Friday, December 28, 2012

Show Me Your Papers!

This is my longest comic by far, approached only by an early work about meeting an Arab girl... that should tell you everything you need to know about who I am.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Staff Infection

This (very abridged) story neatly sums up my experience working in staff. When I was in ROTC, I assumed you commissioned and immediately began leading a platoon. In IBOLC I learned that officers waiting for leadership slots would work in staff, helping run their battalion behind the scenes. But I had absolutely no idea what that actually entailed. And with good reason. A battalion's staff is basically a lot of sad captains running around dealing with an endless stream of challenges that the average line soldier (or CDT Schlep) literally could not imagine exist: Corrections of corrections of Risk Assessments (see previous post), Generals' visits, elaborate treasure hunts to determine the location and ownership of property, slideshow/spreadsheet beautification projects, briefings about briefings, surprise deconflictions (get the S6, Alpha's UAVs are operating on the same frequency as Korean electric toothbrushes!), and many more planning, personnel, and supply issues that I still don't even know about.

Unless you are supremely lucky (which, if you've learned anything from this blog, you know is the most important skill to have in the Army), you will find yourself on staff at some point. It may not be while you're an LT, but the siren's call of staff will draw you in eventually (oh yeah - don't think that just because you're an Armor/Infantry officer or a 2LT/1LT/CPT you won't become your battalion S1 or S4!)

However,  I'm fortunate enough to be working under a group of capable, friendly captains with an interest in teaching (which is called "developing" in the Army) us ambient lieutenants. I only hope they all find their way to company command before staff work completely devours their souls. More importantly, I myself may be getting out of here and into a platoon sooner than I thought. All of my training* on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle will finally pay off!

*I definitely have been inside a Bradley before and am totally familiarized with all the guns and cannons and lasers it probably has. 

Monday, December 10, 2012


This post will mean nothing to you if you're not an officer. That's a good thing. In order to prevent any bad thing from ever happening, all Army operations (training and otherwise) must have a CRM (Consolidated Risk Management) Worksheet. You must list every possible hazard (fratricide, heat casualties, bad weather) on the CRM, then how you will mitigate it. Infantile and redundant, like much of what I do professionally, but it can be helpful in forcing you to think of ways to keep things from going wrong. And nobody's really sure about this, but the implication is that if you assess every possible risk, take steps to mitigate it, and everybody still dies at your APFT, you aren't held responsible. If that's not actually how they work, then I have no idea why we write them.

An example of block from the worksheet:

Handling Weapons with Blank Rounds
Ear injury/ hearing loss
All personnel will wear ear protection throughout mission.
PCIs before mission
Platoon Leadership

However, because "moderation" is not part of the Army vocabulary (like "irony," "tasteful," or "personal responsibility"), a CRM will contain dozens of "hazards," and must be completed for EVERYTHING. We recently received guidance from a very high level that all Battalion social events now require CRMs. I created a pretty good one for our Hail & Fairwell that ensured proper measures would be taken to prevent fratricide incidents from soldiers playing darts in the bar.

However, that's a little too specific to be useful for most of you. So here's a great base CRM for day-to-day operations in cold weather, which might help out you LTs who are freezing your gender-appropriate genitalia off training in places like Drum, Richardson, or even Korea. Feel free to use this!

Click below or here if it was too small:
PS "Slipping on ice" and three other "hazards" listed here have made it on to actual assessments in my battalion (have to credit other LTs for some of them though). See if you can guess which ones in the comments section - I'll tell you if you're right.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pretty much the gist of all of the "Welcome to Korea" briefs

Fortunately, I'm about done with US Army Korea's version of freshmen orientation. But some of what I learned was a illumintating - apparently we lead the Army in bad behavior out here (alcohol incidents, sexual assaults, suicides, etc). Lots of soldiers (to include NCOs and officers) getting in trouble, frequently in amusing ways (for anyone other than the parties involved). Sometimes in very unamusing, international incident ways (you can look those up on your own if you want to lose your appetite).

If you come here and endure all of the mandatory briefings and presentations desperately trying to keep you sober, alive, and out of prison, you quickly get the sense that, while standing guard against an unpredictable nuclear dictatorship, this is an army above all at war with itself.

And though I'd love to leave you on that poignant cliche, I'll quickly note that I've arrived at my unit, like the people I'm with, and will be living the glamorous and enviable life of an extra lieutenant on staff until I get a platoon in a few months.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Oh Yeah I'm Over Here Now

Remember when I didn't graduate R-school? Well, I spent so long doing that (or not doing that), that by all estimates I actually missed the chance to deploy with the 101st.* As you can imagine, this would be a rather disappointing turn of events for any new officer with ambitions of a successful career in the Infantry, or one, who, for the sake of argument, we'll say had taken the time to achieve some proficiency in both of the languages of Afghanistan. 

But, I digress. The point is that I decided it was high time I had a positive experience with the Army, and got the adventure I signed up for (not that six months of pooping in the forest and filling sandbags don't count as those). So, see map below:

I volunteered to go to Korea - I needed a change, and in all honesty, something to get me past the envy and guilt I feel when I see half my friends galavanting around Afghanistan without me (I guess I could have just gotten off Facebook, but changing continents was definitely the easier and more enjoyable option).

I haven't been here long, but I've had a grand time so far and it looks like serving in Korea will be a truly unique experience. And when the year's out, of course, I can go back and try my hand at all the really run stuff a second time.

Enjoy the new banner! (You noticed, didn't you?)

*And just about anyone else. Believe me, I put more effort into trying to get over there than just about anyone who's not a Pakistani militant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

LT Sully

This post is for a very dear friend of mine. He's downrange doing the real deal, and has been chronicling his experiences. As it so happens, he's a talented writer and the blog is a real page-turner (page-scroller?), so please take a look at this compelling, and ongoing account of an LT leading a platoon in combat (i.e. the opposite of my blog/career):

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"what happened to war is schlep?"

I didn't drown in in the swamps, though I did briefly try to popularize that theory. What actually happened was that this blog got a little too popular for its own good, and, while I was exploring said swamps, made its way onto the screens of the good folks from my IBOLC company. They did some detective work and figured out it was me (I suspect it didn't take them too long to sort out all of the multilingual Jewish smartasses with 101 patches in my 42-man platoon).

When I returned to Benning, I discovered that I'd been discovered amidst other troubling LT rumors about the reaction to my blog. Though loath to leave you, dear reader, in the dark, I thought it prudent to lock it up until I knew the truth/was a safe distance away. As it happened, I recently ran into some of my instructors, and our conversation went pretty much as depicted above - nobody at 2-11 was mad about it. They also wanted to be drawn into the comic, so here you are, gentlemen. 

I was further encouraged when I finally met up with Don "Carrying the Gun" Gomez. I've out-shouted his blog before, but I feel I should do so again since we had a beer together. His blog has categories like "civil-military relations," "fieldcraft," and "reflections," whereas mine are more like "Benning," "girls," and "schlep." And, unlike me, he does not hide behind the most ineffective pseudonym since Pea Tear Griffin.

Don told me I should definitely keep up the blog (terrible advice, bro). And he almost brought a tear to my eye when he said one of the Google searches that had led to his blog was "what happened to war is schlep?"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Dice

After a prodigious amount of time at R-school, I was dropped for patrols. If the point was training, I've been trained more than most (OK, more than pretty much everybody). If the point was the tab, to impress soldiers, I'm obviously lacking in that respect. I can happily say that I didn't do anything there to be ashamed of (that does not mean I never did anything absolutely ridiculous, in or out of leadership), and that I consistently earned high peer evaluations.

I witnessed (and experienced) some of the most hilarious and tragic events of my life there, but I will respect tradition and not tell any stories (on the internet, anyway) until I've graduated. I'll go back ... eventually. But first I'd like to lead soldiers, or at least do something constructive for anybody for the first time since I've been on active duty.

Being dropped was a disappointment. But I'm still in the Army, still getting paid, and can still reliably impress Middle Eastern girls, and life goes on.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ranger School Tomorrow

Time for an adventure. See you all in two months.

[EDIT 17 October 2012: Whoops!]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Box Checked

I don't intend to offend my Infantry readers here. But how much can something really mean to me that I had to buy on my own, have a buddy attach to my uniform while we were waiting between Maneuver Center HQ and the parking lot, and that literally every student who could pass a PT test and not get injured "earned" the right to wear? It may mean more to me later, but not right now.

All I have to say about IBOLC (until the next paragraph) is that we didn't know the time of our graduation ceremony until the day before, and it was the wrong time. The post-grad reception was held in an on-post Mexican restaurant that nobody knew the location of, and it turned out that the cadre were also handing out final evals and diplomas there. Can't make this stuff up.

I know more now than I did before IBOLC, though it's a modest amount considering that I was there for the equivalent of a college semester. I want to mention all the important things I didn't learn, but that would almost feel like an OPSEC violation. Suffice it to say that you, my soldiers, and the Taliban would be quite surprised.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh yeah, I met Matt Gallager in NY! (also blog shout-outs)

I went to New York City for a few days to celebrate New Year's Eve. It turned out to be a rather humbling night. I checked off the requisites of friends, alcohol, and girls ... but very not in the way I expected. Suffice to say that the night took me through two more boroughs than I wanted it to.

A highlight of the week (I can't call it
the highlight, because that would make my New Year's seem too depressing) was getting to meet up with Matt Gallagher. If you're reading this blog and you don't know who he is ... that's like not have heard of brisket until you found it in an MRE (apologies to my non-Army friends reading, you guys are exempted, and probably didn't understand that last simile, either).

Matt was a Cavalry PL in Iraq and kept a simply fantastic blog (later book), which I followed raptly until he was ordered to close it down after a post that was less than discrete about his feelings for his Battalion Commander. He bears a good share of the responsibility for me making the dumb decision to join the Army, and even more responsibility for the even dumber decision to keep a blog during the shitshow (whoops, meant to write "experience").

I met him at a packed bar (of literary significance, he told me), and I will respectfully say that we had a better, less awkward time than when I met my other Army internet hero (Exum, if you're still checking this blog, I definitely plan to have breakfast with you again, just after my career has progressed some and we have a little more to talk about).

P.S. Let me take this opportunity to plug some other military bloggers I recently discovered. They're special, because they're Infantry 2LTs, just like me (and I'm definitely special because of my blog, so they have to be, too).

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead - This guy is just hilarious. The blog's a pretty detailed description of the IN Officer training cycle that actually makes me laugh out loud.

Fear and Loathing in the Infantry - As the title suggests, this gentleman offers a slightly more literary (which is to say his writing exceeds my late-night Facebook-wall-post level) and thoughtful take on Infantry bizness and other matters of the day. Unlike my other awardees to the coveted War is Schlep postscript space, he has not acknowledged my existence, but according to his blog he has giant eyebrows, so it shouldn't be too hard to ID him if we ever cross paths. He's pretty funny, too.

Also, there's Carrying the Gun, who is older and smarter than all of us. I write "smarter," even though he already has all the combat experience and advanced study I could ever want and is still becoming an IN officer.

P.P.S. While putting together this post, I discovered that all of these guys as well as surprisingly a sizable number of other LTs all have active Twitter accounts. I'm not quite ready to go all the way like that (my Facebook friends are enough of an audience for the vagaries I urgently have to share with others throughout the day) . At any rate, half of their Tweets just seem to be in reference to something Gallagher or Exum put up.

Winter Leave

Little did I know (because I don't read the schedule) that in the coming weeks, I'd be logging more than enough wooded nighttime machine gunning (which in no way kept me too busy to draw - chalk that up to IBOLC-induced ennui). Just one big exercise left, and I'll finally be done with the Army's slowest pre-ranger program.