Monday, December 18, 2006

Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy

Warlord is the story of Ilario Pantano. He was in New York on September 11th.

"I worked through the packed streets toward the West Side and turned into a familiar doorway on Ninth Avenue. It had been over a year since I'd been to this babershop. The Hungarian woman cutting hair this morning stood rooted before the television set, flipping back and forthe from Peter Jennings to Tom Brokaw-trying to make sense of this nightmare.

I sat in the chair and used my hand to show her what I wanted. 'The sides right down to the skin. Leave just a little piece of hair on top. but short, really short.'

She looked at me doubtfully, but took the electric clipper and did as I asked. High and tight."

Former Marine Scout Sniper Pantano would work his way into Marine Officer candidate school, command a platoon in Iraq, be accused of murdering two Iraqis, face an article 32 hearing, and... Well, read the book. It moves back and forth between Iraq, California, 2005, 1991, 2003, February, August and so on . (I read it in six hours straight.)

What I want you to read now is this:

"Goddammit," I yelled. " Shit. Fire it again!"

The gunners knew what to do. Half the time the yelling was just to reinforce the lessons to the younger troops who were struggling to understand what the fuck was happening around them. They would be tomorrow's leaders if today turned out to be a bad one for the older guys. The Marine Corps was prepared for that. In the Battle of Montezuma we'd lost 90 percent of our sergeants and officers...a lost immortalized in song and the cut of our dress uniform with the red blood stripe on the pants of NCO's and commissioned officers. Everything has a reason.

My brain was swarming with information that I struggled to process in the priorities that had been beaten into me in TBS and IOC.

So much data, sights, smells, sounds, positions, locations, directions, angles, fires, rooftops, basements, windows, doorways, donkey carts, car bombs, human bombs, down , left, right, around corners, over walls, where are the friendlies?Wher is the 2nd Squad? Where are they pointing their weapons? Did the enemy get in between us? Was that us or them? Who's shooting? Why? Where? How much ammo? Who's hurt ? How much time? Where is the sun?
Was that a call for prayer or attack from the minaret? What's the difference? Was that a grenade landing at my feet? How many rounds left? Where is the corpsman? Why isn't that fucking building cleared yet? Who's taking so fucking long on the radio?

"Clear the goddamn net!" I listened. "What?"

What was that last bit about binoculars? Will these steps hold, is the staircase rigged? Is that a trigger? A booby trap? Where are the bodies? Look at all of these shoes! What's the head count? What did the tanks just see?

"Yes sir, we are finishing on the objective." What was the fucking brevity code for that?

Shit! Moving, grabbing. Tracer or laser? NVG's are foggy...Are they broke? Where is the handsest? Fix the fucking handset. Give the report. You know what the fuck is going on! Tell 'em. Pushing. Screaming. Firing. Shadows. Dawn light. Cooking fires. Oil fires. Bodies on fire. Dogs barking. Dogs chewing on bodies. Dogs getting shot. Corporals barking. I'm barking My CO is barking. His CO is barking. (snip one paragraph)

The Marine Corps hadn't become the ultimate fighting force by accident. Our combat tactics were born on the battlefield and honed over two hundred-some years of vicious and unforgiving classrooms. In the organization of a firhging unit, the simple leadership objective was to put yourself wherever the most friction or complexity arose. You didn't need to be leading the easy shit. You needed to seek out where your men were being challenged, either by a tough enemy or a complex problem. (emphasis, Smoothingplane) That was where your role as mentor, father, and example was combined to move the platoon along. To obtain results.

Getting to the objective undetecteed had been the first challenge of the day. The last would be getting off unscathed. We were always at our most vulnerable when withdrawing. Exiting meant you were facing away from the enemy. And any enemy, particularly a guerrilla force, will take advantage of your back (note how many guys get shot in the ass). You had to make sure your opponent was really knocked out before your turned your back. If you were still trading blows with the opponent in anything resembling a one-to-one ratio, you could not turn your back or you would get killed.

End of excerpt. Does this sound like anything you've read in any newspaper or seen on the nightly news? Of course not. There the point is to show fighting as senseless chaos and our guys as helpless victims. Chaotic, certainly. But anyone with as much stiuational awareness as Lt. Pantano described was hardly helpless. In this particular fight, they slaughtered the muj bastards. I was impressed by how much thinking was happening, and how quickly.

Another excerpt, training:

Camp Lejeune, 1 February, 2005 The corporals and sergeants who had been selected from their sections to attend my three-day NCO course actually enjoyed it . I built a curriculum drawn from the hard lessons learned in Iraq, a place we would be returnng to in July. We needed to make sure that the NCO's of H&S Company had confidence in their ability to act as infatrymen, even if their actual job was comm-chief, admin-clerk or cook. That was one lesson we'd learned in Latafiyah. Not so secretly, the training served as an excuse for me to strap on my pack and weapon and be a grunt instead of just an office pogue.

We practiced land navigation, ran patrols, and dug fingting holes, but imparting the warrior spirit took more than a lecture or a foot movement through the woods. After a long day of training and field exercises and a fireside chat on leadership, I didn't have to tell the NCO's twice to get some sleep. They were all snoring in minutes, cozy in their bags as ice crystals formed on the their boots. Once my support team had everything in place, we woke one student at a time and I ordered the dazed and confused NCO to stand at attention in just his trousers and blouse.

"Do not say a fucking word..." I'd whisper in my most sinister tone. "Put this blindfold on. A guide will take you to your next event." Their bodies would start to tremble from the midnight chill and the anticipation. The guide would then run them one at a time down a three-hundred-meter trail and sit them on a soft patch of cleared ground. Moments later another disoriented student would be placed in the "ring" and once they were bck to back they received an order they would never forget.


The challenge for these young men was to summon their interpersonal violence from a deep sleep to overcome an opponent they couldn't see while they were under physical and mental duress of cold, fear, and fatigue. Going from 0 to 60 was easier for some than it was for others, but they learned a lot of lessons that night under the watchful supervision of Gunny Trotter, our black-belt instructor. After all the Marines had fought, we lit a bonfire and read Medal of Honor citations from World Wars I and II where Marines and soldiers had to kill dozens of enemy with nothing more than bayonets or hands. This put their experience into perspective. It was part of their job."

End of excerpt. Emphasis, Smoothingplane. "Into perspective...", a context of sort. Missing from the print and electric media. They are fighting with some made up enemy.

Read the whole book. You will tear, and cheer the courage and integrity of these men.

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