Yeah, more ditto

A Date That Should Live in Infamy

In February 19, 1942 — seventy-four years ago today — Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. With the stroke of his pen, the man who had earlier snubbed Jesse Owens after the Berlin Olympics used his executive powers to order the imprisonment of over 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry (as well as thousands of German and Italian ancestry) for the duration of World War II.


Most of the internees were natural-born American citizens, whose “crime” was having a parent or merely a grandparent with Japanese blood. It was an act of naked, aggressive racism that damaged people and families, including my own, for generations.

For those who leak tears at the thought of Gitmo, print this out and use it for tissue.  Perhaps, by osmosis, you’ll come to understand that allowing enemy intelligence / forces to roam unheeded within your borders or go back to their place of origin for more training and another deployment isn’t such a great idea.

You know, as a retired Field Grade (barely – I retired as a Major, those four years in the Guard and ten years in the USAR are the only reasons I got that gold oak leaf) Infantry officer…The lowest of the low, I feel as if I could spend a week writing a brief on why Gitmo isn’t a goat f*** and convince Congress to issue a statement that would immediately halt all of the sniffling and crying amongst those who hate Gitmo simply because they hate George W. Bush.

But why bother?  Sulu (George Takei) has formed his Brigades, our government isn’t even ready for a Twitter counteroffensive, and one wounded veteran going off about the mouth on Capitol Hill isn’t going to change anything (that’s reserved for the Cindy Sheehan’s and Beau Bergdahl’s of this world).

14 more years until I collect my pension, then I’m never looking at a newspaper again.  In the meantime, at least I’ll be employed firing small arms 9-5 for those 14 years.

God grant me the strength to make it through them.

Two weeks to re-adjust

Still not sure if I’ll be living in Cambridge or Tampa, but as I hand off my projects here and join conference calls with my new employer, there’s a sense of palpable relief in just falling back into the old jargon.

Most folks who shoot consistently well, regardless of wind direction / velocity, target movement. etc., etc., etc. have two things in common: They practice a LOT, and they are able to shut everything but the mechanics of the shot out of their heads.  So, who practices shooting a LOT, and can erase that last missed mortgage payment from their minds for the time necessary?

Steely-eyed killers (and we have a lot of them, and need even more) come from all four services – Every Marine is a rifleman, Marine Force Recon have their own snipers, every Army Infantryman is a rifleman, every Army Ranger an expert marksman (and the Rangers have snipers as well), and the fellows at SFOD-D (the Army Special Forces’ Delta Force) and the Navy SEAL teams can make shots no one would believe possible…They do it every day.

These men are often sent on long assignments away from their families, and spend time in small teams, the members of whom become very close.  We say and do things to each other that make normal people react in horror, for example, a Captain at Fort Ord who lived next to us, also branched Infantry, but assigned to the new Air Assault School the 7th ID stood up when they couldn’t get soldiers through the Army’s Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, grinned every time he saw me throwing my ruck and gear in the car.  “Goin’ out?  Field Problem or down South?  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of your wife and my kids while you’re gone.”

Well, those, in my youth, would have been fightin’ words…But things like that, and much worse, are commonly tossed around barracks, housing, barbecues, you name it.  It’s nothing but reverse psychology, really…In order to prove you trust your men to cover your back under fire, you have to prove you know they don’t really mean what they are saying.

So yeah, it’s stupid macho stuff, but it keeps morale up and increases unit cohesion, so huzzah.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I’ve noticed on my past couple of calls with my new team that the same sort of vernacular is used…And many of us know each other from working together previously or by reputation, so one is on the hot seat right away.

I’m going to have to work on my trash talking.

Once upon a time at Fort Ord…


I was floored when a Ranger E-7 (Sergeant First Class), during a course I was instructing on setting up antenna arrays in treetops so that they couldn’t be seen, took me aside to ask a question.

“Sir”, he says, “me and Specialist Beard got a little bit of a bet going, you mind helping us out?”

Imagining the bet had something to do with the material I was teaching I readily agreed – Competition, I was taught at North Georgia College can be a powerful motivator to improve one’s skills, and when you’re in command of a team of Rangers whose job it is to insert behind the lines and report on enemy troop strength, movement, equipment, and supply without being seen, improving your soldier’s skills is crucial.

“Well Sergeant First Class”, I responded, “Since you think it’s an important enough bet to interrupt the curriculum of optimum height, least obstruction, and concealment of our primary communications with higher, by all means let me assist.”

Looking embarrassed, the Sergeant First Class said “S*** Sir, we all know how to do this, we done it on live exercises in Honduras and Nicaragua a hundred times.  No disrespect, Sir, you a tree climbing m*********** as any white officer I ever seen, and you must of done practiced assembling and testing that array a hundred nights at home when you should have been with your wife & baby…you better at that s*** than Ortiz, and he’s the commo specialist.  Sir, the bet we made was on how you’d answer a question, if you still don’t mind.”

Truthfully, I did mind a bit – This had nothing to do with the day’s training, and just as sure as Christ made little green apples this task would be one graded GO / NO-GO when selecting Rangers for the LRSD…But I was new to this command, and the Sergeant First Class would effectively be First Sergeant of one of the teams, so I needed to establish both a good relationship and confidence in my own skills and abilities with him lest he let out the word that the new LRSD Patrol Base Commander was a cool breeze.  So I responded with a half-frown “OK, you have five minutes.”

The half-frown seemed to cheer the Sergeant First Class’s trepidation a bit, realizing that I meant business, he quickly asked “Sir, you went to a ring-knocker college, taught at the LRSLC (Long Range Surveillance Leader’s Course) for four months after Ranger School, and come to us right after IOAC (Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course), so Beard and I was wondering: If someone was to ask you what the difference between a manager and a leader was, what would you say?  We trying to figure out if ring-knockers really get a better military education than a ROTC commissioned officer, and we been making this bet with our last two CO’s (Commanding Officers).  Pardon, Sir, this ain’t no test, it just a bet between me and Beard.”

I was glad he’d added that last sentence, because it gave me the opportunity to remind him he was in no f***** position to be testing me, while at the same time formulating an answer to his question – Which is not a question included in the instruction of any army school I’m aware of.  Knowing I didn’t have much time, I simply said what first came to mind: “A manager, Sergeant First Class, tries to do things right.  A leader, on the other hand, does the right things, the right way.  You have 90 seconds to get the men back in a circle around that tree I’m using to demonstrate.”

The question, and my answer, bothered me for the rest of the day, and most of the night.  Where the h*** had the two Sergeant First Class come up with it, what did they consider a satisfactory answer to it, and had I just screwed the pooch as their incoming CO?

Well, the answer came at the next morning’s PT formation, where the Sergeant First Class called the Detachment to attention and told them that he and SP4 Beard vouched 110% for their new CO, and any coc******* who had a problem with me, himself, or Beard had an open invitation to meet him at the NCO club that evening.  Relieved, I realized I had passed some sort of test, but I didn’t know whether to bust out laughing or take a swing at the Sergeant First Class when, after PT, he took me aside and said “Sir, be honest we ain’t never asked no other CO that question – Classmate of yours from that ring-knocker college told Beard we should ask you and see what you said.”

There was only one other NGC alumni from a year ahead of my class year at the 7th ID (Light), so I knew who it was right away.  Had we not both not been inducted into the same secret society at school, I’d have sought him out and had his ass – We were both Captains at the time, although he had an earlier date of rank.

The incident, though, stayed in my head so long that I had the civilian Director of the Arts & Crafts Center create a beautiful wooden sign reading: The difference between a manager and a leader is that a manager tries to do things right.  A leader, on the other hand, does the right things, the right way.

It’s been on every one of my office walls, right next to my other sign:

1. Safety of the men under your command
2. Physical Security
4. Terrorist Situation, possible Threats to your organization.
5. COOP = Cont of Operations
6. Risk Management
7. No announced visits. Check actual readiness vs. ability to get ready.
8. Have a current list of ‘Go To People / Contractors.’ Who would you call in response to
each of your Risk Management scenarios.
9. Know Chain of Command
10. Know Organization Chart
11. Know Your Personnel, Details on Direct Reports
12. Know Organization Policies, Standards and Procedures
13. Ensure Fulfillment of all your Position Description Requirements

All that came to mind as I was packing up my home office this morning and came across those signs.  There  really is a huge difference between management and leadership, either in the civilian or military worlds.



Enjoying one’s job? There’s that?

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.

Nimrod Dancer Just Cause

0600, time to head for the known distance range

It’s not that I’m terrified of zombies, it’s that my wife is.  My marksmanship, therefore,  must be maintained.  Having the day off and a surplus of .223, the goal is to beat September’s results:


Wish a brother luck.