US Army

The Many Joys of Phase IV

In which Sig leaves the DLI rabbit-hole and returns to the "Real Army."

Clearing: Scavenger Hunt for the Retarded

In which Sig does battle with military bureaucracy, and suddenly wishes he was back fighting Russian again.

I don't envy recruiters.

From IntelDump, an interesting article on the problems we face trying to field an all-volunteer force. Part II of the article can be linked from there for more goodness.

Highlights:

  • Recruiting is down for all services, but esp. the Army
  • The Army is lowering their standards to make numbers.
  • Black enlistments, historically a high percentage of incoming recruits, are dropping sharply.
  • Applications to the US Naval Academy also down.
  • Closer to home, the National Guard is having an especially difficult time convincing people to sign on the line when "1 weekend a month, 2 weeks a year" translates to "18 month tours in the sandbox" in reality.

Read more...

DLI Vocabulary Primer

Purpose: To aid the casual reader in understanding the occasionally cryptic terms sprinkled throughout this site.

Order: as I think of them.

Format: term (source or origin). meaning. "Usage example."

Other notes: Many of these terms are specific to DLI in particular. Military ranks are Army-specific unless otherwise noted.

  • DLI. Defense Language Institute. Sometimes Desperate Love Institute, a cynical comment on the intense romantic entanglements that can occur in a high-stress coed interservice environment.
  • jacked up. Messed up, not right, wrong. Can also refer to physical ailments (ref: broken). "Dude, that is a seriously jacked up situation." "Your leg is jacked up, man; it ends at the knee."
  • broken. Physically damaged or wounded. This can be literal or metaphorically speaking. Often as a result of hard physical activity. "Why wasn't he at PT? He's broken."
  • code. A diagnosed physical condition that prevents or hinders normal activity, usually PT. There are varying degrees. "They gave him a no run/jump/march code for six weeks. Lucky SOB." (See code rider)
  • code rider. Someone who is "on code" for extended periods of time, or who gets himself coded to get out of PT or training. Usually derogatory. "Hey code rider, got your ibuprofen?"
  • chopsticks or stilts or scissors. Someone on crutches. Only Drill Sergeants can get away with this.
  • PT. Physical training. 0515, bright and early every morning. "Platoon Sergeants: take charge of your platoons and conduct PT."
  • salute. Something you do to officers, flags, and occasionally kegs.
  • Sir. Something you call civilians, officers, warrant officers, and kegs--in ascending order of sincerity. "Absolutely, sir."
  • warrant officer. Holds the power of an officer, the wisdom and experience of a sergeant, and the bitterness of a boot private. They're called warrant officers because they have warrants out for their arrest because they're wicked crazy, but they're so damned cool/useful/dangerous that the Army makes them officers so the civvie courts will leave them alone. Actually, no one understands where they come from or why they're called this. If someone tells you that they do, they are lying to you.
  • Corporal. An underpaid Sergeant.
  • Specialist. An overpaid Private.
  • Microwave Specialist. As a reward for being dedicated enough to complete a bachelor's degree but dumb enough to enlist anyway, the Army allows BA/BS holders to enter the Army as E-4 Specialists, rather than Privates. They don't know anything more than any boot Private, but they get paid more. These are known as Microwave Specialists. Their degrees are usually in English, Psychology, or Political Science.
  • Basic or BCT or boot. Basic Combat Training. This is where hopeful young intentive soldiers go to have their souls crushed and to acquire physical ailments that will eventually cripple them and end their careers.
  • Ft. Leonard Wood or Ft. Lost-in-the-woods. One of the bases that does BCT. Mostly combat support and combat service support branches.
  • Leonard Wood Crud or URI. Upper Respiratory Infection, or "the crud." You don't usually die from it, but you wish you could. If you are waking yourself from sleep because you are coughing so hard you are inducing vomiting, you have "the crud." Often turns into acute bronchitis. Usually treated with cough drops.
  • ruck out. Fail out of class, either LOE or LOA, unless there are special circumstances. You can sometimes get a reroll. "Did you hear? He rucked out of Korean."
  • LOE. Lack of effort--you failed because you weren't hooah enough. Pack your sunglasses, because you're going to be a truck driver in Iraq.
  • LOA. Lack of aptitude. You're hooah as all hell--you just suck. Maybe Spanish is more your speed.
  • Intro to Spanish. Slang for Korean Basic Course and Arabic Basic Course. See LOA.
  • pop-tart. Slang for students of French, Spanish, and the other 6-month courses. You go in, get a little warm, and get kicked out. Don't bother unpacking.
  • reroll. If you ruck out of a class due to LOA, you can sometimes get enrolled into an easier language. "I've been rerolled into Arabic. Someone hates me."
  • hooah. If you gotta ask, you ain't. It's like grok, but an adjective with more militant overtones. Also an interjection, noun, adverb, and possibly several other parts of speech. Similar to "smurf" on the old cartoon. "I would do the Ranger school thing, but I am just not that hooah."

Additions: 11 DEC 2004

  • blue falcon. An alternate, sanitized version of a phrase starting with buddy and ending with another F word ending in -er. Anyone who does not do their part, slacks off, or generally makes things difficult by inaction, laziness, or weapons fire. Often this person is also being an Army of One.
  • Army of One. A cynical reference to the now infamous slogan, when someone (perhaps a blue falcon) is doing their own thing, they are being an Army of One. To put the proper level of acidic scorn in this phrase, you must be a Drill Sergeant. "Private Nelson is determined to be an Army of One. Maybe we\'ll just do low crawls across that muddy field until she decides to rejoin our Army. What's that? It's not a muddy field? Oh, it will be."

Scroungers Get Smacked Down--Hard.

From this article, courtesy of BlogsOfWar:[quote]Six reservists, including two veteran officers who had received Bronze Stars, were court-martialed for what soldiers have been doing as long as there have been wars–scrounging to get what their outfit needed to do its job in Iraq.

Darrell Birt, one of those court-martialed for theft, destruction of Army property and conspiracy to cover up the crimes, had been decorated for his “initiative and courage” for leading his unit’s delivery of fuel over the perilous roads of Iraq in the war’s first months.

Now, Birt, 45, who was a chief warrant officer with 656th Transportation Company, based in Springfield, Ohio, and his commanding officer find themselves felons, dishonorably discharged and stripped of all military benefits.[/quote]

Any time someone starts talking about appropriations or creative accounting, I instantly picture James Garner's character in The Great Escape, so my instinctual reaction is incredulity. However, this isn't a few tins of milk or even a few barrels of gasoline:[quote]But when Birt's unit was ordered to head into Iraq in the heat of battle in April 2003 from its base in Kuwait, Birt said the company didn't have enough vehicles to haul the equipment it would need to do the job.

So, Birt explained, he and other reservists grabbed two tractors and two trailers left in Kuwait by other U.S. units that had already moved into Iraq.

Several weeks later, Birt and other reservists scrounged a third vehicle, an abandoned 5-ton cargo truck, and stripped it for parts they needed for repair of their trucks.[/quote]
So now I'm thinking, Holy crap that's a lot of equipment to borrow (and subsequently piece out). But the story goes on in some detail, and a few other items are worth mentioning. First, they sounded like they really needed it. Yeah, yeah, they all say that, but it's all about accomplishing the mission, and it sounds like that wouldn't have happened had they not, ah, borrowed this stuff. Second, the unit the stuff was borrowed from was not using it, and had in fact never even reported it stolen. It's one thing if you rip off guys that are about to be flying into danger, but those guys were already out, and they left this stuff behind. Does that make it right? No. But it's not as though this theft increased the risk to anyone else, or so it seems from the information given.

The sentences are... harsh. Really harsh. They weren't stealing and selling this crap, like that bastard a few months back who was caught eBaying body armor lifted from stores while Marines were going without.

I'm not in any position to judge. I don't have the details, I haven't been there, nobody's shooting at me, etc. But if I were waiting out in the sandbox for some joes to bring me some petrol so I could not be a sitting duck in enemy territory, I'd want them to do whatever it took, within reason, to get it to me. Here's hoping someone with authority feels the same.

Iraq War Vets in Homeless Shelters

This shouldn't be happening.

U.S. vets from Iraq war emerge at homeless shelters - U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era. [The US News -- Military]

OK, a few cases in an article does not an epidemic make, but it's still scary to think about, particularly in my profession and at my age. Homeless war vets are old guys from 'Nam, not guys my age, right? Stupid to think that way, but hell, I'm still 16 or so inside my own skull--nowhere near the 26 years that my ID puts me at. It boggles the mind that this is going to start happening to my own generation.

This is a grim repeat of the phenomenon that occurred a while ago, when people my age were getting married, and then divorced, and now married again. What the hell? I'm not old enough for that. I'm not even old enough to be married myself yet--

But I have been. For 4 and a half years. Go figure.

I'm convinced that inside every broken down old man is a 17 year old kid wondering what the hell happened. It makes you look at them different.

Unfortunately, I don't have anything insightful (or even inciteful) to add to this article, except to note that deficiencies in how the VA is able to take care of veterans are only going to have a greater impact as time goes on while we fight this War Against An Abstract Concept.

More on BCT

COL (ret.) Hackworth wrote an article entitled March of the Porcelain Soldiers a few years ago that I just recently noticed. It is unfortunately dead spot on about some of the problems in Basic even now--unfortunate not because he's pointing out the problems, but because they exist. Particularly in regard to the additional problems which exist because of gender integration in BCT.

I would say that our drills succeeded to the extent they did in spite of policies, not because of it. I don't know that I will ever get over the instinctive stab of terror that comes whenever I spy a round brown, and that may be a good thing.

Seattletimes.com: "'Major screw-up': Boot-camp virus runs rampant"

Quoth the article:

The respiratory virus now infects up to 2,500 service members monthly — a staggering 1 in 10 recruits — in the nation's eight basic-training centers, an analysis of military health-care records shows.

This is pretty freaking disturbing, actually. From the article, it doesn't sound like the semi-infamous "Ft. Leonard Wood Crud" that most of us got in BCT, but the symptoms could be hard to distinguish from a "regular" illness until it's rather too late. I spent most of Basic with bronchitis with varying degrees of severity. At several points, it was bad enough that I was coughing so hard as to induce vomiting. Since so many people get sick, there's a definite laissez-faire attitude: as long as you're not dying, they give you some acetominophen and maybe some cough drops and tell you to suck it up.

I ended up in the infirmary for 2 days during my FTX, after I was unable to stop coughing for several hours at a stretch, and couldn't lie prone at all. My platoon sergeant threw me in the back of the truck (almost literally) and drove all the way back from the field, slowing the truck long enough for me to fall off and check myself in. Even now, I suspect the only reason I got to go was that they were planning to tear gas us pretty heavily, and there might have been some doubt as to whether I would have survived that. I know I had such doubts.

Time Lapse

I'm home alone, absorbed in the Internet when I have other things to do while my wife is out doing... something. It's November 2, 2000, and I've just been relieved of a job in a struggling Vancouver, WA PC shop. I'm looking for work--or at least, I'm supposed to be.

I'm avidly reading the various reports. As a freshly graduated poli-sci major with no hope of ever being involved in the field--indeed, almost no desire to do so--I'm eating this stuff up. FL is big news, but not (yet) the only news. I lurk in web-based chat rooms at, seeing what sorts of nonsense today's youth is spouting when they should be doing homework. My sweetie comes home, but I'm still reading, making bets with myself, laughing, enjoying the spectacle. By 11, I'm tired, and there's nothing really new to see. George W. Bush has been declared the victor by most everyone, and I'm heading to bed.

Fast forward a few days. I'm still absorbed, but this time by the radio, not the web, as I listen to arguments before the Supreme Court, and periodically to Rush--can't be beaten for spoken word entertainment, short of Bill Cosby. I still don't have a job, but I don't blame that on the incumbent.

***

And neither do I give credit to the incumbent now for my current employment, though some would say I should.

***

November 2001. I'm working again, but have already gone through a job in the last year. Right as the election is being decided, I'm hired to provide internal support at HP Vancouver. It's a good job, working with good people, and a valuable learning experience, but it doesn't last, and now I have just started a new position back closer to home, in Port Ludlow.

September 11th is still a fresh wound, of course. The day of the attacks, I was interviewing at PLA, and now I'm working there. Still uncertain--I'm a temp-to-hire, but Kurt likes me and wants to keep me. Sure, I'm using a Pentium without a mouse and my desk is about 4 feet square, but at least I'm not bored. Still, it's hard, signing a lease when I don't know whether I'll be employed after the new year. I do not blame the President for my woes.

***

November 2002. I couldn't tell you a thing about November 2002. I'm working at PLA as a real full-time employee--for the first time in my life. Work is... interesting. I have a lot of frustrations. None of them are the President's fault.

***

November 2003. It's been a big year.

PLA dries up suddenly in March, not quite a year after I was hired on full-time. Kurt feels horrible, but there's nothing he can do. For the next few years I will regret not guilting him into cohosting this server on his unmetered T1.

In April, still unemployed, I answer my country's call and enlist in the United States Army National Guard. My scores give me any field I want. I choose intelligence. It's an 8 month waiting period to go to basic, so I still need a job.

In June, I'm hired to do deskside support at Subase Bangor. It looks good on paper. By day two, my new coworkers are cheerfully confirming my voiced conclusion that the entire operation is held together by us, the overstressed techs, who are to work tirelessly for the remainder of the year without proper tools, parts, or instructions until they lay us all off. Greatly amusing work ensues. Our parts room is re-dedicated to screaming and breaking stuff, since there are no useful parts to speak of.

By November 2nd, I'm counting the weeks until I can go active duty and quit my job. I'm back to talking in my sleep, a sure sign of job stress for me, and my attitude could use a lift, but I'm still swinging, still trying to hang things together for my coworkers who don't have my escape route. I document processes by myself for their benefit. I act as queue manager for weeks because I'm the only one who has ever used Remedy before, and our actual queue managers are too busy attending meetings.

Two weeks later, I will be fired for, among other things, "not being a team player" and "not following process." All unofficial, since they are unable to provide a single shred of documentation to suggest that they ever even mentioned these nonexistent problems to me. I will spend the remainder of 2003 working on my 2-mile run and playing X-Box.

***

My firing? Sucked--sort of. But definitely not the president's fault.

***

I'm home alone, absorbed in the Internet when I have other things to do while my wife is out doing... something. It's November 2, 2004, and I've been active duty since January 5. Right now I'm doing homework--or at least, I'm supposed to be.

In a few hours, I'll get tired and switch off. For better or for worse, we will have a president selected for the next four years, and whomever it turns out to be, hopefully wise advisors and congressional oversight will keep him from mucking things up too much.

Yeah, I know. It's a dim hope. But I gotta believe. I swore an oath.

And no, that was not the president's fault, either.

Sig

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