Friday, April 5, 2013

Fortunate Son

Some people like to piss and moan about the fact that few, if any, sons of the perfumed princes who rule over us send their own sons off to war.

In case seeing how Senator Al Gore's kid turned out after Harvard wasn't enough of a proof for you*, I offer the following tale, and humbly suggest that the dearth of congressional progeny in the services is one of the greatest blessings that could befall the nation.

As my sophomore year wound down, I heard tell from an acquaintance of an incredible and unbelievable thing:
The Army, in return for absolutely no commitment in return, would happily ship interested youngsters to summer camp for 6 weeks, let them shoot guns and such, and pay them for the privilege at the E5 rate. (Note to the Army leadership: If you dumbasses would bother to advertise this program, rather than leave folks - we're talking 20 year old geniuses here - to stumble over it, you'd have a waiting list to go, and your pick of whom to accept, and whom to throw back.)

So, after the 0.2 seconds it took to find a nearby school with a PMS to verify the truth of said tale, and get me started on the process, I was entered to the pipeline.

Six weeks in lovely Fort Knox, just after Stripes had been released, and while staying in the same ancient wooden barracks buildings, is almost too magical for words. Words like humidity, mosquitoes, thunderstorms, and a level of organizational blockheadedness that necessitated the literary efforts of people like Kafka, Joseph Heller, and Neil Simon to adequately convey.

But particularly, where this tale's topic is concerned, with the addition, midway through our training as potential sugar-coated killers, of one son of a high-ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee to our training platoon.

Our first clue should have been when he was dumped among us, after having seriously effed with the career of another SNCO running his original platoon, evidently for not respecting the status of Son Of Congressman Dipshit.

An aside here. The Army, much like the Marines OCS, largely have the same pattern of SNCO Drill Sergeants overseeing ROTC Basic officer training. Both the Senior Drill Sergeant I had, as well as his two assistants, were models of professionalism, diligence, and exactitude. SFC Hillbilly was, in fact, an Appalachian whose primary MOS had been TC on M-60s and M1s, and I would have been happy to be the loader on his tank or his platoon leader with equal admiration for his skills and abilities. Ditto for the two SSGs assisting him.

So we were rather bewildered when someone was dumped into our platoon, and our drill sergeants rather hostile to the inclusion of someone whose presence had just screwed over the career of another good sergeant, merely for the sin of having to put up with a bucket of attitude from a snotty ROTC candidate (or "cadidiot", in common drill sgt. parlance) when they mainly only wanted to push their platoons of enlisted men through, finish their tour, and get back to driving tanks. I could understand the sentiment.

But then we met Candidate Clusterfuck.

Where, o where, to begin.

He arrived three weeks into our six week tour of duty at Camp Snoopy. It was an ever-so-slightly transmogrified version of BCT for enlisted men and OCS for officers. By which, one might understand, that in three weeks of instruction by our tender loving sergeants, we could march ourselves , under student command, from Point A to point B without causing howls of laughter from enlisted men's platoons, or getting run over by traffic, or various other sins against good order and discipline. We could dress ourselves, clean a barracks, make a bunk, field strip weapons, etc. Or, at least, 75 of us could. Out of 76. No points for guessing to which side of that divide Candidate Clusterfuck belonged.

Okay, so he's a slow learner. What can we expect, daddy is a multi-term congressman from some centrally located state. The apple clearly hasn't fallen far from the tree.

And it's got to be tough to get plopped into a new platoon halfway through, and make friends. We've all been together since getting haircuts and screamed at since day one, so we've all sort of bonded. But Clusterfuck has that rare gift: if he picked up a cat, at night, in a dark room, he'd pet it backwards out of reflex. Because he rubs everyone the wrong way.

And icing on his personal cake, one day we get mail call. I from friends, Clusterfuck, on official stationary, from Congressman Daddy. I try not to read over his shoulder, but I can't help it. Clusterfuck's letter is typed and double-spaced, and I have 20/15 vision, and I'm looking at him moving his lips to read a letter that sounds to all accounts like the way I was addressed by my parents. When I was 5 years old, not 20. How Congressman Daddy's staff, who typed the dictated letter, kept from shooting beverages out their nostrils while typing it is a mystery to me. It literally is baby-talk, written to someone almost old enough to buy liquor.

And then we reach the event of the Leadership Course. A series of tests, where the platoon leadership is rotated, and we're evaluated individually and as a group, on problem solving both abstractly and concretely.

Rotated to platoon leader, the reason for Candidate Clusterfuck's babytalk letter became apparent. He not only has trouble dressing himself, he apparently has reached the cusp of his third year at college,without any higher brain function whatsoever. I don't recall the exact test and conditions, but it was something like crossing a 12 foot "minefield" with two 8 foot planks, 10 feet of rope, an ammo can, and an overhanging bar.

All I recall was that after Clusterfuck getting flustered, and screaming incoherently, our monitor stopped us 20 minutes into the 30 minute problem just before we became the first group in history to navigate across the chasm by using the rope to tie the platoon leader up, launch him across the chasm into the minefield with the first plank on the ammo can using it as a teeter totter and having the 5 biggest candidates jump on the other end, then complete the transit by placing the second plank on top of his now lifeless body after the inevitable imaginary detonation, and have the rest of the platoon walk across it. Swear to Buddha, we'd already mutinied, tied him up, and were about to execute the launch when we were interrupted.

(To be fair, the original plan was to tie the rope to the overhanging bar, tie the other end to his neck, swing people across the minefield chasm, and use the planks to bat him back and forth so the platoon could grab ahold of his feet for the swing across. But no one knew how to tie a Hangman's noose, so we went with Plan B.)

I'm pretty sure on peer evals, Clusterfuck was in the bottom 5 in the class.

I can only hope the Army never sent him to Advanced ROTC, and subsequently commissioned him. But I can tell you that if they did, he was fragged by his own troops.

So please believe me when I tell you that having congressmen and senators send their offspring into the military isn't a good thing, pretty much ever.




*(Personally, I think had we gotten his roommate instead, it'd have been a net win all around. I'd much rather have served with ranch owner's kid 2d Lt. Tommy Lee Jones from Texas, than with Senator's son 2d Lt. Al Gore Jr. from Tennessee, any day of the week.)

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