I essentially remember the week that Robert “RAT” Trivino appeared in the long spine of the main cantonment building at the Unit. I was on all-night Staff Duty then, and one of the duties of the Staff Duty was to add the photos of newly-assigned personnel to the Unit’s Personnel Identification binder. RAT’s training course had just graduated and I had the (small) stack of photos of the men in his class about to enter.
As was my tradition every time I came up for Staff Duty — two times per year tops — I set to memorizing the first names, at least, and faces of all new arrivals. Rob’s was easy to remember:
(Looking at the photo) “Ah, great — finally a Mexican brother to speak Spanish with!”
Close. While he did indeed speak Spanish, RAT was actually a Cochiti Pueblo Indian Warrior. The first time I passed him in the hall I greeted him thus:
“¿Eh, Roberto — que tal, hombre?”
He knitted his brow but otherwise did nothing, said nothing. That was ok; I reckoned he didn’t quite hear me… or perhaps he was just in the moment of channeling the spirit of a pair of brown socks. The second time I greeted him with no response it was time to have a little talk with Jesus and tell him all about my troubles.
He went on trial briefly in my head:
(The sound of a judge’s gavel) BANG… BANG… BANG…
“The court will come to order!”
“Mr. Trivino, you are accused of being an insensitive asshole; how do you plead, sir?”
“If it pleases the court, your Honor, I’d like to stress to the jury that my client, Mr. Trivino, was a very recent addition to the Unit and was struggling with a powerful episode of the ‘Newbie Jitters’ and…”
“Objection, your Honor — Mr. Trivino is a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) and he is an adult. He can respond to a social situation accordingly!”
“That’s BULLSHIT, your Honor!”
BANG… BANG… BANG… (sound of judge’s gavel)
“Mr. Hand I find you in contempt of court and hereby fine you $300. One more outburst like that from you and I’ll have you escorted out of this courtroom!”
So that judge was just lousy queer for Rob Trivino and I wasn’t getting my way — oooo, how I hated that judge! But when the day came that I greeted Sergeant Robert Trivino with again no response, the jury finally came in:
“Has the jury reached a verdict?”
“We have, your Honor; we, the jury, do hereby find the defendant, Sergeant Robert Trivino, guilty of perpetuating personal conduct in keeping with that of an insensitive asshole.”
“YES!! THAT’S RIGHT, BABY — YOU’RE A GUILTY SON OF A BITCH, TRIVINO!!”
BANG… BANG… BANG… BANG… BANG…
“Mr. Hand you are out of order!”
So I didn’t let Rob just walk by me this time. I caught up and laid a hand on his shoulder to get him to stop and turn around, and then introduced myself as being from A squadron. Now he was all grins and taking it easy:
“Sorry man, you freaked me out calling me by my name and speaking Spanish. I thought I was supposed to already know you from somewhere and must be losing my mind.”
RAT retired from the Unit after a stint that was as honorable as it was lengthy. He moved to Taos, NM not at all far from where I live now in Albuquerque. His forte became tactical training to Law Enforcement, and over the course of a couple of years he managed to produce his leadership book “A Warrior’s Path.” Rob typically came though Albuquerque a couple of times a year, and we always found time to get together over lunch and catch up.
As for me, I ended a four-year tenure with a counter-human traffic non-profit organization on 7 February 2019. It was a struggle for me to leave, though I maintained an eerie sense of calm about me as I walked away from the organization. “Now, what?” became my mantra for the time that followed. I had let go of my mission focus and wasn’t panicking… but didn’t know why.
Less than two days later I received news that Rob had quite suddenly fallen ill with a stroke. He awoke in the morning with the most unusual inability to shake off his morning grog. Before not long he became unresponsive and was taken to emergency at the Taos medical facility. There the staff recognized the condition and immediately had him flown to the trauma center in Albuquerque.
Did I have time to tend to RAT’s condition? Why yes, I certainly did; I most recently and matter of factly had all the time in the world to see to a stricken brother. I toyed with the notion that I left my human traffic work with such peace of mind because a greater power had this new situation for me to work on — helping the RAT!
That night I raced off to the hospital just to navigate my way around and learn where Rob’s room was. Visitors were not allowed at that time, but I just wanted to at least find his room for the next day’s visit — I just like to be smooth like that!
The next morning I got Rob’s essential medical condition dump and made my plan to step over and visit him within the next few hours. The initial danger seemed to be over; that is, he was no longer unconscious and was actually responsive and even sitting up for a while. His speech was labored though coherent. He had taken in some food and even stood up briefly. It all sounded great and I was looking forward to the visit.
I wore a new black pullover shirt and a new hooded sweatshirt that zipped up in front. I was zipping my hoodie down as I walked through Rob’s doorway. Nothing looked right — not at all! Rob was out cold with mouth open and head shaved revealing the most hideous fresh incision as long as a dollar bill. His wife and sister sat on either side of his bed crying both of them. I was unconditionally stunned and ran my new shirt up hard into the hoodie zipper where it caught fast.
I stood less than firm in the doorway as his wife asked who I was:
“I’m geo; I live here in Albuquerque. Rob and I served for years together in Delta.” I replied with all the swashbuckle of canned asparagus.
She turned away totally unimpressed as I stumbled into a chair in the back of the room. There I fought for over 40 minutes like a cornered grizzly bear trying to free my shirt from my zipper to the degree that I began to perspire from the effort. RAT’s wife and sister glanced back at the spectacle that I had become struggling against my wardrobe malfunction. I finally was awash in the resolution that the end had come for my garments. I drew my Sensei James Williams assisted-open folder and snapped forth the blade. With a fell swoop, I slashed both lines of apparel free.
The women observed me yet were unimpressed. Now my hoodie zipper lay limp, never to re-engage again, and there was an inverted V-shaped gape hanging open just large enough to reveal my umbilical disconnect.
Rob had taken a twist for the worse that morning. His cranial pressure had risen and he again lost consciousness because of it. The surgeons had removed a portion of his skull the size of a tomato and surgically implanted it just under the skin of his abdomen for enduring environmental stabilization.
Rob did come-to later in the day while I was still there. He grinned a rather righteous grin to see me there. We had some really basic communication and he listened to some of his favorite music that served both to soothe him and appall me at the same time. I gave him a list of all the names of the Unit men who had asked me to send him their regards. Though it did not occur to me that perhaps he was unable to read in his current state, he appeared to perk up with many of the names as he pointed them out.
The surgical team made Rob wear a helmet to protect his head for the time that the skull portion was removed, an accessory that greatly vexed him. That was until the Unit rushed over a state-of-the-art tactical helmet of the type that he was accustomed to wearing during his time there. Rob sported it with great pomp and dignity.
RAT is now recovering at his home in Taos with his wife and children. Task Force 160 pilot Gregory Coker made a trip there to visit and have lunch with Rob on November 18th. Judging by the photo taken then, it is clear that the RAT is doing pretty well. I’m not one to ever invite myself anywhere for any reason. For that, I maintain a vigil hoping for some word from the RAT asking me to come to visit. When the time comes I’ll be there at the drop of a helmet.
By Almighty God and with honor,