Monday, September 10, 2007

Faith, Always Faithful, Above & Below.

It was about 2145, and nothing much was going on at the base. Bored and with all of my duties complete for the time being, I decided to walk over to the Company Command Center and see what was crackin' before I hit the rack. I slung my rifle and started walking down the rows of cans (living quarters), passing the heads, down to the temporary vehicle staging area, alongside Company Command. Kicking the dust from my boots, I cracked open the door and stepped inside.

Taking off my boonie cover, I noticed that everyone had retired for the night save for the duty. Duty for tonight was a Lcpl. Schmukatelli. The good Lcpl. was busy entering notations into the duty log and marking positions of our and friendly units on the map that covered one entire wall. Every time somebody would call in with a sitrep, he would mark the unit's location with a pin on the map. Any contact, IED or mine encounter, another pin. The map still did not have too many pins. That would change.

Desks that lined the far wall had a number of radios, tuned to our company channel and those of anybody else that was out on the town for the night. The good stuff that I was interested in was perched atop the mini fridge full of lukewarm Gatorade and Dr Pepper (war is hell). It was the Coffee machine.

As far as I was concerned, coffee is one of the food groups, and an important one at that. I carefully poured the coffee into an empty water bottle cut in half (adapt, improvise, and overcome), watched as the plastic started to warp, and added the sugar and creamer that would make the stuff half-way palatable. There was good Coffee on the base, but Company Command was not known for it. A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do when the base's Starbucks was closed for the night. (I told you war is hell)

The Lcpl. finished his notations as I started scrounging around for something to stir my coffee. No straws, the collection of licorice on the main table would melt, so I grabbed my pen from my cammie blouse. Eyeballing the pen, I determined that it wasn't quite grimy enough to kill me, so I sighed, stuck it in my coffee, and began to stir. As I stirred, I carefully mixed in vanilla power 'appropriated' from the chow hall.

It's the little things, you see.

I wandered over to the wall map to see if there had been anything occurring in the past 4 hours or so since my own squad came back from patrol. I took a sip, and promptly spit it out, narrowly avoiding spitting up all over the map because...

1) This was the. Worst. Coffee. Ever. About a million times worse than usual. I had figured that the vanilla powder would make the normally mediocre coffee pretty good, but I hadn't taken into account somebody apparently taking a dump in the coffee machine's water reservoir. Silly me.

2) The Lcpl. had returned to his DVD played situated on a corner of the table in the middle of the room and resumed his movie. I believe it was Paris' expose, and it was definitely a little on the loud side. Got nothing against that kind of stuff, would have been better if it was someone else, I just wasn't expecting it as I had my back turned and was trying to read the various chicken scratch of the Marines in Command during the day. Besides, I'd already seen it.


3) One of the other squad leaders called in, and there was definitely some stuff going on, over on his end of the phone. His first transmission was to announce that he had some contact and wanted us to stand by for a sitrep. Short controlled bursts of fire could be heard when he transmitted.

The Lcpl leaped for the radios as I pounded on the wall map and shouted 'Contact!'

The other side of the wall map was the CO's can.

As I chucked the half bottle of crapwater into the trash can, I pushed open the door and nearly killed the CO on his way in. After doing a little tap dance in the door entry, he came in and asked what was going on. I told him that Sgt. Disco had contact and I was going to get my boys out of the rack and staged at the vehicles, ready to go out. The Lcpl. started a more in-depth briefing.

Getting my guys ready to go was easier said than done. It wasn't difficult in the sense that they didn't want to go, that wasn't even part of the question. When somebody needed help, whether it was one of our Marines, any other Marines, heck even Army or convoy peeps we were ready to haul ass to wherever we were needed. The thing was, we had recently returned from our own patrol, and the latest and greatest word that we had gotten was that we were off the rotation until tomorrow afternoon. A few questions confirmed that we were not scheduled for QRF (Quick Reaction Force), back-up QRF, or anything else. I had guys in the head, guys visiting other Marines, and guys at the gym.

Clusterfuck at a double time...march!!

I eventually got ahold of my second, told him the situation and what I wanted from the squad. As I returned to Command, I could hear him running throughout the squads, bellowing at the top of his voice for all of our Marines to gear up and stage at the vehicles. They came running.

Stepping back into Command, there was quite a bit more activity. The XO, a hand full of Staff NCOs, and the scheduled QRF Squad Leader were all in there. Paris was no longer displaying her, ah, 'assets'. I told one of the Staff Sergeants that my guys were getting ready to go out if needed. He thanked me, told me that it probably wouldn't be needed, and asked me to step outside the door, to give them some room.

I stepped outside on the balcony and lit up a cigar that I had been carrying around. With the door cracked, I could still hear just about everything from inside the room, the periodic radio transmissions from Sgt. Disco, the calls from Battalion requesting another sitrep, and the discussion of the Marines gathered for the festivities. As the base was for the most part lights out, everything outside the cans was lit by moonlight, and the stars were awesome. I don't think I had seen the stars like that since I was a kid, in Minnesota.

I was distracted from the stars by another request for info from Higher Command. I could tell that the CO was getting a little frustrated with the situation. Word from Sgt. Disco was that the situation was not looking like it was going to be the end of the world, just a minor spray and pray incident, but it might be a good idea to launch the QRF, just in case. The QRF was doing just that. Sgt. Disco responded to all other requests for information with 'Stand by', or 'Wait one'. It would have been nice to know what was going on, but other than location of the squad in contact and the squad responding, there was nothing that my CO could tell Higher. We knew that the good Sergeant probably was just a wee bit occupied at the moment, and would inform us as soon as he could.

Higher called back, requesting another sitrep. The CO told Lcpl Schmukatelli to give him the handset. The CO put the set to his ear, and quietly asked the Corporal on the other end to give the phone to the Lt. Col. My CO was still calm, low-spoken, and clear when he told the LtCol. that he had the utmost in confidence of the Sergeant on the scene, there was no need to constantly badger Company with requests for updates, they would know all the details as soon as we did. It wasn't insubordination, it wasn't long, but it told us of the absolute trust that he had in his Marines, despite the difficult situation. In return, he earned more than a little from our end as well.

I left Company Command and walked to my squad's Hummers. The Marines were disappointed that there was nothing for us to do, but grateful that nobody had gotten hurt. As the guys filtered back to their racks, I spent another 20 minutes, just looking at the night sky.


Anonymous said...

That's leadership. Wish more officers had that kind of trust in their men.

Anonymous said...

BTW, love your blog!

Murphy said...