Postcards from Tradocia

guilt of a REMF

On my way to lunch the other day, I paused at the crossing while a column of armored Humvees rolled past. Each one had a gunner sticking out the top, manning either an M2 .50 caliber or an M240B 7.62mm machine gun. Their eyes were concealed behind goggles and their faces behind scarves, so I couldn’t tell you if they looked scared or angry or bored or excited, but they were obviously going somewhere unfriendly. And as they passed, a single, absurd thought shot through my head, unbidden: I wish I was going out with them.

I know what you’re going to say: “Don’t be a retard, Delobius – you’ve got it great, chilling out inside the wire with nary a care but what’s on the menu.” And to that I say: “You’re damn right.” I’m going to be the last person to complain about our living conditions or safety situation.

All the same, though, I’m struck by a certain sense of…guilt? insanity? boredom? obligation? Maybe it’s the constant badgering by active duty soldiers that’s given me a complex, a sense that I have something to prove, that this time next year when I’m strolling around the IGH TACC with a 1st Cav patch on my right shoulder that I’ve earned it.

Maybe it’s a side effect of being in a job where no news is good news, where as in computer support if you do your job good enough you find yourself with no job to do. Maybe it comes from having a fundamentally boring job with little chance for positive feedback. If you go out on a patrol, at the end of the day someone can say, “good job, you bagged X bad guys/handed out Y soccer balls/traded Z frozen chickens for W RPGs.” At the end of my day, what can someone say to me? “Good job, your antenna didn’t fall over today”?

Maybe it has to do with contemplating the answer to the proverbial “Daddy, what did you do in the war?” question. Truth is, no one’s going to believe you if you say you went to Iraq for a year and nothing happened. Given the news reports, the popular image is that Iraq is like Iwo Jima + Tet Offensive, with a little bit of south-central LA thrown in for good measure.

And maybe it’s because while I’m sitting in my truck writing this, warm and safe, others like me are being killed and maimed to protect me. Not in an abstract “Americans fighting for freedom” sort of way, but in a concrete “combat arms soldiers fighting so Signal dorks don’t have to” sort of way.

I’ll stop before I get too maudlin. It’s almost enough to make me want to make a sign that says, “Have You Hugged an 11B Today?”

(11B being the MOS code for infantry, of course…)


  1. sec

    Here’s a link to a story on the issue.

  2. alektra

    I don’t know if you know this, but back here in America, we were aware this was going on for months. The news had been talking about the funding for the military and how you all needed better equipment. This was seen as an anti-Kerry pull.

    Amusing how the same set of facts can be pulled two ways in a matter of weeks.

    I just hope things calm down there and there’s no need for “stronger” equipment.

  3. delobius

    Yeah, I knew it had been going on for a while – Rumsfeld’s recent comments just put it back in the spotlight. I had been meaning to write on the subject for a while now.

  4. SGT P

    Posted a comment on 2Slick’s blog. It is a great site, no doubt. I stuck up a bit for Wilson because he sounds a lot like someone I could identify with to some extent. Anyways, good post once again. I also mentioned our bagpipes scene in the comment. HA! See you back at the cave when you get back from the “Inter Web Shack!”
    (Assuming I’m not on shift when you read this…or asleep.)

  5. Bear

    Hey Pontif,
    –nice post, I chuckled too. (’cause I was there)

    –Big ups for getting world wide recognition!! Canada is watching now. Bon’t crack under the pressure.

    –Field Agent Bear

    P.S. I kinda like the look of the up-armored hoopty, very Mad Max-esque.

  6. sec

    My daughter decided to voice her opinion on this issue:

  7. Anonymous

    SGT P and SPC D-

    I loved both of your comments on my site and I posted a response- it was fun to relive some of the memories that you prompted.

    I liked how you stuck up for Wilson- in retrospect I think I may have been a little too tough on him (of course we had so little information to go on), but I did mention on my first post on the subject that just because he might be one of those “vocal” complainers who “likes to take shots at authority” (those types come in officer form as well!) doesn’t mean he’s a bad soldier. I firmly believe that such soldiers are very necessary for the exact reason that somebody mentioned on my site the other day- the chain of command can brief up the chain and send status reports all day long without seeing any noticable increase in urgency or progress towards what they’re asking for. However, one public comment by Wilson has already prompted the SECARMY to establish a new task force on armor procurement. Having thought about it for a while- I’m absolutely certain that this is why the SECDEF does these meetings, and it’s why he brings the press along. It’s genius really- and it’s why we’re lucky to have soldiers that will “grab sack” and speak out.

    Most soldiers, as you well know, are just like us- we realize that things aren’t always going to be perfect- but we improvise, do the best we can with what we have (even if it’s just sandbags!), and shrug it off with a laugh as we “soldier on.” I think we’re equally lucky to have so many soldiers like that. I guess it just shows that troops come in all shapes and sizes, and we need all of them.

    The guy I wrote about- the one who jumped on SECDEF Cohen- he was one of my all-time favorite troops. My Bn CDR couldn’t stand him- actually booted him from our Bn after he “mouthed off” to the 8th Army CSM (I think the ol’ CSM just took it the wrong way), but I loved that kid. He had a set of brass balls, and I really do believe the Army needs guys like that- it just wouldn’t be good if we were ALL like that!

    Anywho, thanks for all your hard work, and especially thanks for letting America know what’s going on over there- I can tell you that I appreciate it as much as the good citizens back home. I lost too many friends in this war, and I’m not going to sit by while liberal weenies take advantage of our “silent professionalism” and attempt to mislead America into abandoning this worthy cause. What you guys are doing up there (even if you’re a REMF!) will pay huge dividends for our grandchildren and beyond. You guys are the best our nation has to offer…

    Keep up the great work!!!


  8. Ray

    Hey man. I’m late to the party. But, on the off chance that you still get responses let me say this. My dad was a REMF in Vietnam. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here today if he wasn’t. I’m proud of him. I never followed in his footsteps in serving in the military. Mostly, because I didn’t have to. I paid for school another way. But, I often think about what my life would have been like had I done so.

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