Postcards from Tradocia

story time with SGT Delobi

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.


  1. Hootenkoop

    You certainly don’t look the part of ‘grizzled war veteran’.

    Maybe you should grow a Rally ‘Stache.

  2. Bob

    Ah yes, the move from part of the solution to part of the problem. Brigades are always great places to work…

  3. Zhen Ji

    Very different from my unit 2/3 are NCOs and we have 4 officers for 20 people in the unit.

    So now you are corrupting the minds of the innocent and impressionable privates?

  4. bryce

    You don’t appear very grizzled to me, but how am I to know. You just seem like the grandson you are.Very interesting blog!

  5. Delobius

    I wouldn’t say “corrupting”…just “subtly influencing.” ;)

  6. Mom and Dad

    Why do people say you can’t shoot at a person with a .50? Do they think it’s against regulations?

  7. The Pontiff

    I remember that argument going on back when we went and was just astounded. Apparently it has to do with some sort of misconception about scales of force, like a .50 cal is overkill on human beings. What I always found rediculous about that argument was that other weapons, like the Mark 19 automatic grenade launcher, don’t fall under the same scrutiny as far as “overkill”, its just the .50 machine gun. WTF?

    Gotta say though, it seems like yesterday when I met SPC Barnes right out of AIT on his first Annual Training out at Ft. Polk. I guess you could say that should have given you a sense of what your career in the MNARNG was going to be like, ie nothing you could have possibly imagined before you got there.

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