Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stupid, and Army Stupid



"If you've got a low IQ, you can be  soldier too." (from the Army marching song "Sound Off")

To me, the movie "Forrest Gump" is proof that anything can be romanticized and therefore distorted. I was talking to an old friend from the Army back in the days during and after the Draft.  We were talking about the truly, profoundly stupid soldiers we had known, served with and served under back in the 1970s.  

The conversation started because I found out at the 70th Armor reunion that one of the soldiers we served with had died a few years ago.  This soldier could not operate an open-end wrench without supervision.  He was funny.  But then we talked about stupid soldiers who were in charge of us.  We both thought of "Jaws." Jaws was our toothless, angry platoon sergeant for a few months.  He had two tours in Viet Nam and if he were serving today would be treated for PTSD.  But he had been brave and he was staying in to "get his 20 (years for a pension)."   Jaws was only funny in retrospect. 

Jaws could not write.  Jaws could barely read.  Jaws also liked to hear himself talk so he would keep us in formation for a half hour or more sometimes saying whatever popped into his head.  If he decided something was wrong, he could not be dissuaded by any argument.  He controlled our lives and tormented us not so much by design, but by our knowing that stubbornness is how stupid people get control of the world swimming around them.  

Which led us to bitch about Forrest Gump.  No one who had ever been under the arbitrary authority of a stupid person could be entertained by that movie.  We both hated it.  

When I re-enlisted in the Army eight years ago, my first squad leader was Army National Guard Stupid--beyond any level of stupid in the regular Army.  Like Jaws, he was missing many teeth and disliked wearing dentures.  He could not write, mumbled, was profoundly paranoid, and was overweight and out of shape.  If Fox News had existed in the 1970s, Jaws might have been as bad, but we will never know.  Clearly, every delusion Glenn Beck could dream up lodged in my squad leader's head.  He was a generator mechanic who could not read wiring diagrams and did circuit troubleshooting by touching wires together to see if they sparked.  He carried a 3-inch thick binder with him everywhere that had paperwork he might need to claim benefits.

My squad leader was eventually barred from re-enlisting in the National Guard, but managed to find a reserve unit that would take him.  While the quality of National Guard soldiers today is far above what it used to be, a few like my 52-year-old squad leader managed to hang on.

"If you've got a low IQ, you can be  soldier too." 





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