Hobbit@Law

Looking carefully at that which is unseen.

Thinking about: My Army Life

I have, I believe, what may be the only “D” grade in Penn State ROTC history. Might be a C – I’m not pulling out my transcripts to be sure – but the reason for the less-than-stellar grade was my writing of an operations order in which I had to get a mechanized infantry company across a river in the face of Soviet (yes, that long ago) opposition. There were four enemy bunkers on the other side, along with other unknown unknowns. The standard solution was “lay down smoke and have the APCs cross the river” or something like that. I went for a different approach – I planned to begin the assault by having my vehicles equipped with wire-guided missiles put 17.5 pounds of high explosive through the front window of each bunker, giving the machinegunners inside something to think about (like, “Where the heck’s my liver???) rather than shooting up my troops. My discourse with the captain criticizing my plan went something like this:

CPT: You can’t use TOW missiles on bunkers.

Me: Why not?

CPT: They’re an anti-tank weapon.

Me: So?

CPT: What if the Soviets have tanks?

Me: We reload.

CPT: What if they have more tanks?

Me: Then we’re an infantry company attacking a Soviet armor battalion and we’re so far beyond screwed that the light from Screwed will never catch up.

My grade was also far beyond screwed.

Fast forward to Desert Storm. And what were TOW missiles being used for, just 10 years later? Bunker busting. Why? Because the things can’t hit moving targets worth a damn.

Likewise, a decade of experience playing US Army led me to have no illusions that all “training” was carefully scripted play, rather than reality based. We held up an armor battalion in Germany for several hours (waiting for the backerei to open so we could buy streusel) by “blowing up” a bridge that wasn’t supposed to be destroyed. Took ‘em two freakin’ hours to finally get troops across the large stream, troops who found nothing left of our defense but streusel fumes. Our unit was taken out of play for messing up the “plan.” On another occasion a company commander parked his tank on a bare grassy knoll (to better see, not to assassinate a president) and despite being scouts we used our MILES laser system to “destroy” his tank. It interfered with the play and we were forced to hand over all the keys to our lasers.

Even while still enlisted, I would often opine that “real” training would consist of things like taking a hodgepodge of units – two scout sections, a bridging vehicle, three tanks from two different battalions, a couple of support unit trucks, and one piece of field artillery – and handing them to two captains and a lieutenant, and making THAT the element being “tested and trained.” Never happened.

But apparently, like with the TOW missiles, reality has taken notice yet again of the dusty old Hobbit View, and the Armed Forces Journal has now noted that the Army doesn’t really have much in the way of actual training nor truly serious combat experience. Makes me wonder how they’re going to do if called up to do something on the domestic front – when dealing with a lot of freaks like me who don’t play the game the way the Army wants it played.

Got popcorn, Remnant?

3 responses to “Thinking about: My Army Life

  1. Jim Bovard March 7, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Excellent riff! I hope you posted this multiple other places.

  2. Hobbit@Law March 9, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    What are these “other places” whereof you speak? ;-)

  3. columbuscynic September 9, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I happened across this from the AFJ article you referenced and laughed at the discussion.
    Yep, you have the same point that a lot of us have been grumbling about… still.

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