Real men The Green Machine Well I thought it was funny! You have to be kidding, right!?!


Military service is not all glamor and shaving cream ads. I’m kidding.
An incontinent toddler in a loincloth is cleaner than a grunt after a couple of weeks of living in the woods. (Photo: U.S. Army by SGT Michael West)

In military parlance, an Observer/Controller is like an umpire during war games. Harvested from other tactical units for a period of temporary duty, O/Cs are simply soldiers of comparable rank and experience who serve to interface the evaluated unit with the evaluating facility.

I have served as an O/C many times and have always strived to be helpful and supportive. I tried to be ever mindful that I was no smarter than those being evaluated and made it my mission to facilitate the success of the evaluated unit. In keeping with the Biblical adage, “Do unto others,” it just seemed the reasonable course. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoyed my sense of altruism.

Some people are quite simply jerks. It is hard to discern the unfathomable nature versus nurture question when it comes to abrasive personalities. Perhaps some people are genetically predestined to be obnoxious. Maybe others start out amicable before being dropped on their heads as children.

One O/C, in particular, seemed to believe himself supernaturally awesome. He was just another captain like me who served as the operations officer for his unit on the other side of the world. His regular job, training, and experience mirrored my own, with the exception that he was privy to the god net for the duration of this exercise.

The god net was a system of secure radios that connected all the O/Cs with the exercise evaluators. The radio itself was a small Motorola that affixed to an O/Cs tactical vest with a handheld microphone on a curly cord. Transmissions were effected by placing one’s lips against the microphone and whispering so as to avoid passing any information of value on to bystanders.

Via the god net, the O/Cs always had foreknowledge of pending attacks, logistics shortfalls, and the general mayhem that the OPFOR (Opposing Forces) sadistically visited upon evaluated tactical units. An O/C was never surprised and always stayed a step or two ahead of those in the hot seat.

Being a soldier is all about camaraderie, mutual trust, and fellowship, and then there was this O/C guy… (Photo: U.S. Army)

A wise and compassionate O/C tried to stay out of the way and be helpful whenever possible. By contrast, ours interrupted during an attack to offer helpful quotes from doctrinal manuals and point out the way they did it back where he came from. He also went to the rear areas for a shower and a bed with sheets every night. After three weeks of filth and misery, everybody hated this guy.

Tim was a towering blonde, Nordic-looking fellow from Minnesota. When we were deployed, he would shovel snow for the wives of other guys in my unit to keep the post snow-shoveling Nazis from leaving them nastygrams. Tim was a genuinely great guy. Three weeks in the field without a shower, however, and he smelled ripe unto spoilage.

One reaches a certain stasis after a couple of weeks of chronic filth. There is so much dirt on your body that old dirt has to fall off to make room for new dirt. A soldier can remain in this condition essentially indefinitely. So long as his mates are in a similar state, all are blissfully unaware of their wretched nature. Introduce someone else who is freshly clean, however, and the contrast can be surprisingly stark.

When I think back to my time in the combat arms, I remember
being tired a lot. (Photo: U.S. Army by SPC Tracy McKithern)

Our O/C had just made his morning appearance, pink and refreshed after a blissful repose in the palatial opulence of the post bachelor’s officer quarters. Stripping off his tactical vest/radio and arranging it in a folding chair inside our command post, he announced to anyone who cared that he was retiring momentarily to the porta-john. He had apparently missed his opportunity to use the porcelain and running water back at the Q’s.

As soon as he left the tent, we all rolled our collective eyes in disgust and returned to our tasks. Tim, however, strolled over to our O/C’s gear and unzipped his flight suit. Taking the microphone from the O/C’s god radio, Tim thrust it deep into his underwear, rubbing it vigorously around his chronically unwashed filthy crotch before carefully replacing it on the chair.

The laughter had diminished somewhat when the O/C returned from his sabbatical and donned his gear. For the rest of the exercise, every time our weasel of an O/C snickered into his radio about how we were not doing things the way they did back where he came from, all I could think of was how that radio microphone had been so intimate with Tim’s nasty crotch. The message indeed enjoys universal applications. One should ever strive to be nice to people because you can’t always keep an eye on your radio.

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