The fact that privilege of commissioned rank exists in the military is certainly undisputed. Privilege to the extent of a double standard can be undeniably recognized, the unit’s status notwithstanding. I’m one to recognize and take note of an instance of that very occurrence and recount it to an interested audience because I’m a recounter of events… or at the very least I fancy myself as such.
I’m put squarely in mind of an interesting time for my unit when the son of a highly revered former Delta Force member came to join the ranks and pick up on his father’s path. The son was a Major; his father, a Colonel and vaunted operant with a thoroughly storied past serving in gallant capacity. It was a stalwartly prideful event for the unit to embrace the Major as one of its own.
The entry-level training course at the unit was several months long and very tedious, with strict rules governing performance; violation of the performance standard was taken in all seriousness and was ground for dismissal. Subject to the performance standards was firearms discipline — any accidental discharge of a firearm was an automatic dismissal from the unit.
It was the dreaded AD — Accidental Discharge — that was the buzzword in my unit. Most law enforcement circles term it “Negligent Discharge” which is totally acceptable, or so you might think. Both mean you fired your weapon when you were not supposed to or did not intend to.
I was always at peace with both terms until I read a spat between two entities in an online forum over “accidental” and “negligent.” The exchange was truly a thing of solemn wonder; of joy and pain… of apple and orange. Neither side would relent, though they should’ve if they could’ve. Their argument over adjectival nuance brought me to finally understand the rub between the Sunni and Shia, Johnny-Reb and Billy-Yank — the Hatfields and McCoys. I get it now:
“THE PROBLEM WITH YOU IS YOU’Z JUST NOT ME — AND THERE’LL BE NO MEETING OF THE TWAIN!!”
With regard to the two terms in question, it mattered not that you were a distracted pensive brooder or a sloppy flaming asshole, both terms meant you let the hammer fall at the wrong time, and therefore were headed to reassignment with the 18th Airborne Corps to be a punk and eat shit. So… JUST DON’T DO IT — BANG!
Commissioned Major M. Couillon was the son of the famous commissioned Colonel R. Couillon and now making his way through the entry-level unit training course as best he could. As it so happened, a non-commissioned brother (Sergeant) in that same course was so unfortunate as to suffer a (dreaded) AD:
“Say, what happened to Bruce?”
“Didn’t you hear? — he had an AD!”
“Oh, no… an AD? Oh, my God! Well, then he’s gone for sure, he is!”
“Yes, that’s it; he’s gone alright for sure — poor guy!”
“Yes, yes there’s no question about it.”
And there was no question about it.
It came to pass as a near paralyzing shock to all who bore witness to the event as it occurred, that near the same day commissioned Major Couillon, son of commissioned Colonel Couillon, was so despondent as to himself engage in an AD solution, to his certain discharge from the unit:
“Major Couillon had an AD, did you hear? He is gone there’s no question about it; gone from here is what he certainly is.”
But the Major had it on higher authority by way of his famous father and through the Holy Ghost that the extant rule as it applied to the AD experience did not apply:
1. To him who is so-commission as an officer in the United States Army
2. To him who so sired by a commissioned officer father in the United States Army
It is wholly a matter of sworn fact that the AD Sergeant passed the AD Major in the main unit hallway, the former going to turn all of his organizational equipment to Central Issue, the latter going to… lunch… at the chow hall. The edicts as they had originally been etched in granite had suddenly become quite mobile and meandering, elusive and dodgy, a moving target that was hard to pin down.
An edict there became like a river — ever twisting and turning, always seeking the path of least resistance:
Done was the deal: the Major stayed and the Sergeant left. I’m put soundly in mind of the wise man with whom I served at the Special Forces Dive School. The curriculum has just lost its most challenging and difficult exercise, one that definitively separated the men who were not comfortable in the water from those who were.
“Don’t sweat it, even with that exercise gone the water will weed them out. They will still find some other way to quit if they are scared of the water and how we have to perform in it. They’ll quit because of… a ham sandwich, or because it’s Thursday — the water will get them!”
And he was right, the wise Sergeant was. One Thursday ham sandwiches were being served in the chow hall. That night I motored by in my safety boat to see a student on the surface hugging his dive buoy like a teddybear and crying softly.
“What are you trying to tell me, Mister?” I inquired.
“I wish to voluntary terminate my status in this training course, Sergeant!”
And so it went.
If a man is not fit for my military unit he will be found out soon enough; the “water” will get him. The Major was assigned to and deployed with his company on a training exercise. To his horror and that of all of the organization back home, the Major’s assault rifle came up missing though he swore to Saint Toussaint, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Holy Trinity that he did indeed load his weapon out with the rest of his company.
They searched high and low and low and high. Back home we too searched high and low ad nauseam for the wayward weapon. It was the scuttlebutt of the canteen, the talk of the town, the word of the day the Major’s missing rifle was. There would be hell to pay if this scenario did not play out well for him. Why, there was going to be some powerful re-scripting of some foundational edicts if Major Couillon was going to survive this one, yeah.
And lo, it came to pass that the good Major’s assault rifle was at last discovered — back home in the Major’s weapons storage vault where it was never loaded out with the rest of the company’s weapons. He swore though that he loaded it out; a swear was a lie to his commanding officer. The odds were stacked high and leaning like the Tower of Pisa on the Majors case now. He already had a major performance failure (AD) and now a flagrant integrity violation — the only thing left was that he had cool hair, but would that hair be cool enough to see him through the dire straits he was in?
A credit check with Wells Fargo revealed that his Fair Issac Corporation score was “jus aiight.” To be in the unit you had to have a fast car, be good-lookin’, and have gooood credit. Major Couillon was relieved for cause. Now only the final excursion to turn in all of his organizational equipment to the Central Issue facility lay before him. Then there was the awkward walk he had to do through the front door of the 18th Airborne Corps for his assigned location to report daily to, to be a punk, and eat shit.
I am particularly hard on this thing that happened because it was just such regular army expected folly, shenanigans, boss-boys behaving badly. Let’s bend the rules for the cool guy. We want that guy on our team because he’s really a hoot when he’s drunk — all so terribly DevGru of the brothers in my unit. I thought I had left all that mortal crisis dog shit behind me, and I was all the more brilliantly enflamed when it showed up in that safe haven unit of mine.
Another amazing friend and mentor of mine suggested to me that I just be glad that I got out when I did. So I hear the bureaucracy there now is thicker than pea soup during an Arctic Winter. So maybe it is so that they have three bathrooms to choose from there now, only get one serving of starch at lunch, have to wait 30 minutes after lunch before swimming, have timeout rooms, get issued skinny combat fatigues and Vans footwear, have see-through plexiglass splash guards separating the urinals, have no urinals, and sing “It’s Raining Men,” in place of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Me, I don’t know if all those things are true about that place or not, I just hear pieced together word-of-mouth description of the place now — surely not a thing worthy of dwelling on. Being glad I got out when I did sounds good to me; the lack of worry in that regard lends me to more important things like… souping up my Ford Fusion, styling my hair, and boosting my credit score.
By Almighty God and with honor,