Because of my cushy full-time National Guard job, I was forced to leave the beloved Special Troops Battalion (formerly the Signal Battalion) and move to 1st Brigade headquarters. In many ways, I’m a black sheep there: I’m one of only two signal soldiers in the company – they stuck me with the intel squad, apparently thinking, “intel guys are smart and wear glasses – you’re smart and wear glasses – go over there!” Also, the company is critically short on NCOs so I’m one of the precious few sergeants as well.
This shortage of NCOs (and no officers – not even a company commander at the moment) makes for an interesting scene on drill weekend: an endless sea of privates, as far as the eye can see, all milling about aimlessly, chattering about half-baked theories and quasi-facts as only privates can do. Being fresh out of training, they also still have the TRADOC-ingrained obsequiousness, so it’s all “yes sergeant, no sergeant,” and the whole stand-at-parade-rest-when-talking-to-an-NCO thing, which is just silly.
Last weekend, it became “story time with SGT Delobi,” because I stuck out in a big way. I was
a) the only guy in the company with the new helmet (known as the ACH, or “Dr. Scholl’s kevlar”)
b) the only guy in the company with the Fighting Load Carrier (FLC)
c) one of the few with a combat patch (right shoulder insignia indicating wartime service)
d) I had my super-cool Camelbak BFM backpack with me – since you always bring a bag to the field, even if you don’t think you need it
and e) I whipped out my Canon 5D to take pictures.
So it was an endless procession of “SGT Delobi, is that the new kevlar?” “SGT Delobi, where did you get the combat patch?” “SGT Delobi, is that the new load-bearing gear?” “SGT Delobi, your camera is sooo big!” “SGT Delobi, what the hell is a Multichannel Transmission Systems Operator/Maintainer?” I love a good show and tell session as much as anyone (OK, more than anyone), but this wasn’t show and tell – it was like answering a toddler’s questions.
Furthermore, I had to spend a fair amount of time quashing various pieces of Army Mythology. Most prominent among them was the famous “you can’t shoot a .50-caliber weapon at a human” myth, which is both incredibly persistent and amazingly devoid of common sense. There were other classic hits such as “the five-mile .50-caliber rifle shot” and the “my drill sergeant’s battle buddy had five camel spiders on him and they sucked the life out of him so that you could see his internal organs through his skin” – the latter of which is terrifying but obviously false, since if it were true, the war in Iraq would long ago have ended in a screaming retreat and we’d be having Congressional hearings about why Rumsfeld didn’t anticipate the deadly camel spider threat.
Of course, this is all part of the age-old process by which ancient wisdom (and mythology) gets passed down from grizzled war veterans (like me, ha) to the new troops. I guess I just didn’t expect to be quite so “grizzled” before I turned 30.