Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2013

That's Not the REAL Words to those Marching Songs!!!

On Monday this week we marched to the gym for our morning workout.  We formed up at 4:50 a.m. and returned at 6 a.m., so we marched both ways in the dark.

On the way to the gym, SFC Wilkerson sang the marching songs.  On the way back it was SFC Bennett.  They are as different as two men with the same training and the same job can be.  Wilkerson yells, Bennett can sing.  Marching a mile with Wilkerson is dull.  With Bennett calling cadence I feel like I could march to Baltimore from Fort Meade.

But it struck me this morning much more than in the last three months just how completely neutered our marching songs are.  When I joined the Air Force in 1972 and when I re-enlisted as a tank crewman in the Army in 1975, I marched to songs that sounded like young warriors were singing.

In the 1972 we marched to songs about killing Viet Cong, and crushing North Viet Nam.  One particularly nasty song had the refrain "Napalm sticks to kids."  And the sexist songs were so over the top a…

Be Careful Playing Age Card

On Friday morning last week we had a company formation run.

These runs suck.  Nearly 100 soldiers run two miles at a pace we can stay together.  That usually means 11-minute miles and trying to keeping from tripping over the soldier in front of me.

Before this company run a drug and alcohol counselor led us in rah-rah anti-drug cheers.  When he said Army, we said, Drug Free.

Then he said he was going to run with us and call some special cadence.  He did, for a few hundred yards, then sergeants from our unit took over, then he called for a few minutes near the end.  The run took 26 minutes:  13-minute miles!!

When we were back on the parade field, the drug counselor led us in a few more cheers.  His jacket was off.   He was sweating.  This painfully slow run was clearly a big effort for him.

Then he said to all of us, "I'm 60 years old and I can still do this!"  I was in the back row of the formation.  There was some laughter around me.  He didn't know there was a 60…

Faith in the Army, Part 3: Bigger World, Smaller Christian World

"To define is to limit," said Oscar Wilde.  In this self-examination of faith I started a few days ago I realized that another vast difference between Sgt. Gussman the new believer in 1974 and Sgt. Gussman in 2007 when I re-enlisted is three college degrees and much personal experience of many facets of the Church in this world.

In one of his best books on the faith, C.S. Lewis wrote about the "Mere Christianity" we all share if we are Christian believers.  Thirty-five years of reading and re-reading C.S. Lewis' 39 books and many hundreds more have left me much more aware, sad to say, of everything that is not mere Christianity.  The stuff we don't share looms large in my mind.
As a new believer, I wondered about different denominations of the Protestant Church, different faiths, different versions of the Bible, different ways of communicating the faith, and spiritual disciplines.  I tried lots of them.  I listened to James Robinson preach in stadiums in T…

Faith in the Army, Part 2

I got several responses on Facebook about this post, and two in person.  Two sergeants in my class seemed worried about me this morning after they read yesterday's post.

After reading the responses on Facebook and talking to Brian and Lealan (not a misspelling) I was thinking about something else vastly different abut my current experience of the military.  In the 70s when I was on active duty, I shared long stretches of time with the men who became my best friends.

For several months, I was Cliff's roommate.  For almost three years, Abel and I were in the same tank platoon.  For a while we commanded tanks next to each other in the motor pool and in road march order.

Shared time, better yet, shared hardship, is the best soil for friendships to grow in.  The time is the soil, the hardship is the fertilizer.  So Abel and I had time for endless conversations about faith, the Bible, the second coming, whether Pentacostal believers were crazy or more faithful than us, and a tho…

Faith in the Army?

The pictures would seem to clear up my ambiguous headline:  is this post about being a person of faith who is in the military, or about having faith in the Army as an institution.
The answer is yes to both.  And then again, no.
Some recent comments by several friends indicate that I am complaining more about my current stint of active duty than about Iraq, Fort Sill, and every I have served since I re-enlisted.
Long-time readers of this blog will also remember that my intent in re-enlisting was to serve, to face the hardships of an old man in a young man's game, and that I would strengthen my faith.
If you are laughing at the idea of joining the Army to become a stronger man of faith, you should be.  But the error was an honest one on my part.  Joining the military more than 40years ago was the path I took from vague agnosticism to faith.  
All through my first years in the military, I made many friends who were serious believers.  They were mostly young men, though some were old…

Army Weak!

The Army will be getting a new fitness uniform soon to replace the current gray and black uniform that is Army ugly.

I saw the new uniform in the clothing sales store on Fort Meade.  I noticed that "Army Strong" was written on the sleeve of the uniform.

I smiled.

When I came to Fort Meade and started Army PT at 4am, I scored a 297 on the PT test.  Since then my fitness has declined.  Before I came to Meade I was training for an Ironman triathlon, adding about a mile a month since swimming two miles in January.  Now I am declining.  I ran a marathon in March and have barely run 30 miles a month since I have been here.  I ride everywhere on post but now my total miles have dropped from 800+ to less than 700 per month.

Am I whining?


By being forced to do Army basic trainee PT five days a week, I do far less exercise than I would have on my own.  And now it's starting to show.

This may be a good PT program for people who watch movies and play video games if they are…

Another Reason the Air Force Laughs at us: Thursday Mentorship Training

Among the many ill-conceived programs we endure at school, the Thursday mentorship program for Army soldiers is one of the dumbest.
Each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. we gather in a conference room of the main school building and listen to a one-hour lecture about what our job will be like out in the field.At least, that is how the lecture is billed.
In reality, exactly one of the lectures had any real connection to our immediate future in Army Public Affairs.But these lectures do have an effect on our school experience.
They are one more ill-conceived and unnecessary aggravation.
We get up at 4 a.m. each morning to do PT (Physical Training) and have eight hours of classes each day finishing at 4 p.m.Adding a lecture that will not be graded at the end of a 12-hour day would be nasty if it were interesting.But these lectures are farther off topic than cold-weather survival training in Mogadishu, Somalia.
With one exception, these lectures are far above our pay grade, and focused on active-dut…

We Won’t Be Heroes Forever

I read a post on Facebook about a woman who lost her job because she bitched about veterans getting discounts and being called heroes.She had very little support, but she had some.
The on-going government shut down, like the sequester, spreads pain unevenly across America.Like any Republican program, it will hurt the poor more than the rich, but any cut in government programs will eventually cut veteran’s benefits.So the Republicans quickly moved to restore benefits to veterans.
Sounds like something good.It might be good in the short term, but government is a zero-sum game.If you give money one place you take it from another.So veterans get benefits, but Headstart and school-lunch programs remain without money.
If the shutdown is a good idea, then veterans should be screwed along with kids and cancer patients.Because if we are not, eventually all those who care about kids and cancer patients will remember that veterans got bennies when they did not.
I served when during Viet Nam whe…

When We March Before Dawn

CS Lewis said one of the great pleasures in his life was listening to male laughter.One morning last week we were marching just past 5 a.m. and I suddenly remembered how much I like the sound of men singing.
Our platoon sergeant has the kind of voice born to call cadence, so the whole formation sounds best when he is marching us.Also, when we form up to march, the short people move forward and the tall people go to the rear.This is standard practice in military formations, but it has the side effect of making putting the women in the front and the men in the back.
I am just about six feet tall.With 80 soldiers in four ranks, I am near the back and surrounded by the men with the deepest voices.With the platoon sergeant’s voice ringing out in the cold morning air, the formation echoed his calls loud and strong for the half-mile march to the gymnasium.

Fascinating Foodie--My First Feature at Army Journalism School

Today is the second day of the government shutdown.  Among those on furlough is my primary writing instructor, Peter Robertson.  My first feature was about him as a foodie.  I hope you like the story.  He is an interesting guy in many ways, long career as a Navy public affairs NCO, an avid comic book collector, and a stand-up comic among other things.
Now he is one of the hundreds of thousands of government employees deemed non-essential.  I hope this ends soon.  Our writing class wants him back! 


Peter Robertson, a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School here, is living proof that a “foodie” is made, not born.As a child he wanted macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, and chicken fingers.He and his younger brother protested when their mom made falafel and other foods outside their narrow, mostly fried, favorites.
Now Robertson loves to cook and eat international cuisine.He sees food as a door to culture and a way to preserve and share memories.Two experi…