The Power of Illusion, by Grin & Barrett

Updated: October 2, 2009


I remember, somewhere around 1985, sitting up with my folks, watching the Martin Short hour long comedy special. He was my favorite comic at the time, and one of my favorite skits was his impersonation of Doug Henning, working a long “Illuuuuusionnnn” into every other sentence. Back then, as a kid just entering his teenage angst period, I though illusions were fantastic. Now, not so much.

Illusions still surround us, and in the Army they are abundant. Only these are not Doug Henning’s, or David Copperfield’s illusions. They are the illusions we, as an institution, have set up, and that we continue to give life to every day. So, without further ado, I give you, The Power of Illuuuuuuusionnnnnn……

The blast of the IED has everyone’s eyes fuzzy, and ears muted. Bits of debris seem to be slowly falling from the sky, and every radio in the convey is silent until a cacophony of shouts and shrill directions seem to erupt from every VIC system. Smoke seems to settle on everything, as vehicles jockey for position, a macabre ballet of steel, fire and noise, erratically moving to the dull sound of metal on metal, shouts of anger and dismay, and the incessant babble coming from every alley and storefront. Shouts that sounded like they were underwater slowly start to become clear, and you start to make out the frantic shouts of your friends, concern and panic cling to their words. As you choke and cough on smoke fumes and fear, you imagine white pickup trucks pulling up and snatching you off the streets in a calculated bid to kidnap a Soldier. Your heart quickens and your adrenaline leaves you short of breath as you steady yourself and exit your vehicle. Eyes dart about, scanning every pedestrian foolish enough to still be nearby, and you raise your weapon to the ready position, prepared to put two into any menacing figure that show hostile intent. You squint through the smoke and the fog of danger, and you slowly start to breathe easier as you see your salvation confidently striding toward you. At a sub 6 minute pace, a figure in PT shorts, shirt, and sneakers is coming in your direction. Armed with a heart rate monitor and a stop watch, this imposing figure runs up to you and surveys the situation.

“I’m Captain Runsalot, I’m here to help.”

You feel a surge of relief as you realize that you are in good hands. Everyone knows Captain Runsalot by reputation.

 He can run really fast, really far.

“Captain Runsalot, did you bring a weapon,” you breathlessly ask. Damn, this guy isn’t even breathing hard. Captain Runsalot is the Man!

“No, I didn’t, I only shot 4 for 40 at my last M4 range, so most of my Soldiers don’t trust me with a weapon. I’ve only hit the 25 meter target with my M9 two times, and I’m pretty sure someone made those holes with a pen, so I’d rather not use that one either.”

It doesn’t matter if he can’t shoot. Sir….er….CPT Runsalot can run really fast, really far.

“CPT Runsalot, we have a wounded Soldier. Maybe you could throw him over your shoulders and carry him to the aid station.”

Captain Runsalot laughs at this, the way someone laughs with a conspiring partner at an inside joke.

“Sorry, can’t help you there either. I’m only able to lift about 35 pounds over my head, so I’m quite certain I won’t be able to firemen’s carry anyone to the aid station.”

It’s okay. Despite his gangly frame and obvious lack of upper body strength, CPT Runsalot can run really fast, really far.

“Don’t worry about it CPT Runsalot, your still THE MAN! If you could just run on over to Warrior Six’s vehicle and call in a MEDAVAC, that would be a ton of help.”

“Oh, you mean a something-line MEDAVAC?”

“Yes, CPT Runsalot, a nine-line MEDAVAC.”

“Okay, no problem! Do you have a cell phone I can use?”

“No, CPT Runsalot, we don’t use cell phones out here, you need to use the SINCGARS in the vehicle.”

“Well, I would, but I’m really not sure how to use a SINCGARS. But don’t worry, because I can run really far, really fast.”

“Yes, you can! Okay CPT Runsalot, I know you don’t have a weapon, but keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If anyone tries to sneak up on us, use your combatives skills to keep him at bay until we can subdue him with our weapons.”

“Okay, by ‘combatives’, do you mean running?”

“No CPT Runsalot, I mean using your fighting ability to physically restrain and/or harm him.”

“Oh, that’s right, I remember hearing about combatives. Yeah, I skipped that training, I was out running with the Battalion Commander. He loves it when I run with him.”

“Don’t worry about it CPT Runsalot, just jog around in a circle or something, we’ll do the rest of the work.”

So he does.

At the end of the day, you reflect on how fortunate you all were to have CPT Runsalot show up today. Who knows how things might have gone without him. He may not be able to shoot, communicate, or kill, but damn that guy can run.

Really far, really fast.




  1. Luke

    October 6, 2009 at 10:15 am

    How very, very true.

  2. Elias D

    October 7, 2009 at 2:03 am

    OH I HATE “THAT GUY.” Usually I use him for the demo beeeyatch when I teach officer combatives (the combatives preview refresher class so the officers in the sqdrn don’t all get their asses kicked during the actual training or ensuing call- outs.) One of the best ways to deal with CPT Runsalot is a ruck march; the battle gear weighing as much as he does usually causes those spindley, emaciated appendages he calls legs to quiver in the first mile and fail out before most of us have drained a camelbak. If all else fails, reply to his smug assertions of superiority with the quick “And that God we have you- if we get in a fight you can run for help!”

  3. CavWoman

    October 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    It’s funny that even though some think women are not as good as men in the military, since female standard do not match men’s standards insofar as PT (esp. the 2 mile run), yet I’ve made a few jaws drop in my time. When I was one of the first to finish a 12.5 mile ruckmarch, there were a few who assumed I had cheated by putting a pillow or balloons in my ruck. Surprise, surprise…it took two guys to lift my ruck while a third pointed out that my frame had bent under the weight. I was a slow runner…but, does it really matter during a deployment?


    October 9, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Your the Man CavWoman!, you really understand what was written in the above story… YUT!

  5. CPT Runsalot

    October 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Well shoot, I guess my ability to run a sub 12:00 2-mile on the APFT means I need to stop maxing out on the other events as well; I must have missed that memo explaining the fast runners aren’t allowed to have any upper body or core strength or endurance. I should probably also contact USAIS and USAJFKSWCS and ask that they revoke my tabs, since I certainly could not have actually earned them through adequate performance in specialized soldier skills since I already have the ability to run fast.

    Really, isn’t life too short to be a hater? Balance is a beautiful thing, but you have to step outside the gym now and then to find it.

  6. G&B

    October 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    CPT Runsalot,

    Based on your e-mail, you clearly are not the CPT Runsalot referred to in the story. If you read above, you will see that the CPT Runsalot referred to (maybe a distant cousin?) has not maxed out any other PT events, and has not performed adequately when it comes to any task other than running. I agree that balance is a beautiful thing, that is really the entire point of the story.


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