YES SIR, THREE BAGS FULL
Do you know The Song That Never Ends?
My buddy CPT Will is living it. If you've been reading here since the Autumn you already know CPT Will. Will was wounded in Baghdad...took some serious burns from a White Phosphorous mortar round and required a skin graft on his leg.
After the surgery and a few weeks convalescence, CPT Will went back to Baghdad. Got his Purple Heart and probably raised the spirits of some of the troops who had seen too many folks for whom combat with the enemy was a one-way trip.
That isn't what this story is about though. This story is about standing tall and determined in the face of adversity.
I first met CPT Will when he moved into the apartment next to ours nearly a couple of years ago. An affable guy, ready with the smile, he's got a few more miles on him than most Captains. He did a good amount of time as an enlisted man before receiving his commission as an officer.
CPT Will came to our neighborhood from elsewhere in Germany. He was sent here because Giessen is home to a unit in which he could become a Company Commander. (Because CPT Will is a Field Artillery Officer, they actually refer to these as "Battery Commands"... hey...what can you expect from folks who refer to themselves as "Redlegs". For our purposes...we'll stick with the term Company Command)
See...that is key. CPT Patti just finished her command...all Captains who aspire to become Majors some day simply MUST be a Company Commander. Wait...make that a successful Company Commander.
And for many officers the rest of the career pales when compared to the eighteen months spent in command of a company. The demands are extreme...but the rewards are greater.
CPT Will came to town...but it is rare that one arrives and waltzes into command just like that. Normally one must pay his dues..."make his bones" I think they call it in the Godfather movies. So CPT Will takes a staff job, works hard...gains the confidence of the Battalion Commander...and is selected to take command.
He was happy. A "line battery" too, meaning his command would include the actual howitzers...doing what Redlegs love to do....reach out and touch someone from thirty miles away.
They selected a date, put it on the unit's Training Calendar. Start the countdown.
And then it came. "Wait. Out." That's old Army radio speak for we'll get back to you.
CPT Will, we've been called up for Operation Iraqi Freedom. We won't execute the Change of Command as we had scheduled. New date? Wait. Out." Meanwhile we want you to stay here while we go to Iraq...and handle all the issues in the rear.
Three bags full, sir is all CPT Will could say. CPT Will is pitching in the minors, wishing and waiting for his call up to the big show.
September 2003...Finally, the call comes.
Baghdad, October 2003. They set a new date. CPT Will is even more ecstatic...taking command...line battery with real artillery pieces...and all manner of bad guys running around begging to be the Target of the Day.
CPT Will "conducts his inventory"...a mind numbing process of accounting for all a unit's equipment...from big guns down to the wrenches in a vehicle's Basic Issue Item set. The inventory is a huge deal...such that Captains are required not only to brief their bosses on every step and result of the process...but also brief their boss's boss.
And then...Incoming! CPT Will gets winged by that Willy Pete round
Medevaced to Landstuhl. As for command...Wait. Out.
Pain, drugs, surgery, therapy and finally a Get Out of Jail Free - if you consider a near death experience and a gimped up leg free card. CPT Will returns to Baghdad.
CPT Will, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is you are going to take command. The bad news is your command will not be a "line battery". It is "Service Battery".
Service Battery is where all the cooks and clerks and wrench-turners work. No canon...no shells...hell, no hearing loss potential at all!. This is the command that is universally avoided by self respecting Field Artillery guys all over the Army.
Yes, Sir...three bags full is all CPT Will could say.
And CPT Will conducted his inventory. From a kitchen on wheels down to the tool boxes.
He finishes...its his second inventory...so far he's touched, smelled, and counted serial numbers on $34 million dollars worth of equipment.
Then, one day in formation, "All captain's who are scheduled to take command of Service Battery...please take two steps forward. Not so fast there, CPT Will!.
What the ?????
CPT Will, seems there is a personnel SNAFU and we need a guy to go back to Giessen and take over the rear again. And well, seeing how you are already trained...and you haven't actually taken command...you get the nod. Oh...as for taking command of Service Battery...you will do that as soon as we bring these guys home from Iraq...lets call it early July. OK?
Three bags full, Sir...its all CPT Will can say. And he flies back to Giessen...this time not on a stretcher...just a week or so ahead of the Advanced Echelon of the 1st Brigade.
8 April, 2003: "1st Brigade has been extended in Iraq...guessing we'll be home sometime in August."
I saw CPT Will last night. I asked "given the changes in the schedule, when will you be taking command."
You know what he told me?
Why tell this story? Yesterday we got news here that changed all that we expected and were excited about. We all whined and cried and today we have begun licking our wounds, so to speak.
It might help us to know that change is going to happen in the Army. It is the nature of our business. The truth is a "fluid and dynamic entity"...that is, the truth changes.
Just ask CPT Will.