The Chicken Hawk
Adding Tommy Batboy to the Ranger Up team has made a huge difference – he’s energetic, a natural salesman, has great stories, and works his ass off 24/7 to tell the world about Ranger Up. One of the unexpected things that has come out of the Tommy Batboy acquisition; however, is that I have realized that I am a giant dumbass. Now, this in itself was no surprise to me, but as I started telling him more stories about my military career, the depth and breadth of my dumbassery really came to light. As such, on occasion, I will tell a story from the Dumbass Collection.
Nobody likes a UMO.
The Unit Movement Officer is the guy who is responsible for making sure that all of the people, weapons, ammo, and equipment gets from the deploying base to the combat area and back. For our task force that was like 1280 people and 350 vehicles and all their associated crap. To make the job even sweeter, despite its difficulty, the holder of the title garners roughly the same amount of respect as a forty-year old virgin male wearing a Member’s Only jacket while carrying a bucket of twenty-sided die and showing off his extensive collection of porcelain dolphins, which rests on a series of shelves shaped like one giant dolphin.
Armed with a never-ending list of mundane tasks that require hours of effort, the UMO is like an anti-magnet for troops. Once afflicted with the title, even I wanted to kick my own gullible ass for getting tricked into the job. Soldiers would jump over fences, hurdle ditches, and hide in trash bins just to avoid getting sucked into the deployment vortex that followed me everywhere I went. One guy who I approached at a street corner threw himself onto the hood of a passing car just to make a quick escape.
After a few skin grafts he was okay.
But hey, at least I was the greenest of green butterbars. That would be a whole bag full of help. With gobs of formal authority on my side and a mission no one wanted to be associated with to execute, I was as giddy as Jem was when she played with the Holograms. Seriously, only someone who believed in unicorns that eat four leaf clovers and shit rainbows could find the fun in this duty…or Detective John Kimball. But, I had a mission to do, and I cobbled together the necessary personnel and we planned to meet at O-Dark-Hundred to get the party started.
The Rail Site
We’d been loading railcars since 0400 that morning in the uniform of the day-BDU’s with kevlar helmet, work gloves, and the brightest blaze orange vest that not even Dick Cheney would shoot at, when I saw a flicker of a shadow enter into my peripheral vision. The shadow was V-shaped – a bird? A plane? Nay my friends – twas the Chicken Hawk.
The Chicken Hawk was our Command Sergeant Major, and he had arrived a full six and a half hours after we had begun working. Normally, a sergeant major would never be disrespected, but the Chicken Hawk had earned his moniker:
1) He routinely talked shit about combat and he had never deployed. Please understand that not having deployed anywhere doesn’t make you less of a soldier – unless you’re ducking it (we all know who these guys are) there’s no controlling when conflicts pop up or whether your unit is going, but this guy had a Rambo complex and he had exactly the same number of days in sector that I did at the time.
2) He felt he was above the standards. He was the kind of dude that would have a formation at 0500 with the whole battalion in ACUs and would show up in PTs. He would criticize young NCOs for scoring a 289 (one point below excellent) on a PT test, while he skillfully avoided ever taking one. You get the picture.
3) He had a really bad case of ILS (imaginary lat syndrome). This is an affliction where someone, despite being grossly out of shape and never working out believes that he is very muscular. The primary symptom of this disease is that the victim holds his arms out at a 45 degree angle from his body, as if his arms were sitting on imaginary lat muscles.
Anyway, the Chicken Hawk walks up to me, and I am expecting some kind words of encouragement – not for me – but for all the guys who have been busting their asses all morning, while he was asleep, then skipping PT, and then reading the newspaper at the bowling alley.
I did not receive those words.
At this point I will reiterate that the uniform of the day was BDUs, Kevlar helmet, work gloves, and an orange reflective vest. We were wearing these items because we were moving heavy equipment onto rail cars and we wanted to avoid injuries. The railcar site was several miles from the battalion area and we had no easy way to get back and forth, as we had driven all the vehicles down here in the first place. Once we were down there, we realized one of the Charlie company guys had forgotten his reflective vest. Since I was not going to actually be driving equipment, loading equipment, or doing anything other than officering from the sidelines, I gave him mine, and in its place put two crisscrossed yellow reflective belts.
Was I out of uniform? Yes.
Was it my fault that I didn’t perform a pre combat check of all the guys before we rolled down there at 0400? Yes.
Should I have just sent that young soldier walking back to the battalion area to get himself a vest? Yes.
Was the commander’s intent of a safe work environment being enforced the way I had it all going down? Yes.
So there is the Chicken Hawk, in all his glory, wearing a worn out old soft cap, cook-white BDUs bulging where his flat belly had been replaced with a markedly more rotund one, no vest or belts, and no gloves, and he stops a good 20 feet away from me so he can use his booming voice.
ChickenHawk: Hey Sergeant G – do you know why you’re wrong?
SGT G: No sergeant major.
CH: You see anything out of place?
SGT G: No sergeant major.
CH: Really? Nothing that seems out of the standard?
SGT G: No sergeant major.
CH: What’s the uniform of the day down here?
SGT G realizes he has to sell me out. You can tell he is uncomfortable.
SGT G: Sergeant major, it is Kevlar and gloves.
SGT G is a good man.
CH: And what else?
SGT G: And reflective gear, sergeant major.
SGT G is a really good man.
CH: Just reflective gear, SGT G or should it be a reflective vest?
SGT G is defeated.
SGT G: It should be a reflective vest sergeant major.
CH: You see anything out of place, SGT G?
Me: Sergeant Major, I got it.
CH (loudly): Sir, I don’t think you do! There’s a reason we follow standards. If you don’t follow a standard in combat, you’re going to get people killed. You lieutenants think everything applies to everyone but you, but that’s not the case!
Me (holding in aggravation): Roger, sergeant major. I got it.
CH (loud as hell): Sir, I don’t want to see this lack of discipline again. That Ranger Tab on your shoulder doesn’t mean shit to me. You’re out here with my guys and you’re setting a bad example. That’s not what a leader does. Do all the other LTs out here have reflective vests on? Yes! Do all my NCOs have reflective vests on? Yes! There’s only one man here out of uniform and it’s the man in charge. Fix it!
This is the point where a good officer just accepts the fact that he just got dressed down by his sergeant major. A good officer would say, “While this hardly seems fair, considering the variables involved in this current situation, I accept the fact that I am in charge and everything that happens or fails to happen while I am in charge is my responsibility, and I am clearly not in the uniform of the day.”
I had a different reaction.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Me (loud as hell): HEY, SGT G!!!
SGT G (knowing me, is very worried): Yes, sir?
Me (loud as hell): Have you seen the new Kevlar helmet!?!
SGT G: No, sir.
Me (loud as hell): Yeah, it’s great! It looks just like a soft cap! You can buy it at the PX right next to the invisible work gloves and invisible reflective vest!
The Chicken Hawk turned redder than I have ever seen a man turn. He would have killed me if his 45 degree angled arms could reach me. Everyone else had that “Holy shit! That’s both the funniest thing I’ve ever heard, but I also know that the LT just went way over the line and will pay a heavy price for this” look on their face.
The Chicken Hawk looked at me like he was going to kill me, muttered, “I’ll talk to you later” and left.
As he drove away, the place erupted into laughter.
Thirty minutes later I was getting my ass chewed by my battalion commander.
I had my vest on.
Copyright of Nick