SigSpace - US Army en Don't call me "Sir." <p>[Originally published at on 9 Feb 2010.]</p> <p>I'm making a detour on the way home. I walk out of the grocery store, bag of groceries in hand, and try to put my woolen head condom (AKA "the beret") on my head one-handed. Look left, look right, cross the parking lot on a straight-line path to my car.</p> <p>You're a civilian heading in for <em>your</em> groceries/beer and you pass awkwardly around me as I juggle my keys. "Excuse me, sir." Or perhaps, "Good evening, sir." Or worst of all, the dreaded, "Thank you for your service, sir."</p> <p>Sir?</p> <p>Because it's an awkward moment, it's dark, and I'm due home in a few minutes to watch the Siglet while Mrs. Sig goes to her Mary Kay Kult meeting, I just mumble something appreciative-sounding at this moment, or smile, or say "thank you" and drive on.</p> <p>But it bugs me. Every time. I know you are trying to be respectful, trying to be polite, trying to Support The Troops, but it's wrong on two levels, and you need to know why.</p> <p>First, in my professional capacity, "Sir" is a title reserved for commissioned officers, warrant officers, any male about whose status or identity I am unsure, and civilians. We'll set aside the cynical response ("'Sir?' I work for a living.") and note that it's simply inaccurate to use on a staff sergeant or any enlisted soldier, no matter how senior. To anyone who has ever had to report to an arrogant lieutenant straight out of West Point, "Sir" reeks of pretension and unearned honors, whereas any dirty enlisted man can take pride in earing the title of "Sergeant."</p> <p>(I'm only half-kidding. I know you mean well, but it's really irritating.)</p> <p>But it's still appropriate if you identify that guy in uniform as an officer, right? Um. No, not really. And here's why.</p> <p>I apologize for resorting to clichéd tactics, but I'm going to hit up a dictionary for this one. "Sir" is a derivative of the Middle English "Sire," circa 13th century, according to Merriam-Webster. You know. The Dark Ages. Feudalism. Nobles and knights running around the landscape, their squires banging coconuts together. <em>Serfdom</em>. Calling someone "sire" was an acknowledgement of their legal power over you, of your subjugation.</p> <p>Can you think of something <em>less</em> appropriate for one American citizen to call another?</p> <p>My professional capacity is service to my country by force of arms. (And coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.) The conditions under which I perform this service is such that I cannot operate as a free individual; I work in a hierarchy to maintain order and discipline so I can more effectively render the enemies of my nation unable to harm it. I joined this hierarchy and found my place within it voluntarily, without any compulsion. I accept it as a temporary, limited, and utterly necessary compromise of the American social contract. Under those conditions, in my professional capacity (<a href="" rel="nofollow">"specialist in the application of violence"</a>), there are some people that I call "sir." (With some of them, I even mean something by it.)</p> <p>But outside of that professional context, I call no one "sir." When the work day ends (sometimes a year after it starts), I am an American citizen. You are an American citizen all of the time. I work for you. You don't call me "sir." You don't call <em>anyone</em> "sir."</p> <p>You can thank me for my service. You can buy me a beer. You can show your appreciation in any of a thousand ways, and while it will probably make me a bit uncomfortable, I will try to accept it in the spirit that it's offered.</p> <p>But if you really want to acknowledge who I am and what I do, know that <a href="" rel="nofollow">three stripes and a rocker</a> mean you can just say, "Good evening, Sergeant."</p> <p>Sig</p> US Army vox veterana Wed, 10 Feb 2010 05:56:34 +0000 sig 673 at Raise a glass. <p>I'm not a civil rights icon. I'm not a president (live or dead). I'm not (yet) a dead serviceman, nor am I much concerned with Labor. I did not "discover" North America. I'm not a Christmas tree, a groundhog, a secretary, a boss, a pumpkin, an Easter bunny, a cupid, a leprechaun, or a turkey.</p> <p>Nonetheless, I get my very own holiday. Veteran's Day is all about me--me and the millions and millions who signed on the dotted line before me, signed it along with me, and will be signing it when I'm dust.</p> <p>So raise a glass, if you will (and metaphorically if you must), to Rodger Young, Roy Benavidez, Audie Murphy, Gary Shughart and Randy Gordon. Raise a glass to Jared Monti, Michael Murphy, Jason Dunham, Ross McGinnis, Michael Monsoor, and Paul Smith.</p> <p>But keep it raised for <a href="">Ray Joseph</a> and <a href="">Big Edge</a> and all of the other guys you didn't read about or see on the big screen.</p> <p>And then keep it raised for every joe who has arthritis before his time, nightmares he doesn't remember, scars that won't heal, kids who don't know him, and missing limbs and comrades.</p> <p>Keep it raised for every joe that has ever fixed a truck under fire, every admin puke that stayed late to make sure the dependents were taken care of, and every chaplain that shouldered another man's load.</p> <p>Keep it raised for every gate guard, school teacher, bus driver, lawyer, computer nerd, mechanic, short order cook, and garbage man that ever wore a different uniform.</p> <p>Your arm may be getting tired by this point. It should be.</p> <p>Sig</p> <p>(If a raging bender at 0800 is not your style, there are some <a href="">other appropriate ways</a> you could be channeling your appreciation.)</p> <p>[<font color="red">Addendum</font>: And if you're <a href="">Peter Jemley</a> or <a href="">Ron Arlt</a>, today would be a great day to keep your mouth shut.]</p> Military US Army Wed, 11 Nov 2009 16:02:58 +0000 sig 669 at Don't let the door hit you on the way out. <p><a href="">Watada Discharged</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>The Army discharged Lt. Ehren Watada on Friday, writing the final chapter on the case of the most prominent military officer to refuse a deployment to Iraq.</p> <p>Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek confirmed that Watada, who had refused to deploy to Iraq in 2006 with his Stryker brigade because he believed the war was illegal, finished outprocessing shortly before noon Friday.</p> <p>The Department of Justice dropped an appeal in May against a judge's dismiss key charges against the lieutenant, effectively leading to Friday's dismissal. Watada submitted a resignation request "for the good of the service in lieu of general court martial" at the end of June, Piek said.</p> <p>The Department of the Army approved that request in September, and the remaining pending charges against Watada were dismissed late last week.</p> <p>Piek couldn't confirm the type of discharge, citing privacy laws, but Watada lawyer Kenneth Kagan said it was granted under "other than honorable conditions."</p></blockquote> <p>Why aren't we allowed to call it a "dishonorable" discharge any longer?</p> <p>I expect to spend a chunk of my allowance on good whiskey when we finally get rid of <a href="">one of our <em>other</em> problem children</a>.</p> <p>Sig</p> Iraq Stupid People US Army Wed, 07 Oct 2009 03:55:22 +0000 sig 667 at Because "Bataan Happy Fun Kittens and Rainbows March" doesn't flow off the tongue. <p>I wasn't always a lame ass admin puke. It's hard to remember sometimes that even as recently as six months ago, I was a lame ass intel puke--and while the transition to admin was sudden and hurty, it was relatively recent.</p> <p>Harder still to remember is that once upon a time, I carried a ruck and some really expensive equipment on and off helicopters, and rode around in HMMWVs, and even returned fire occasionally.</p> <p>There aren't many cool military jobs stateside. By and large, the more interesting the job, the less application you have in times other than war (or deployment). My wartime job is interesting. My stateside job involved signing my name to a lot of forms today so I could get some pay problems unFUBARed. Yeehaw. It's important--certainly to the soldiers getting paid--but it's not terribly interesting when you get down to it, and the fact that I'm actually pretty good at it is more depressing than encouraging.</p> <p>I've been thinking about it more since I've been going through photos from Afghanistan in 2006 and planning for some of my soldiers to come back from their current tour there. I'm fortunate to have been able to go the places I've been and see the places I've seen and shoot at the assclowns at whom I got to shoot; not many get those opportunities even once, let alone get paid to have them. I should be grateful that I got to go at all, not annoyed that other people are having fun without me. I should be glad to be here and enjoy my family and my friends and my nation. And I should remember, too, how much I wanted to be back here when I was over there and all of the stuff that I wanted to do then but couldn't. And I should do some of it.</p> <p>OK, so I'm still holding off on forming the Police cover band. But I did start geocaching a little, using the ridiculously expensive set that I have signed out from work (for um, training). I am reading more. I'm writing a bit more, although work still sucks up most of my writing energy. And I'm looking at doing stupidly ambitious things, just because I can.</p> <p>I decided last week that I am going to try to go to White Sands, New Mexico in late March for the <a href="" rel="nofollow">21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March</a>. 26.2 miles, starting at 0700 and ending when you hit the finish line or fall on your face. For added fun, I have tacked on the additional intent to compete in the "military heavy" category, which means regulation uniform and boots and a 35-pound ruck sack.</p> <p>Step one was finding out if I would be allowed to take time off to do something so lunatic. I e-mailed my battalion commander and full-time boss for permission. His response, paraphrased, was "I'm game, who else is going?" In the last few days, I've found another MAJ and a 1LT who are "strong maybes," but no enlisted takers--I'm not sure what that says about our relative abilities to perform on-the-spot risk assessments.</p> <p>There's still time. Registration doesn't even start until mid-November. Meanwhile, the LT and I have been doing some easy pace (4 or 4.5 MPH) rucks around Camp Murray, just to get a feel for the undertaking. The Bataan march will be the equivalent of nine laps, roughly. Hopefully, we can find some more interesting places to train up.</p> <p>I'm actually really excited for this, which is pretty stupid on the face of it, but it's something that I know will be a) difficult, b) painful, and c) absolutely within my ability and will to accomplish. Added bonuses are getting out of my office, and associating with other insane people. If I can actually burn some of my accumulating leave at the same time, so much the better.</p> <p>Anyway, that's one of my projects for right now. When I get some new strings for my bass, maybe I'll start working on another.</p> <p>Sig</p> History National Guard US Army Work Tue, 01 Sep 2009 02:51:41 +0000 sig 664 at Combat and the Psyche <p>Via Blackfive, a veteran and therapist <a href="">discusses</a> traditional PTSD treatments and their applicability to the warfighter (emphasis mine):<br /> <blockquote>In my years of work and study I have come to the conclusion that many of the therapies in use today for PTSD do not do the job. That is they do not help to restore the veteran to a state of harmony or even to the level of functioning the vet experienced while in a combat theater. In my opinion this happens because the focus of too many therapists is to revert the vet to who they were prior to their experienced trauma. This is impossible.</p> <p><strong>Combat irrevocably changes the person and this does not indicate a negative change. Combat is a super enema for the brain; it flushes out the toxins of illusory experience.</strong> More specifically, it shatters layers of your world view, peels away your fascination with petty thoughts and interests, and restores the natural state of living in the here and now. In fact, there are, and have been through the ages, countless people who devote time and energy in an attempt to achieve the inner state that the combat experience brings.</p></blockquote> <p>The sense of unreality and triviality when you return to the States is one of the things that <a href="">freaked me out</a> the most. I just honestly could not believe that people cared about <em>American Idol</em> when <a href="">Kevin Edgin</a> was bleeding out in a Humvee north of Kandahar.</p> <p>I suspect his conclusions are dead on: you can't go back, only forward. I have my own opinions on the Army's ham-handed <a href="">attempts</a> to deal with demobilizing soldiers, but at least they're trying.</p> <p>Sig</p> Combat Stress US Army Fri, 06 Feb 2009 20:12:38 +0000 sig 649 at Board out of my mind <p>I used to pity the infantrymen I saw studying for boards in Afghanistan. They would quiz each other: "What's the weight of an M-203 without magazines?" "What's the length of an M-240?" "What is the maximum effective range on a point target of the M-249? Area target?" Trivia. Nothing that actually helps them do their job, or demonstrates that they are more capable than the next soldier who may not be great at memorizing worthless information but who can plan and execute a house raid like nobody's business.</p> <p>I've always wondered what boards for intelligence soldiers would look like. "How many scoops of coffee grounds go into a 12-cup pot?" (6). "In which MOS are you most likely to pay people to lie to you?" (was 97E, now 35M). "If Rain Man was in the Army, what MOS would he have?" (35P). "What if he became an officer?" (Trick question: he'd be a warrant.)</p> <p>I say <em>wondered</em> because prior to today, I'd never done one. The Guard--at least my corner of it--doesn't do boards very often, and my promotions to SGT and SSG both were done with "paper boards"--people looked at my paperwork and decided that I was worthy. You can argue about whether this is a good idea or not. I have mixed feelings, myself, but the units <em>should</em> be acting as gatekeepers to ensure that the completely spastic soldiers have time and opportunity for a little more seasoning before their packets are even sent up. This doesn't always happen, but I don't think adding physical boards would make it any better.</p> <p>My board today was for an application for an AGR position: Training NCO for my company. If I get the job, it will solve that pesky "what do I do NEXT year for a job" question for the next 14 years or so.</p> <p>I was disappointed, but not surprised. A lot of the board questions centered on the significance and use of obscure DD and DA forms; I don't think I got any of those right. There were some acronyms, only some of which I knew, but most of which I could at least describe if not perfectly define.</p> <p>I don't understand the value of such things; I really don't. If I need it to do a job, I will know what it is because I use it all of the time. It would be <em>wasteful</em> to memorize lists of forms and acronyms on the off chance that one of them would be a board question.</p> <p>"But Sig," you're asking, "wouldn't it make sense to look up the things that you will use in the job you're applying for?"</p> <p>Why yes. Yes, it would. But here's the kicker: all I have to go on in preparing is the one-paragraph explanation of job duties, most of which are vaguely described. Most of the job description involved things having to do with the unit status report (USR), governed by AR 220-1 (Unit Status Reporting). I looked up the AR, got a sense of the general flow of things (without trying to memorize form numbers, incidentally), and asked several other recent victims of the AGR hiring process about common questions and the format and how it worked for them. I took reasonable precautions. We don't <em>have</em> a training NCO whom I could question about their duties, so I did what I could, including asking my readiness NCO.</p> <p>And it didn't do a lick of good, because as the president of the board freely admitted (in response to my what-would-I-actually-be-doing question), she didn't know what the job announcement said the duties would be. There were no questions about unit status reporting. There was only one question about ATRRS, the system we use to schedule schools and training. Short of knowing the exact questions that would have been asked, I'm not sure what I reasonably could have done to better prepare for the board.</p> <p>There may be some value to seeing how much composure a soldier maintains while saying "Sergeant, I do not know the answer at this time" for the tenth time in a row, but I'm not sure what it would be. I honestly don't believe trivia questions help assess anyone's fitness to do anything except memorize and recite trivia, and frankly, we could do with a whole lot less of that in the Army. (I had a friend in junior high and high school who could rattle off the first hundred digits of pi. He was capable of a lot of amazing and useful things, but that was not one of them.)</p> <p>The board process is a time-honored tradition, almost a pageant, but it's also supposed to be an evaluative tool. It seems to me--silly ol' inexperienced too-junior-for-my-rank Staff Sergeant Sig--that if you are going to be on a board, you should ask questions that help you evaluate the candidate's fitness for the position or recognition under consideration. It also seems to me that if you are going to evaluate a candidate for a job and expect him to know about what the job entails, you should have read the same job description the candidate did. Or at least have the decency to lie to him about it.</p> <p>I do hope I get the position. I think it would be a good fit for me, and I think that I could do a good job serving the soldiers of my company, helping get them paid on time and get scheduled for schools so they can get promoted and be skilled in their fields. These are serious readiness and retention issues, and I care very much about the state of my unit generally and the soldiers within particularly. I have spent my entire military career within the same unit, have served with it in combat, and have supported it in training and every other way I know how. I would be happy to continue to serve my unit in a more permanent capacity, to be one of the day-to-day people that makes things happen behind the scenes such that we are ready when big Army calls us back to Afghanistan. And I think I would be good at it.</p> <p>But you wouldn't know hardly any of that from the board I just endured.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard US Army Thu, 15 Jan 2009 23:49:19 +0000 sig 641 at Killing is our business. <p>I have been reading Donald Sensing on and off since he was blogging at One Hand Clapping. I've already marked his recent article, <a href="">Why Can't Israel Live in Peace?</a> in my <a href="">Google Reader shared items</a>, but his next post is excellent--and has significance beyond the current phase of conflict.</p> <p>In <a href="">Intentional Lethality</a>, Sensing writes:<br /> <blockquote>Israel's attacks are intended to do four main things:<br /> 1. Kill as many high-level Hamas figures as possible.<br /> 2. Reduce the ranks of Hamas rank and file by causing casualties among them.<br /> 3. Provide disincentives for Gazans' support of Hamas' control of their political future and hence,<br /> 4. Delegitimize Hamas' authority.</p> <p>I have found that the first objective, killing the enemy, is a concept that repels a lot of people of the Western comfortable classes. Yet war is the wielding of intentional lethality; as Clausewitz wrote, "<a href="">Killing is the <em>sine qua non</em> of war</a>."</p> <p>I have <a href="">recounted before</a> a story of an evening I spent at a dinner party in the fall of 2001. Another guest commented that it “wasn’t fair” for US pilots to fly with impunity above Taliban positions, dropping bombs. I bit my tongue. Later, another guest said that the bombing “wouldn’t intimidate” the Taliban.</p> <p>I dived in. “We’re not trying to intimidate them,” I said.</p> <p>“Then why are we bombing them?” came the question.</p> <p>“To kill them,” I answered. There was a long silence at the table. The concept seemed not to have occurred to them. With only a couple of exceptions, the others were university graduate-school students.</p> <p>The intentional lethality of combat is something that non-military people often have a hard time understanding. They often tend to think of military operations in symbolic terms, such as “intimidation,” or believe that combat offensives are designed simply to drive the enemy away or take him prisoner.</p></blockquote> <p>The primary mission of the military is and should be to kill people and break stuff. Specifically, we're killing the bad guys and we're breaking their stuff. The intent is to compel the enemy to cease to be a threat by removing either their will and/or ability to be a threat, usually after less forceful measures have failed to achieve the necessary result.</p> <p>Read the whole thing. That part jumped out at me, but it's a very good piece, as usual. It provides context for a lot of what's going on right now, context that is habitually lacking in the regular news coverage.</p> <p>Sig</p> Hamas Israel US Army War on Terror Wed, 31 Dec 2008 21:25:28 +0000 sig 637 at Apparently, Fort Lewis doesn't have a single ice-scraper truck. <p>I received a call last night from my squad leader telling me not to come in today; they were preemptively canceling operations for the day.</p> <p>So let's review my week, especially for those of you not following on <a href="" rel="nofollow">Twitter</a>: <ul> <li><strong>Monday</strong>: Went to work as normal. Didn't get much done. <li><strong>Tuesday</strong>: Took the day off to get a DA photo and apply for a job. <li><strong>Wednesday</strong>: Worked from 0530 until about 1000, when they closed the base. Part of this was taken up by our Christmas party, which for reasons unknown included making waffles. <li><strong>Thursday</strong>: Base not open until 1000, but I had a prior engagement in Tacoma and then Kent which lasted until 1015, by which time the base had been closed again, so I drove home. <li><strong>Friday</strong>: Slept in, made coffee, webwandering.</ul> <p>Not the most productive week.</p> <p>Really, it's not even the snow--it's the other people. That was the reason I went in early on Wednesday; there were only a few inches of snow, but there was at least half a foot of stupid. The MR2 does surprisingly well in the snow and ice, assuming you can get the parking brake disengaged and are in no particular hurry to get anywhere, but I am not so trusting of the thousands of SUVs with which I'm sharing the road.</p> <p>Sig</p> Heavy weather US Army Work Fri, 19 Dec 2008 16:59:11 +0000 sig 632 at On vocation <p>[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 28 AUG 07.]</p> <p>This is probably interesting only to me.</p> <p>I have long considered myself a computer technician temporarily in uniform--a "fat computer nerd trapped in a soldier`s body." Part of this is the whole National Guard Thing that they sell you on--one weekend a month, etc. The idea when I signed up was that I could get some training, pick up a security clearance, get in shape, and Do Good, and then come home and get back to my IT career, hopefully by which time the economy would stop sucking. This was mid-2003, by the way.</p> <p>But it`s time I do the math and face reality.</p> <p><u>Computer tech career:</u> <ul> <li>9/00 to 10/00 -- Small computer shop. Printer tech, phone guy, accounting. Laid off. (6 weeks) <li>12/00 to 9/01 -- Major corporate desktop support. Contractor. Quit right before being laid off. (10 months) <li>9/01 to 3/03 -- Small land development company. #2 in IT department (of 2). "The good job." Laid off. Can still visit for free lunch and reminisce. (18 months) <li>6/03 to 11/03 -- NMCI. Google it. Fear it. Never work for it. Fired for being right all of the time. (6 months). <li>09/05 to 10/05 -- NMCI. Everyone who knew me before was since fired or laid off. Job still ridiculous and painfully mismanaged. Quit because the war was preferable. (2 months)</ul> <p>Total time: <strong>37.5 months</strong></p> <p><u>Regime Change Specialist career</u>: [only full-time counted] <ul> <li>01/04 to 08/05 -- Training. Basic, language school, AIT. Came home with a security clearance and a tan. (19 months) <li>11/05 to 01/07 -- Operation Enduring Freedom. Came home with additional VA benefits, stories I can`t tell, hearing loss, and occasional nightmares. (15 months) <li>02/07 to 09/07 -- Document translation and Other Duties As Assigned. (8 months)</ul> <p>Total time: <strong>42 months</strong>.</p> <p>And I`m on track to stay in uniform full time for FY08. And maybe to go language school again after that. By that time, we should have invaded somewhere else.</p> <p>It`s time to face it. I`m actually a soldier who used to do computer work.</p> <p>It`s actually kind of cool. If I`d known that I had surpassed the time-in-IT mark this summer, I might have had an extra beer--the E-5-single-income-kids-on-the-way equivalent of a party.</p> <p>Anyway, it`s deep thoughts like this one that have been going through my head lately. I note as I post this that my resolve to get SOMETHING up today was so strong that it was felt by TF Boggs, too. Wiggy.<br /> I`ll try to do better.</p> <p>Sig</p> National Guard US Army Work Fri, 19 Dec 2008 01:21:55 +0000 sig 625 at Vox Veterana Archive <p>On 21 January 07, I received an e-mail from <a href="">TF Boggs</a>, who was writing to say nice things about my site and ask if I were interested in contributing to a group site for veterans of the current conflict. By June, the site was up and we were starting to post content; my first introductory post was on 21 July.</p> <p>Tim had a few other people lined up as well, and we also solicited for submissions and guest columns, but I don't think it ever quite took off the way he intended. And then we both got busy, he with higher education and a post-Army career and me with a baby and other miscellaneous life stuff. Postings were kind of intermittent, and then dropped off entirely.</p> <p>I felt guilty enough to keep posting from time to time, but in case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly diligent about posting on my own site. Finally, after my <a href="631">last post</a>, Tim posted notice that after the last trip to DC, he had become too cynical about the process and the people involved to write about politics any longer. An excerpt:<br /> <blockquote>What makes it all worse is the day we spoke to our senators and congressmen General Petraeus was delivering his quarterly report, a few hundred yards from where we were, about the state of affairs in Iraq. His message was for the most part positive. He talked about the success of the surge along with many other victories we were finally seeing after several years of getting things wrong. His message, along with ours, was ignored by a large part of the senators and congressmen that heard us that day. All for purely political reasons because they couldn`t argue with the facts on the ground as we presented them.</p></blockquote> <p>I can hardly fault him for getting tired of the mess and frustrated with the people involved. The military mind and communication method--at the grunt and junior NCO level, at least--is refreshingly direct and honest, and it's gotta be like gargling broken glass to try to discuss policy with "big picture" people when you know guys on the ground getting shot at.</p> <p>Anyway, after that post, I decided that it would probably be a good idea to back up my entries just in case--as I've said before, I'm my own favorite author, and I wanted to have a record of my work, such as it is. Just as well that I did, because is no longer bringing up the site.</p> <p>So here are my entries in the order they were posted originally. You don't get the fancy color scheme, nor (unfortunately) the comments, but this is more for me than you, anyway.</p> <p>Sig</p> <p>PS- For those who read SigSpace via RSS, you may have to actually open the site to view the listing of entries.</p> US Army vox veterana Writing Fri, 19 Dec 2008 00:47:06 +0000 sig 618 at