I did not think they would take the application. E-7; Airborne or willing; Air Assault standard. I was an E-5 with no NCOES and no Wings. Why not? What the hell else was I going to do? When you hit the 6 month mark on a Deployment you get this weird tinnitus. It is a strange buzzing that does not go away. Every day is the same. Besides, it sounded badass. It would give me purpose. I might find a place which respected talent. I told my boss I wanted to drop the packet. She read it over and told me to go for it.
Ninjas they may have been, but they were still in the military. They lost the first packet. I resent it. I did some training, but when you are waiting for the Loch Ness Monster to tell you if you won at the roulette table you do not take it seriously. That is until you get the email. Accepted. Two weeks. Non deleteable. Non deferrable. Airport. Phone call. Wait. You should have seen the look on the face of the Movement NCO at Ali Al Salaam.
The hotel was nice. Real nice. From the inside you have no idea this is where they are going to get inside your head. Tests. Then, more tests. Your fingers are numb and carved by the number two pencil (and only a number two pencil) by the time you are done.
The APFT was the first on a short list I have taken to standard. There were a lot of hurt feelings. At least one guy who failed proffered a banana he swiped from the kitchen. He knew he was moving on, but wanted a brother to succeed. I was doing poorly. Like I said before, you do not take it seriously when you thing you have no chance. I did a crash 12 mile ruck march train up. Crash is a benign term. It was more like The Retired 7th Group Team Sergeant Linguist Manager Threatened Bodily Harm If I Did It Again “train up.” When we started the run I did not know which I wanted more; to piss, shit or cry. Half way through I found what I needed: “If you quit it will define you.” Got it done. They loaded us up and took us back.
The next few days I wanted to claw my way out of the room. Reading Cormac McCarthy did not help. I got to the part where Chigurh is about to kill Moss’s wife when the phone rang. I screamed and threw the book across the room. Instructions. The blood was singing in my ears so loudly I could barely hear him. That happens now.
You did not miss much. Can you do your job? Yes? No? The hard part was getting off the elevator just in time to see a Major receive a handshake before being shown the door.
Half way through the Fun House Adventure the Recruiter called me over. When do you get promoted to <RANK>? Damned if I know. When do you go to <SCHOOL>? I do not control that. Why is he asking me? I sent him the packet twice. I get a feeling of unease from him. Await further instructions.
I get a day off. I watch an Airman get buried and ask the Honor Guard if they need help with the brass. I’ve got it. Thanks for asking. I walk around a bit. I start an argument with a Pakistani hot dog vender about whether or not his wares are in fact kosher.
More waiting. Commander’s Board? I am surprised I have not had an eye exam yet. What do I do? Just answer their questions. Do not rehearse. Right. I sat in my room fighting the inward pressure not to plan my way through it.
When you walk into the room it is pretty intimidating. Looking back I would not be surprised if someone with a lot of letters behind his or her name did the interior decorating. It is a long walk to that chair. You know each of them understands you psychologically better than you do yourself. You feel like you have to win a hand of cards against people who know what you are holding. Just breathe. If you take the process personally you will go down in flames.
The nice old man in the corner could not help himself at one point. Nodding along when I said “I am a Non Commissioned Officer with a Counterintelligence skill set.” The one and only time I saw him crack a smile or at least the impression of one.
They gave me some homework. Simple, but not easy. I looked at each of them. I gave them a name which would jog my memory later. Right to left: Buddy. Commander. Tin Star. Boss. A-hole. Experienced. Airborne. At the appointed time a dapper fellow several years my senior took the papers. Wait some more. Knock. Down the elevator. Wait to hear your sentence.
If I just had more slots. You are on the ball, son. Let me just say that again: You’re on the ball. The story changes a little when your new friend takes you back to your room. You do everything you can to stay upright on the elevator ride back up.
You were not <INSERT PAY GRADE/NCOES HERE>. I sent you the packet twice. He looks flustered. He rifles through the paperwork till he finds the right ones. Skimming the files his head is shaking before he looks you in the eye again. The Recruiter needed numbers. We did not think you would make it this far. You guys called me. Look, we want you for this job. I’m getting out. Don’t. What will keep you in? This job. He sighs. See it from my point of view. You did the work up on me. Do you think I have been applied to my full potential in my assignments? I know. I’ve been there. You need to go to Regiment. We can talk after that.
The hard part is the rest of the Deployment. Every time <INSERT ICON HERE> shows up on the Big Board you can see the heads swivel and look at you. They do not get it. I was not going to do that bit. I just wanted to keep them alive.
It gets worse over the next year. Every month or so you get the email. Initially, you are snarky. “Thank you for your email. However, I am not <INSERT PAY GRADE/NCOES HERE>. Please contact me when I meet your profile. Very Respectfully, <INSERT SIGNATURE BLOCK HERE>.” More months goes by and it is more of the same. You finally put the right info in the Subject Line. Dear Uncle Sam. Please delete me from your database. Sincerely, your Favorite Nephew.
Rangers Lead the Way
No worries. Life is for living. I have got my toes in the sand. Real sand, not Iraqi moon dust. Got my flaky Hebrew Half with me and nothing can go wrong. That is till two months later. The phone calls do not get returned. Same deal with the emails. The timing worked out perfectly to coincide with a cancer scare. You cannot make this shit up.
I shatter the cell phone on the floorboard of my car. I walk down the sidewalk and take the first right. I sit down in the chair. Start the paperwork. Five years. Airborne Ranger Training. Sign here please. Download the Train Up. At 20:00 every night, no matter what, I sound off loud and proud with the Ranger Creed. I even had a ring tone to remind me. Yes, it was “Ride of the Valkyries.”
Six months later I am thanking God for saving my life with a sheet of nylon thinner than your kid sister’s backpack. Get on your back, November! One could be forgiven for seeing this as tough. Tough comes later.
Welcome to Hotel Gentry. Our courteous staff will see to your needs: Getting the weakness out of your body. Five blessed weeks in Hold Over. In charge of 130 plus newly minted Joes with Jump Wings. Yes, you can go to the Latrine! No, I am not your Drill Sergeant. You are a Big Boy now. There came a point when even the Cadre felt bad for me.
Finally, show time. Get your faces in the f-ing gravel. You want to quit; raise your right hand. I slowly slide my left hand over my right. I press down till I feel the rocks bite into my palm. I decide then: “One way or another I am leaving this compound with my head up.”
You think things are bad the first week. Buddy Carries and damn do I suck at it. Add in Cardiac Hill and it falls apart. A few days later you go on an excursion. The Downing Mile was fenced off. F- it! Go around! A Joe throws me over the wall. Big help, but he quits two hours later. You make to a stream and watch the steam poor off everyone’s heads.
There is a lovely little walk to Cole Range. On the way there an NCO quits. The kid ahead of me got the poncho liner pulled from his ruck. I try to jam it back down. He quits shortly after we stop. He was killed in Afghanistan a few months later.
When the sun drops the party starts. IMT all damn night. It is not the Rush that gets you. It is when you finally make it to the Tree Line. You know you are in a crowded field but cannot see anyone. Who wants to quit? You hear them rather than see them. Most are too tired or mentally exhausted to talk. You can feel them stand up and walk away.
Next night are the Logs. I get tagged as Class Leader. Why? Because they are enthralled they have met an MI Guy that knows where to find the sear on a SAW. I get to be the bearer of bad news. Pick them up. Up. Down. Do not move your head under the log! We get to put them down eventually. It does not last. We carry them on our shoulders around and around the field. We walk through the pond. Once. Twice. I do not know. A lot. This is the important part: We. We carry the log. We communicate. Tired? Do we need to switch shoulders? We work together.
Patrol Base and Priorities of Work become the sweetest sound to your ears. Thirty percent security is just the icing on the cake. Enjoy it while it lasts.
At some point the hallucinations begin. I do not remember when it started so much as when we began to laugh at each other. As the Weapons Squad Leader I asked a Joe for the status on the Push Mowers. He claims I even pantomimed what I needed while laying back on my ruck. He said we were Green and I gave him a thumbs up and passed out. The next night I watched a 6’ tall dog execute night Land Nav with a red Petzel light on its head. Another Joe’s face morphed into one the Cadre’s; I beat feet and did not look back.
Throughout all of it your feet are killing you. It is not the pounding; it is the moisture which erodes them. Keep walking to make the pain stop. This is a valuable lesson.
Somewhere towards the end you make eye contact with your peer. No one cares anymore about MOS or prior assignment. You both nod. You have earned each other’s respect. You have paid for it.
Almost done, just a few more games to play. We have got to get them formed up or we are going to lose more. I’ll take lead. Got it; I’ll keep them together. Lap after lap. Tree Line. Bunker. Another NCO falls out and three Privates follow him. The buses show up and we get a reprieve.
The next week you get a little Kung Fu. You know the M4A1 inside and out. God damn it, Sheffield! I will force reclass you to 11B! I am not a Ninja; I just have motivation and disposable income. DA 31 can be a power tool when you realize the Army does not give a shit if you make it home or not. Train. Train. Train.
More Buddy Carries. I finally got it right. Ear in the hip. Grip his arm at the wrist. Lift with your legs. Move! Carry him farther, Sheffield! Why? Was he being a prick? No. It was a gift. I earned the right to have more stress, more intensity. God bless you Gleaton.
In a few days it all comes to a screeching halt. Five miles in 40:00. The last mile I could not feel my legs below the knees. I ran until I was unconscious. I woke up at the finish line with the stopwatch in my face: 40:10. I do not remember much, but I can still see those numbers. The others said I was in agonal breathing. I kept reaching out for something. Apparently, the NCO at the finish line was enjoying the moment. You want your Ranger buddy? A fellow NCO, a medic, told me afterwards. He shouldn’t have done that to you, man. Does it matter?
They walk me over to the van. I try to keep calm. I start rubbing the KIA band on my wrist. The SFC in the passenger seat sees the movement. He cannot read the name but he sees the numbers.
Did you know him? He is not happy. I am still coming around. It just pours out. My Airborne Ranger in the Sky. CPL Jaime Smith. B/3/75. Struck my small arms fire 3OCT93 around 17:50(L); expired almost three hours later. Femoral artery wound. He is why we have hemostatic agents. His father was a Ranger in Vietnam; lost a leg below the knee. Why him? He was a 20 year old kid from Newtown, NJ that bled to death without feeling sorry for himself. He did not quit. Why should I? How the hell do you know that? I mumble something about CSAT the previous January. He snaps his head towards the medic. The medic nods when he hears the name. He looks back at me. I get a curt nod and something like a grin. Silent: You put your toes on the line, but you get it.
Mental note: Buy Paul Howe a fifth of whatever he wants.
We get the Standards Test. We are asked an important question. Who do you want standing next to you? After this the line forms to the rear and I am in it. One hopeful received 64 negative peer comments out of class of 93. Apparently, most did not read instructions. They made their thoughts clear all the same. The Cadre agreed. The rest of us are here for PT. The guy was 1/75 walks up to me. If they let you stay are you going to quit. Negative, Sergeant! I want you to know you got good peer reviews.
In a different world this is touching. In this world, it is an obligation. It is anonymous but I know one of the names. He kept driving me on. I want you to support me. It is not him being “nice.” His wife will have his third child while he is in Pre-Ranger. It is him saying “help get me back to them.” When I get the boot I feel like I fucked him over.
The tall, lanky Private standing in front of me is the only one invited back for another try. I’m not quitting. He does not. The Cadre takes block leave and he gets stuck in Hold Over again for another five weeks. He is one of the first graduates of RASP. He and another Ranger are killed August 2010.
A mountain of an NCO is standing in front of me. He owes me nothing. He has full authority to crush me. His name is Brash. Before I go through the packet, I want you to know you are not standing in this line because you have a commitment problem. Damn. Is this the same asshole I met three and half weeks ago? I had no idea at the time, but I needed this. I needed professionalism. I needed a leader to get me to understand what all of this meant.
Five minutes later and I have kept my promise. I walked out of the compound with my head up. I get into the fading green machine. It reluctantly turns over and I head for I-85. The light turns green. I tap the accelerator and everything, and I mean every damn thing, breaks on the Grand Am. It just takes a shit in the middle of an intersection. I push into the Bruster’s. When the Lord closes a door he makes a milkshake. Do I have that right? Or, is it “ports and clears a window?” Irrelevant; I am hungry. I call back to the unit and they extend my TDY. We still love you.
I hole up in the best my orders will buy. At first, you rant and rave. That is just the immaturity. Next, you brood. You do not leave the room. You do not turn on the T.V. You just sit there.
You knew what the standards were. Everyone got graded on the same scale. You signed the paperwork. What did you expect? Do or do not. You try to put it out of your mind, though. That is not internalizing the lesson. It nags. You are waiting for a catalyst, you just do not know it yet.
One more rotation to Iraq. Odd. I thought the Surge was meant to end this war. Even more strange is that you have to be “this wide” to get on this ride. What the hell happened here?
Months go by and I finally cannot stand it anymore. I post the Creed on the wall of my CHU. I have to. A neon sign flashing “Fuck Mediocrity” is in poor taste. Every day I say it. More importantly I grade myself. Did I live up to it? It is not just about belief. Are you capable? Move further, faster, and fight harder than any other Soldier. Not yet. Run time still sucks. Lose the flab.
When we Redeploy I sign up for ever ass kicking opportunity I can find. The first is a Warrior Dash. Looking back I think “what a joke.” A 5k obstacle course? Soccer moms do it. True, but full kit makes a difference. I had to; it was the closest thing to an RPAT I could find. Like magic the Scroll Bearers came out of the wood work. A Vet a few years older than me saw me suit up. He had the 3/75 Scroll embedded in his right forearm and America’s wrath raining down beneath it. He did not have to ask too many questions; he put it together pretty quick. You don’t have to do this. Yes I do. I’ll see you at the finish line. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to punch someone. When I hit the finish line the crowd parted. No, I do not looking physically intimidating even in kit. There is something different about you when you chose to suffer. Everyone else was there for the beer.
I kept hammering on the five miler. The seconds dropped away. I sign up for my first 10k. I did not expect the hills. At a critical point I wanted to throw it in. I’m not quitting. It was not my voice. I wanted to burst into tears. I never really dealt with it till then. It still is not easy.
I cleared the time hack. I wanted more.
How far is 10 nautical miles? Damned if I know; I am not a Squid. Sign up. Cleared the time hack again. One problem, I had a long way to reach the end. The finish line photo looks like there is a kid chasing me with the squirt gun the size of a M240B. I get shit for it on Facebook.
All of a sudden the APFT score is 270 and climbing. Now you get it. It is not just belief; it is transforming belief into action. That is the essence of the Creed.
September 2013 I have a cardboard box on my desk. Big block chicken scratch on the outside: SHEFFIELD OFFICE STUFF. Last check on AKO. Brash is now a recruiter. You can resubmit the packet. I have met a lot of guys over the years who have the ole’ “If I ever see that guy again” story. Here is my chance: Thank you for what you taught me.
Was it worth it? Rangers Lead the Way!
Legio Patria Nostra
I can still remember the day when an old buddy walked into my office. He was bearing good tidings. In a nutshell, the Constitution, a stack of Intelligence Oversight regulations and U.S. Army Values need not be a consideration anymore. Really? When are the Officers that failed to report Nidal Hasan going to be prosecuted? There I go thinking again.
It all goes downhill from there. You cannot write a memo which supersedes the document that gave you authority to operate in the first place. Do you love terrorists or something? No, stupid. I just do not want to create Case Law for them when this collapses on itself. Rationalism does not sell. There is no market for it.
Three years of having your demonstrated commitment and patriotism questioned can really grate on you. A trip to Bahrain to prop up a Gulf Arab Apartheid state does not help. I would say something about a stalk of grass and the spinal stability of a local beast of burden, but it may offend someone. Suffice to say, I finally hit max saturation.
It was not all bad. I entered the U.S. Army at 24 years of age. I had the standard issue Lower Middle Class sense of entitlement. I had my reserved seat to stay there, too (i.e. Bachelor’s Degree). I was fat. Worse, I was weak in spirit. I had 20/50 vision. When I left I was 34 years old, earned a Master’s Degree with Honors, determined, could give a damn about my allotted place in the American Caste system, better than 20/20 in each eye, and strong. True strength; I knew my weaknesses. So what if they did not make me a “Ninja.”
That being said, they did commit a crime I could not tolerate. No, it was not vandalizing the Constitution. Please, like that ever stopped anyone. Remember the Church Commission? They destroyed my fantasy. I enlisted to protect my Country. In 9 years, 11 months and 3 days I was never within a 1,000 miles of anyone responsible for a crime against this Nation. It was not for a lack of trying. However, my essential task in Iraq was to consume $47 of tax payer money three times a day. Mission Accomplished.
I simply made the decision. Go somewhere where your values are practiced. It does not have to be perfect. There is no perfection. Good enough is just that; good enough.
It is a big step. No sitting on the fence. You have to believe. Truly believe. Victory and nothing else. Commit is not strong enough of a word. You almost have to a level of manic attachment. The Moto playlist you build should be tear inducing. The thought of failure is there to drive you on. You trample it with visualization and self-talk. I bought a one-way ticket.
Every day off the calendar was a warning. Be ready or pay the price. When you are in your 30’s it is not just about producing Force. It is about durability. Can you absorb forces placed upon you? Can you jump out the back of a Véhicule de l'Avant Blindé in full kit and not blow out your knees? Can you finish the five years? Soldat d’élite, tu t’entraînes avec rigueur, tu entretiens ton arme comme ton bien le plus précieux, tu as le souci constant de ta forme physique.
The day arrives. I got off the plane and bolted for the sortie. I played Pointy-Talky with a pretty brunette. I asked in broken French; she answered in good English. This train? Merci! I take a good look around. Are you willing to get shot for them? You had better make up your mind now. Train stops. Take a bus. Miss the stop. Gendarme. Pardon Officer, Legion Etrangere? Avant. A droit. A gauche. A gauche. Cercle. A gauche. Merci!
My heart tried to beat its way through my sternum. I thought the walk to the chair was long. The walk up the driveway to the gate could have been a mile. I stand at Attention. Wait. What the hell do I do now? I see movement in the Guard Shack. I finally figure out there is an intercom and a white button. I press it. The figure in the Guard Shack turns, squints and reaches for something. The gate swings in. It takes a long time to open. No explanation; he just stares at you. I get the hint and walk to his post. Snap to Attention: “Voluntaire por Legion Etrangere, Caporal-Chef!” He smiles and takes my passport. Go over there. Wait. I stand at Parade Rest staring at a stone wall for an hour. Come with me. We walk. Sac. He points at the floor. He points to a line in the chow hall. A rough looking Polish kid in a track suit is standing there. Fuck the law on the right side of his neck; Only God can Judge Me on the left. One of each. I take one of what was there. The dog bowls on the table bring back fond memories. The food is good but I can hardly eat.
We file out of the mess. I am taken upstairs. Put the bag down. A rail thin Belgian lays it out. Chin over the bar. Give maximal effort. Do not pull a muscle. Good enough to stay another day. Fill this out. Answer the questions; you have 12 minutes. Why the Legion? Make three reasons.
They give me a ridiculous name. A name which implies a white leisure suit, white leather penny loafers, black bolo tie and a gold chain. Did I mention the handlebar mustache? Thank the Lord I already have the $500 Panama straw Fedora to match. The Polish Caporal-Chef was really pleased with himself.
Wait. Wait some more. You are responsible. Take them to Foyer. We play cards. We argue whether we are going to watch nature shows or murder mysteries in a 160 year old powder magazine. We watch the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on French soil since 1994.
You figure out how to do Horizontal Pull Ups using the creaking wooden bar. You lock your feet under the radiator for abdomineaux. The Brazilians take the lead in Circuit Training. Impromptu capoeira classes are available free of charge.
The tests are what they are. Presente, mon General! I get a hernia check from a French General. That is one to tell the grandkids. Do you drink? Yes, sir. How much? Two to three drinks, sir. A day? A month, sir. There is an uncomfortable silence. Then, he and the junior Officer intern look at each other and die laughing. Something to the effect of “you don’t drink.” The Polish kid gets sent home: Cutter.
Every other night it starts up. Two men on the bar. Sept. Seven or you may go home. The American kid next to me knocks out five. He has been withdrawn for the last three days. The slap he earned earlier in the week broke his heart. I tried to cheer him up. He just lays in the corner. He gets an On the Spot Correction for sleeping on the pool table the day prior. He is asked a simple question. He quits the next morning.
A few days later you haul down some agility cones and a speaker. Course. Beep. Run. Beep. Run. I do alright. I beat the 22 year old Slovakian. Not that he did not try. Most of the others fade off shortly after me. Tractions. This was varied. The 20 year old former Taiwanese Conscript knocks out 2. I do 9. The baby faced Nepalese kid rejected by the Gurkhas does 25. I later teach him to say his name in English: Big Dick Freedom Fighter.
The Brazilian Caporal-Chef tries to give each of us an out. This is not easy. I understand. It is a long time. I am committed. You go to Aubagne. The next morning we get our petit déjeuner early. We file out to the bus. Brazil is there to give us a sincere and hardy hand shake. Bonne chance. When we get dropped off at Gare de Lyon the permissionaires stare at us. They are having their moment of nostalgia, humor or both.
You get to Aubagne and there is a whole lot of nothing. At least you can do tractions. I add in some Acceleration and Change of Direction work. The Ukrainian thinks it is hilarious. A crowd forms. I do simulated Buddy Carries with a hunk of log. Pick this up, American. "You have an invitation to workout with me." They decline and continue chain smoking.
At breakfast you can make your own poison. Two scoops chocolat. One scoop café. One packet of sucre. The CAV Scout calls it “Motor Oil.” He is former 19 series so I defer to his expert opinion.
Finally, you get to meet Fritz. At first you think it is all bullshit. His accent is almost ludicrous. I did my first two years in Germany; it is authentic. The more he talks the more I examine the whole gestalt. Bushy eye brows, salt and pepper hair, extensive crow’s feet. I imagine a younger version digging himself under the Wall with nothing more than half a G.I. mess kit. He emerged on the other side covered in mud, fingernail beds packed with earth. He probably did not stop running till he hit Strasbourg.
He is a likeable enough guy, from a professional standpoint anyways. Practically no leading questions. Great follow ups. He has no issue getting intrusive. Despite a bit of theatrics there is no wasted motion. He knows his business. He is also into arts and crafts; making Thanksgiving Turkeys with your fingers, palms and a pad of ink. I’ll ask you again: Who is looking for you?
He is also a fan of personal hygiene. It is a theme among his peers. Time to get the ink off my hands. Fritz is kind enough to provide a demonstration. I wash my hands and clean out the sink. I look over and Fritz has produced a plastic cup. It is the same kind you use to drink your Motor Oil. Three millimeters. No more, no less. It helps I have seen “Gattaca” three dozen times. Jerome, never shy. Pisses on command. Fritz paces behind me. She left you because of the Army. Didn’t she?
I get a lunch break. Run like TOW. Yum, yum! Then, we go back into the Booth. The questions are the same. Except this time penmanship is an issue. Why not a marksmanship test? Fine, big block letters it is. Fritz is just marking time. He is trying to make sense of it all. Don’t you love America? Yes, but America does not love me. Maybe this is a bit inaccurate. I prefer how Rollins describes it: America happened to me. Democrat? Republican, but my card got revoked for politely debating liberals at a hostel just before the 2012 elections. You’re 35. I can conduct Combat Operations. I just need you to give me an opportunity to prove it. You weigh 80 kilograms. I can pull double that off the ground. I can carry a wounded man to cover while in full kit. You were an E-6. Here you are nothing! You’re medals mean nothing! You overestimate the perceived worth of a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army at the end of GWOT. I want orders. The medals meant nothing when they pinned them on me the first time. There are no Human Rights. You own nothing, not even your asshole. I did the research. I get it; I am a Gladiator. Where do I sign? Don’t worry we won’t do anything to the asshole. We are not Regular Army. Good to know. You can have a life apart from us. Yes, but it is a life of consumption. I want nothing to do with that.
Finally, he asks: Why? Fritz, and for that matter everyone else, thinks America issues you a gold bar at birth. There was a curt exchange between me and a Russian Rouge; he thought I got lost on my way to the Lamborghini dealership. I want things which cannot be bought; experiences which must be earned. You get them from your peers through collective suffering. I want to wake up at dawn, make my bed and receive orders. No one else wants these things; my fellow hopefuls included. They will get them though, one way or another. Till then this is a means to an end for many.
It goes on for like this for another two hours. The questions do not change and neither do my answers. In the end, I do not have to convince Fritz. He tries to prepare me. You are too clever for the Legion. You have too much. Strange really. I get more consideration from a foreign NCO than I did from some of my former peers. If you get in, look after your health. We live in interesting times.
I believed. I really did. I truly believed I would make it. That being said, there is plenty of tension. The rocks in the yard are good enough for Cleans. A few Squat to Throws help, too.
When the Capitan passed “S” I still believed. I watched them stack up; chest to musettes. The Slovakian made it. The Taiwanese kid, too. The Nepalese was selected and why the hell not. So did the 35 year old Frenchman who slept above me. The Ukrainian who would not shut up after lights out was among them. Away they went. They were on their way to get their tenue de combat and a free haircut.
Son profil ne correspond pas aux besoins de la Légion étrangère. Thank you for playing.
It is never easy taking the walk. It is worse when you see a less competent, less capable and less committed man arrive at the destination you sought. But it isn’t fair! And? When the hell were you promised “fair?” I never saw it on any paperwork I signed. Then again, my French is lousy. "Je comprendo, Caporal." That one elicited a laugh.
We line up. Sign back our identities. Get back into our Civies. The only thing clean in my bag was an ACU undershirt. Son of a bitch.
Then, the wine making started. What a harvest of sour grapes it was. The other American wanted to wheel the antique assault gun around and lay waste to the building. Would have been a neat trick, too. The breech was demilled before he was born. Still, the half dozen kill rings on the barrel were impressive. The Romanian asked me about food and money. When was I in charge? I try to talk everyone down. The Afro-Frenchman went full blown impulsive and started arguing about the train ticket.
They drive us to downtown Marseille. I say a sincere merci. The others grumble. Everyone wants a beer. I toast to the new Rouges. Good hunting and get back safe! No one else joins in. The Algerian claims racism. I point out we were driven to the station by an Arab Caporal-Chef. He mumbles something into his beer. Emails are exchanged. Three of us get on a train to Gare de Lyon. It ends without a bang.
I would tell you about the following four days and the moment I reached acceptance. However, this would include a story involving a drunken diatribe by the Romanian and his expulsion from a Montmarte hostel.
What is the moral of the story? What do I do? You are an adult; make you own choice. However, I will give you a recommendation: Pay to see the Flop. If you do not like what is in your hand and on the table walk away. If you put more down than you are willing to lose that is your choice.
Is the consequence of not trying greater than knowing you never stepped up? Only you can answer that question. Bear in mind, many of the tantalizing things held in front of a Tactical Athlete are a crap shoot or just plain crap. It is an algorithm; pure and simple. The numbers relationship to reality is tentative at best but that is the way the game is played.
I am comfortable with the choices I have made. I am not satisfied with the outcomes, but have no regrets either. I am more powerful and resilient than men 15 years my junior. I can climb a 10 meter rope without using my feet. I can carry another man to safety. I can haul 45 pounds 12 miles when I damn well please. I earned it. I did the work and no one can take it from me.
Life is about how you accept, decline, fail and overcome challenges. Failure is a tough teacher. The gym is simply a place to prepare you for it. If you are not willing to fail in the gym you will never be ready when it counts. I don’t fail at anything. Words of a coward. He means “I’ve never pushed myself hard enough.”
For me it is simple: If I am not willing to push the envelope, I have no business asking the same of my Athletes.