A few weeks back I accompanied my battalion commander to visit one of the platoons that was tasked with securing a particular place. Without getting too much into the weeds on this, our infantry battalion is made up of several companies, most of which are stationed on Victory Base Camp. They have missions which sometimes take them to other areas in and around Baghdad, and from time to time the Boss or his Command Sergeant Major will make a trip out to visit the troops.
The ride through the city was uneventful. We were riding along with one of the line companies, and for all practical purposes I was just along for the ride. If things went south, then I would be responsible for taking care of the Boss. Absent any drama, however, I was just a passenger.
There was traffic, and plenty of it, and the days when U.S. convoys could barrel down the highways, forcing Iraqi vehicles out of our way and onto the shoulders of the road are over. They still mostly made way for us, though. We saw plenty of Iraqi security forces out and about, as well. Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army were everywhere, patrolling, manning checkpoints, being visible.
Anyway, we got to where we were going with no problems, and after awhile, the Boss and the young platoon leader, a First Lieutenant, began walking around to check the security posts and talk with the men.
My BC is a good guy. He is serious about our purpose here, expects results from those around him, but isn't a screamer. He is somewhat soft spoken, listens more than he speaks, and while I wouldn't call him "laid back," I have only seen him show the slightest of irritation on one or two occasions. He is religious but not in your face with it, and expresses a genuine concern for the well being of his soldiers that I admire greatly.
He is also somewhat naive about certain pop culture references. One time I saw him, wearing a quizzical look, examining a cartoon somebody had posted above their desk. It was a picture like a wet floor sign, only it...oh hell. It was this:
I could tell he didn't get the reference, so I tried, rather lamely, to explain the scene where Leonidas kicks the Persian emissary into the pit, while screaming "This is SPARTAAAAAAA!"
But I digress.
Before we deployed, the BC said a couple of times that he wanted us to use this time in Iraq to our benefit. We said we should set goals that we wished to accomplish, and make sure we don't waste our time here. He said we should have three types of goals: personal/spiritual,
professional, and physical. Later, we were told we should write these goals down on a 3x5 card, and carry it with us. We were also told that this would be an inspectable item.
A word about inspectable items. Look, I get it. I agree with not wasting this year here. And writing down goals is a way to solidify what you want to get done. It takes it from the abstract to the real. But, to be honest, I have enough inspectable items to carry around. In fact, I just had a conversation about that very thing with SGT Graywarz.
There are things we need to have on our person at all times here; ID cards, dog tags, a pen and notepad, weapon, ammo. But for whatever reason, an over abundance of caution, risk aversion, I don't know...we have also been told to carry and have ready for inspection at any given time a whole raft of non mission essential paperwork and items.
Inspectable Items I Have to Carry With Me:
1. My orders. Three pages, 8 1/2 x 11.
2. Battalion Weapons Booklet. 20 pages, about 6x8.
3. Reflective Belt. Don't get me started.
4. 9 Line medevac card.
5. Military driver's license.
6. General Order #1. Six pages, 8 1/2 x 11.
7. USFI Uniform regs. Six or seven pages, 8 1/2 x 11.
8. Rules of Engagement/Use of Force card.
9. Goals on 3x5 card.
But I digress. Again.
As the BC and the PL made their way from post to post, with me tagging along, the Boss began asking guys for their goal cards. Somebody must have spread the word that he was going to be checking, because everybody seemed to have them. They were about what you would expect: take college courses, learn a foreign language, stuff like that.
At one position, the BC and PL went up in a tower while I stayed below. I sat in the stairwell while they went up to speak to the two soldiers up there on guard. I couldn't hear everything that was being said, but I heard the BC asking how the guys were doing, any problems, like that. After some small talk, the BC asked, "Do you guys have your goal cards?"
"Roger that, sir," I heard the two Joes says, then Velcro sounds as they ripped their pockets open and produced their 3x5 cards for the Colonel.
"Let's see. Hmmm. Good, good. These are good goals. Online courses are a good way to get your college education started. Good. Now let's see what you've got," the BC said, as he checked the second soldier's card.
"Who's Ron Jeremy?"