Hazed & Confused by Grin & Barrett
Hazed & Confused, by Grin & Barrett
As a new platoon leader, there are a couple of givens, constants that just are what they are.
1. You are not as smart as you think you are.
2. Your Platoon Sergeant is infinitely wiser than you.
3. Supply discipline means much more than you can imagine.
4. Your Company 1SG will either make or break you (Thank you 1SG for being one of the good ones.)
5. You will be hazed.
Today, we’ll focus on #5.
During my Navy days, I learned that being hazed is one of those things that you just have to deal with. As a junior sailor, I was subjected to the Hull Tech’s Punch and Mail Buoy Watch. I’m proud to say that I didn’t stand on the flight deck for hours on end, looking through binoculars for that hard-to-spot mail buoy, but I did go below decks searching for the Hull Tech Punch. For those of you who don’t know, a Hull Tech Punch is not a tool, and on average, Hull Techs are pretty big dudes. And while other brand new Sailors were busy looking for the ship’s bowling alley, I was scurrying about looking for the movie theater.
As a Petty Officer, I gave as good as I got – sending sailors looking for spools of gridline, demanding that someone find me a black highlighter, and putting Soldiers on Monkey Watch as we went through the Suez Canal. Once I reached that point in my career, I thought I could just dish it out and laugh, my days of getting hazed were behind me. In case no one ever filled you in on this little tidbit of life, Karma’s a bitch.
There is a longstanding tradition in my old company of tying platoon leaders up on their first field training exercise. Whether that is to a tree, a cot, or a vehicle is completely left to the imagination of the platoon. One of my fellow platoon leaders swore it would not happen to him, and he ended up taped, upside down to a tree, subjected the cackles of his entire platoon. Would this, I pondered, be my fate? Would I go quietly, down without a fight? Or would I go arms swinging, legs kicking, head butting, making them pay for every subordinate moment! The quintessential quandary of a leader who wants to honor tradition, without coming across as a killjoy. Ah hell, I thought, they may get me, but I’m going down fighting. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!
The opportunity to pit wits against the platoon soon arrived. We had a three day field problem, the first with my platoon, and I picked the MOUT Site for our sleeping area. The MOUT Site is the mock up village we train, war-game in, and spend our days in while we are training in the field. Filled with decrepit buildings and burned out hulks of dead vehicles, there really is no better place to be when you are trying to outwit your platoon sergeant and squad leaders. I set up my cot in our TOC (Tactical Operations Center), where there was only one entrance, one point of offensive egress. I had my version of Felix’s bag of magical tricks with me, full of all the necessary components to keep the platoon at bay. I packed all the necessary components to outwit my platoon.
You see, my paranoia was at it’s most hysterical apex. My platoon sergeant told me, right before we convoyed out, and right to my face:
“Sir, just so you know, we’re either going to tie you to a tree, or tape you to your bunk during this exercise. Don’t take offense, it’s just a tradition.”
Seriously? Tie me to a tree? Wow, these guys have cajones!
“Well” I snorted rather offended, “If you try it, no problem, but someone’s walking away with a broken jaw.” Okay, hand over your cool-card LT, that was lame.
Fortunately, their indomitable confidence would be there ultimate undoing, and my greatest asset. Now that I knew exactly what they were planning to do, I would thwart them with my supreme intellect and canny wit. I had three days of living in the MOUT site to get through. Days were going to be easy; we would be locked into training events all day long. Nights were different. It was during the night I would make my stand. Me against the platoon. This would be my Alamo, my Thermopylae.
When we arrived at the training site later that day, I quickly went about getting my defensive framework set up. I seemed to be the only one actively working my battle plan, and that was okay with me. Let them procrastinate with their attack, it only gave me more time to lay the home alone-esqe defenses. I lay awake and alert that first night. Hopped up on diet coke and caffeine pills, I was tuned to every sound and every smell. I may have had no Claymore mines to protect my perimeter, but I had an impenetrable web of fishing line, 550 cord, and fishing pole bells strewn throughout every possible opening to the TOC (Tactical Operations Center, this is where I slept). I waited, far into the night and the next morning, for the surprise attack. No attack came that night, clearly they were intimidated.
Fast forward three days.
I waited, bleary eyed and shivering in the cold, for the guys to return from chow. This was one of those cushy field problems, where we “tactically” moved out in the morning to the DFAC (Dining Facility). The beautiful thing about the DFAC was that it was nice and warm, ESPN played during breakfast, the bathrooms were clean and stocked with soft toilet paper, and you could re-charge your phone in the outlets next to the tables. Going to the DFAC for breakfast was a nice getaway from training, and something everyone looked forward to each morning. The TOC, however, needed to be manned 24/7, so someone had to stay back each morning while everyone else went to breakfast. I volunteered each day, so my guys could get the nice respite, and so I could get some rest. Sleepless nights were taking their toll on me, and I relished that hour of peace each morning. Thus far, my plan had worked to a “T”. I could hardly believe how worried I had been. When it came to covert ops, my Soldiers had NOTHING on me! We had run late missions the night before, and when the Soldiers returned from breakfast, we would tear down and move out, back home. I reflected on my heroic triumph over my Soldiers and NCOs. Had they really though they could outwit me? I visualized Mark Burnett, high-fiving me, telling me I had indeed outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted the rest of the platoon. I was riding high, and feeling good.
My feelings of euphoria lasted the rest of the morning, as the platoon packed up and got ready to move out. I stood near my vehicle, Kevlar in hand, as my senior squad leader approached the truck.
“Well Sir, we’re ready to move out.”
I couldn’t wipe the smug smirk from my face. Let him wallow in defeat, maybe now he knows just who he was dealing with. I still couldn’t believe I was ever worried.
“Okay, let’s do it.” I said.
My squad leader turned to walk away, but I stopped him right as he left.
“You know, you never did tie me to that tree.”
I waited for him to acknowledge my victory. The sleepless nights, constant worry over who was behind me, skipping breakfast so I could have some peace and quiet, setting up my defensive perimeter every night, tearing it down every morning. It was all worth it.
“Yeah Sir, we sure didn’t.”
That was it.
That was the moment I had been waiting for, to revel in my triumph, to savor my victory. But when my bloodshot and bleary eyes met his, I finally got it. I stood there disheveled, the aura of paranoia clinging to me like Pigpen’s stink. My nervous system fried from Diet Coke and caffeine pills. Cold, hungry, and generally miserable. He may not have tied me to the tree, but he and the rest of the platoon got me good nonetheless. I smiled and let out a quiet “damn.”
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill. Sun Tzu