But…I was assured this would never happen…

Oh, wonderful:

Those of you who were following the efforts of then SECDEF Ash Carter to open up all combat roles to women during the Obama administration probably recall some of his comments at the time. In 2015, when the U.S. Marine Corps was told to integrate women into combat duty, Carter was very clear in stating that standards would not be lowered and the women would have to compete on even footing with the men. The New York Times covered his announcement at the time. (Emphasis added)

There will be no exceptions,” Mr. Carter said at a news conference. He added, “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”

The defense secretary sought to assuage those concerns on Thursday by saying that every service member would have to meet the standards of the jobs they wished to fill, and “there must be no quotas or perception thereof.”

Unfortunately, one of the requirements to become a Marine combat officer is to pass the Combat Endurance Test (CET). One Marine I know who lived through the experience simply described it as “hell.” Many of the details are not made available to the public at large, but the majority of men who attempt the feat fail. The number of women who passed the course can apparently be counted on one hand.

Read the whole thing and feel your blood begin to boil.  Don’t believe it will happen?  The army has female Rangers now – Actual, tabbed Rangers, and we were assured that would never happen either.

Meh.

I am clearly dull-witted

We aren’t “high society” by any means…But as I showered this morning, Waylon’s “Luckenbach Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”  (Youtube) came up on the playlist while washing my hair.

Epiphany.  Let me explain.

I’ve listened to that song probably thousands of times since freshman year of high school (Hey, I’m from Texas, and it was the 70’s…You either listened to C&W or KIXS on the FM dial, and the song was released that summer), just loving the tune and lyrics.  But from the perspective of a fellow who has completed one career and is fourteen years from completing another, the meaning of the lyrics one day come dreadfully to life:

There comes a point in a working person’s life when the realization that all of the weekends, late nights, and holidays sacrificed to get to the position one occupies have left one “comfortable” – But that having established the reputation of being that Type “A” personality who is shooting for Senior Vice President before retiring, there’s no halt to the sacrifices until that point is reached.

And when you reach it, then what?  My wife & I don’t fight like the Hatfield’s and McCoys, but I don’t think either of us, after thirty-one years of marriage, believe we’ve had the opportunity to spend as much time together as we like.  Me and my work, our raising three children (all now grown and gone), me and my VFW and American Legion and Homeowner’s Association Board of Directors and North Georgia Corps of Cadets Association Board of Directors and volunteer work with recently separated veterans, her and her mini-chicken farm, hobbies, and bill paying (yes, I, the only member of this household who’s ever been employed, live on an allowance, just shoot me)…Yeah, it got me where I am, with a heart attack along the way.

Wouldn’t I rather live in a small house in San Antonio or Austin, working a 9-5 job, and have all that time we’ve missed?  You bet.  But the values and discipline my father and the army bestowed on me never would have allowed that…They raised my expectations of myself so high that I’ll be reaching for the next rung on the ladder until I fall into the cremation pit.

It’s something to think on.  I’m afraid I and the army instilled the same values and discipline on my son, and I feel guilty about that.  My daughters are free spirits who are just as happy crashing on a friend’s couch for a couple of months to save money for something they want, and they are expert at lowering their expectations – A trait I’m envious of.

If I had it to do again, knowing what I know now, I think I’d live life differently.  Impossible to know, of course, but I like to think that I would.  Of course, like every other major rumination I come across, it’s too late to change things now…But perhaps a discussion on the matter with my kids, and my grandkids, is in order.

You don’t have to make first string, or cross the finish line first, you just have to make the team.  File that among the many things I wish I’d learned long ago.

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.

Meh

It’s the Cowboys.  Well, it’s Roger Goodell and the NFL, really, but I don’t feel particularly bad for Dallas…Growing up in Texas I was always a Houston Oilers fan.  As Bum Phillips said, “The Cowboys might be America’s team, but the Oiler’s are Texas’ team”.

This social justice s*** is going to eat America alive.  It’s all I can do not to argue with my grown a** daughters about it…And dammit, I miss football.

As expected, the Cowboys’ season finale clocked in with the team’s lowest Sunday television rating of the season in the Dallas-Fort Worth market.The Cowboys’ 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles earned a 23.6 rating, which represents 625,046 homes in the area. That bettered only the season low, which came on Thanksgiving when the Cowboys’ loss to the Los Angeles Chargers earned a relatively microscopic 18.6. That represented 492,621 homes. By the way, ratings, which gauge homes tuned in, are usually lower on Thanksgiving because folks tend to gather in one home. Still, the 18.6 is stunning. The 2016 Thanksgiving game, for example, scored a 30.0 against Washington.

Let the games begin

Was up a bit earlier than usual this morning – Getting into the Pentagon as a civilian is a much more involved process than when one is in uniform.  If you’re assigned there (shudder), you get a permanent badge / pass that allows you through security pretty quickly, but even if you’re only there on TDY (Temporary Duty), you just sign for a visitor’s pass that’s good for the duration of your stay.

Since 9/11, though, as a civilian (and once you retire from the army, trust me, they look at you like a civilian), there’s a long, drawn-out, PITA of a process involving waiting on your COR and sponsor to fill out the requisite paperwork for a visitor’s badge, having one’s picture taken, waiting on the badge to be created, listening to a stern five-minute warning regarding which areas are off limits (which depends on what you’re there for), then signing in and running your visitor’s badge through an ATM-like machine.

That’s just day one – On subsequent days there is a separate security process for permanent staff / TDY and dirty, filthy civilians, and it takes forever to get in the building,  You would think that after twenty years of working on various projects here on and off I’d have a map of the building burned on the back of my eyeballs, but offices are constantly moving from one ring to the next (for pure aggravation’s sake, I’m certain), so a new map must be obtained on each visit…And like most military maps these are an absolute horror.  I’ve found the best thing to do is to grab the first senior NCO or Chief Warrant and simply ask “excuse me, but could you direct me to this f****** place before I shoot myself?”  Addressing them in this manner lets them know you’re prior service / retired, and they delight in torturing you (since now they can), but they’ll get you where you’re going.

The food court is an enormous temptation, but the line to merely get a bowl of cereal is so long it isn’t worth it – Besides, if you eat breakfast at the hotel it doesn’t count towards per diem, since there’s no receipt.

I’ve already run into two former soldiers of mine, one now a Major and the other a Lieutenant Colonel, and they’ve given me the skinny on who’s working here and where, so evenings will be busy with libations and TINS (“This is no s***”) tales with old friends, which will ease the burden of getting my a** chewed up and down until next Wednesday, when I’ll fly home.

I shall describe to you the day’s first a** chewing a bit later.  Have a better day than me, please.

I really should know better than to read Job before bed

…But my Central Texas upbringing included choosing a bible verse at dinner and discussing it until Dallas came on, at which point Daddy poured a scotch and water or three and demanded silence.

I foolishly chose from Job one evening in order to let the old man know in a roundabout way that keeping me out of football practice for a week in punishment for being caught kissing my girlfriend (now my wife of many years) out behind the field house at lunch one afternoon was excessive (one didn’t confront the old man – In consequence one would feel something cold on one’s face and realize right smartly that the cold surface was the floor).

He was wise to me, the Colonel (I think he was a Major at the time), and having just come home from a three-week field problem with the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, too tired to put one of his famed smack-downs on me, so my punishment was to memorize the verse, Job 17:11-16 DV.  To this day, I know it better than I know the Ranger Creed, and during times of worry (I don’t do despair), it comes to me:

My days have passed away, my

thoughts are dissipated, tormenting my

heart.

They have turned night into day,

and after darkness I hope for light again.

If I wait hell is my house, and I have

made my bed in darkness.

I have said to rottenness: Thou art

my father; to worms, my mother and

my sister.

Where is now then my expectation,

and who considereth my patience?

All that I have shall go down into

the deepest pit; thinkest thou that there

at least I shall have rest?

I discussed that verse once more with my Daddy the Colonel, twenty-seven years ago today, after being released from Silas B. Hays Army Hospital at Fort Ord, CA following a stay for wounds sustained during operation Just Cause.  This date always brings the verse to mind – Not so much for the content, but for Daddy’s comments regarding it: “You don’t get any rest, son.  You lead your men to the best of your abilities, you act as an example to the rest of the Company Grade officer Corps, you maintain yourself physically and mentally, and you put forth 110% effort every day of your career.  Then you’ll more than likely have to start a second career, where you’ll get no rest either.  But think about it – You just spent 9 days lying on your a** “resting” – Did you enjoy it?”

Nope.  I did not, Daddy…And for the record, you were always more wise than I gave you credit for.

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