Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Follow Me!

The system works! I branched infantry. Of course, the same system would have rewarded me equally for being at exactly the 50th percentile or for offering an extra four years of my life to the Army, but I can be proud knowing I got there "legitimately," by being at the 92nd percentile. Not that it means anything after today - I can't tell you how many generals I've heard brag about what terrible students and cadets they were (OK, I can. Maybe like two).

The next exciting game of craps the Army will play with my future is selecting my BOLC (Basic Officer Leaders Course) date and posting. My choice is due tomorrow. My preference list looks like this:

1. Italy (Vicenza) - 173rd Airborne, elite paratroopers, Restrepo, apparently the Italians don't like us there (shocking) but did I mention it's ITALY?

2. Germany (Grafenwoehr, no idea how to pronounce) - 172nd Infantry, it's heavy infantry, not light like I like, but big girls need lovin' too, and apparently (and mystifyingly) the Germans DO like us there (seriously, what?) and, not to beat a dead horse, but it's in GERMANY (not my favorite European country by far, but still Europe).

3. Ft. Bragg, NC - 82nd Airborne, elite airborne unit #2. Hopefully makes up for what an awful place Bragg would be to live.

4. Ft. Campbell, KY - 101st Airborne, kind of elite technically airborne unit #3, though actually air assault. Still badass, not too far from Nashville, though I already ate at all three of Clarksville's worthwhile restaurants while I was at Pathfinder.

5. Ft. Drum, NY - 10th Mountain Division, tough light infantry, though it gets pretty cold up there.

6. Hawaii (Schofield Barracks) - 25th Infantry Division, also light infantry but their insignia looks kind of like a turd (a strawberry at best). Hawaii would be nice, but I've
never really surfed successfully.

7. Alaska (Ft. Richardson... I hope) -25th ID again, but have a new airborne unit. I really don't want to live in Alaska.

8-10 - No idea. I'll be pretty pissed if I don't get one of my top four ... if it gets down to these last three I'll skip town and join up with the IDF/Foreign Legion/get into Canadian politics.

Note: That's the US Army Infantry song up there, not just some shitty poem I came up with.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Combat-Focused PT (Partying & Tequila)

The most enjoyable part of Pathfinder School for me was getting to spend time (in the classroom, field, and pub) with active Army officers and absorb some of their knowledge/experience/jokes I can't print here (the best of those, of course, came from NCOs). The most prominent (talkative) member of my class (myself excluded) was a Special Forces officer who, as per Army tradition, never missed an opportunity to poke fun at the handful of cadets in the course. When he wasn't regaling an ever-growing group of listeners with stories from selection or 5th Group's trip to Mali, he unleashed his "wit" on the nearest cadet (or the idiot who did the worst job of keeping his head down, whoever that was). I'd guess he had a bad experience during his own ROTC days, but for whatever reason CPT Africa Hot (all the best blogs have pseudonyms) thought Ranger Challenge simply was the most risible thing we did. And he wanted to make sure we were entirely clear on where he stood on the issue.

The idea of us cadets doing extra training for a contest with "Ranger" in the title and thinking we were little badasses for it was beyond stupid to CPT Africa Hot. Why endure unnecessary schlep (my words) at school when we should be devoting our time to "getting wasted and chasing pussy" (his words) ?

And it was those words that came to mind as I agonized whether or not to be on the Ranger Challenge team this year. The team needed me and the extra PT couldn't hurt. On the other hand, having PT three days a week instead of five would open up a crucial third night of drinking. But my friends were still doing the team, and didn't want to let them down. On the other hand, not waking up early Friday morning. But the guilt I could feel ... Then again, partying Thursday night.

CPT Africa Hot had a point. After three weeks of his unsolicited commentary, my mindset began to change. With commissioning less than a year away - and my friends from the class of 2010 already midway through BOLC, a fraternity brother who graduated the year before arriving in Afghanistan, and my school's class of 2008 suffering their first wounded and killed in combat - the Army is steadily shifting from a distant fantasy to an exciting, but serious, reality.

Playing Army now is less appealing now that it's clear I'm going to be living Army. Conversely, I'm never going to get a better time to live like a college student.

As any student of economics will tell you, it's simply most efficient for me to focus on partying while I'm a student and then soldiering once I'm a soldier.

So no Ranger Challenge.

I'm still not a complete dirtbag, and I still put in work I can be proud of as S-3 (training officer), but goal numero uno is to עושה את החיים/
oseh et ha-chaim, "live the life," as Israelis say. To that end, I should mention that I am taking a minimal number of credits, am in only three classes that aren't pass/fail (including ROTC), and essentially have no class Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. That captain had a bigger influence on me than he could have possibly imagined. Thanks to him, my life cycle basically looks like this: