The making of a “Battle Gladiator”

I would like to say hello to anyone and everyone who may stumble across this wonderful project that has been introduced to me by a fellow Soldier, Grey Eagle. She is a wonderful woman, and I have the utmost respect for her and her convictions. Ones like her are few and far between. Keep your head up lady….I’m counting the hours now!

I serve in Grey Eagle’s Battalion and have been with this unit now just shy over three years. I have had over six Company Commanders, three Executive Officers, three 1SG’s, and one Battalion Commander. This is my second deployment in three years, and the fourth of four anniversaries I have missed with my husband. I’ve served as an S4, a Battalion Maintenance Officer, Maintenance Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, Maintenance Control Officer, and now I am a Battle Captain. The Battle Captain is the official title but there are a lot of other terms of endearment that I have been privy to learning since placed in this position. Most of them I will not relay to you for obvious reasons, but I did hear one from a fellow “Coffee Captain/Power Point Ranger” that I just had to keep, and I have been petitioning to have it added to my ORB ever since. He introduced me to the “Battle Gladiator.” It is ironic in the sense that the only battles I will ever see are the ones I watch in the TOC on CNN. And the occasional peer to peer epic Battle Royale that I am notorious for, but in order to be true to my new status as the Battle Gladiator, I will not be defeated–counseled maybe–but not defeated.

If someone would have said, “Captain, what is the absolute LEAST thing you want to do while serving in Iraq?” I would have said, “I NEVER want to be a Battle Captain–I want to have boots on the ground–rally the troops in a blaze of glory–kick some doors in–wooohooo!” So, of course, that being the case, here I sit at 0250 AM, as the Battle Captain. I rarely see daylight so I look something like I just crawled out of a cave in order to stalk my next victim for chow–while all my buddies are sporting their “California” tans looking like they belong on the cover of a Maxim magazine. I have made close friends with the other Battle Captains because by nature of the job, we have to communicate quite frequently, even though I have never seen half of them in real life. The most excitement I have in a day consists of trying to beg my boss to let me leave the FOB, and everytime I do it is like flashbacks of junior high school. “You NEVER let me do anything…it’s not fair” and then I run off to my SIPR computer to do some more slides and pout. I did mention I was 31 years old, right??? However disgruntled I may be, I am like Rain Man when it comes to grids, routes, frequencies, phone numbers, and call signs. Sometimes for fun, I will start fiddling with the Blue Force Tracker, and jack it all up, and spend the next two hours trying to figure out how to get it back to normal. You just haven’t lived until you’ve banged your head on your keyboard over and over again because despite how educated you are, you CANNOT figure it out–but the 19 year old Game Boy master can walk over to it and have it right as rain in seconds. BUT, I say Ok, I can roll with the punches. I can take one for the team. I can make the best of this….but I spend every day in complete seething fury…albeit transparent—I hope. I have started counting to ten a lot, finding my happy place, smiling on the outside–screaming like hell on the inside. You know what I’m talking about…it’s a lot like being grounded. You sit in your room and watch all your friends playing outside, but you are beholden to those four walls and can’t get out. Yeah, that’s a lot like my job.

On a serious note, the upside to this is that I am afforded visibility of the operations of the BCT as a whole. I get the opportunity to see the “big picture” of what we are accomplishing here. I know sometimes in the day to day of the deployment, there are things that get lost in the fog of war, and seeing the “big picture” tends to get a little fuzzy. But this is what I offer to my Soldiers, and I try like hell to remember this when I get up every day, and that is that everything we do or don’t do here can and inevitably will ultimately effect the overall mission. To make it as simple as I can, just think of this scenario: An infantry man and his team have a M1114 up armored humvee. The engine is blown and needs to be repaired. The high speed maintenance tech will put his mechanics on that truck as soon as it is dragged into his shop so that the men can get back in the fight. A mechanic, who may be having a bad day, or is not as experienced, or is distracted….will replace the engine. However, suppose he made an error when replacing the engine, but it was small, and it went unnoticed by the inspector. The next night, the platoon of infantrymen roll out on their routine patrol with their newly repaired M1114. While out, they are ambushed by insurgents and just as they are driving around to get into a better position to engage the insurgents with their .50 cal machine gun, the engine starts to sputter and then it just stops. The vehicle is boots up. Now the infantry men are immobile and are basically at the mercy of their buddies, and the insurgents. The situation went from being a little escalated to being potentially fatal. So, the bottom line is this…that mechanic who is as far from a firefight as one can get, was the defining factor in the situation, because he did not do his job. Had he treated the job, and the truck like it would be the truck he himself were riding in out in the streets of Iraq, would it have been done so carelessly? I don’t think so.

I reinforce this point to my Soldiers daily because it puts an entire different spin on things if your life LITERALLY is depending on a piece of equipment to work. When I were a young, enlisted tank mechanic a thousand years ago, in 3rd ID, I was on a Maintenance Support Team (MST) for three years supporting the 2-69th Armor Battalion. This was back when the “linear battlefield” still existed. As a member of the MST, the placement of the Unit Maintenance Collection Point (UMCP) in relation to the battle was not that far behind the maneuver unit. This was the place where the tanks were brought to be fixed expeditiously and then return to the fight. The Brigade Support Area (BSA) seemed a million miles away–in the rear. What that meant to me, even as a 20 year old specialist, was that if I didn’t know my job and didn’t get those tanks back in the fight as soon as possible–the next thing in line was the UMCP. In a very simple way, I understood that it was in my vested interest to do the best job I could do–because I only had my M16 and I had only fired it twice. I don’t think my little team of mechanics could have put up much of a fight with our little bity guns against their big ones. I use mechanics in the scenario, because they are continuously overworked, under recognized, and are behind the scenes making it happen every day. I present the “big picture” and how what they do makes a difference, even though they may not be able to see it so clearly.

The principle can apply to every single situation. Even my job. If I don’t make sure that the boss has a refrigerator stocked with Skoal and Beck’s near beer, then the entire staff will suffer his wrath. When he doesn’t have those things, he comes up with ideas for the staff….like, HEY! I know….S4…I need a ferris wheel and a hot tub RIGHT NOW! Yeah, stuff like that. Well, maybe not a ferris wheel, but a Diesel 4×4 Dooley Truck for his very own—HERE—in Iraq that looks coincidally just like the one he drives at home. I still don’t know how he managed to get that thing.

As for me, I am still honing my skills as the Battle Gladiator…but for now, I have to go make the boss’s coffee.


11 Responses to “The making of a “Battle Gladiator””

  1. Ch Bill McCoy Says:

    Hey, reading over your comments and want you to know that there is not a day or night that passes here that many many of us are not with you in our thoughts and prayers. Having been in OIF with 1st AD in 2003-2004 I know the deal. Plus, I have two sons over there now. Hey, we’re with you and you’re doing a terrific job. Sustain each other and know we’re with you in hearts and prayers!!!

  2. BattleGladiator Says:

    Thank you so much for your kind words. It is so good to hear those words sometimes. Things can be so trying, and there are days I have to dig in deep to get up and look at my crew in the eyes and say, “It’s a great day guys!!” What are we going to do for the Army today? How are we “going to have a great day at war today?” Of course, it should go without saying that I use sarcasm, and jokes to make light of just about everything…it is the only way I know. We do get through day to day, and we have grown to love each other as leaders, mentors, Soldiers, and people most of all. And how can that be a bad thing?
    Once again, thanks so much for everything.

    Michelle

  3. Steve Schalock Says:

    The TOC sucks! Worst duty there is!!! (spent 6 months as a
    TOC Bitch”)

    Thanks for you understanding and kind words for the maintainers - so few understand…

    You all are in my prayers

    Thanks!

  4. BattleGladiator Says:

    Steve,
    You don’t have to tell me….but I am the Battle Gladiator, and I have resorted to playing the Imperial March everyday just so I feel important. No, not really, but I think I will start.

    Thanks!!
    Michelle

  5. Steve Schalock Says:

    Graveyard shift, eh?

    I was with 116th BCT Commo. You relieved us - golly, did you relieve us!!! Sounds like you are doing a great job!!!

    Really!

    Y’all certainly have a better PA dept than we did! I’m still finding out things that happend 300 Meters from me while I was there! (outside the wire). Y’all have cleaned out some of the s***holes Division forced us to leave alone. Good Job.

    I think some of the “most wounded” by the end of the deployment, were those who ran the TOC… You probably have one of the most important, most cursed, and least appreciated jobs there are!!! At least you all have a coffee place. It opened three weeks before we left.

    Hang in there. Be ready to start a NEW life when you get home - the old one is gone…

    As you are able, support Grey Eagle. She sounds tired… (Charlie Med ROCKS!!!). tough job, tough soldier!

    All of you are in my prayers.

    TXX
    SSG Schalock

  6. Ofcr. Mike Says:

    I never had much TOC time serving in a line company, and admittedly, those folks took some good-natured scorn, but we were damn glad to have them doing their jobs when the crap hit the cornflakes. Your job is much more important than you realize! Godspeed…

  7. BattleGladiator Says:

    Mike,
    Yes..the scorn. I am familiar with this phenomenon. I have my share of head butting with the companies…but it is part of it. I don’t think I’ve caught on to the whole “more flies with honey” concept. I’m kind of a brute. :) I will always keep trying–and that’s all I can do. I find, also, that when the “crap hits the cornflakes” that all the egos take a break, and people get right. I appreciate the support. Thanks for everything you are doing!

    Michelle

  8. Spc CavGod Says:

    I have worked with Capt Wylie and she is a terrific officer. I have seen her chew some serious soldier ass but they deserved it. The other soldiers who work for her only have good words for her, even those who needed corrective training. Most of the officers get off treating us like crap, but she doesn’t, she gives us respect. Maybe because she was one of us before she became an officer.

    I also know Sgt Wilkinson and she is pretty cool. Every one likes her. She is funny and will pitch in and work with us and not just tell us to do all the work and leave for a long smoke break and come back when the job is done.

    When I was with another division I didn’t have much use for these female soldiers and less for officers but because soldiers like this I have changed my mind. I am glad I am deployed with them.

    air assault!!!

  9. SFC D Says:

    Great post, BG. Your descriptions had me in tears, I’m a night shift staff type myself. Just remember…”wars aren’t won by making powerpoint slides for your country, you make the other poor b@$tard make powerpoint slides for his country!”

  10. Steve Schalock Says:

    You mentioned the blue force tracker…

    If “FatAndrew-whomakes165Kayear” (yes, one word) (who, By the way, is no longer fat, and makes a lot more!!)… is still there, give him a big hello from the HHC 3-116th “commo guy”.

    Andrew is “hot stuff”! Forgot more than I’ll ever know!

  11. BattleGladiator Says:

    SFC D–
    I am going to have to steal your PowerPoint quote…it is clever…it made me chuckle. A lot of things make me chuckle lately. I work with two bright, beautiful, young ladies who literally keep me in stitches daily–and they don’t even try. The fight like sisters and sometimes I have to threaten them with physical violence to get them to be nice to each other–and that makes them laugh, thereby forgetting what they were arguing about. My daughter does the same thing–the laughing at me part. I tell them that I don’t need my 8 year old daughter, because I have two of them here. My shift is balanced with my superb NCOIC–who I like to refer to as “The Calming Ying to my Raging Yang”–and my intel Specialist who is older than I am and has a 15 year old daughter. So, our crew is fairly diverse and there is almost a 20 year age gap from youngest to oldest.
    My shift used to end at 2300, when it is pitch black outside. The other night I was walking out to the humvee, which has broken doors that we have to pry open with both legs, both arms, and sometimes explosives. One minute I was walking just fine, carrying my backpack of life, two laundry bags, my helmet, and God knows what else when I tripped on a stack of sandbags and fell completely on my face. I mentioned that I was 31, but I figure 13 years in the Army, two deployments, at one point I had 95 of my very own Soldiers–I think that qualifies me to be at least 60 in Army years. I just laid on the ground like an invalid. It wasn’t like I could move, I had the backpack of life holding me down. So, I think my brave, caring, loyal little Soldier who was standing beside me would, you know, help me up–dust me off–give me some water (what? I was feeling a little needy as I was laying there with dirt in my teeth.) BUT NO. Apparently my Soldier had fallen down also, only she had fallen down from laughing so hard. She was trying to help but she couldn’t stop laughing. Then she yelled at my NCO to come and look at me because he just had to look at the gimped up Captain–HA FREAKIN HA!!!
    It was quite the spectacle and also funny. We have moments like these at least every five minutes. We run a tight ship around here, let me tell you!!

    Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate you and everything you are doing!

    Michelle

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