Cowboy Blob's Saloon and Shootin Gallery

I'm not a real Cowboy, but I play one in the movies.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Grunts

Thunder6 and Sgt B both have beautiful, well-written tributes to the foot soldier on their blogs in the wake of the spate of Marine casualties in Iraq. I've always had a great admiration for the Army infantry and Marine riflemen, especially since I've usually been in mediocre shape and always had small, flat feet.

I've also envied the visibility and respect their branches enjoyed among the general populace. But this post is not about them; this is about the grunts of the intelligence community. You see, that envy of the infantry bordered on jealousy, as I was in a quiet, low-visibility career field that may have been treasured by select O-6s "in the know," but to most folks, we were just the squadron with the best softball team on base. And we hauled away most of the "lumber" at Leadership School graduations. And we had a lot of relatively junior NCOs in base housing at our "remote" overseas location. And we were the guys talking the Korean shopkeepers' prices down in their own language...and, boy, were we resented for all these by the first-remote-tour, I-miss-my-wife, no command-sponsorship havin', kimchi's-too-spicy thinkin' Sad Sacks who shared the base with us. And we were a smug, tight-lipped, but tight-with-our-buddies bunch...because we had to be. Our performance reports, decorations, and awards write-ups were so scrubbed of classified details that a layman often could not guess what we really did. We weren't gonna tell them, because we're Silent Warriors.

Conspicuously, we didn't wear a PACAF patch and sometimes we were exempted from base exercises because of our real-world mission. But when the ROK Presidential Unit Citation was handed down, everybody on base got to wear it...but us. And we just stuck another oak leaf cluster onto our Short Tour Ribbon.




Some people couldn't handle this compartmentalized world and some just moved on to something else. It was a shame to see a young airman leave the service because he didn't like being a Korean linguist and wanted to retrain (as he was entitled), but the Air Force said he could become an Arabic linguist or nothing! Hey, Big Blue! He said he didn't want to be a linguist! Best of luck to ya, Sean! Many marriages disintegrated because of the high turnaround rate back to Korea; some weren't even saved by accompanying the spouse to Korea.

One benefit of this career field was that it was one of the first opened to women (a benefit unless they all work for you). It was also the cause of many marriages and divorces in the career field. Most of the young, unmarried females dated within the squadron, either because they've known the guy for a year since they went to school together, or they're on the same screwy work schedule, or they just like smart guys. Some would intentionally date outside the unit because they "like 'em big and dumb." I quote. Don't get mad at me! She said it. Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent here...the operations floor isn't like the battlefield where the upper body strength of a man is more conducive to survival. In Ops, upper noggin strength rules the day, and most of the ladies could hold their own. The crucible was the intense pressure of sifting through real-time intelligence, which often came in a jumbled avalanche. In this world, crying won't make it stop or slow down...I've seen both men and women try it. The pressure has been compared to that felt by an air traffic controller on a busy day. Now, go home and don't talk about it.



This graphic is actually what the job looked like when I first enlisted (except we had ashtrays!). Today, everything is digital and computerized, which makes many things easier for the operator, but actually increases the flow of raw intelligence into the poor airman's noggin. The ashtrays are gone now and don't you even go near that keyboard with a beverage!

But why do I call these folks grunts? They're sitting on the frontline of the signals intelligence battlefield, converting murmurs in the static no computer program could translate into anything from chunks of data that will sit in the electronic equivalent of the warehouse where they store the Ark of the Covenant...to critical intelligence dropped on the desk of the President. Personally, most of my chunks went to the warehouse, but the few that reached the President, or 7AF Commander, made my career worthwhile...and that's all the satisfaction a grunt needs.

Update: Looks like Prairiebiker outted me to the Prop Wash Gang, a motley assortment of zipper-suited Sun Gods, Beaners, MIMIs, MAs *SPIT!*, Doggers, and ne'er-do-wells. I didn't address the world of the "self-loading baggage"here because I didn't really live in that world (much). Only 229 hours on the aircraft and that wasn't even as a Silent Warrior. They are all the same high-speed kind of grunts, but they get to annoy flight crews as a bonus.

Update Too: To catch a glimpse into the world of Nomex-clad Nomads, check out their web site, including their collection of "war stories." If they're anything like Airman Jiminez, they will entertain you for hours!

7 Comments:

  • At 5:34 PM, Blogger prairie biker said…

    Thanks Blob. Made my day.

     
  • At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good stuff Cowboy Bob....from an old (emphasis here) op/transcriber/flyer/flight commander/ops officer, in two languages. You pretty much nailed it. Biker knows me.

    Rosie

     
  • At 8:50 PM, Blogger Cowboy Blob said…

    Did I know you? How about April Guthrie?

     
  • At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cowboy Blob ... cool animated pic of the two-striper! Yours truly rode one of those consoles for many days, mids and swings at a remote site; then, airborne reconn
    became my forte ... if you won't hold it against me, I too know Biker. My compliments on your blob:
    Memories! Oh, BTW, I were an MA.

    LDL (RB50BAT2)

     
  • At 3:10 AM, Blogger Da Goddess said…

    Give me brainy with flat feet over big and dumb any day.

    Men with brains are overlooked, underappreciated, and sexy as hell. (No, I'm not flirting - this time.)

     
  • At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cowboy Bob,
    Glad I could visit your saloon. Yep, prairie biker outed you to the flyers. MIMI's are some of my favorite people.
    Good work. Thanks for the memories of my many days/swings/mids sitting the rack and punching holes in the sky.

     
  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger prairie biker said…

    I did that a long time ago actually. Do you remember that first traffic spike you got back in the spring? But with these guys, you gotta remind 'em a few times before they catch on. Especially the officers.....

     

Post a Comment

<< Home

 
Visits Since September 11, 2004