Saturday, November 15, 2003

Stress in the Headquarters Rises to an All-Time High (The Mental Toll of Uninterrupted Operations on Soldiers)

15 NOV 03 2345 (Almost 16 NOV 03)

“I have to brief Satan,” Sergeant Newsome is saying right now. He’s talking about the morning information he has to give to SGM Walker every morning.
“What, is he giving you shit again?” Sergeant Daniels asked sympathetically. See, Sergeant Newsome always gets chewed out by SGM Walker. Sergeant Pepper called Sergeant Newsome “Knight,” that used to be the pet name for our unofficial Iraqi mascot dog – before he was shot dead. So after Knight the dog was shot, Sergeant Pepper began to call Sergeant Newsome “Knight.”
[1] Sergeant Newsome even took the name and would bark like a dog, panting and jumping. The name was an insult, but he accepted this and even celebrated it only wishing to keep the staff’s good side. He doesn’t kiss ass, he just gets his ass kicked all over. Sergeant Newsome and his wife are both in the Army, both in Iraq, and have no children. So they are making quite a bit of money. He’s part of the corporate Army – the Army of people here for nothing more than money and benefits. So, they put up with anything the Army puts out – because that’s their livelihood. Anyways, he’s got plenty of money – a new BMW, regularly acquires new electronics, and lends out money like a bank. BUT, it’s sad, because he’s truly scared of the moment SGM Walker will walk in. He’s paranoid about everything now, walking around nervously, saying constantly, “I hate to be an asshole, but I have to be, because he’s being an asshole to me.”
It really is sad though, it’s pitiful. I feel sorry for him, but he brings it on himself. Not only that, but he won’t accept that for whatever reason, Walker doesn’t like him. So he goes around the office eyeing possible and imagined dust hideouts, experiencing panic attacks when he finds a possible flaw – imagined or actual. He walks around in panic, working madly to edit, and re-edit his morning reports. No matter how good his reports are, Walker always floors him like a bug.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me a tree caught on fire last night?!!!” SGM Walker demanded in a cold, scruffy voice.
“Uh, uh, Sergeant Majo…”
“Uh, it wasn’t on the re…”
“Sergeant Major,” Sergeant Newsome said trembling, doubting himself the whole time, “I will…”
“Roger, Sergeant Major.”
“What branch caught on fire?”
And so on and so fourth. So, Sergeant Newsome calls him Satan. But you’ve got to wonder if he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for money. It just doesn’t seem right to put misery at the center of your life willingly in exchange for material things. It’s as simple as that.
Sergeant Rush is like that too, but not as bad. He’s stupid and fits in just fine. Every morning he’s been walking into the command center with one foot in a flip-flop. We call him Jonathan, his first name, because it sounds more appropriate and boyish. He stops by the coffee machine and fills up a Styrofoam cup full of coffee, like the big boys do – but they use aircraft aluminum grade thermos mugs. He’ll get his own one day, when he’s big like them too. It’s like the little boy who wants to wear dad’s shoes to be like him. Anyways, he wears the flip-flop because while directing a crane lowering a concrete barrier, he lowered the barrier right on his foot. Poor Jonathan. He swears it’s broken, but our intelligence is still foggy. Maybe we should have helped him not to drop the barrier on his foot – because he seems to need help with everything. “Hey, can you do me a favor?”
He loves telling me to do things too, but most of the time I’ve already taken care of whatever he’s telling me to do. “Thompson, guess what you get to do,” he’d ask with a grin on his face, simply elated he gets to make me do something. “You get to go to the gate and get a translator.” See, I don’t work for him, I just stay in the command post, and that’s why they like to tell me what to do – because I’m privileged. Rush, Choy (now gone), and Ramos are the Goof Troop – and everyone knows it, but we have to respect their rank – officers too.
“Well Sergeant Rush,” I answered confidently so that his grin slowly faded as he waited for me to rain logic down on him, “I already sent Specialist Woods to pick up dinner and to get the translator about 10 minutes ago. So, as always I’m a step ahead of you.”
He dropped his head and walked with a more pronounced limp, probably out of greater self-pity granted to himself following another disappointment, to his desk with the Styrofoam cup and a laptop. A laptop used mostly for playing Solitaire – a ritual of NCOs. Sergeant Rush stopped asking me to do things in front of his superiors, because it always ended up making him look bad. It’s entertaining.
In more serious news, CSM Fleischmann was struck in another bomb attack, the earlier one having occurred a few days ago. Fleischmann was struck in the leg with shrapnel. “I promise you, you will get attacked, we will get bombed,” used to be his speech back in Friedberg. “I wish Fleischmann would shut the fuck up,” everyone would say as he paced to and fro, high on himself and spouting off high drama monologues. Well, he got hit. His camp has been getting hit constantly at 3-62 AR, where he moved to. He had just sent his tanks on an IED sweep of the road before he traveled on it. But, they got hit anyways. The reports say he was screaming about the failure of the tanks to find IEDs as the medics pulled the pieces of metal from his leg.
Today, he got hit again, well his patrol did. The trail vehicle took the brunt of the explosion in the two vehicle convoy. The gunner sergeant got killed. 3-62 AR, well Friedberg and Giessen
[2] are taking a lot of losses. It’s hard to believe that wives in Germany are crying, with their children, as widows. In Butzbach!? Unreal. It’s a sobering thought. An attack of any kind is traumatic, I don’t care what anyone says, it’s violent, it’s attempted murder. Fleischmann is experiencing that regularly now, and I pray he’s OK. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. He’s still an ass though.
“That arrogant son of a bitch! That’s all he needs for his ego,” SGM Walker erupted, “A purple-heart (medal for being wounded in combat).” At least I wasn’t the only one who thought he was arrogant. I actually like SGM Walker. He’s old-school.
I remember Fleischmann telling me once in Friedberg, in what I thought to a lapse of professional judgment, “Thompson, you know I’ve got a college degree? I could have been a colonel. Why be a colonel when I can simply manipulate the commander? I can suggest most anything and say it in a way that influences the commanders.” For some reason, it felt like he believed he was entrusting me with an ancient secret, a grand plan of deception! I looked at him as he waited for my reaction, and I thought, ‘Wow this guy is in love with himself,’ as I tried my best to show a face that would convey awe and realization. The lesson I learned from this dramatic encounter was that he learned to exercise power while escaping the grip of real responsibility. Iraq was his first deployment. Before now, being the Equal Opportunity guru was his crowning achievement, instead of saying, “when I was a drill sergeant,” or “when I was in the Gulf War.” He could only bring up office jobs. He did have one advantage though – he’s German. That makes him an exotic pet to have, and loyal at that. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans – they aren’t exotic, they are just everywhere. Anyways, Spanish is annoying, and who want to listen to hip-hop all day. Of course, I’m joking – but Fleischmann’s ethnic background makes him an interesting conversation piece.

[1] The actual name began when Sergeant Newsome fell on his back after a car bomb exploded a short distance away. When he fell on his back, his legs and arms wobbled in the air like a dog getting its belly scratched. That day he earned the name “Knight.”
[2] Two towns in Hessen, Germany where military units are stationed with their families. Friedberg’s Ray Barracks was the former duty station of Elvis Presley.


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