Washington State. Red Tape, and REMFs.
Previously I told you I had no idea that I could be selected by name and individually deployed by the Army. I was mortified to find out that the Army was entirely in the dark about it. I distinctly remember my administrative headaches as a lowly enlisted soldier with an E-4 "Specialist" rank. No one in the Army listens to anyone below the E-5 or a "Sergeant" rank. Even E-5s are mostly ignored, but that's quite another story. The main hurdle was that my rank did not correspond to the level of effort the Army expected me to pour into preventing becoming a casualty of war. Without an iota of shame or irony, the Army refused to give me a weapon while sending me to die in a combat zone. Read on to find out why.
Oh, they did not want me dead, at least not necessarily. The Army loved my skills like my multilingual abilities, my advanced cultural and linguistic studies, my high scores in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, and my excellent performance at the various Military Intelligence (MI) schools. The Army quickly realized that this combination of skills and knowledge made me a highly qualified MI soldier. They decided to send me out to war by myself in their haste. They gave me my own UIC or Unit Identification Code in the process… making me my own Army unit. The Army made another equally brilliant decision to send me to Ft. Lewis, Washington State, instead of Fort Benning, Georgia. I might have had a chance to run into someone familiar on Ft. Benning, but I knew no one on Ft. Lewis.
Continuing to follow their superior decision-making models, the Army conveniently ignored the one tiny detail about me: Making me, an individual, his own unit was fine for administrative paperwork, but this "Unit" would not have a Commander, Unit Administrator, or any other personnel. I could not care less for this state of affairs if not for one reason. It turned out that the forever-irritated civilians who had to force themselves to work to supply my gear, without hesitation, refused to give me a weapon. Why? They were worried about who would recover the weapon and return it if I died on the battlefield. It speaks volumes about the Army when they are visibly more concerned about a few thousand dollars worth of equipment than the human being carrying it. I get it. The bean counters had comfortably accounted for the possibility of me dying in war. They had not accounted for the possibility of me being sent to war to die all by myself. Key Celine Dion here.
Not being a wartime Celine fan, I instead decided to fight my way up to the then Fort Lewis Commanding General. I believe it was a 3-Star (Lieutenant General) heading the post's operations. The General thankfully agreed to meet me. His personal pet (a Captain) looked on incredulously from behind my back - spit slobbering from his curled bottom lip. The General simply asked me one question "Are you going downrange, soldier?" I quickly replied, "Yes, Sir!" He then looked at his pet Captain and yelled, "GIVE HIM A F*****G WEAPON!" The Captain's head jerked in response, and the drool that had carefully reached his left knee suddenly spattered on the floor. Finally, I had my well-earned M-16. At the time, I had not realized why the decision-makers back at Ft. Lewis had been so reluctant to hand a soldier a weapon they knew he would need in a war. Though I have always felt the expected scorn for the Rear Echelon M-Fers* (REMF) and the bean-counters, I now understand the underlying rationale of their morally damaged, pitiful, pathetic, shriveled little souls.
It was a fear of the unknown.
We shall delve into that fear in the next edition of the newsletter. Until then, remember that fear is, well, a frightfully efficient and multi-talented taskmaster.
* Not all who stayed comfortably behind stateside or somewhere in Europe, Qatar, Kuwait, etc., were necessarily REMFs. Most were in my experience relatively benign, however, what with their stupid woe-be-me attitudes. But there were REMFs by the shit-ton (an official Army unit of measurement), there too. To provide an example of what kind of f***ery they did, I'll give one example from the hundreds I have: Those REMFs would land in my combat zone at month-end, all freshly showered, and fly out a day later (next calendar month) to pick up two months of tax-free pay and a combat patch for their uniform. More on REMFs as I think of the other f***ery they did.