Everybody in the military thinks that they are the coolest ones.

Everybody in the military thinks that their job is the most important.

The admin troop who fills out forms and processes requisitions and keeps folders in line knows, with certainty, that without his diligence, there would be no materials, and the mission would never get done.

The maintainer sees the admin troops as an obstacle to be contended with. The paperwork impedes the mission. The mechanic who keeps the bird running knows, explicitly, that without him, the birds would never fly, and the mission would never get done.

The tanker pilot sees the mechanics as secondary. When they fail to fix things quickly enough, the mission suffers. The tanker pilot who fuels the troop lift knows that, beyond a doubt, without him, the heavy couldn't make it, nothing would ever get done.

The heavy pilot sees the tankers as a necessary evil. They're too chickenshit to refuel enroute or at tactical altitude, and cost divert time to get to. The heavy pilot dropping off the doorkickers knows, with clarity of purpose, that without him, the doorkickers would never go anywhere, nothing would ever get done.

The doorkickers respect the heavy pilot, because he takes them where they need to go, and brings them home when they're done, but they dislike the direct control he has over the final leg. The pilot will abort for reasons that seem trivial, keeping them from being on target. The doorkickers know that if they don't get on target, badguys won't die.

She was an admin troop. I'll call her... Jenny. Jenny did not habitually carry her weapon. In a firefight she would have been a liability if she'd tried to take to the walls. She did the paperwork that kept the bullets and beans flowing. She tracked statistics to make the boss happy. She kept track of who was using their allotted phone minutes and who didn't want them, so that others could use them instead. She submitted performance reviews and filled out medal paperwork and knew how to fix pay, so that we didn't have to deal with it.

There was always coffee made, the map table was always cleared off, and when anybody so much as looked at the equipment lockers, whether spooky guy contractor or GS-15, Jenny'd drop what she was doing to tell them to fuck off and don't touch, sometimes in as many words.

She went out of her way every single day to do things wildly outside of her job description. Part of that was the climate of expectations in the unit: Everybody was expected to do what needed to be done, not simply what their position demanded. Majors burned shitters when nobody else was around. E-2's took phonecalls from Brigadier Generals to answer questions or give briefs, or told them "no" when they asked for things. It happens.

But Jenny was some sort of prototype, some sort of machine that knew only duty. She said in a briefing once, "I want the last thing you see before you walk out into the dark to be a smiling woman." This coming from a woman whose husband waited until she was in Afghanistan to go off of his medication, divorce her, take the kids, clean out the bank account, sell the house and the cars, tell lies to her family, tell lies to her commander, and email her once a week with hate and abuse.

This coming from a woman who slept four hours a night because she was wearing so many hats, who had shown up prepared to do two jobs and instead did five, who timed her showers so that guys coming back off mission would have the most hot water possible, who for Christmas gave each of us who "needed" one a boar's hair beard brush to replace the $.50 plastic combs we normally used, because she'd read that a poofy beard made a better impression with the locals, and gave the rest a 10-pack of the really nice disposable razors (the ones with a rubber handle and a slime strip) that we could almost never get a hold of and fought over like children when we could.

Jenny made a mistake, once. I won't lie and say that it wasn't really that big of a deal, because it was. Not on the level of costing lives, but something that should have never happened.

When the direct consequences followed, one of the new guys said something to the effect of "Fucking typical pogue bullshit", and I thought the Chief was going to slap the shit out of him. And I might have done, myself, if the Chief hadn't said what he said.

The Chief said, "Who the fuck are you? Jenny is ten feet tall and bulletproof, and you are just a mortal man. Tread lightly, motherfucker."

This is for you, Jenny. I know we humped that flag out to fuckface nowhere and back for your reenlistment ceremony and you cried at the presentation, I know you probably have the plaque up in your cubicle, and I know I send you a birthday card every year, but this is for you.

I know you've left the unit now, I know you're back in the conventional world, but don't ever be afraid to tell anyone, mechanic, pilot, doorkicker, or Brigadier General, to "tread lightly, motherfucker."

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