Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Die Wacht am Rhein

Apropos of U.S. military junketing, for all the minimal level of public discussion regarding the adventuring going on in places like Yemen and Libya, what I find even more fascinating is the utter lack of discussion regarding the fact that more than twenty years after the last mechanic stopped wrenching on the last T-80 assigned to the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany the U.S. still has something like 50,000 troops stationed in the kasernes they occupied when the Red Horde was poised to roll through the Fulda Gap.
Not advocating one way or the other - seriously; I really have no idea whether or not moving these troops or leaving them where they are would have an impact on either the defense budget or the policy of the U.S. - but IMO the complete indifference of any of the usual suspects here in the Land of the Free Because of the Brave to even mentioning the subject is an interesting non-comment on the state of the "public discussion" regarding What Should We Be Spending That Precious Tax Money On.

But perhaps the citizenry and "leadership" is deeply immersed in the important business of discussing what naughty ladies do with their lady parts to make unborn babies, and are thus distracted.

(n/t to Atrios, who brought this up)


Labrys said...

My gods! That is the somewhat altered front gate of Flint Kaserne in Bad Toelz, Germany!

We spent three years there in the last intact SS training base in Bavaria...bad weather prevented the bombing raid intended for it at the end of WWII, and once the SS left, the townfolk surrendered.

The 10th SFGA had a battalion there, and there was an NCO Academy....all in all, about 450 American families near a lovely historically preserved medieval age town.

FDChief said...

Isn't that great? I loved Flint Kaserne, a classic bit of pre-War German militaria in one of the most gorgeous parts of Bavaria. When I posted this I thought of you. I read some articles that mentioned that the Army had recently spent a bit of cash doing upgrades to the old facilities at FK.

The story I've always heard is that the NCO Academy has this ginormous hallway floored with black tile called "The Authobahn" that the students have to buff to an impossibly glassy shine. Don't know if it's true, but it's a great story.

Labrys said...

Yes, the NCO Academy did have this glossy black hallway. I have to say, even as erstwhile newspaper editor for a year there, I avoided that place like the plague. The cadre there were made of asshole.

I am sure the Flint Kaserne has already been relinquished to the Germans. The work on that gate in the photo was German civilian work, I believe. In the central square there is now a huge spiraling building of businesses.

It was a gorgeous base, I adored our time there. It will forever be one of the places in the world I will never cease being homesick for....I even liked running there, because the landscape thru the seasons was so rewarding to look at as you ran. Seeing fields nearly ritually scythed down by hand as part of the harvest festival will be a treasured mental image for the rest of my life.

FDChief said...

I looked around a little on-line and it does look as though this has been handed back over to the local economy there in Bad Tolz.

I only spent a day or two there during a layover waiting to return to CONUS after a REFORGER in the Eighties. Such a beautiful place, but I, too, heard about the dickhead level at the NCO school...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, while I was editing the community newspaper, one of the top NCOs there came in my office, threw a story he wrote onto my desk and told me to publish it. I read it, told him it was not newsworthy and that I was the editor and decided what to print.

He went to the LTC in charge of the base, my boss, and had me called into his office. (I dearly loved my boss.) He told me how this NCO Asshat had this complaint because I wouldn't print his story about his subordinate who painted fugly portraits and asked me what my job description was.

I replied that I was editor and chief writer and photographer of the COMTOPS newspaper. The LTC smiled at MSG Asshat and said, "See, she knows her job; pity you don't know yours. Now get out of my office."

Sometimes life IS sweet.

FDChief said...

Ohhhh, SNAP!

Gotta love that. What a great story!

Love to hear more of these - especially if you have some snaps of the USAREUR of your time. I'd blogroll you like crazy of you wanted to tell some of your old war stories (hint!)!

Labrys said...

Oh, gods, goddesses and little green-clad men!

We have a ton of pictures from around Tolz; the husband was with Group there, and by then I was long civilian. I'll have to see if he can scan in pics...I don't know if we have as many from Berlin, where we both met while serving at Field Station Berlin.

And yes, I loved that moment and that LTC. The sign outside his door had his name and rank and beneath it, in parens it said "The Leg" ....on a post so heavy in airbornes he liked to make the point that he loved being chairborne!

FDChief said...


I had a 1SG who was a treadhead who loved to piss on airborne types. He would ask them how well armored their uniform shirt was, and whether their wings could outrun an M113 or M60 that caught them in the open.

"Y'know what we used to call you ragmops when we caught up with y'all at REFORGER?" he'd roar. "SPEEDBUMPS!"

Like I said - love to read and see more of your adventures in USAEUR - that whole world is passing or has already passed, and it's just those of us who were there that remember it.

Looking back, our Army and the world we lived in all seems so...sane...compared to the endless imperial wars, the ridiculous "warrior" nonsense, and the public grovelling "Thank you for your service" genuflection the average U.S. citizen seems to have adopted as their default position towards the tiny self-selected group that makes up our Army now.

Anonymous said...

Yes, isn't it bizarre that the age of Mutual Assured Destruction now seems SANE?

Yes, everytime some DOD news release says something like "warfighter training" I want to look for a stewardess to hand me a barf bag.

I liked being a soldier, even one of the "technician" sorts....I was a 98C. And I liked soldiers. One of the girls I went to school with tried to insult me by calling me a "patriotic whore"....and even my father called the WACS the "Whore Corps". I just assumed my most steady eyed expression and snapped back,

"Well, fucking A then, I will make my fortune."

Tomorrow, on my blog....a pic of me in Basic, age 20.

Leon said...

Excellent rebuttal.

I am depressed at today's army-worship. We (civilians) either tend to completely ignore servicemen/women until Nov 11 (and occasionally June 6) or we can't talk to a soldier without gushing to thank them for their service and proclaiming everyone who serves a "hero".

I get the feeling that we're drifting into that kind of military worship in pre-WW1 Germany. And look how well that turned out.

Can't we find a happy medium of respecting and appreciating servicemen and women without losing our critical senses? Don't get me started on this "warrior" bit. The Romans proved that soldiers would beat warriors regularly (as long as you don't constantly indulge in civil wars and have some batshit insane leaders, oh crap...)

Anonymous said...

Precisely. Worshiping the military is on the garden path to fascism.

Soldiers fight as units, under command of superiors, preferably civilian.

Warriors are individuals who fight for glory, wealth, status, etc. Warriors get their asses handed to them by unit cohesive soldiers EVERY time. (Yes, you Celts, I am looking at YOU.)

Lisa said...

Good observation on military worship equating to fascism. The "warrior" rhetoric is troubling.

FDChief said...

Labrys: I re: whoring for the nation, a good friend of mine from Bragg once observed that the difference between what we did and what whores did was that when it was done the whore had made a piece of change for making someone happy instead of dead. He said that made the whore a better person than we were; our only hope was that our work was done for a good enough reason (like preventing some real bastard from ruling someone else) to justify the dead we made.

I have to say that some of the hardest working, smartest, funniest, most decent people I've ever had the pleasure to know are or have been American soldiers. Mind you, we have our share of fucktards, slackers, and dickheads. But I think there's something about soldiering that - if you're a decent sort at heart - tends to knock the bullshit off of life. Or at least it used to. I knew that the Army I knew was changing when I began to run into GIs who would recite Bush Administration (and now, I'm guessing, Obama Administration) propaganda word-for-word. The Army I joined was pretty cynical; we still remembered how we'd been used like a roll of asswipe by the U.S. government in Vietnam and looked on ourselves as Americans first and soldiers second - the descendants of the draftees of WW2, Korea, and Vietnam.

I'm afraid that the "Volar Syndrome" has pretty well taken over; it sounds like a lot of GIs today have drunk the kool-ade. That makes me sad, really.

Looking forward to your trip down memory lane!

FDChief said...

And re: Leon, Labrys, and Lisa's comments - look at Rome; the journey from citizen to subject began in earnest when the Marian reforms turned the draftee Roman Army into a group of long-service "professionals" that came to become, in effect, a separate nation within the Roman state, looking to their officers rather than to the Senate and obedient to their orders rather than the civil laws. Sound familiar?

You can do a lot of thinks from your knees, but standing up for yourself isn't one of them. This bizarre combination of abject "gratitude" (where American civilians are encouraged to speak of and think of everything military as "heroic" and noble and above criticism) and the actual ignorance and cluelessness that most Americans have about GIs, what they do, who they are, and why isn't healthy for a liberal democracy. As you all point out, it has been tried before in various polities and has NEVER turned out well, either for the militaries or the nations involved.

Leon said...

The only thing that will prevent our direct descent to fascism in the near term is... uniforms.

We just don't have that snappy black uniform. Yet.

But once we do, time to fill out emigration papers for Europe.

Lisa said...

Did anyone say, "Hugo Boss"? It's almost here ...