Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bring it, Punks!

A cowardly group in the Middle East, using the tactic of terrorism to further their strategic aim of reestablishing an Islamic caliphate, has threatened to attack U.S. military members and veterans here in the homeland.  The FBI has responded by encouraging America's defenders to scrub their social media accounts of military mention.

Think about that for a minute.  

The greatest, most valorous, best trained, and most loyal military in the history of civilization is being told by their government to run and hide due to a dubious threat from a bunch of cowardly, amateur, warrior wannabes. 

The Colonel, who has skin thicker than the frontal armor on an M1A1 tank, takes great offense at that notion.

The Colonel is reminded of an early September day, thirteen years ago.  After he sat transfixed by the televised terror attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon for the better part of an unbelieving hour, the Colonel was jolted by the question from one of his subordinates, 

"Sir, what have we heard from higher headquarters?"  

It dawned, slower than sunup in late December (the Colonel ain't smart and you can't make him),  on the Colonel that the better question was: what had our subordinate commands heard from their higher headquarters?

The Colonel ordered a conference call with his subordinate commanders, ASAP.

Following an insane year heading up Current Operations for U.S. Forces, Korea, 2000 to 2001, the Colonel had leaped from the frying pan to the fire, taking command of the 6th Marine Corps District -- responsible for Marine Corps enlisted and officer recruiting in the Southeast in early July of 2001.  (Anyone who has ever served as a recruiter or commanded recruiters knows that it is the most intense job you'll ever have outside of combat.) The 6th MCD then had eight subordinate commands (Recruiting Stations) spread over Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.  Each of those commands (small battalions in their scope of responsibility and impact) was led by a major, each with upwards of 50 to 60 Marine NCOs spread over their territories in 2 and 3 man offices.  

When all of the Recruiting Station C.O.'s were on the line, the Colonel joined them and told them everything he knew at the time.  Wasn't much.  He still had heard nothing from higher headquarters.

The Colonel then asked for reports from the field.  The first major reported that his subordinate NCO's in charge of recruiting offices across his area of responsibility were reporting that the other services' recruiters (the majority of military recruiting offices are collocated) were being told by their higher headquarters to change into civilian clothes and go home.

The Colonel opined that some local commander must be over-reacting.  

Many of the rest of the majors quickly disabused him of that opinion.  It was happening all over.  The other services, in a greatly misplaced (in the Colonel's not-so humble opinion) sense of heightened "force protection" (a term that still sets the Colonel's teeth on edge), had sent their soldiers, airmen, and sailors running home when their nation most needed them visibly on the job.

The Colonel was dumbfounded and, for only one of a very few times in his career, speechless.  

One of the majors spoke up, "Colonel, I told my Marines to stay in uniform and stay very visible.  Should I have done different?"

That was the best military decision the Colonel had heard in the past couple of hours (if not his previous two decades + of service) and he told the major so.

"Gentlemen," the Colonel commanded, "stay in uniform and stay visible.  I'll be back in touch as soon as I hear anything from higher headquarters."  

It was a no-brainer command.  

The Colonel made a career out of 'em.

The Colonel is quite certain that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers, sailors, and airmen were disgusted at the order to get out of uniform and go home that day.

So, back to the present.

The Colonel is quite certain that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines share his disgust with the suggestion by the FBI (in particular) and their government (in general) that they should hide from an enemy of their nation.

We will not hide.  

We will not cower.

We will not run.

Not from China; not from a resurgent Russia; not from a drug cartel; and certainly not from that passel of punks, ISIS.

Two words:

BRING IT!


               

Monday, December 01, 2014

Mississippi Pride

The last games of the 2014 college football regular season were played in a paroxysm of prideful rivalry this past weekend.  

Here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the annual intrastate grudge match between the Colonel's Ole Miss Rebels and the Mississippi State Bulldogs kicked off Saturday afternoon with passion and potential perhaps at an all time high for an "Egg Bowl."

Both teams began the season with great expectations.   Halfway through the season both teams were 7 and 0.  

Unprecedented.      

At one point, State and Ole Miss were together in the top 4 of the preliminary new College Football Championship playoff poll -- thanks primarily to State's wins over perennial powerhouses LSU and Auburn; and Ole Miss' wins over Alabama and A&M.

Unbelievable.

The SEC, and the SEC West in particular, seemed to be turned upside down.  The talk at mid-season was that the Egg Bowl, not the Iron Bowl, would decide the West.  That certainly was the Colonel's fondest wish.

But the SEC West wasn't so much turned upside down as it was just settled into a rare equilibrium of really good teams from "top to bottom."  That kind of high-quality balance in a seven-team division of a "power-five" conference makes for some great football.

It also makes it nearly impossible for any team to get to the conference championship unscathed.   When you have a conference full of legitimate contenders, the likelihood is that championship-chances cannibalism will result.  

Does anyone really believe that FSU would be undefeated at this point playing in the SEC? 

But, most of the above falls under the rod and cone wasting category of MOTO -- Mastery of the Obvious.  Apologies.

What probably sets the Colonel apart from nearly every other football fan in the great state of Mississippi is that he doesn't hate the other Mississippi school (far too much hate already invested in Bama and LSU -- none left for State) and he has a fairly rigid (but not completely binding) "no-gloating" rule.

To call the Colonel "old school" would be an understatement rivalling Custer's "Troopers, things are about to get interesting."

The Colonel has never been a big fan of "smack talk;" never liked taunting; never liked "rubbing it in;" never thought much of outlandish celebration of a score or victory.

Well, he says "never," but the truth is the Colonel probably did a little bit too much of all of the above early in his formative years.  At some point in the last four decades of his "adulthood" (and the Colonel uses that term as loosely as a newborn's diaper deposit) the Colonel began to emulate the example of some really great leaders (his dear old Dad among them) and sought increasingly to veneer over his fanaticism with a liberal dose of sportsmanship.

For the LSU and Bama fans who may have stumbled across this post in a cyber Monday Christmas gift search for corndog sampler gift packs or pachyderm-printed bathroom tissue, the term "sportsmanship" does not involve the following (many of which the Colonel has seen in person on more than one occasion):

Cursing at and taunting a five year old in opposing team colors.

Screaming profanities at ladies in opposing team colors.

Killing trees on the opposing team's campus.

Throwing whiskey bottles at opposing team fans.   

The Colonel could go on, but you get his drift.  At some point we should all take a deep breath and remember the words of that great humanitarian and philosopher of the human condition, Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?" 

For the record, the Colonel is more than just a bit disappointed in the Rebel Nation derision directed toward crushed State fans.  The Colonel is not a fan of the "#FailState" meme.  The Colonel believes we are better than that.  

Take the high road, Rebels.  Love is the greater force.  Leave the hate-generation to Coach Mullen.  Our coach says it best:  "We don't play out of hate for the other team; we play out of love for each other."

The Colonel really likes that philosophy -- it's the philosophy upon which was built the really great teams of Marines with which he served.   

The Colonel congratulates Mississippi State on their best season ever.  You should be very proud.  Heck, the Colonel is proud of you.  

State and Ole Miss have a record-setting combined regular season win / loss total of 19 and 5.  Wins in bowl games will give both Mississippi schools at least 10 wins in the same season for the first time, ever!

Next year, let's finish this the right way:  Egg Bowl decides the West. 

Mississippi First!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Crumbling Empires

The "Gang of Five."  Five BLT 1/8 captains (Gregory, Foresi, 

Larriviere, Dupras, and Welsh ) on their second deployment
 to the Mediterranean together -- Italy, 1990
Twenty-five years ago, today, the Colonel was assigned as the Operations Officer (Ops O) for Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 1/8 -- a reinforced (tanks, artillery, engineers) infantry battalion -- that was the ground combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable, aka MEU (SOC).  The Colonel was then still a captain, but selected for major.  He was in his third year of a demanding and exhilarating second assignment as a company grade officer with a Marine infantry battalion.  

The Colonel, and nearly a thousand of his closest friends, were on the second six-month deployment to the Mediterranean in as many years, having only returned from the last such deployment just thirteen months earlier.  He had been a rifle company commander on that earlier deployment -- leading a reinforced infantry company of some 200 hard-chargers assigned as the heli-borne raid company for the 26th MEU -- SOC.  

Commanding a rifle company was by far the most fun the Colonel had in his career in the Corps.  Lots of demanding and rewarding assignments followed company command, but no job was ever near as much fun.  

The Colonel had lobbied hard to stay in command of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines (C 1/8) for the second deployment, but as a major (select) he had been the obvious choice to fill the vacancy in the Operations Officer billet -- last filled by another Ole Miss grad, Mike Edwards.  That, and the Marine Corps has an unwritten, yet faithfully followed, rule that, "No officer shall be allowed too much fun."   

The 24th MEU had shipped out from the East Coast the middle of October in 1989, embarked on amphibious shipping -- an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisting of an old helicopter carrier (LPH), and two smaller amphibs (an LPD and an LST).  The ARG had sailed slowly across the Atlantic and arrived in Rota, Spain early in November for face-to-face "Turnover" with the ARG and MEU finishing up their deployment and heading home.

After a few days of suffering through the outgoing BLT's briefs, the leaders of BLT 1/8 gladly bid farewell to their brothers heading home and leaned into the tasks ahead.

In those days, the Cold War was still frosty.  The Soviet Union was the enemy, and the Red Army/Navy and it's surrogates in the Middle East were still the focus of combat preparations for US naval forces patrolling the Med.  In particular, MEU (SOC)s, while highly prepared for operations at the lower end of the conflict scale, still kept the "Fight with the Warsaw Pact" playbook handy.  The main reason, it had always seemed, that US forces patrolled the Med, was to counter Soviet presence and influence.   

No one dared dream of a world in which the Soviet Union no longer existed.  The only way the Soviets were going away was in a nuclear winter, and that potentiality would also give the rest of the world frostbite.  The standoff with the Soviets was the framework of reality within which every American serviceman and woman planned each day, the remainder of their active duty careers, and the rest of their lives.

The Colonel's boss, BLT 1/8's commanding officer, was then Colonel, later General and Commandant of the Marine Corps, Mike Hagee.  Colonel Hagee was one of the smartest and well-connected officers with whom the Colonel ever served.  He was the first person the Colonel ever saw carry and use a portable computer -- a small suitcase-sized oddity.  Hagee tried unsuccessfully to teach the Colonel to use it -- giving up only after his student caused it to crash and lock up several times.

Twenty-five years ago, tonight, Colonel Hagee, his senior staff officers, and company commanders were bellied up to a bar in the Naval Station Rota Officers' Club.  A small television behind the bar flashed scenes of mobs of Germans destroying the symbol of Soviet domination -- the Berlin Wall.

The word "surreal" doesn't begin to describe the feeling those Marine officers were experiencing.  Never at a loss for irreverent comments and observations on any situation, this group of young men sat in stunned silence watching the wall crumble.

As the reality of the impending demise of the Soviet Union began to sink in one of the Colonel's brothers turned to their commander and asked the question on all of their minds, 

"Sir, does this mean we can go home, now?" 

It didn't.  Things actually got worse.  Chaos reigned, and has reigned for the twenty-five years since.

Today, Russia is resurgent and more and more bellicose.  

Today, China is a greater threat than ever.

The United States spent the last quarter century restructuring a military establishment from one focused on WWIII with the Soviets to one focused on fighting a nebulous war on terror.

The problem is that the United States, in the Colonel's not-so humble opinion, made a huge strategic mistake in restructuring to fight a tactic.  In 1991, the US actually used a military designed to fight the Soviets, with great efficiency and to great effect to eject Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait.  In 2003, the same capabilities dethroned Saddam.  In the Colonel's not-so humble opinion, the same Cold War force should have been used in a couple of short years after 9/11 to eliminate terrorism's center of gravity -- Middle Eastern regimes bankrolling the terror organizations.

Instead, the United States squandered the opportunity and frittered away blood and treasure with half-hearted limited objective campaigns.  

The United States should be the preeminent force -- one for GOOD -- in the world, today.  Instead, the United States is so weakened that a punk thug by the name of Vladimir Putin is rebuilding the Soviet Union.

The Colonel apologizes to his grandsons.  They will have to endure another Cold War.                       

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Not-so Familial

The Colonel knew it was coming.

He could see it as clearly as a squirrel sees the car it tries to head fake.

And, like the squirrel, no matter what he did, he couldn't stop the impending smash.

Poor squirrel -- insults are heaped on injury.  Once mashed into the macadam, car after car runs over it.

Of course, the Colonel is talking about Ole Miss Football.  It's October, isn't it?

The Colonel saw it coming.  The inevitable loss against someone with whom the Colonel's Rebels should have mopped the floor.

The Colonel saw it coming.  The snide remarks from Little Brother -- Mississippi State fans in general, and his "not-so" little brother in particular.

The Colonel tried to forestall the latter with the preseason offer of a truce until the Egg Bowl.  But, the hate is strong in TSBU (the school beneath us) for Mississippi's Flagship University.   

Yeah, the Bulldogs are really good this year.  The Colonel will go so far as to say, great this year. 

The Colonel is proud of Little Brother -- despite State's hate.  There hasn't been a Mississippi team ranked #1 in college football in a very long time.  Wish it was Ole Miss, again.  But, it's a new century and it's the Bulldogs' turn. 

After eight weeks of daily cheering for his Rebel's, the Colonel was quiet to begin this week.  "Not-so" took to social media to not-so subtly imply that the Colonel's silence was sulking over the weekend loss to Corndog U. 

Not so.  The Colonel doesn't sulk.

He stews.  He ruminates.  He reflects.  He retreats into jaw-tightened, self-disciplined silence.  But, that's not sulking... 

Pardon the Colonel for a moment while he indulges in a flash non-sulk...

...

Okay.  The Colonel will clean up that broken coffee cup and wipe the coffee off the wall, after he finishes this post. 

This weekend, the Colonel's Rebels play his dad's Auburn Tigers.

Out of great paternal respect, and in a continuing effort to promote and maintain familial comity, the Colonel did not plaster social media this week with his customary calls for Rebel opponent beat-downs. 

But, Dad, your second son -- herein before and after referred to as Not-so -- and wife, have egregiously violated the terms of the 2014 Family Football Truce.  

That's right, the Colonel's mother "ran over the squirrel" -- liking Not-so's Facebook comment implying that the Colonel was sulking...

Pardon the Colonel for another flash non-sulk...

...

The Colonel is running out of coffee cups, and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda is going to be curious about that particular stain on the drapes...

Dad, the Colonel holds you responsible.  The truce is hereby annulled.   

Go Rebs!  Beat Auburn!

  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rebel Hyperventilation Nation

Last he pontificated on the subject, the Colonel was basking in the afterglow of a rare Ole Miss Rebel Football win over the hated Alabama Crimson Tide.

Said win was followed up in short order by fairly impressive, in the Colonel's not so humble opinion, wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee.

As a result, the Colonel's Rebels have occupied the loftiest poll perch in the Colonel's remembrance for two weeks running.

The Colonel has been breathing deeply -- the air at the top is rarefied and rarely inhaled by Rebel Nation.

The perch is precarious.

It's also meaningless until the end of the season.

But, oh how fun at the moment!  

At the beginning of the season, Rebel Nation knew they had an improving team, but hopes were tempered by experience and an acute awareness of the combat power of the neighbors in the SEC. 
The feeling was Ole Miss' year was coming -- we just didn't think it was this year.

The Colonel is still not sure this is the year.  

Look, we obviously caught Alabama looking forward to Arkansas. And, A&M was obviously looking forward to their trip to Tuscaloosa.  

While other coaches might have been tempted to overlook the next opponent and allow their teams to look too far ahead, Freeze, Wommack, and company have done an excellent job of keeping the team's focus in the moment

The problem is the Colonel just ain't an "in the moment" kind of guy.  He frets over the future of everything.

Over his morning coffee, the Colonel frets about what's for lunch.

On Mondays, the Colonel frets about what he'll get done by the end of the day on Friday.

In the last week of January, the Colonel frets about whether he'll survive the hated month of February.

The Colonel frets.  Period.  Wait, what is the Colonel gonna write next?      

It's not a fearful fretting, mind you.

When the Colonel frets, he runs countless possible scenarios over in his mind, each as equally capable of outstanding outcomes as they are fraught with disastrous downsides. 

When it comes to Ole Miss football, however, it always seems that the potential for disaster far outweighs the chances of success.

So, with the most critical six weeks of the season ahead, and the Colonel's Rebels on the brink of the greatest season in two generations of long-suffering Rebel fans, the Colonel's football fretting is approaching critical mass.

To call the Colonel manic would be a clinical understatement.  

One moment he's like all "Whooo hooo!  Seven and O, baby! We're gonna play for championships!"

The next he's all, "Woe is me!  We gotta go play the Corndogs at night in Tiger Stadium."

Then it gets better.  "Wait, our defense could hold the Packers to two field goals.  We'll beat LSU."  

Then it gets worse.  "Wait, what if 'Bama beats State, we lose to Auburn, and there's a three way tie for the West?  Oh no, they'll give it to Alabama!"   

Has the Colonel mentioned how much he hates Alabama?

And, don't even get the Colonel started on one-loss scenarios and the final four play-off selections...

Okay, Coach.  The Colonel will apply what little self-discipline he has left and endeavor to stay in the moment.  

Deep breaths.  

One game at a time.

BEAT LSU!




  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Passing in Reunion

Forty years ago this fall, the Colonel officially became an Ole Miss Rebel. 

He joined approximately 1500 fellow freshmen, about 60 of whom were enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) -- most on a scholarship to become Navy ensigns upon graduation.  The Colonel and two others in that group were Marine Options -- on scholarship to be commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps upon graduation.

We three -- J. D. Henley, Rhett Anthony, and the Colonel -- bonded quickly.  We had little choice, outnumbered as we were.  

Sporting our closely cropped Marine "high and tight" haircuts we would have blended in quite well with the rest of the men in the freshman class... if it had been ten years previous.

But, this was the seventies -- freshman hazing was out and hair was long.

The Colonel, then an NROTC Midshipman 4th Class, had reported in and introduced himself to the Marine Officer Instructor -- then Captain H. L. Gerlach -- at the beginning of the semester with a fresh haircut.  It wasn't fresh, nor cut, enough.

"Nice to meet you, Midshipman Gregory.  Get a haircut."

When the Colonel protested that he had just gotten a haircut, he received the first of many very valuable and equally memorable "periods of instruction" from Captain Gerlach.  

In the Colonel's experience, there were two distinctly different types of leaders in the Marine Corps.  There were screamers, whose high decibel, vein-popping reactions to "teachable moments" soon lost their impact on screamees who learned to shut down most conscious systems and retreat into a metaphysical cocoon for the duration of the verbal assault -- emerging only when their faces detected a significant lessening of spittle impact.

The other, far more effective, leaders were those who could gnaw furiously on an errant subordinate's hindquarters all the while maintaining a collegial tone of voice.  Their correction of mistakes sometimes even brought a smile to the face of the correctee, who, reflecting later on the lesson-learned, often gasped at the realization that they had smiled during what they then realized was not really a smiling moment.      

Captain Gerlach was one of the latter leaders.

This coming weekend, at one point during which the Colonel's Rebels will go to war with the Tennessee Volunteers, a small group of the men and women, taught by Gerlach and a handful of other unsung American heroes during the mid to late '70's, will gather in reunion.   These former Navy and Marine officers, all with distinguished careers in and out of uniform, will renew acquaintance, reminisce, show off pictures of grandchildren (!), talk bad about those who for one reason or another failed to join them this year, and pause to honor those among their early number whose presence at the gathering is prevented only by their passing.

The Colonel looks forward to this weekend every year, if only for the opportunity to parade his trophy wife, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.  

Oh, and one more thing -- Go Rebs!  Beat Tennessee!

   

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Sweet, Go Home, Alabama...and take your refs with you.

Victory is a sweet reward in any contest.  Even sweeter the victory over an old rival.

Then, there is the absolute sugar-rush, near diabetic coma sweetness of a win against Alabama.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel is to know some of the most frustrating football fanaticism known to mankind.  Unlike the millions of bandwagon fans sporting RTR and Geaux Tigers t-shirts, an Ole Miss Rebel wears his Red and Blue for an entirely different reason and with an entirely different passion.

Bandwagon fans gravitate to, and identify with, perennial winners, puffing out their chests and proclaiming "We!" about a team for which their only association is a sense of a lack of self-worth shared with a million other otherwise losers.  They strut their Walmart-bought Tide and Tiger apparel like pre-pubescent peacocks preening on the outside of the mating arena.

Ole Miss Rebels wear their fan togs like a penitent wears a smudge of ash the day after Fat Tuesday. 

But, the Colonel digresses too far into that rabbit warren of self-pity-driven hatred.  He'll attempt to collect himself for coherence sake.

That, and the angry spittle is beginning to cover the computer monitor screen to the point that it is becoming difficult to see what the Colonel is tippy-tapping on the keyboard.

The Colonel will concede that the University of Alabama, more often than not in his lifetime, fields one of -- if not the -- best football teams in the country.  

And, far more often than not, in the Colonel's lifetime, the University of Alabama's football team has waltzed over his Rebels, whipping our boys around as easily as Fred led Ginger. 

(For the LSU grads attempting to follow the Colonel's witty use of digital analog, Ginger Rogers -- not Gilligan's Ginger -- was the dance partner of the greatest dancer -- Fred Astaire -- of the 20th Century.)

The Tide's all-time win record against the Rebels is so lop-sided that most Ole Miss Rebels can count all of the Rebel wins they have witnessed on one chain-saw mangled hand.

The Colonel has been to two -- count-'em -- two games against 'Bama from which his Rebels emerged victorious.  The first was in 1976.

The second was last night.

That win-loss record frustration is compounded by a phenomenon that EVERY SINGLE Ole Miss Rebel immediately calls to mind the second Alabama football is mentioned -- the refs are always for the Tide.

The Colonel knows he sounds like a whiney crackpot conspiracy theorist.  To which notion he replies, "who you callin' a 'conspiracy theorist?!?'"

(Hey LSU fans, did you see what the Colonel did right there?  No? Well, look, the Colonel said that somebody might call him a "whiney crackpot conspiracy theorist" for believing that the refs always call a game in favor of Alabama; and then the Colonel's refutation implied that he was indeed a whiney...  Oh, never mind.)

Look, the Colonel won't bore you with a recitation of game and quarter, play and flag from the Book of 'Bama.  Just know that, yes, we have a self-pitying, venom-filled "Book of 'Bama," and that said tome includes countless verses recited faithfully by every Ole Miss Rebel above the age of accountability at every mention of the annual matchup.  

The officiating in favor of Alabama has gotten so bad in recent years that Ole Miss Rebels have even started to accept it as fate.  We're being punished.  We deserve punishment, but that's beside the fact.  

Perhaps the worst thing about the officiating in favor of Alabama is that, as the Colonel explained to a 'Bama fan seated in front of him -- in seats sold by a traitorous money-grubbing psuedo-Rebel season-ticket holder -- "the most frustrating thing is that y'all don't need the refs help to beat us."

So, just before the half last night, with the Tide clinging to a 7 - 3 lead after scoring the first touchdown allowed by the Rebel first-string D all season, three -- count 'em -- three refs, all standing within five yards of, and looking directly at, one of the most flagrant face mask infractions ever perpetrated by a defender, watched in Alabama-lovin' relief as the 'Bama defender knocked the ball out of the arms of the Rebel runner, whose head had been yanked violently 90 degrees away from the direction the rest of his body was traveling at a dead sprint.  The ball was picked up and returned for an Alabama touchdown.

No flag.

14 to 3 at the half.

During the half-time performance of the Pride of the South, the Colonel sat dejectedly processing through the five steps of grief.

"That didn't just happen did it?"  

"Oh, the agony! I can't keep going through this every year!  Good Lord, what have I done?  I know it must somehow be my fault."

"Boo, refs, boooo!  Why can't you just let us lose the game without all the calls going against us?"

"Oh, no! State won their big game against A&M earlier and if we lose to Bama, the cow-tippers will never let us forget it.  The thought of facing State fans tomorrow is too depressing to event contemplate."  

"Oh well, we are Ole Miss."

It is a very good thing that the Colonel was not in the Rebel locker room at half-time. 

It is a very good thing that Hugh Freeze, Dave Wommack, and company were.  What an incredible challenge they faced.

What an incredible job they did, keeping the team focused and ready to play the second half against Satan's... errr, Saban's demons... errr, players.

Don't get in a huff, 'Bama fans.  You've called us worse.

Or maybe not.  Most of you don't even know we exist on the schedule, what with your preoccupation with Iron Bowl meltdowns against Auburn.

Sorry, the hate is just too strong.  Forgive me, Lord. 

Long story made short -- the Ole Miss athletic department will be submitting an order for two new goal posts come Monday morning.

The Colonel will neither confirm nor deny that he participated in destruction of University property.  
     

       

      

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mississippi First

The eyes of the college football world are on Mississippi this week.  At least that's what all the pigskin pundits are pontificating.  

Alabama (# 3) and Texas A&M (#6) visit the Magnolia State this Saturday to take on Ole Miss (#11) and Mississippi State (#12), respectively.  Ole Miss and Mississippi State are both 4 & 0 to start the season, in the same season, for the first time since...

Well, for the first time ever

College Gameday will be in the Grove, and Starkville will host the SEC Network's equivalent.  It will be a huge day for both fan bases.  Accordingly, the Colonel feels compelled to offer his fellow Mississippians some not-so-humble advice regarding keeping things in perspective.

As the few dozen of you who regularly waste precious rod and cone time perusing posts hereon will no doubt recall, the Colonel harbors no hate for Mississippi State.  He can't afford to hate State. 

He has far too much hate already invested in Alabama and LSU.  

In fact, the Colonel attempts (and that, admittedly, is the operative word) to maintain cordial, brotherly relations with Mississippi State fans.  They are, after all, all fellow Mississippians.

And, when the Colonel says "all" he means ALL.  

No non-Mississippian would voluntarily go to college at Mississippi State, let alone be a fan.

Unlike the legions of Bama Bandwagon Boors and LSU Lemmings who profess fandom of schools from which they not only did not graduate, but in whose states they have never even been, NOBODY from outside of the state of Mississippi is a State fan.

For the record, the Colonel didn't go to college.  He went to Ole Miss.  

Also for the record, the Colonel wasn't born in Mississippi, and has spent less than a quarter of his life living in Mississippi.  But, his parents were Mississippians and his father's career in the Air Force and the Colonel's career in the Marine Corps separated the Colonel from the land of his blood.  Separated, but not divorced.  

But, separation often makes the heart grow fonder.  So it is with the Colonel and Mississippi.  He longed for most of his life to return to somewhere that he wasn't really from.  And now that he's back, the Colonel ain't leavin' until God calls him home to that Mississippi in the sky.

All that drivel said to say this to the Colonel's Mississippi brethren and sistren:  Don't be afraid to cheer for each other this weekend.

The Colonel will be pulling for State against A&M, and he encourages his fellow Ole Miss fans to wholeheartedly do likewise.
  
The Colonel doesn't care about what a State loss might mean for the Rebels' chances to win the West.  In fact, the Colonel will be pulling for State against everybody for the next seven games.

You see, the Colonel is dreaming of the eighth game -- the Egg Bowl -- deciding who goes to Atlanta to beat the survivor of the East.   

Yeah, it's a dream.  The Colonel has the right to dream fantastic things that can never be...

After all, he's a Mississippian.         

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beat Gameday

The Colonel's Ole Miss Football Rebels host the Alabama Crimson Tide this coming Saturday.  It's a game we Rebels have had circled on our calendars, literally, for a year and, figuratively, for many years. 

Hope springs eternal here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere and in the red, blue, and gray hearts of Rebel Nation.  Our football team looks to be one of the best we have fielded in two generations -- which says something about the abysmal state of Ole Miss Football since Johnny Vaught retired long enough that we could put his name on the stadium.  

The last time Ole Miss claimed an SEC championship was the 100th anniversary of the University Grays last charge at Gettysburg.  

The Colonel doesn't mean to blaspheme, but even Saint Archie never won an SEC title.

Eli didn't either.  Although we claim a tie for the Western Division in 2003, the tie was with LSU who beat us to go to the Championship Game.

But, as we all hoped, Ole Miss is 4 and 0 so far this season -- and that for the first time since 1970.  And, all of Rebel Nation hoped that Alabama would be 4 and 0 coming into this week, as well. 

That's where the figurative calendar date circling comes in.

Having Alabama and Ole Miss both 4 and 0, and both ranked high in the polls, virtually guaranteed that College Gameday would finally come to the Grove -- and correct a college football tailgating slight that has chafed Rebel Nation for a generation.  

The Colonel, however, is probably the ONLY member of Rebel Nation who is NOT happy that Gameday's babbling bobbleheads will be set up in the Grove this Saturday morning.

Tailgating in the Grove has sacred, genteel roots.  To see the rabble of both fanbases roused in a sign-waving frenzy for the cameras will no doubt make for good television.  But, it will also no doubt be a jarring juxtaposition for the Colonel's sensibilities used to a more refined (if a Marine may use that word) atmosphere in the Grove.

Oh, and if one mouth-breathing, sheet-wearer shows up waving Beauregard's battle flag, you can be sure the camera's scandal-seeking eye will find and fix it as the symbol of the University.

By noon on Saturday, the camera crews and bobbleheads will be feasting on southern delectables and the rest of us will be able to catch our breaths long enough to cheer our Rebels as they walk through the Grove on their way to war.  Shortly thereafter, we'll make our way into the Vaught, lock it, and scream as one primordial organism for our young warriors.  

The outcome of the game is everything, and yet matters little in the grand scheme of big-money college football.

If the Rebel's pull off an upset of the Tide, we'll storm the field in celebration -- then reset our internal Rebel clocks to reality.

The rest of the SEC Western Division -- five more teams, who at one point or another this season will spend multiple weeks in the top 25 of the rankings -- await on the schedule.

If the Tide loses this Saturday, they will win-out and win the National Championship.

See Notre Dame 1977 and Florida 2008 for just two examples of the Ole Miss Upset Phenomenon.

After all, we are Ole Miss...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Chinese Fighter Drill

It was a Sunday morning in early April of 2001.  The Colonel and his Lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, had just settled into their customary aisle-side seats in the Yongsan Chapel, when the beeper on the Colonel's hip got his attention.

The Colonel slid out of the pew and walked outside to call the duty officer in the US Forces Korea operations bunker.

"Boss," the major on the other end of the line said tersely, "you need to come to Ops."

The Colonel was nearing the end of a year as the Chief of Current Operations Branch (CJ-3 Ops); an insane job spent monitoring the major muscle movements of the crazies north of the DMZ and maintaining up-to-the-minute cognizance of the readiness status of combined US and Republic of Korea forces on the sane end of the Korean peninsula.  The Chief of Current Ops was normally the first O-6 to get called when anything out of the ordinary happened.  What made the job so insane was that those calls came hourly, on average, 24/7.  All.  Night.  Long.

The Korean Peninsula isn't an ordinary place.  

The toughest part of the Colonel's job was deciding what out-of-the-ordinary occurrences required waking generals up.  

The duty rep from the Intelligence Center was waiting on the Colonel when he got to the Ops bunker.  He quickly briefed the Colonel that a US intelligence gathering plane -- an EP-3 (see picture above) -- had just made an emergency landing on Hainan Island.

Hainan Island was Peoples Republic of China territory.  US Pacific Command's responsibility.  US Forces Korea normally didn't pay much attention to China.  But, this was serious enough and close enough to our area of responsibility that it probably warranted the Colonel calling his boss -- a US Army major general whose title was C/J -3 (Combined/Joint Operations Officer).  His boss was the four-star.

The Colonel picked up the phone and dialed the C/J-3's number.  There was no answer on his quarters phone.  The Colonel was in the process of dialing the general's beeper when he walked into the room.

"Saw you leave the chapel and figured something was up when you didn't come back in."

Over the next couple of hours the situation fleshed itself out as more and more information came in.  A Chinese fighter jet had intercepted the US EP-3 about 100 miles off the coast of Hainan.  The EP-3's flight was a routine intel-gathering mission.  The intercept was routine, as well.

Except that "routine" for this particular Chinese pilot involved flying very close to, and sometimes crossing very close in front of, the US aircraft.  We knew it was the same pilot, because on other intercepts he had flown close enough to flash his e-mail address for the US airmen to see.

This time, the Chinese fighter pilot misjudged and his aircraft struck the nose of the American plane.  His plane was destroyed and his body was never recovered.

The EP-3, seriously damaged, rolled over and plunged out of control toward the South China Sea.  Heroic effort by the pilot got the aircraft back under enough control to make an emergency landing at a Chinese military airfield on Hainan.   The Chinese held the EP-3 crew for almost two weeks.   

The newly-inaugurated Bush administration defused the tense international incident by sending a letter apologizing for the "unauthorized landing."  W even sent a personal letter of condolence to the Chinese hotdog fighter pilot's widow.  The Chi-comms tried to bully the Bush administration into paying for their lost jet, but W was only going to bow and scrape so much. 

This past week another hot-dogging Chinese fighter pilot intercepted a US P-8 (new jet replacement for the propeller driven P-3).  The Chinese fighter pilot pulled a couple of stunts reminiscent of Maverick in "Top Gun," flying very close (within 30 feet) to the P-8, showing off his weapons load, and then barrel-rolling over the top of the US aircraft.

The Obama Administration has lodged a formal diplomatic complaint with the PRC.  They have responded by angrily demanding that the US cease the intel-gathering flights near their submarine base on Hainan and stay out of the area around the Paracel Islands.  

The PRC occupies the Paracels, but Taiwan and Vietnam also claim the territory.  A somewhat similar dispute is raging over the resource-rich Spratly Islands further to the south, with the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China all claiming sovereignty.   

All sides have been ramping up the rhetoric and re-arming with regard to this and other territorial disputes in the area.

Keep your eyes on the PRC.  They aren't backing down.

All the more reason to quickly dispatch the fledgling Islamic State.  We'll need to have all our wits and weapons about us when we finally end up going toe-to-toe with the Chinese. 
             

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Towns

Anybody who thinks that the "politics of personal destruction" is a relatively new phenomenon in U.S. political history...  Well, they don't know shinola about history.

In late July of 1864, little more than a year after General Robert E. Lee had withdrawn his Gettysburg-mauled Army of Northern Virginia from Pennsylvania, another Confederate force under the command of Major General Jubal Early pushed north down the Shenandoah Valley and invaded northern territory in a bid to take pressure off of Lee's forces hemmed up by Grant at Petersburg and Richmond.  

A subordinate force under Brigadier General John McCausland raided the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and demanded a ransom of $500,000, or $100,000 in gold. 

The good people of Chambersburg refused. 

McCausland burned the town.

Guarded by Confederate masons, the Chambersburg Masonic Temple was the only building of note left standing.

Another nearby landmark in southern Pennsylvania, US Postmaster Montgomery Blair's mansion in Silver Spring, was burned by Early's forces. 

Less than a month later -- 150 years ago, today -- Union forces returned the favor.

Union General William T. Sherman and his army were cutting a swath through the South, headed for Atlanta, and Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest was playing havoc with Sherman's supply lines.  

Tasked with the mission from Sherman of "follow[ing] Forrest until death," Union Major General Andrew J. Smith gathered a force in west Tennessee and headed south into Mississippi in search of the legendary and troublesome Forrest.  Immediately upon his arrival in Oxford, Mississippi, Smith received word that his quarry was back up his line of march -- behind him -- in Memphis.  He turned his force around and headed that way.

But, not before giving the order to burn Oxford.  Smith also ordered that the nearby University of Mississippi, then really not much more than one main building -- the iconically beautiful Lyceum -- also be torched.    

The town burned; Ole Miss didn't.  

Nobody knows for sure why Smith ordered Oxford torched.  Grant didn't do it when he occupied the town in 1862.  Some say it was in retaliation for the burning of Chambersburg and Blair's mansion. Smith never said and didn't leave a memoir.

He left a lasting memory in the psyche of Oxford, however.

One of the structures in Oxford specifically targeted that day was former US Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson's home. Thompson was particularly despised in the North for having immediately resigned from Lincoln's cabinet upon Southern secession and joining the army of the Confederacy.  Thompson further fueled the Union's hatred of him by heading secretive operations in Canada against the United States and attempting to create a "Northwest Confederacy" against the Union.

So, burning Thompson's home, "Home Place," was personal.

So had been burning Blair's mansion, "Falkland."

But, as heinous and ruthless as some Americans can be towards one another, there are actions by other Americans -- even in the midst of all-out war -- that demonstrate the great capacity of our people to peek around the blinders of hate and see the right things that must be done. 

As Chambersburg was put to the torch, some Confederate units disobeyed their orders and helped residents save personal belongings.  They even prevented some sections of the town from being set alight by their brothers in butternut.

The Union officers sent to burn the fledgling University of  Mississippi saw no good in its destruction.  They disobeyed their orders.  

They disobeyed orders that made all the sense in the world to men gone mad with hatred and revenge.

Some beautiful and good things remained standing in the ashes of two towns that late summer of 1864.  

The Lyceum, and the town of Oxford, would see more hatred unleashed nearly a hundred years later.  They were scarred, both literally and figuratively, then too.

They sure stand pretty, today. 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Are Ole Miss

A week from today the Colonel's Rebels begin their 2014 football season, taking on Boise State in the Chick-fil-a Kick-off Game in Hotlanta's Georgia Dome.

Rebel Nation is fired up for this season.

All indications are that Ole Miss will field one of the best football squads in a generation.  The AP Preseason rankings have the Rebels at 18, and while the sacredness of that number at Ole Miss (the speed limit on campus is 18 mph in honor of the number worn by favorite son, Archie Manning) has many believing in a sign from the football gods, there's worry in the back of the minds of most Rebel fans.

The last three times Ole Miss entered a season ranked in the top 25, results didn't match expectations.

"We Are Ole Miss!" is as much an expression of resignation to our ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as it is a battle cry.  If there was a trophy for shooting one's self in the foot, they would have retired it to the Ole Miss trophy case years ago.

And, that goes for the rest of the University of Mississippi family just as much as it does for our sports teams.

Ole Miss has been called (correctly -- in the Colonel's not-so humble opinion) an "Oasis."  The Ole Miss campus and the town of Oxford appear out of nowhere as you traverse the otherwise non-descript landscape of North Mississippi; rising incongruously from the kudzu-clad and pine-dotted clay hills like a debutante sitting in a hog pen.  

"Beauty" is a word used often to describe things about Ole Miss.  Its grounds compete with its girls for the description.  Its spirit with its sights.

But the past is checkered at Ole Miss.  One of the latest participants in the literal parade of literary legends through Ole Miss, John Cofield, had this to say about the history of Ole Miss: 

"As gray as we wish it were; as red and blue as we want it to be; it’s clearly Black & White, and too often, mixed with the blues." 

We are Ole Miss.  Our disappointment in our social foibles carries over, amplified by an odd mixture of pride and self-loathing, to our disappointment at fumbles on the field.  

We are Ole Miss.  We can out-party, out-pretty, and out-polite any other collection of fans in the nation.  And, we can slip the gown off our shoulder and show you a horrible bruise that somehow just won't go away.

We are Ole Miss.  We can give Alabama absolutely all they can handle one Saturday afternoon and roll over to Jacksonville State the next.

We are Ole Miss.  We can let ignorant folks' insults roll off our backs with the grace of a ballerina and the accommodating spirit of a first century Christian.  And, with the most idiotic of provocations, we can rare back and hurl the most vile, spiteful vitriol -- spat from behind teeth bared in a hateful sneer that would make Genghis Khan rein his pony in.

We are Ole Miss.  We can hold opposing offenses to absolutely zip for an entire season, and then let Billy Cannon shed tackles from EVERY Rebel on the field, returning a punt for the go ahead score.

The Colonel can't wait for it to begin, but he makes no prognostication about this upcoming season.  He knows all too well that,

WE ARE OLE MISS!          

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mississippi Melting

North Mississippi in the middle of August is unlike anywhere else on earth.  

The Colonel knows this because he has spent all or part of the month of August on every continent save Antarctica. 

August, here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, is a dry, yet muggy, green-going-dusty brown, withering kudzu-clad hell. 

It's the Colonel's favorite place on this big blue marble, but it is hell in August, nonetheless.

Holy scripture describes Hell as a place where "their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched."

Yep.  That's Mississippi in August, alright.

There was a time, long ago, in the halcyon days of his not-so misspent youth, that the Colonel relished the sweat-soaked sauna of a long run in the noon-time heat of August.

Introduced to that running ritual whilst matriculating at the cultural center of the southern universe -- Ole Miss -- the Colonel sought, self-abusively, to recreate the endorphin rush that accompanies pushing the body to the edge of heat stroke in whatever locale he was presently, if not pleasantly, posted.   

August in the piney hills of Quantico, Virginia is ugly with a heat and humidity combo that has driven generations of Marine officer, and FBI agent, candidates to the brink of dehydrated dementia.

But, it ain't Mississippi.

Camp Lejeune, North Carolina simmers in the summer.

But, it don't cook like Mississippi.

Macon, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama are the twin sisters of August -- Misery and Agony.

But, their blues don't match Mississippi's.

North Africa is hot in August.  Well, North Africa is hot in every month with a letter in it's name.

But, Tunisia and Morocco could take lessons in heat-induced listlessness from Mississippi.

Panama has two seasons -- hot and dry, and hot and wet.  But, Panama wraps in you in constant, year-round blanket of skin and blood-thinning warmth.  

North Mississippi whipsaws you from one extreme to another, with an oh-so-brief, tender, loving lull of glorious, worshipful weather between.   One month it's winter, the next it's hell. 

Thailand and the Philippines are just plain sticky.  But, they're sticky all the time.

It gets so awfully hot in Mississippi in August that "sticky" would be a relief.

Hawaii?  Okinawa?  Seoul?  Toulon?  Perth?  Diego Garcia?  Denmark?  Hong Kong?  Singapore?  Naples?  Vieques?  

Seriously?

Y'all ain't got nuthin'!

It is so hot, and miserable, and muggy, and oppressive, and stultifying (had to find a word to make the Colonel's Mississippi State grad brother break out his dictionary) this week in North Mississippi that the Colonel has suspended all outside operations, indefinitely.

Until the weather breaks, the Colonel is just going to stay inside and write bad things about it.             

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Math at Ole Miss

Forty years ago this week, the Colonel packed his meager belongings in the same trunk his father had taken to college a quarter century earlier.  As a vagabond military brat, he had learned to keep his stuff stacked short and tight.  Nearly everything he needed  -- clothing, linens, radio, and a few favorite books -- fit in the trunk.

The two-hour ride with the folks from Columbus to Oxford was a quiet one.  

The Gregory's oldest was off to college.  

Well..., Ole Miss.

The Colonel and his father lugged the trunk into the elevator of his eleven story dorm on the edge of campus.  

Another student joined them in the elevator.  In his arms was a turn table and a box of vinyl albums.

The old Air Force noncom couldn't resist, "Got your noise with ya, huh?"

The kid tossed a mop of blond hair with jerk of his head and answered semi-politely, "Yessir."  His voice was thick with Mississippi.

The Colonel's family had only just returned from a 4 1/2 year posting to the Panama Canal Zone that summer.  The last time he had spent any time in his parents' home state had been nearly a decade earlier.  Mississippi was as foreign to the Colonel as Panama had seemed at the beginning of that tour of duty.  

The Mississippi accent was going to take some getting used to.  

Particularly when attached to a female.

The Colonel's mother was a southern lady to be sure, but she never laid the mouth honey on like those girls at Ole Miss did.

The first week at Ole Miss was the most disorienting of the Colonel's life to that point.  Panama had been culture shock.  Ole Miss was cultured shock.

It became rapidly and readily apparent that he didn't exactly fit at Ole Miss.

His wardrobe was wrong -- jeans and a "hang-ten" shirt had been fine in Panama, but lagged seriously in the race for best-dressed at Ole Miss.

His accent was wrong -- if the Colonel heard "Where are you from?" once that week, he heard it a thousand times.

His verbal expressions were wrong -- "aiee, chuleta!" wasn't a common phrase in the deep south in 1974.  It's becoming one now, but that's grist for another post. 

The Colonel had erroneously thought he was going to just another public university.  

Wrong!  Oh, so wrong!

He wasn't going to college.  The Colonel was going to Ole Miss.

Turns out there were many students there on the most beautiful college campus in all the wide world who were learning to swim in a different cultural current just like the Colonel.  

Owing to the relatively low expense of attending the University of Mississippi, the Department of the Navy in those days steered a great many of the young men and women awarded Naval ROTC scholarships to Ole Miss.  While some of these folks were steeped in the southern culture, in general, and Mississippi culture, specifically; most were in the same boat as the Colonel.  

The Colonel became, for the first time in his life, part of a "counter-culture."

It wouldn't be the last time he belonged to an organization whose ethos ran decidedly against the common grain.

As one of our group put it years later, "We loved Ole Miss, but Ole Miss didn't love us."

The Colonel couldn't wait to graduate and put Ole Miss in the rear view mirror.

And as soon as he did, he couldn't wait to get back.

Ole Miss had marked him, claimed him, chained him.

The Colonel never told anyone he had gone to the University of Mississippi.  He went to Ole Miss

And now the Colonel realizes that his diversity helped change Ole Miss a little bit, too.  

But, the Colonel's diversity didn't subtract from the spirit, traditions, and unique culture of Ole Miss -- it added.

He didn't demand that folks speak or dress or act more like him. But, he taught a lot of folks about the world outside of Mississippi. The Colonel dares to say that there are literally hundreds of Ole Miss grads out there who can tell you a little bit about the Panama Canal Zone, and Morocco, and life as a military brat, courtesy of the Colonel. 

Ultimately, we all want change.  The trick is to change by addition, not subtraction.   

  

     

     

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Love Letter

The Colonel begs your permission to dispense, for the duration of this post, with his customary use of the third person (or, as the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda refers to it, the literary version of nails on a chalkboard).  

I have something personal to say to my wife.

I want to tell my wife of thirty-eight years, as of roughly 30 minutes ago, that you have always been the best thing in my life.  That's saying something, because God has blessed me with many, many, very good things.

You have almost always been the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning, and almost always the last thing I think of when I go to sleep.

Why almost?

Well, I'd be telling a lie if didn't admit to, on the very rare occasion, thinking about the opening day of duck season or the game-winning field goal as I woke up or fell asleep.

Not gonna let a stupid duck or some lucky college kid make a liar out of me.

You have almost always been the first person with whom I've wanted to share a secret or a remarkable sight.

Almost, because there were a couple of secrets and sights to which I was privy over the years that I would just as soon forget.  

The one sight I will never forget was you, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, walking down the aisle to marry me.

To marry me!

I cannot ever get over just how lucky I am that you are mine. 

Luckier than a bob-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Luckier than the second mouse to the cheese.

Luckier than a bug in a traffic jam.

Just so you know, Miss Brenda; it may have been an incredibly lucky stroke that made you mine, but there ain't nuthin' or nobody lucky (or strong) enough to take you away from me. 

You are my anchor.

If I had a muse (or knew what a muse was), you would be it.

I love you more than anything -- duck hunting and Ole Miss football included.

I love your smile, your laugh, your pout, your frown; I love the way you can do all four in the space of one breath.

You are the one person in all the world I trust without condition.  

You hold my heart in your hands.

Thirty-eight years.  

I want to live to ninety-six -- just so I can have thirty-eight more.