one of the trailers full of fuel, smoking a cigarette.

I walked over and said, “Good afternoon Colonel. Hey, I was wondering if you saw that no smoking sign?” He looked up and said, “Oops.” He quickly walked to the other side of the engineering tape. You can always tell the West Point grads by the way they take charge.

There were a bunch of jiffee-john type latrines on the site. Not good enough for my Bravo Company guys, no way! They lined up on the edge of the Croatian auto-bahn, whipped out their dicks, and started pissing everywhere. I went to one end of the line and started screaming. I don’t remember exactly what I said, perhaps it was “fricken-fracken, use the latrines stupid,” or something to that effect. What I do remember, was that I did my level best to push each and every one of them into the piss stream of the next guy in line. Some got wet, some were able to dodge out of the way.

By the time I had pushed six or so of them around, the rest go the message, and beat feet for the latrines. Their First Sergeant saw this and did the very loud laugh-out-loud.

That afternoon, chalk after chalk, convoy after convoy of the Bravo Company guys rolled through and it was all more of the same. I spent that entire day literally running all over the place wearing full battle rattle, carrying my 203. I didn’t realize until we had shut down and I was driving back to our base at about 0300 that I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

I learned that day that there are times that you can be too tired to eat, and herding cats all day will do it to you.

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20 Responses to “Herding Cats”

  1. SPC Hyle Says:

    Good times, sounds like. It reminds me of all the fun times we had overseas.


  2. Ihmhi Says:

    I’ve always wondered, why the hell does National Guard get shipped out? Aren’t they supposed to, you know, stay back home and guard the nation?

    It’s in their name for Chrissake’s.

    CAPTCHA: West airhead

    How appropriate.


    StoneWolf reply on November 3rd, 2009 11:33 pm:

    You fool! You’re being all logical about this! The government can’t do anything if it makes sense, that would be too reasonable.

    For the record, I’m writing this at 0130 at work while I babysit contractors and there’s no really good reason for me to be here at all, but orders is orders. Stupid sleep deprivation.


    Speed reply on November 4th, 2009 5:35 am:

    Yep, never confuse logic with the military. Also, this is part of that peace dividend BS that Bush #1 and congress worked out, only to find out later on that they got rid of too many regular army divisions. Oops! “Hey I got a brilliant idea, we send the national guard!”

    We had heat in our tent, the chow was great, and there was an internet cafe. No way I’m gonna complain! As deployments go, this was a little slice of heaven.


    CCO reply on November 4th, 2009 8:23 pm:

    I always thought the “peace dividend” was Clinton’s doing, at least the 10 division active duty Army part.

    Shadowydreamer reply on November 4th, 2009 9:10 am:

    Silly. 237 years ago some officer had to stay up all night for some silly reason and they’ve been passing the misery down since. Some day you’ll get a chance to make someone sit up all night for no apparent reason and will feel better. :)


  3. Mispeld Says:

    All I can say is that the 141 was still full of these people in 2006. Now the unit is gone replaced by an STB which has most of the same dumbasses still running around.


    CCO reply on November 4th, 2009 8:25 pm:

    What’s an STB–Support Team, Brigade?


    Speed reply on November 5th, 2009 5:32 am:

    Support [Stupid] troop battalion.


  4. Matt Says:

    Reminds me of the best Whiz I ever took. Standing off the driver side running board of a Duece and a Half at 0-dark-30 in Germany, while they were fueling on the other side.


  5. SSG Hay Says:

    I had a great post about old-school signal compared to the new-school signal units, and was worried I might be getting close to OPSEC info, so I nixed that one. Let me just say, coming from some signal units myself, great post, line dogs are the knuckle-draggers of the signal world, and I applaud your restraint in not shooting some of them.


    Signalist reply on November 24th, 2011 8:24 am:

    I have to disargee with you after seeing the mobile linkmast guys of Finnish army working, after having been trained over and over again to double check that the dish antennas are pointing at right directions, how can they still install them 180 degrees off?


  6. Kitty Says:

    Awww sweet ickle Squaddies. You just gotta love ’em.

    Speed, you think the RN cooks were good? They get their arses kicked for them each year by the RAF cooks ;)


  7. Jordan Says:

    There is one issue I see here.

    Those guys are 25L aka CABLE DOGS………no cats here


    Speed reply on November 5th, 2009 5:42 am:

    Back in the day they were cable apes, 36 Kilos. Plus the 31 mikes, 72 echoes, 05 charlies and the usual clerks & jerks.

    To put the cook stuff into perspective: that RN cook was great, but most of the regular army cooks these days are okay. Back at Ft Hood I got food poisoning 4 times in 18 months. If you were not at the mess hall in the first 30 minutes of meal time, you did not get what was on the menu, you got mystery meat. For Christmas they pulled out all the stops: there were two one quart bottles of eggnog. That helped wash down the breaded, frozen chicken-like mystery meat. [only half the unit could go home for Christmas leave, and as one of the lowest ranking guys, I didn’t make the list]
    These days MREs, T-rats, and mess hall, er, DFAC food are all good to me, considering the Ft Hood chow.


    Anna reply on November 28th, 2009 11:11 pm:

    I believe that “herding cats” is a metaphor for an exercise in futility. Have you ever tried to make a cat, or better yet a large group of cats go in a direction they don’t particularly wish to go? Chances of success are rather low.


  8. CCO Says:

    1. That “officially” makes me wonder if you ever spray painted any North Korean rocks, Speed.

    2. Do you, Speed (since you were there), or anyone else have any idea why a chemical decon company might have been sent to Kosovo in 1993? My only guess would be for shower support. I was with a heavy decon company in Alabama for my active time. We thought we were going in the fall of 1993, but we didn’t. We did go to Dugway, Utah for warm body support the next fall.


    Speed reply on November 5th, 2009 5:43 am:

    I never got to Korea. I’ve been all over Europe and the Middle East, but still can’t talk about most of it due to statute of limitations and such.


  9. Shadowydreamer Says:

    Y’know, I thought the first pleasure of being male was that the world was your bathroom. Isn’t it rather mean of Skippy to restrict this right?

    Captcha : Heywood of .. Nono, it’s Heywood ya..!


    Speed reply on November 5th, 2009 5:46 am:

    It was our brigade commander, not me, or even Skippy. My view is that the world IS my urinal. The Colonel just didn’t see it that way. He now wears two stars on his collar, so the ends justified his means.

    captcha: watering seats: what would have happened if they hadn’t had the pit stop.


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