A dear friend, mentor, and upperclassman while I was at NGC, now a retired Lieutenant Colonel who I see far too rarely, remarked not long ago “You ain’t human, son – ” (He hails from Warner Robins, GA, forgive him the accent), “Nobody put together right gets RIF’d by W.J. Clinton as a Major, jumps right on a USAR commission so he can finish out his 20, then goes from knuckle-dragging Infantryman to computer whiz in a two-year night / weekend school Bachelor’s program and ends up making damn near twice what an O-4 does.”
I can sympathize with his comments – I was extremely fortunate to be RIF’d in ’92, as that was roughly the beginning of the UNIX / Internet period, and my professors were, to a man, UNIX gurus on the level of Linus Torvalds. So I worked as a government civilian employee at ARPERCEN (the Army Reserve Personnel Center) and took a reserve commission as a Major – Weekend drills were hilarious, the USAR doesn’t have Infantry officers, much less ones with Airborne wings with a combat star, Air Assault wings from the Lightfighter Air Assault school at Fort Ord, a Ranger tab, a CIB, or a Jungle Expert rating. They didn’t know what to do with me, so they tapped me as S-3 for the Mobilization Support Detachment and had me teach classes on one or the other subjects in the Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks to roomfuls of E-4’s and E-5’s.
It seems I’ve been fortunate for a second time in my life. I hate mathematics with a burning passion, and I was never a sniper, nor did I attend sniper school – But I’m from Texas, and got my first .22 rifle when I was 7 years old. I’ve shot expert for record on every range I ever qualified on (heck, I even qualified expert with the hand grenade), and though I’ve no formal training in ballistics or trajectory, I’m one of those guys who has put so much lead downrange that I’ve seen every possible scenario – A long way from maintaining grazing fields of fire between two aiming sticks.
I wasn’t even looking for a job in the firing simulation field, but one of my E-4’s got out after five years and went to MIT on the G.I. Bill with some help from his parents, and after graduation, stayed on for a Master’s, then a doctorate in physics, taking a job at MIT as an adjunct professor, then a tenured professor in the physics department. We went drinking and shooting about six months ago while I was in Boston on business, and his jaw dropped when my old, busted up a** scored nearly as high as I had on active duty. Well, I still love to shoot, and hit the range every opportunity I get…It’s sort of like riding a bicycle, once you learn how, you never forget.
So apparently MIT won a contract to create a ballistics and trajectory simulator for several of the weapons in use by soldiers today, and my old E-4 told the new department head that he knew a guy who probably couldn’t do long division, but could put a round up a gnat’s a** from 300 meters, and might be well suited for the role of firing the actual weapons that simulator data will be based on. A couple of outings with the department head didn’t seem to produce much interest, so I forgot all about it for months, until I got a call yesterday asking me if I’d like to come to work at MIT as an FTE, with a job description of shooting every weapon in use in today’s Army from 0900 – 1700 daily. The only caveat…I’ll have to leave Georgia and move to Cambridge, which my wife isn’t a bit happy about.
I love her, I really do. But she’s going to have to take one for the team in this case. What’s that old Scots saying? “A’ wi’ be well, and a’ wi’ be well, and a’ matter a’ things wi’ be well.” I’m an old coot, I’m not about to turn down my dream job at this point in life.
Now to go buy some warm clothes. You all try to stay warm this weekend.