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Jan 13

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Coming out of the Tardis (Pt. 2)

Doctor Who and a Dalek with the TARDIS

"Hey, got a quarter?"

(The first part of this series was posted almost two years ago–it was one of the very first entries on this blog.  You can check it out here.  While I’m no longer deployed to Iraq–and I’ve since met several other warrior geeks–I still feel there is an unfair perception that while it may be OK for Soldiers to play Call of Duty or other video games, other more traditionally “geeky” pastimes are still considered verboten in the military.  Which I find rather odd.  After all, if gay Soldiers can still be considered defenders of freedom…why can’t geeks?)

Sci-Fi Positive

I just got tested, and guess what?

I’m Sci-Fi positive.

Hey, don’t worry about it; after all, I don’t think it’s contagious.  If it was, I think the world would be a much nicer place.  And I’m pretty sure it’s not a virus.  In fact, I don’t really think it’s any kind of sickness at all.  In fact, it might be something in my blood; perhaps…even written in my DNA?

How do those ads go?  “Geeked at birth?”

Many of my co-workers seem to think my preferences in fiction are trivial, dirty, and to a few strongly religious service members, even disgusting.  But I don’t really mind.

Ad for The University of Advancing Technology

“Geeked at birth?”

Ever since elementary school, I’ve found myself subjugated, ridiculed, and persecuted for my unusual tastes in fiction, film, and entertainment; but none of that has change who I am.

I’m often labeled a geek, a nerd, or (as my wife likes to say) “adorably clueless.”  And normally, that wouldn’t bother me.  Unfortunately, these interests don’t mesh well with my day job, and they often don’t for my friends as well.

Yep, the U.S. military is one of the few places where you still have to stay in the closet if you’re a geek.

Grow Up…

I wish I could say our military has matured a bit over the years.  And yes, in some ways it has.  But the spear shaking, chest thumping, sink or swim machismo that pervades most of the world’s militaries (and has for thousands of years) is still large and in charge.

In-spite of our civilian bosses; and no matter how much our military leadership protests it…there is still a “good old soldier boy” club in all branches of the service.  And no matter how many times Service Members are told hazing is inappropriate and against regs, (just like in college fraternities) it’s still going to happen.  Especially in combat arms units, and those that often deploy to war zones.

And in a strange analytical way, I kind of understand why it happens.  And no, I’m not condoning it.  But after being in the Army for ten years, I can tell you from personal experience, those who can’t work with their fellow Soldiers don’t stay in long.

After all, if one of your fellow Soldiers can’t deal with “teasing and name calling,” what’s going to happen to them when bullets fly, or bombs go boom?

Most civilians take their freedoms for granted.  If they don’t like their job (or their boss) they quit.  News flash–those in the military don’t have that option.  A lot of people whine and complain about our “huge” paychecks, and our “massive” benefits packages.  But how much do you think you’d have to pay your garbage man to pick up trash everyday that has suspected IED’s hiding in it?  Or how much do you think truckers would ask for if they had to move their freight containers on highways where people liked using Americans for target practice?

When: “I Don’t Want To” = “Not An Option”

As a member of one of the uniformed services, when you get orders to do something dangerous and life threatening, you can’t just shake your head and say, “I quit.”  This is one of the many reasons that comparing the military to a normal corporate job (with corporate benefits) just doesn’t work.

There are a lot of things about the military that a civilian just won’t get.  And they can’t be explained.  Back in basic, before I understood how things worked, I had problems too.  Sure, I wasn’t exactly a square (I had rounded edges), but that’s why I got the nickname “Domino.”

Hazing in the military isn’t going away.  And the crazy stuff that some soldiers do after repeated deployments; that’s still going to happen.  And no, I’m not condoning it.  But war has messed with soldiers heads for a very long time now.  Even warriors in ancient Greece had to deal with PTSD.

[box] “And what about when your warrior’s anger goes home? What is it like with his wife and children? Is it useful then, too?” – Cicero[/box]

Trainees use hand signals as they take a knee ...

Public Domain Image via Wikimedia. Photo by SSgt Desiree N. Palacios

After being in the Army for ten years, I can tell you from personal experience; those who can’t eventually find a way to work with their fellow Soldiers, won’t last long in this profession.  I never went to the kinder gentler basic training that got rolled out halfway through OIF and OEF.  When I graduated from Ft. Benning, Drills could still yell at recruits, and NCOs could still smoke (err, exercise) the crap out of you.

Most people have seen enough war movies to get a general idea of what a Soldier does.  In fact, I think some of the most recycled material in hollywood is basic training.

And yet, while it may have become a trope, there really is something to breaking someone down so they can be built up stronger.  I can personally attest to it.  Basic training for me was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Oh, I’ve done a lot more mentally and physically demanding stuff since then.  But now I know I can do anything I put my mind to.  I didn’t know that back then.

I’m not saying everything was great in the Old Army.  It wasn’t.

But we didn’t have a discipline problem back then. Not like we do now, after lower admissions requirements, and waiver happy recruiters.  Yeah, back then you could run into soldiers who’d whine and complain about the Army.  But it wasn’t until the last five or six years that I started running across Soldiers who were actually complaining about being…soldiers.  And that’s something really terrifying.

It doesn’t matter whether you like your job or not; if you don’t think you’re getting paid enough; or if you haven’t had enough sleep–people are still putting their lives in your hands, counting on your ability to what you were trained to do.  We train how we fight.

When the Last Laugh isn’t Funny

It’s not an easy job.  And yes, sometimes you need someone to help motivate you.  Heck, if it wasn’t for a really tall and lanky private stepping on my heels in basic, I might not have graduated myself.  But pushing a Soldier to run a 2 mile PT test faster, or ruck march 16km with a 50 lbs pack on is a lot different then pushing them to commit suicide.

We have enough to worry about outside the wire.  Shit happens.  Sometimes you have to flush when someone else forgets to.  But that doesn’t mean you should take it out on your battle buddies.  Monkeys throw shit at each other.  People don’t (or at least they shouldn’t).

That’s why I have absolutely no sympathy for those yahoos who decided to see how far they could push a fellow Soldier–up to, and past the point where they ended up killing him.  Oh, I’m sure at the trial they’ll be all,”But we didn’t pull the trigger…”

Not the answer...

Half a decade ago when I was still a specialist, I worked in a maintenance shop with four other people.  Two were NCOs, and the other two were Soldiers.  I’ve done my time working in toxic environments, and being bossed around by immature bullies…but this was the only place I’ve ever ended up working, where one of my fellow Soldiers was admitted to a hospital for suicide ideation, and the other one actually tried to kill himself just inside the front door of our office.

While I wasn’t as fed up with our work environment as they were, I at least understood how they got to that point.  Wanna know the craziest part?  After weeks of investigation, the NCO’s didn’t get into any trouble; even though they caused the situation.  In the end, it was the soldiers “fault” because they weren’t disciplined enough to keep their “personal” problems…personal.

I’m glad that a commissioned officer and a senior NCO are also going to trial for Private Danny Chen.  Until the military stops equating rank with “get out of jail free” cards, needless deaths like this will continue to occur.  Disciplinary action should be based on the crime; not on how it would negatively affect someones military career.

I haven’t looked into it.  But sometimes I wonder how many other Soldiers were “lucky” enough to work under my old section sergeants.  Sometimes I wonder how many more soldiers ended up hospitalized.  But what really keeps me up is wondering how many never left the hospital.  How many people had the sheets pulled up over their heads?  How many more people will the military say, “just couldn’t handle it?”

Who do you blame when the victim and the murderer are the same person?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a happy person who wanted to kill themselves.  Just something you might want to think about before yelling at your co-workers, and calling them names.

Sticks and stones can break bones, and words can also kill.

 

[box type=”warning”] The views and opinions expressed in this post belong solely to the author. They do not represent the policies or opinions of the DOD, the US Army, or the United States of America.[/box]

 

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