While our press groans on and on about the departure of Jerry
Seinfeld, 36,000 American warriors are sweating it out in the Gulf.
And I mean sweating it out.
“It’s 120 degrees,” says an Army sergeant. “There’s no shelter,
except for tents, which provide shade but are worse than Saunas inside.”
Our warriors were rushed out there last February to do a job on
Saddam Hussein. They’ve been standing tall ever since. Besides being hot
and sticky they’re bored to death, and sick of being cooped up.
Their morale has plummeted from “good to go” to “wanna go home.” They
feel like a fire department that was rushed to a fire only to find a
false alarm, but then are told to “hang around, a fire might start
sometime this year.”
Meanwhile, their commander in chief is too preoccupied with Monica,
African Safaris and playing JFK in Berlin to figure out a coherent
strategy to deal with Saddam. So he treats his troops as if they’re the
But should we expect anything else? This is the president who brought
about the disaster in the streets of Mogadishu and when 18 warriors died
there, called them “unfortunate casualties.” The same commander in chief
who invaded Haiti to support a tyrant, whose gang of monsters has turned
that poor island back into a killing field. The same master of military
miscalculation that sent our warriors to Bosnia in 1995 for one year —
and three years later they’re still marking time on Mission Impossible.
After six years of wall to wall disasters, Congress should wake up
and realize that Clinton and his national security gang will never get
it right. You’d think they’d take the keys to our military machine away
from “Crash” Clinton. Just the way the keys to the family car are pulled
away from a kid who goes from fender bender to road kill.
Meanwhile our country’s badly thought-out military misadventures are
destroying America’s armed forces. A lot of the best and the brightest
are walking. In one battalion alone in the Kuwaiti desert four captains
have resigned. Equipment is being worn out and the budget is well below
the red line.
To keep a carrier on station in the Gulf costs a million bucks a day,
and we have two carriers out there and hundreds of $3,000-an-hour
aircraft drilling holes in the skies. I’m told that the Gulf meter is
running at $200 million a month.
This money is not dough spent on training or new equipment or to
repair the shacks that our warriors’ families live in. Nor does it help
the thousands who are so terribly underpaid they need food stamps to
make it through the month.
We wouldn’t be in this terrible fix if we had a president who had
worn a uniform or who was advised by a staff of military-experienced
advisors. Nor would we be in such a mess if we had a Congress that had a
fair number of veterans able to understand the frustrations warriors
feel as they’re sweating it out on hard duty on a nonsense mission.
Few American politicians have soldiered. Thus, few understand these
dumb and repeated missions are driving the members of our armed forces
It’s the press’ job to alert the citizens about such hare-brained
maneuvers, so they in turn can have at the politicians. But like
Congress, few editors and reporters have ever worn boots and walked the
walk. They’ve done “Seinfeld,” not the Gulf.
As a result, our uninformed citizens allow our warriors to be so
badly misused and abused and only occasionally become briefly outraged
when our dead are dragged through foreign streets. Then, after the
commercial, it’s back to the hottest media story.
It’s time to bring our over-stretched forces in the Gulf home. Saddam
won’t cause a problem while they’re staring him down, but they aren’t
NATO keeping the Sovs in line. They can’t hang out in the desert for
another 50 years.
Clinton should follow the advice of a naval aviator to “get us out of
here and tell Saddam if he sprays one bug to plan to park his car on a
glazed parking lot, because Iraq will be history.”
The Zone was a great outfit composed of special people, but that’s
not why it was called the 44th Special Zone (Airborne). It got its name
because it had a special mission: To stop or at least slow down Red
infiltration from Cambodia into South Vietnam.
We had few assigned regular troops. Besides our U.S. advisory
detachment, we had OPCON of Company “D” 5th Special Forces Group —
which deployed 13 SF A-teams along the border (later converted to 13
Ranger battalions); an Army Cav Squadron; two Army helicopter battalions
and a Signal Platoon.
We got our other maneuver units from ARVN on a mission-type basis.
They were mainly Ranger battalions, Marine and Airborne Regiments who’d
whip in, do an operation under our control and shove off.
Many of the people who filled the team’s top slots had anywhere from
two to six tours in Vietnam. They were pros who didn’t handle BS well
and wanted only mission-type orders. Meaning give ’em a job and get out
of their way.
They were probably the finest collection of advisors ever to serve on
one team during the Vietnam War. Most were senior NCOs and junior
officers — Lt. to Major — and they were as laid back as I was when it
came to the conventional Mickey Mouse stuff.
One afternoon, when I was doing my daily inside-the-perimeter-fence
run, I heard a familiar sound: bones clinking up against a barracks’
I stealthed in and there were some of the cream of the Zone’s top
management involved in a very hot crap game. Ben Willis, whom I had
served with in Vietnam both with the 1/327th Airborne Battalion (1/101)
and later the Viet Airborne Division, looked up and said in his usually
cool voice, “Welcome Boss. Just in time. It’s your dice.”
I picked up the dice, realized I didn’t have a dime in my running
shorts, tossed down my watch and asked “Who’ll cover it?”
Pop Walden, an old Army NCO who ran our Aviation Section, eyeballed
my gold Rolex and said “How much?”
“Three grand, Pop.” He whacked down some bundles of funny money
Payment Certificates) and said “you’re on, my Colonel.” I shook ’em
hard, mentally saw a Big Seven, wound up and threw a perfect snake eyes.
Twenty years later, I’m at Fort Benning at an ABOUT FACE book
signing. This guy comes through the line wearing a giant grin and at
today’s value a 20 grand very shiny gold Rolex watch.
“Still got this sucker, Hack. Got time when you’re done for another
little game?” I refused Pop’s offer — he’s long retired and little
wonder, he’s a business tycoon in nearby Columbus, GA — but gave my old
friend a big hug instead.
If there’s a moral to this timeless story it is: Never shoot crap
with an old NCO. [sigma]
Keep Five Yards,