Today's keyword is troop.
Problems With Paratroops
Charlie had planned ahead. He'd placed a bunker complex right where we would be working with a platoon from the 101st Airborne.
This was going to be interesting.
The Dude was keeping watch with the binos. "OK, enemy in sight," he said suddenly.
"It's a butter-bar..."
I waited, dreading what the next words might be.
"And he's got a map."
There is nothing more dangerous than a second lieutenant with a map...unless it's an Airborne second looey with a map.
The Dude lowered the glasses and shook his head. "Just when I was getting accustomed to the thought of staying alive."
The Airborne officer strode up to where we'd laagered the tanks. He rapped sharply on the fender of the New Guy Tank with the butt of his .45, and was then directed over to us.
"Hello, men. I've got a job for you." He sounded like he'd just watched a few too many John Wayne movies.
"Yes?" I said.
He looked up at men and put his hands on his hips, crumpling the map. "Yes, SIR, sergeant." I guess messing up his map had irritated him.
"Sorry, sir. What can we do for you?" I remained seated in the turret. No need to expend energy until I was told to.
He spread the map out on the fender. "We've scouted a bunker complex...would you please come down from there, sergeant?"
I sighed, loud enough for him to hear, and swung myself down. The Dude followed. Biff and Sonny had been relaxing on the back deck. they sat up to listen.
"We've scouted a bunker complex here." He pointed at the map, and then turned to point ata treeline in the distance. "Right there. It's a big one. At least a half-dozen classroom-size, and the camo on top is fresh."
The Dude picked up the binos to scan the treeline. "Ah, sir?" he said in his most respectful voice. "Sir?"
"Yes, what?" The butter bar was impatient.
"It's more over there, don't you think?" He pointed thirty degrees off from where the lieutenant had indicated.
"Hmmm. Yes. That's where I was pointing!" He waved his arm more generally now. "Over there."
"Of course, sir." The Dude was carefully glassing the treeline, and the ground in front of it.
The officer turned to me. "You're going to assault that complex, sergeant. My men will follow once you've taken out the main structures, and we'll mop up. You will use HE, and individually destroy each bunker. Is that clear?"
It was clear, all right. The Dude stepped in before I could destroy my own career by replying.
"Tanks don't work that way, sir."
The lieutenant looked at The Dude as if a case of c rats had just opened on its own accord, and spoken to him. "I beg you pardon?" he said.
He really said that. I guess the Army really took this officer-and-gentleman thing seriously.
The Dude went on. "Sir, we operate with infantry support. We need your guys around us. Alone, we're sitting ducks for anyone with a satchel charge or an RPG."
"That's absurd. You have armor, you have weapons..."
"And we can't see out, except through the viewing blocks. Besides, an RPG will go through more than a foot of armor."
The lieutenant looked at me. I nodded at The Dude. "He's got more experience here than I do, sir."
"Some commander you are...well, son," he said to The Dude, "how do you know that?" He was at least five years The Dude's junior.
The Dude said mildly, "Because an RPG went through the glacis of my first tank. Thirteen inches. I wasn't driving them, otherwise I wouldn't be talking to you now."
"Well, now isn't that why you have hatches? So you can see the threat and kill it?"
I couldn't resist. "Well, sure, but we make awfully good targets for snipers. They sort of know where to look, sir."
"Well, now if you're scared, you should have said so."
The Dude stepped close to the lieutenant. "Sir, my TC isn't scared of anything in this country, or this war."
"He's afraid to do his job!"
The New Guy crew had drifted over to hear if we were really going to go out and commit suicide at the orders of this idiot.
The Dude remained calm and mild and venomous. "Well, sir, I'll tell you what. With TC's permission..." He looked toward me, and I nodded. "He'll drive, and I'll ride the commander's cupola."
"Well, at least somebody here's got guts."
The Dude smiled. "No, sir. It's just that I'm expendable."
The lieutenant nodded, and said, "Well, be that as it may. H-hour is zero-five-hundred zulu."
Sonny spoke up. "Pardon me, sir, buh, what's that tahm, heah?" Zulu was GMT, which didn't mean much on the other side of the world.
"Figure it out, soldier!"
"Marine," said a deep voice behind me.
"Wha...uh..." the lieutenant was looking over my shoulder as if he'd just seen God Himself. "Uh, sir!" He threw a salute that would have knocked him cold if it had been any sharper. Perhaps that would have been a mercy for him, given what followed.
I turned, and behind me stood a full-bird, with leathery skin and crinkles around his eyes that made him look kindly. "Hello, sir," I said. I didn't salute. You don't salute in the field, because that identifies officers for a sniper.
The colonel smiled, crinkling his eyes more. He said to the lieutenant, "Son, we don't call these boys soldiers. They're Marines. We want their help, so we don't insult them."
The lieutenant looked like he'd swallowed a yardstick from the wrong end. "Yes, sir!" This time he didn't salute, but his hand flinched. He sure wanted to polish that apple.
"Now why don't you boys tell me what my subordinate wants y'all to do." He looked at The Dude, and I realized that he'd been close by all along, listening.
The Dude explained the lieutenant's plan, and outlined our objections.
The lines on the colonel's face seemed to deepen as he listened, and when The Dude had finished, he nodded. "Excellent presentation, son. If you ever want to transfer to the Eagles, I'll sign a personnel request. We could sure use you...though I guess it would be a step down for you, eh?"
The Dude said, with a neutral expression, "Sir, I'd be honored."
"I'll bet!" laughed the colonel. "Now, I want y'all to run this assault they way y'all think it should be run. Just tell the lieutenant here what you need, and you'll do it."
The butter-bar had turned white, which wasn't surprising, seeing as how he'd been freshly castrated in front of a group of Marine enlisted tankers. "Yes, sir," he said, in the voice of a dormouse with a head cold.
The colonel ambled off, leaving the lieutenant standing there, alone among allies, blinking rapidly.
The Dude climbed back onto the tank, and disappeared into the turret. He emerged, and said to the lieutenant, "Here, catch!"
And he threw the boy a can of our highly-prized Millers.