We’ve had quite an exciting week here at RedState and it doesn’t show much sign of slowing down. On the site side, we added two new contributors. In the news, it looks like Adam Schiff and his staff were intimately involved in crafting the so-called whistleblower complaint, the IC IG seems to have altered rules to permit the complainant to claim whistleblower status, and even though the Democrats are going whole hog on impeachment the entire mess is (at least to me) the mother of all nothingburgers.
Hog? Burger? That reminds me of a story in a roundabout sorta way. It must be time to get us back on track with Tales of the Infantry.
As I’ve said, back when I was 28 years old, weighed 155 pounds, had a full head of hair and thought beer was food I was anointed by the Almighty to command an infantry company (well, maybe not the Almighty but a two-star and division commander and from an infantry captain’s perspective that was getting damned close to the Divine). Actually two companies. I commanded a Combat Support Company and then when our battalion was transitioned to Light Infantry, my company was disbanded and I was given command of rifle company. This is from that first command.
I’d been in command for just a few weeks when we deployed to Eglin AFB, FL, to participate in a multi-divisional exercise called Bold Eagle. We were wargaming how a regular, foot-mobile infantry division could defend against a mechanized or armored division. The short answer is “not very well.” Anytime anyone starts woofing “smaller and more mobile” as an answer to any military equipment issue I really want to put them in an M151 gun jeep and let them be chased by an M60 tank. There is sort of primordial fear in navigating through a pine barren, dodging trees and being able to look behind you and seeing the trees you dodged being knocked down. I imagine that reaction or tightness in the sphincter and the gonads seeking refuge between the liver and pancreas was imprinted on us by some Cro-Magnon m-fer who’d been chased by a mastadon.
But being chased by tanks is not what this is about.
The Chinese have a delightful saying, 背脊向天人所食」or “if something’s back is facing the sky, it is for people to eat.” (Y’all didn’t know I was fluent in Chinese did you? Well, I’m not.) But there is also something to be said about a bunch of infantrymen who are bored.
The things I remember most about Eglin are the smell of pines, not the air freshener scent but that heavy pine-rosin-in-90-degree-heat-and-100-percent-humidity smell, the sand roads, and the armadillos.
I’d never in my life seen an armadillo before that deployment and neither had most of my troops so they were something of a mystery to us. There were the usual stories about them carrying leprosy but we didn’t see any of them with their noses falling off or ringing little bells and chanting “Unclean! Unclean!” so we wrote it off to the usual alarmist bullsh** that only medical personnel and intelligence weenies will spread. We started wondering what one would taste like…barbecued.
One day, on a recon, I was trundling down a really rough sand road than continually challenged the drive train of the jeep along with my 19-year-old driver. Not twenty yards from us an armadillo poked his face out of the brush and waddled across the road.
Something you have to understand about small unit leadership to appreciate this. Where civilians often see nicely uniformed rows of troops and a strict hierarchy, it is really a lot more nebulous. You rule by personality as much as by rank. It’s like a football team where you’re not only the quarterback but you spend some time as cheerleader (in today’s military, this could involve wearing a revealing miniskirt and makeup, NTTAWWT) and team mascot. The corollary to that is that two men will do stupid sh** that would never occur to one man to do and in an infantry company where being 30 makes you a graybeard, there isn’t a lot of commonsense to spread about in the first place. But if you’re looking for mature, measured leadership, an infantry company is not the first place to look.
My driver looked at me just as I looked at him. It was a magical moment when the minds of the jeep driver and the company commander were as one. He killed the engine and before it had come to a complete halt we had un-assed the vehicle and were “sprinting” through powder-like sand that was over ankle deep towards Mr. Armadillo. The beast looked at us and froze. I don’t think he’d ever seen anything like that before. Then he realized we weren’t out for a Sunday stroll and picked up a double time. We closed in on him. He sprinted in his Hillary-Clinton waddling kind of way. We pursued. Every time we gained on him, we’d glance at each other, and double over laughing and the armadillo had a new lease of life.
In the pine barrens we had an advantage. There was a lot of deadfall that the armadillo had to spend time negotiating and we just hurdled it. Once we got off the sand road we found our speed compared favorably with that of the armadillo and we were more mobile. And we had more endurance. Eventually he figured out that we weren’t going away and did his roll up in a ball thing, which didn’t work out well for him.
We returned to camp in triumph. A fire was prepared. And we had a cook out. It was the nastiest tasting crap I’ve ever eaten in my life outside of something that didn’t have kale or quinoa added.
But the story doesn’t completely end there. One of my troops cleaned out the shell…mostly… and crammed it down over his helmet (we were wearing the steel pots, not the kevlar or “Fritz” helmet). He looked like he was an extra who’d just wandered off the set of Conan the Barbarian.