Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Limits of My Post

So apparently some nutter went and shot up several military facilities in Tennessee and ended up killing five troopers; four U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy logistician.

Everybody was very sad about this, except possibly for the theocratic lunatics in the Middle East that have been on the receiving end of the ordnance delivered by (presumably) USAF aircraft. The degree to which the shooter identified with and wanted to be one of those lunatics is still uncertain but likely to be considerable. That was his problem. The fact that a Muslim theocratic looney wanna-be wanted to shoot up U.S. Navy and recruiting facilities has a lot to do with the number of Muslims that the U.S. has shot up since 2001. That's our problem; when you insist on jamming your head in the beehive it is extremely likely you'll get stung by the bees.

But that wasn't what got me thinking.

It was, instead, the instinctive reaction of the wingnut politicians including Bush, Walker, and (of course) Trump to the "best solution" to the fact that Muslim nuts want to kill U.S. troopers, and it had nothing to do with spending less time killing Muslims and thereby provoking Muslim nuts.

The Donald pretty much spoke for all of these gasbags when he said: "This sick guy had guns and shot them down. These are decorated people. These are people who could have handled guns very easily. They would have had a good chance if they had a gun."

Which, as much as anything this moron has ever said, tells me everything I need to know about the room-temperature-level of his IQ.

But it also made me think about this story, which I think tells you everything you need to know about what I think is very likely to happen if every armory, reserve center, and recruiter has an armed Joe pulling guard.


When I got out of the RA - and I should really tell you the story of my first post-active duty assignment, an Army Reserve mobile hospital in Lancaster, PA - I bounced around through a couple of outfits. I finally got my bump to E-6/Staff Sergeant and in the process got shifted over to a Reserve Combat Engineer outfit. This was a "heavy" engineer unit tasked more with construction missions rather than a sapper sort of outfit, and for a former light infantryman the setup was pretty plush. We had an aid station tent with a big old Deuce-and-a-half truck to carry it and all our medical kit around in and a couple of the old M718 quarter-ton field light ambulances for evacuation. We got to drive everywhere, and as one of Ramses' medics is said to have scratched in hieroglyphics on the back of Cleopatra's Needle: "Why fight when you can hide? Why walk when you can ride?"

The best part of our reserve center, though, was that it was located on what had been an old Nike missile site, Battery PH-91, located north of the city of Philadelphia. This Cold War relic had been closed down in the early Sixties but the underground holes ("silo" is too grand a word for how these critters were stored - here's a picture of one today)
were still out back of the center, in the motor pool, three of them if I remember, and they had a creepily-cool sort of "Doctor Strangelove" feel to them.

The other interesting thing about the old 330th Combat Engineer Battalion was the intake area; it spanned a fairly huge chunk of the northern suburbs and the north part of the City of Philadelphia. Some of the troopers came from the nice, white, suburban and even fairly rural (Montgomery County still had some rural areas in the late 1980s...) areas around where the actual reserve center was located on Potshop Road. Some came from the heavily black parts of North Philadelphia and only got out of the concrete jungle one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Everybody seemed to rub along fairly decently and I recall it as a pretty good outfit, both for weekend drill as well as our summer camps.

Ah, yes. Annual training. That's where my story takes us.

I don't remember the year, but it must have been one of the two years I was there (either 1989 or 1990, since I got off active duty in December 1987 and moved to Oregon in August 1990...) and the battalion did our annual training north of Fort Indiantown Gap - "Fig", we called it, the sprawling Depression-era post that was primarily the business of the Pennsylvania Army Guard. The idea was to help the Pennsylvania Fish and Game people do some work on their hunting lands in the are north of Fig. If my memory serves me correctly it was somewhere in the red circle, probably that triangle-shaped area near the center:

It was a fairly unmemorable piece of the rural Pennsylvania Appalachians, and we drove up the mostly-dirt "gravel" road to where the S-4 put our combat trains, ran out the wire, dug our rifle pits and latrines
(which, as I recall, managed to find the only spring on the whole goddamn hillside and overflowed, washing out a couple of pounds of used GI chow downhill towards the mess tent. "Swimming back to where they were spawned..." was one joker's comment as we frantically tried to fill the damn things in.)
and our aid station tent and settled in for a couple of weeks playing Army.

OK. So now a couple of things happened. First, "spring gobbler season" opened. This is apparently a thing, and in it the local yokels don their camoflage and shoulder their shotguns to go out and stalk the elusive wild turkey. Our portion of the game lands had not been set off-limits to the turkey hunters, and we did not know that. There was an Army Reserve unit in that portion of the game lands, and the turkey hunters didn't know that, either.

Second, our S-2, who was either a smartass or a complete fucking idiot, told our guys that the OPFOR, the notional enemies, were dressed in odd-looking camoflage and might try and walk up to our positions pretending to be local people. This became part of the special instructions for our gate guards, and had been the morning one of these local Nimrods came strolling up the road to where our two Rambos were lounging around the roll of concertina wire that blocked the road through our trains area.

"Halt!" says one of the GIs. I should note that just by pure coincidence the two guards on the gate that morning were deep-city Philadelphians, born and raised within sight-line of Billy Penn's hat (that is, the statue on top of the City Hall building at the center of downtown Philly...) and knew about the central Pennsylvania countryside what a cow knows about the Council of Trent.

The would-be turkey-slayer looked at him curiously but kept coming forward. "HALT!" repeats the troop. Now the guy halts and looks around him like he's suddenly encountered a two-headed Martian baby.

"Where you think you're going?" says the soldier. "Up the hill." replies the hunter.

"Not that way." the GI informs him "You gots to go around the wire. This a secure area."

"Bullshit." fumes the hunter. "I need to get up the road. This is state land. You can't close off this road."

"Hell I can't" replies the troop, getting a little aggravated himself. "You gots to go around."

"I can't and I won't. I'm going through there." says the hunter, and starts to come at my guy. The GI, who has had his rifle slung up to this point, now pulls it off his shoulder and levels it at the dude. His partner backs him up and the hunter stops with his hands coming up, palms out, to show that he's not dangerous.

"You lie down and put your weapon on the ground!" barks the GI, now convinced that this is one of those "enemy" infiltrators. The hunter, not wanting either to lie on the wet dirt of the road or to put his shotgun down in it, just backs off shaking his head.

Now the GI is really suspicious. He comes on, rifle leveled, and then raises it to his shoulder. "Git the FUCK DOWN!" he roars, and the hunter scrambles to put his belly in the dirt, ignorant of the fact that in this confrontation he is the only one with live rounds.

The GI draws down on him as his pal circles around to snag the shotgun before retreating to the landline to call the sergeant of the guard.

"Now...what you want up that hill..?" interrogates the gate guard. The hunter looks up at him with that "how ignorant are you?" face and says "I'm going after turkey." and is stunned when this produces a snarl of derisive laughter and the blank-adapter on the rifle pushed down towards his head.

"Now I know you lyin'!" the guard sneers. "There no turkeys up that hill. You gets your turkey at the Super Fresh."

Anyway, fortunately the unit chaplain arrived at about that time along with the commander of the relief. The hunter was plenty hot, and the GI on the gate was, too, both thinking that somebody had run some serious buuuulllllshit on them (and someone had, but it was the S-2 who was safely distant in the battalion tactical operations center and wouldn't hear about this until it was just a good story...) and it took everyone's best efforts to calm them down and send them their separate ways without a fight.

As it happened, the whole thing ended up in the local paper because, well...because. It was a sort of funny story, and it all ended happily except for the turkey, perhaps.

But let's update that story. Give my GI a rifle with real live rounds in it. Put him out front of his armory or reserve center or, worse, in a busy shopping mall with a "career center", one of these inter-service recruting shop things, in the middle of the busy crowds of pedicure-seekers and payday-lender-marks. Make the turkey hunter someone who has had a couple of Bud Lite Limes for lunch and has got the wrong address and is a little more belligerent and a little less intelligent.

Gee. I wonder how THAT could go wrong..?

The point is, if we insist on treating these gun-nutter shootings like war, then war is what we are likely to get. And any intelligent soldier knows that in war usually one of the most deadly weapons is the one closest to you. That's why we train so hard, that's why we have so many rules about weapons handling and weapons safety. That's why we make such a big deal about knowing exactly who and what are where when we have a round in the chamber.

Putting Joe or Molly on door guard armed with live bullets is a hell of a lot more likely to get some other GI, or some random pedestrian, killed than putting one in the center-of-mass of Rag bin Head the IS Wannabe, and pretty much every GI whose ever carried a full-metal-jacketed round knows that perfectly well.

But it suits our current crop of "conservatives" to pretend otherwise, and that's a huge part of our fucking problem.


Ael said...

Ah, but in that case, those deaths would be accidents.
Therefore, nothing to worry about.
Certainly not a national security issue.

If we did consider that sort of stuff important, the government would be mobilizing to secure loose carpets and putting rails on old folks staircases. After all inadvertent falls account for more deaths than terrorist activity by many orders of magnitude!

Leon said...

Just recently another fucktard anti-government extreme-right white asshat shot two women and wounded several others in a theatre. I'm not holding my breath for the Republicans to make a peep about this nationally.

I found it amusing that on a reddit thread about arming soldiers the posts were unanimous from ex-servicemen that it was a fucking stupid idea.

fasteddiez said...

Chief, Hell, you don't need armed recruiters, there's plenty of God fearin' warrior type dudes just a waitin' to ventilate them some mohslins. Looke here!

That's a whole passel of them; and it's still early.

Fasteddiez said...

Well, to follow up, here's an article that features interviews with the self appointed armed guards to the recruiting force.


FDChief said...

The preponderance of mouth breathing teatards in these self-appointed MP outfits is irritating...but the politics is immaterial. It's just a bad idea, period. In peacetime we go to great lengths to ensure that armed posts are buffered from the great unwashed public by multiple layers of physical barriers. In wartime...well, we do the same but accept the possibility the occasional fatal encounter might occur. But that IS wartime. If we're going to make Middle Eastern civil wars and rebellions into "wartime" then WASF on multiple levels.

Just a bad, bad idea.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Oh, but Chief -- haven't you heard? We ARE at war, continual for-fuck-ever war with them there brown terrorists.
:::spits::: I am beyond sick of the stupid, and with the Stupids, more guns is always the answer to too fucking many-already guns.

Brian Train said...

Here's an interesting example of magical thinking:


FDChief said...

Well, doesn't everyone remember how the Templars kicked Muslim ass in...ummm...the 12th Century..?

The stupid is strong with this one...

Syrbal/Labrys said...

The stupid is so strong so many places these days that I wonder what it is being fed upon?!