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Postcards from Tradocia

A Fistful of COMSEC

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A few too many late nights at the shop

Today marks only our second week here, but it feels like an eternity. As you can see in the picture to the left, two weeks of sixteen hour days have reduced us to the mental state of drunk chicks on Facebook. This photo was taken on one of our good nights, where we weren’t bickering about some weird detail of computer equipment or trying to make sense of the rat’s nest of intertwined plans that are somehow designed to drive this organization towards the war.

I guess what we’re experiencing would be called the “fog of war,” except that we’re not in the war yet and everything that’s happening to us is self-inflicted. It’s like fratricide on a vast, organizational scale; killing us with spreadsheets and regulations instead of bullets and explosives.

It’s hard to estimate how many spreadsheets even our modest shop produces in a day. Every task, roster, list, and table needs to be captured and have a “tracker;” so two to five new spreadsheets a day would be a reasonable guess. I suppose there isn’t much other way to keep track of stuff; we don’t have enough room on the walls for endless whiteboards, so spreadsheets it is. Still, I cringe when I think about the man-hours spent on creating beautiful color spreadsheets to track tasks that take less time to complete than the thing made to track them.

The uniform situation is another way in which we kill ourselves a little bit each day. First, the infamous reflective belt: a simple, fluorescent-colored belt, designed to make you more visible. It’s a fine idea for periods of low visibility, especially while riding a bike or something. But the Army definitely believes that you can’t have too much of a good thing, thus the rules: belt worn all the time with the PT uniform, and worn with ACUs during low visibility. This of course becomes expanded by some units – so as to make GODDAMN SURE the rule is met – that it’s worn any time before breakfast and after dinner. I think it’s also required if you’re riding in the back of a troop carrier (like a 5-ton truck or LMTV). I protested the whole thing in front of our previous first sergeant, and his response was, “well, if it saves one soldier’s life, it’s worth it.” Where does it end, then? Reflective bodysuits?

The Army Combat Shirt (ACS) is another example. The ACS is a nifty shirt designed to be worn under body armor. It’s light, cool, and close-fitting, for better mobility and comfort. It’s a great piece of kit, which naturally means its wear must be brutally restricted. Naturally, it can only be worn with body armor, but additionally, we could only wear it with these restrictions: a) only with flame-resistant ACU pants (not regular); b) you must carry a FRACU top and tan undershirt with you while wearing it and c) you must put on your undershirt and FRACU top if you take off your body armor. Thankfully, the last two restrictions more or less went out the window when the first sergeant started walking around before and after our training convoys wearing his ACS with nothing over it (the horror!). Nevertheless, the angst and heated discussion that surrounded the whole situation was energy that could’ve been better spent on more important things.

Luckily, our “army guy” training is out of the way, so now we can concentrate on our actual jobs of networking, communications, and cursing the names of our higher headquarters (Eagle Brigade! Above the Best! Set the Standard! Yell Cliches Loudly!). I’ll write about the Wheel of Taclanes to which we’ve been strapped, rotating slowly in agony, in a future post, but suffice it to say that it sometimes feels like we’re the first unit to ever mobilize here. One would think that they’d have the network figured out by now, but…

2 Comments

  1. Carry a second uniform with for no practical purpose?

    The more time I spend in the Army, the more I’m convinced that senior officers and NCOs are occasionally possessed by malevolent demons who make really awful regulations seem like a good idea.

    Other people call them ‘good idea fairies’. I think it’s more insidious than that.

    Demons, I tell you. It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

  2. The problem stems from an obsession on making the art of war so “safe” that it’s counter-intuitive. The other issue is that senior leaders get so beat up for the smallest infraction when it comes to non-combat related injuries that they just steer as far around any possibility as possible.

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