I owe an apology to those who have been faithfully reading “American Ranger”. My most recent mission has been to mobilize soldiers who are headed to one of the war zones. I’ve been out of the loop for awhile.
When I was first assigned this mission, I was pleased that I would work with the commander of the unit because I served with him in a previous assignment. He is now a major waiting to be promoted to lieutenant colonel. He is also a West Point graduate, a combat veteran and one helluva leader.
For obvious reasons, I’m not able to discuss the specifics of the unit including the names of its members. I can tell you that I almost joined them in their mission.
The major had a vacancy for an operations sergeant and needed an E-7 with experience. I was honored that he asked me to take the position.
I knew my unit might not release me again (because they have a lot of training commitments on the horizon.) The major made his own inquiries and came back with the same answer: No, they would not let me go.
I have already been through this before and expected that this would be the case once again. Although I would prefer one more tour in one of the war zones, it will probably not happen at this point. I am a soldier and I will follow my orders.
The sad part is that the soldier ordered to fill the position is an E-6 who has already been to war. He and his wife have a new baby and, although he would prefer to stay home right now, he is a professional and he has embraced his mission.
As I have watched these soldiers prepare for their deployment, I am once again filled with a deep sense of pride. Some of them are relatively new to the Army and they have that wide-eyed look of those who are about to face real IEDs and bad guys. They ask a lot of questions and, fortunately, this old soldier has a lot of answers.
Even more importantly, I feel an obligation to help them understand the importance of teamwork, professionalism and the need to learn everything they can about the real world of war – before they arrive in the war zone. They seem to have taken this to heart and they are like sponges as they absorb the knowledge and training necessary for the greatest adventure of their lives.
Fortunately, they have some hard-core veterans with them – soldiers who know what war is all about and who have taken these youngsters under their wings. It’s always been that way.
In my first war, my best teacher was my platoon sergeant. He is the one who taught me how to read trails in Vietnam, how to figure out where the enemy would build his bunkers, how the enemy mind worked and even how the enemy smelled. I learned that one must think like the enemy in order to defeat him.
Old soldiers have always tried to teach, coach and mentor the young ones. It is a tried and true system that has worked for American forces throughout our military history.
It has also been said that real warriors have a natural instinct to move to the sound of the guns because that is where their comrades are. I still feel that sense of urgency and probably always will.
I wish I could be with them.
SFC Chuck Grist