Remembrances of Schofield Barracks, E-Quad to hone on the grid square of a tough leader. Colonel Anderson borrowed one of our M16 rifles. My company was sponsoring the 12-mile ruck march in Hawaii’s annual competition to earn the medic’s EFMB. The Battalion Commander sent me the message with his sergeant major, my other boss at battalion. It all started one morning too early and forgettable. Our arrival to Honolulu had a twist, rather two; the surprise to have Colonel Anderson and his family: spouse, son and daughter in place past the Customs check. In fact, Casssi, the little girl pinned the lei for aloha around our boys. Mrs. Anderson said aloha to my wife. The sweet scent of the aloha lei.
We split in separate vehicles. Getting ready to trek the hill past Pearl City, Pearl Harbor and Mililani ISG Edward, the guy who in ten days I would replace, grabbed my ear onto the battalion commander’s empowerment.
“Hey Top, better remember the names of the spouses and the kids while you lead our 130 boys and girls. Colonel Anderson remembers all his 780. He’ll come around and talk to all your soldiers. He loves the motor pool. This is one of his pep pees on empowerment. He won’t play mind tricks on the troops, I’ve watched him, he’s concentrated on one thing: readiness. Moreover, while at it, he is quite bent on dumping the 2nd lieutenants on your door so you teach them, he’s no fool. Don’t force it. The DISCOM sergeant major despises the idea. He thinks junior officers arrive well trained from college. You and I know that is bullshit, the SGM has his own heritage, don’t deviate from yours. You just attract Anderson with a major project, if you propose it—show something for it.
Good Edwards calmed the task. While I had begun to cook the “only” order from Anderson. He deeply felt the buoyance of encroaching on sergeants’ business. The special feeling welcome you don’t see outside Hawaii seemed engulfing my presence’s attitude to face the employment I had volunteered for. Away from the luggage and auricles that may portray the colonel is running things that belong to the pure breed of experience off the campus, he rephrased the divisions between enlisted and officers. In addition, how the show in the 25th Infantry has appeal of following a project from the wee hours of the morning to the second you brief the order of battle. On that case, I told Edwards, the boss has suggested I pick the top company weakness I could solve.
What is the company physical fitness average? I asked from the back sit. 228 were awful low, the Mendoza Line of infantry talk. Right there, heading direction to Waihua, to reside a few days at the guesthouse was no easier project. In the next ten days, the stage of reception and integration, my previous experience must of unwrap the tools of advice.
On your case, play him your own wits. That was last I had heard, as our family was sitting on the guesthouse cafeteria. As usual for the charm received at the entire tour while in the Pacific, no mid-career officer had the charm of Melvin Sinoben, my first company commander. Nicknamed Sunshine by Charlie soldiers, Mel was aggressive and too smart. He flew Blackhawk medevac choppers, and the story of a trip we took while behind the bird’s wheel, deserves a revisit deep in the consideration of similarities.
You picture grinding the attitude. I was 39 going on 60. Mel was 31, already commanding and flying to the big island once a month to maintain aviator’s flow. Most commanders brought along others who knew her crap. Pock the best, at best for the argument. I had completed 20 years of service, owned a set of advantages and a major flaw. I had trained many medical and line units anchored in the doctrine that by magic lands on your desk to delay your duty roster and barracks remodeling. Within my doctrine of exiting breakfast to visit the housing division, task, conditions and standard kept thundering my head. I mean babysitting the barracks rats as a First Sergeant.
I dropped off the wife and kids in the Schofield “K-Mart.” Straightened my freshly rank of three-up-three-down and a diamond in the center. The uniform had to be crispy. Walked the three quads that separate shopping from the DISCOM area. You can enter E Quad from the corner where you see the Division headquarters, or you can zip through the dome and the gymnasium.
Colonel Anderson has put the battalion on ground defense examination. “Service to the line” was the 725th Main Support Battalion motto. Always out in the boonies supporting a fighting brigade down range. The minute we landed in our defense perimeter I ordered the sergeant who conducted the area recon; to proceed digging the foxholes. He’d plotted the positions and additionally, if I had not reckoned the site, he had to suggest me how to assign sectors by platoons. I’d figured to get a feel from the guy who first hit the field and his gut about sectors of attacks if that would matter. Knowing Anderson would bring an unknown grader, more likely from division, I told my CPT will skip brigade, his friend is the Division General. Anderson and the Major General were like Alexander and his father. Both bold and they were hoping you liked their thinking: “you are in a brigade always on maneuvers; you should be in the field with her.
Colonel Anderson had an easier battalion. Our brigade stood with an array of devices; NBC capability, we hauled our beans, fuel and bullets in an outstanding truck company. A crazy Cuban captain and I led the medics, as the Guam pilot Sinoben was moving away to fly Hawks permanently.
For his test this cycle, Colonel Anderson, in my mind, he would talk with the division commander, the ex-Ranger. I had expected a scenario similar to the one the morning I was about to move the company to the field across the street. Private First Class Humpter stopped me from calling attention.
“Top, there’s a new soldier in here in 3rd squad, ain’t we gonna introduce ‘em?
I looked at my captain Ed Zarzabal in the eye, a low enough whisper. Sir, General Campbell is in Ambulance Platoon; shall we drive on to the PT field or allow the master physical trainer shake up an intro? Eduardo replied we’ll introduce Private Campbell or whatever be his name after we do physical fitness by FM 21-20.
I had already emanating from my head possible outcomes and a question: what any other first sergeant would have done? One who has to have a platoon sergeants’ meeting one hour before your salute to the flag? Or one that borrows, begs or steals to fulfill all tasks? Once you’ve been put on the position you become a survivalist. Not that I wish to scare the wits out of ‘ya, it’s all nature. People start to automate, often driven on the objective, even if baby-sitting becomes the norm.
Colonel Anderson and his set of friends escalating the thing that ought to scare you if you are the enemy. He played the Prisoners Dilemma in training. One time he brought General Scott, in charge of maneuvers for the 25th Infantry. He was an African American 1-star. A staff officer who lived permanently in the field with the three walking-infantry brigades. They approached the hole proximal to the front gate. The Headquarters Platoon took own pride to compete. We sent out Cookie and Salty from the Preventive Medicine department, both in a hobby of bench-pressing 450. Brigadier Scott ordered cookie to bounce on the overhead cover. The foxhole didn’t budge. Salty jumped, about six times, as crazy old Ed Zarzabal grinned over my shoulder. The general, looking like Bo Jackson bounced once, twice, then looking like a running back. The hole was a fortress.
“What would be the reward,” one day earlier Eduardo and the seven company lieutenants brainstormed. I said the Colonel in the morning would drive to Garrison, take a shower with his beautiful wife; daughter of another general. He would stop at Burger King and bring whoppers for duty above and beyond. He did as I predicted. He had the first sergeants assemble the five companies among berms. Called out the names of 15 soldiers he had in memory.
Days earlier I had assigned reason to empowerment judging from impetus in aloha surprise. On what appeared a cool, soggy morning that was still dark, holding my java on my left and another on my right hand, I gazed to the road where an Expert Field Medical Badge candidate emerged off the shadows. It was impossible, they departed just an hour and 51 minutes ago. Nah. Good old Anderson was a horse. Twelve miles under 2 hours; 1:52 to be exact.
After I took the rucksack and the rifle from him, we were talking about the competition. He asked me what is the hardest I have seen since leading the company. I told him, the three Air Force aluminum pallets we take down range to fortify the foxholes’ overhead protection. Then he was on notice…