Friday, October 13, 2006

Smoked, Ripped and Chewed...

In the military when a person is harshly scolded, or reprimanded they call it getting chewed out, or "getting their ass ripped". The final level of this stern evaluation is getting "smoked". Generally that happens to Junior Enlisted at the hands of an angry NCO. This includes pushups, situps, or some other exercise that makes the person NEVER want to run afoul of whoever is in charge of them at that particular time. Despite being an Officer, yours truly, Dkelsmith got (verbally)Smoked, and literally ripped and chewed....its been a long time since that has happened to me, but I think I welcomed the reality check. It went like this.

I was making the long trudge from one side of this crappy Camp to the other in order to hit the chow hall before I went to the MWR. There was a group of 5 Junior Enlisted slightly to my left standing in a circle smoking. As I walked past one of them said, "Hey, what's up LT". I just said "Hey, how are you doing?" and kept walking. Suddenly I heard someone yell "Heeeeeeeeeeey" in a sharp doberman sort of way. I looked to my right and the archetypal Platoon Sergeant was standing there. An E-7 of Hispanic descent...about 5'8, thick jawed and built like an Abrams. He starts striding my way at a high rate of speed and says, "Why didn't you Soldiers salute that Officer just now?"....5 cigarettes fell to the sand simultaneously..... As he passed me he snapped up a smart salute and said, "Good evening, Sir." I saluted back and said, "That's okay Sergeant they were taking a...... "He cut back in with a modified, "Talk to the hand" pose and said. "Sir." while raising his eyebrows. I thought to myself about one of the many lessons learned in my enlisted days and in OCS, "NCO Business is NCO Business...stay out of it." I said nothing else. He continued on....."Correct me if I'm wrong, this entire FOB is a salute zone is it not?"

I have found that many generation X Soldiers don't have the same fear of NCO's that I had when I came into the service in 1990, but it was obvious that this guy was not screwing around. All of them went to Parade Rest and said, "Yes Sergeant!" in an enthusiastic unison. He then asked them.."Are you Soldiers blind, or do you have a waiver that allows you to tell the rank structure to fuck itself?" There was an uncomfortable silence, the Soldiers squirmed around without answering...

"WELL?!", he barked at them.

One of them piped up with, "We didn't see him, Sergeant, we were talking...."

"Bullshit!!! One of you chow hounds said, 'What's up LT?', and while we were on that subject what the hell is 'UP' with that shit?!" Is that how you talk to an Officer? Does he look like Ludacris to you?"

There was a resounding chorus of "No Sergeants!".

"Good, then do what the hell you are supposed to do.", he snapped. One of the Junior enlisted snapped to attention, yelled, "Group attention!", rendered a salute and said, "Good evening, Sir." I saluted back and said, "Carry on". At that point the 5 of them evaporated...

The Sergeant looked at me and said, "Why were you going to let them get away with that, Sir?" I told him. "Sergeant, they were taking a break, and there are so many people here ready to go into the chute that I end up saluting all day."

"I see", he said. Somehow that worried me....my father always said, "I see", right before he took my words, fashioned them into a weapon and beat me over the head with them.

"So, here in theater, is anybody ever really ready to take a break? I understand the overcrowding thing, Lieutenant, but when you let them get away with that once, you have set the new standard for them....especially these Privates. Once you are in for a while, you will learn how important that little shit is to keeping good order and discipline when you are in garrison AND when you are tactical. Granted you don't salute outside the wire, but it is a reminder that there is an order and a hierarchy. "

At this point I felt myself getting a little flustered...some people say I look a lot younger than what I actually am, and sometimes this is an annoyance. Especially since I became commissioned. I said, "Sergeant, I know what you are talking about, I have been in since 1990." His eyes dropped to the rank insignia on my chest and back to my face and he was puzzled. I added in, with a high level of pride, that "I was an E-6 when I was on OCS".

Gleefully....he retorted. "Oh so you KNOW better than that, Sir."

In one second I went from the proud Mustang Officer to the kid who just got caught lying about who ate all of the cookies. He says, "What unit are you in?" I told him _ _ 9th Infantry. He said, "Hooah! I'm 11 bang all my life. You heading North from here, Sir?" I told him yes, and his demeanor changed somewhat. "Outstanding. Where are you headed?" We exchanged information about direction, distance, and time and that was that. We talked about the current SITREP and how things were going. Before we parted, he said, "Sorry to be a jackass, but lack of discipline scares me...I see it a lot more now. We have to make sure that the discipline is there, discipline keeps these kids alive." I told him that I agreed completely. He laughed and said, "I really wasn't mad at those guys, you aren't MY Lieutenant...if they had pulled that shit with my Lieutenant I would have bitten em' on the back of the fuckin' neck." I laughed, thanked him, and we saluted one another. I had to chuckle to myself as I continued on......"I just got smoked."

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