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My Two Cents
by Stephen Scalf
Rank Humor Part 2
Last week I wrote about an experience while I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado and got the better of my company commander. He wanted to bust down (take rank from) one of my soldiers for sleeping in the vehicle, but then I caught the commander doing the exact same thing. He ordered me not to say anything about what I saw, and I told him he needed to “accidentally” forget to punish my soldier.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
As you can imagine, after that, my company commander sort of had it out for me and decided he was going to take me down a notch or two – probably hoping to take some of my rank in the process, as well.
As I wrote last week, it was winter in Colorado, and although it was cold outside, there wasn’t any snow on the ground. We placed our truck just inside the tree line and under a camouflage net to help conceal it. Since we didn’t have a tent, we slept on the ground right at the edge of the tree line, close enough to the vehicle that we could get to it quickly, but far enough away that the engine sound and exhaust fumes wouldn’t be a problem.
The tree line formed almost a perfect 90 degree angle, so two of us set up on one side of the angle and two on the other, with some distance between us
One night, there was a break in the exercise. We still had to keep our security, but we didn’t have to man our equipment with two people continuously, which meant we could get some much needed rest. With four of us on the team, we pulled three hour guard shifts throughout the night.
I pulled the first shift from 8-11 p.m. then woke up the next person before crawling into my sleeping bag. We put a sleeping pad on the ground, then part of our poncho, then the sleeping bag. We’d take our uniforms off and lay them on top of the sleeping bag, then wrap the poncho over the top of us and tuck it in underneath us. Our rifles we kept with us in our sleeping bags. In spite of the cold, it was surprisingly warm and comfortable.
I had been sound asleep when I heard some kind of a commotion. It sounded like someone shouted “Charge! Attack!” followed by all sorts of yelling coming from multiple directions. As my eyes flew open, I instinctively grabbed my rifle, but could barely see anything. I could tell it was light outside, but the daylight seemed weak and filtered. I sat up and realized I had been buried under about six inches of snow.
The first thing I saw was a squad of soldiers, apparently trying to attack our camp. I raised my rifle, quickly chambered a round, and started firing.
Now – this was a military exercise. Instead of real bullets, we were firing blanks. We also had what was called M.I.L.E.S. equipment – gear that converted our rifles into the military equivalent of laser tag, so when you are aiming at another soldier when you fire, their laser gear goes off and they are “dead.”
When I popped up out of the snow and started shooting, so did the other two soldiers on my team. And with us in the angled corner formed by the tree line, we formed a perfect L-shaped ambush.
The three or four soldiers who had “survived” our fire charged past us into the trees – unfortunately for them directly towards our fourth team member who had been on guard, and who quickly finished them off.
When the gunfire ended, the only sound left was the high-pitched wailing of the “dead” soldiers’ laser gear. At that moment, the company commander appeared, coming to gloat. It turns out he had coordinated the attack with a neighboring Infantry unit that was also participating in the exercise.
When the commander saw we had wiped out the Infantry squad without any of our team members being shot, he was livid. But the Infantry squad leader pointed out our superior positioning, our perfect cover and concealment, comparing the commander’s action in ordering in the Infantry to General Custer at Little Big Horn. The squad leader came over, shook my hand, and said he’d be honored to have me on his squad, any day.
And so, with both the attack and the company commander’s plan for revenge thwarted, I lived to see another day.
That incident had a couple of unintended consequences, though. First, the company commander began to respect me, rather than hate me; and second, realizing I had been spared by luck, more than skill, I woke up to my responsibilities and vowed to become the kind of leader that Infantry squad leader thought I already was.
And that’s my two cents,
Sharing a Smile
by Tom Metcalfe
Next Monday (March 17) is St Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is among the three most well-known of the Saints – St. Valentine, St. Nicholas, and St. Patrick. Legend of his driving the snakes from Ireland, is probably what most of us non-Catholics know most about St. Patrick. We also know that we must wear green on St. Patrick’s Day, in order to avoid being pinched. What about that traditional Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage? Hold on! Let’s take a look at each of these thoughts.
First, Before Patrick was a Saint, he was born in Scotland, not Ireland. He was captured, as a boy of 14, by a raiding party, and taken to Ireland as a slave to tend sheep. He learned the language and turned to God through prayers. To make a long story short he became, essentially, a missionary to the pagans who resided in Ireland at that time.
He worked for forty years as a priest using the shamrock to explain the Trinity, which is the reason the green plant is associated with St. Patrick and Ireland.
He is credited with driving the snakes from Ireland. However scientist say there are no snakes in Ireland, and furthermore there never were. Scholars agree that, traditionally, the snake symbolizes evil, as in the Garden of Eden. It is likely, then, what St. Patrick actually drove from Ireland was paganism.
Have you ever been pinched because you forgot to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day? What the heck is that all about? Well, don’t ask St. Patrick or any Irishman for that matter. This is a tradition that my resources say actually started in America. Supposedly everyone has a little Irish in them and this is the way to show it. It is said that Leprechauns will sneak up on you and pinch you. But if you wear green it makes you invisible to the little rascals. Why green? It symbolizes the emerald isle of Ireland.
Why do Irish Americans eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day? It is a tradition that was brought to America when the Irish got off of the boats. Actually in Ireland, back when so many Irishmen were coming to America, beef was not readily available and the meal then was bacon and cabbage. But in America, beef was cheaper than bacon and the immigrants made the adjustment to their diets. Some would even argue that corned beef is more Jewish than Irish. Maybe so, but I sure like it myself. Does anyone remember the old country music song “Corned Beef and Cabbage”? I think Little Jimmy Dickens sang it, but I have not been able to run that one down.
There are cities in the U.S. that claim large populations of Irish. Chicago in addition to their parade on St. Patrick’s Day, dyes the Chicago River Green. Savannah, Georgia dyed the Savannah River Green, supposedly before Chicago started the habit, but they ceased the practice due to river turbulence and the weather. Jock Conley is our resident Irishman – and remember he has kissed the blarney stone.
Last week’s question: If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? – Pilgrims
This week’s trivia question: In what state will you find the largest Irish population in the U.S.A.?
And On That Note...
by Ross Haney
Why So Serious?
In my sports writing at The Carlisle Courier, I have been able to observe many styles of coaching and playing in our community. Along with this, I have become interested in seeing the techniques in which fans and coaches use to handle a player or team’s shortcomings after a loss, or bad game. And every time I observe a parent or coach’s extreme frustration displayed as anger and aggression towards a player or a team, I ask myself: Why are we so serious about youth sports?
This past week, I attended our local little league basketball tournament to pick-up a story for the newspaper, and was reminded just how seriously the parents and coaches of these teams take their basketball. Some coaches are screaming and yelling at kids, along with some parents, and the kids are playing their little hearts out to try to live up to the high expectations set for them. When I was in little league, I was not in the slightest worried about becoming an all-star basketball player. My biggest concern was probably what I was going to get at the concession stand later, or what flavor of Gatorade I liked best.
With programs like little league basketball, our main goal should be to encourage kids to try their best, and teach them the value of teamwork and practice. We shouldn’t expect our third grader to be the next Michael Jordan, or our kindergartener to be able to dunk. We should simply be there to cheer them on, win or lose, bad game or not.
However, along with those that were too wrapped up the games, I did see many parents and coaches that were encouraging, friendly, and supportive, and only wanted to give positive remarks to their child or team on a great game, or hard season’s work.
But I don’t think the over-the-top parents stop at the little league level. I sometimes feel that we occasionally get a little too invested in sports on the high school level.
High school athletes are not at a professional level either, contrary to popular belief, as just as the little league boys and girls do, they crave positive remarks and encouragement after they fail to meet their own expectations or team goals. After a tough loss or a personally bad game, it doesn’t help for your coach to completely rip your head off in the locker room, or for your parents to tell you how awful you were on the car ride home. When you are defeated, you know your mistakes, but are looking to those you respect for the motivation that it takes to move on to the next game, or the next competition.
Though you should want your kid to do their best in all that they do, remember this: You are the motivator, not the commentator. Be there for your child or teen athlete, and help them to hold their head up rather than give them a reason to hold it down in shame. Give your athlete the determination to move on, and try again to accomplish their goals the next time around.
And on that note, I’ll leave you!
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