Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Coma

Shortly after taps last night the Colonel lapsed into a post-Christmas chow coma rivalled only by that in which Washington's troops found the Hessians at Trenton.

Had Carlos the Terrorist decided to assault the Colonel's defense-in-depth overnight he would have easily breached all but the last line of defense -- the heavily-armed and steely-eyed Miss Brenda.  Luckily for Carlos, he passed on the chance to test the Colonel's defenses.  


Christmas at the Colonel's is all about the chow.

Comfort chow.

No sissified sauteed samples and drizzled plate garnishes allowed -- just heaps of ham, potatoes, bacon-covered green beans, sweet potato pie, and fruit salad; washed down with sweet tea.  

Christmas dinner at the Colonel's is a raucous affair replete with loud retelling of family stories, the truthful kernels of truth at the core of which have shrunk to insignificance and been replaced with inflated lore more beloved for the fun of telling than for any attempt at historical accuracy.  

And, once the story-telling subsides, desserts are served.

No tradition is observed with dessert -- just huge slices of sugar and carb-loaded cake or pie, or both.

As the last of family and guests departed, and darkness fell over the pine-studded and kudzu-clad clay hills here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the Colonel and his Lady smiled to each other in recognition of another holiday gathering with no familial bloodshed and breathed deeply in the sudden silence.  The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda turned to the Colonel and sweetly admonished him,

"Don't you do it."

"Do what?"

"You know what!"

But, it was too late.  The Colonel's conscious systems were in full safety shutdown mode.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was going to have to finish kitchen clean-up without the Colonel's supervision.

Sometimes a leader must trust his subordinates. 

Okay ladies, the Colonel hears you grinding your teeth.  In the Colonel's defense, his last words to the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda were permission to leave some of the clean-up for this morning.

So, if you will excuse the Colonel, he must beg your leave to head to the kitchen.

He hears the clattering of dishes and needs to assume his supervisory duties.                 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tad Pad Takedown

One surefire way to limit readership is to bloviate at length about one's sports team.

It's a padlock guarantee to glaze the eyes of even the thirstiest reader.

The Colonel knows this.

But he ain't smart and you can't make him.

Besides, the readership of this blog would have to be measured in negative integers if it were to get any smaller.

Thanks, Mom, for hanging in there.

Yesterday afternoon, the Colonel attended an Ole Miss Rebels basketball game.  He last attended a Rebel basketball game over 40 years ago.

Let's be clear right up front.  The Colonel loathes the game of basketball.  At five - six and three quarters (and, never forget the three quarters) he never saw much future in pursuit of the sport. 

The Colonel loves football.  His diminutive stature never seemed to be the bar to playing football that he allowed it to be with Naismith's invention.  The Colonel's football instincts were far too ingrained in his sports psyche long before he ever tried to play basketball -- in his short roundball career, he once fouled out without ever leaving the bench.

The Colonel would rather watch purple and gold paint dry while suspended by his thumbs from hooks in the ceiling, than to watch an entire basketball game.  

The Colonel's number two son, who inexplicably excels at the game, reminded the Colonel a couple of weeks ago that yesterday's basketball game was going to be significant well beyond the importance of the non-conference match-up with a team whose RPI (the Colonel doesn't know what that is, but it adds a little basketballism to this treatise, does it not?) would matter less to the post-season tournament hopes of the Rebel roundballers (more gratuitous sport slang for authenticity sake) than the color of their socks. 

The game against Troy would be the last ever played in the Tad Pad.

C. M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum, named for a Rebel sports great from early in the last century, was built 50 years ago.  It's round, domed profile mimicked that of more well-known sports domes of the era.  A Rebel frat rat, fueled by a flask of Rebel Yell, could squint through his swimming double vision as he stumbled across the parking lot of the Tad Pad and imagine that he was about to attend a game, or a concert, in the Super Dome.  

With respects to the architects and builders of the edifice in question, the Tad Pad was -- and the Colonel is searching for the most delicate language possible -- a dump.

The Colonel apologizes to any dumps he may have just slandered.

The Tad Pad was supposed to be a multi-use arena, and it was.  


In the old analog days, students filed into the coliseum to line up at tables in hopes of finding a seat in a too-quickly filled class for the next semester.  The pain of this contributed, in no small way, to the Colonel's antipathy for the building.

For the last two years of his matriculation at the Harvard of the South (by reciprocal agreement, Harvard is allowed to call itself the Ole Miss of the North), the Tad Pad was the second thing he saw every morning on his way to class.  The first was the sight of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda -- the Colonel and his bride lived in an efficiency apartment in married student housing across the street for the even then crumbling coliseum.

The Tad Pad is finally being replaced.  Next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, a beautiful new multi-use arena is set to open for business next month.  The Pavilion at Ole Miss (to be renamed in honor of the next rich Ole Miss alum to shell out several million for the honor) will vault Ole Miss basketball into regions of recognition the team's play could never reach on its own.

So, the Colonel felt honor-bound to participate in the send-off of the venerable venue.  He joined several thousand likewise lured to the otherwise avoidable game by one dollar general admission tickets.  

The crowd, aged from 90 to 9 months, was missing a critical component.  Weren't many students in attendance -- they are home for the holidays.  

Nevertheless, the home crowd managed a modicum of meaningful, it not necessarily raucous, support for the Rebel B-ballers as they took to the Tad Pad court for the last time.

Did the Colonel mention that his consideration of the game of basketball ranks in the range of his appreciation for root canal surgery?

Near the end of the second period, Number Two noticed the Colonel's uneasiness and leaned over to reassure him.

"Don't worry, Dad.  It will be over soon."

He lied.  

Must get that from his mother.

In typical Ole Miss fashion, in the waning minutes of the game, the Rebels surrendered a 10 point lead to a team they should have dominated by twice that.  At the buzzer, the score was tied.

If the Colonel believed in mythological sports gods, he would have been convinced that the basketball gods were high-fiving and pointing gleefully at the look of absolute horror on his face.

The Colonel, who would rather play touch football with a pack of porcupines than watch thirty seconds of basketball, was in his own personal version of sports hell.  Overtime at a basketball game. 

Then, the unimaginable happened.

The Colonel found himself on his feet.

The Colonel heard his own voice screaming appreciation for the sweet swish of ball through net.

Filing out of the Tad Pad, the Colonel heard himself ask,

"Hey, when's the first game in the new Pavilion?"

Well..., the Colonel needs to be there for history's sake, doesn't he?                                     

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Is this what you want, America?

Tarawa, November 1943
The earliest memories of his childhood in the Corps, at the very beginning of the Colonel's career as a U.S. Marine, are the reminders from the Marines whose service predated his own that the Marines from their generation were tougher, had it harder, than the Marines from the Colonel's generation.

At the time, the Colonel will readily admit, that was entirely the case.  The Marines who trained the Colonel's generation of Marines were veterans of vicious combat in Vietnam, Korea, and, in some cases, World War II.

The Post-Vietnam force was a hollow one, and for the most part it's members were coddled compared to the generations that preceded it.  

The Colonel finds himself in the curious position of proclaiming that the generation of Marines that followed his own are far tougher and far better trained.

The Colonel's generation saw limited combat throughout the 80's and 90's.  Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, even the first Gulf War were cakewalks in comparison to the wars fought by the generation of Marines who have been in action for the last decade and a half.

Thirty-seven years ago, this month, the Colonel graduated from the Marine Corps' Infantry Officers Course (IOC).  In 1978, IOC was a six-week course that "qualified" its graduates for assignment of the Military Occupational Specialty (MOS), 0302 (Infantry Officer).  All Marine lieutenants, regardless of eventual MOS (aviation, logistics, artillery, armor, etc.) must first graduate from the Basic Officer Course at The Basic School (TBS) at Quantico, Virginia.  TBS, in theory, prepares all Marine officers to serve as infantry platoon commanders.  In fact, prior to establishment of IOC in 1977, Marine officers assigned the 0302 MOS went straight from TBS to their infantry platoons.

Over the years, IOC has incrementally raised its standards and increased its rigor to the point that today it is arguably one of the  physically toughest and most mentally challenging schools in all the world's militaries.   Thirty-seven years ago every lieutenant in the Colonel's IOC class finished the course.  Today, a not-insignificant percentage fail to even pass the initial evaluation.  The Colonel would like to be able to say that they fail because they aren't as tough as the Colonel's generation.

He can't.  Not by a long shot.

The Colonel took, and still takes, pride in being as hard as a set of woodpecker lips.  There weren't many in better shape, nor as inured to hardship as he was.  But, he has serious doubt in his super-confident military mind that he could have passed the initial evaluation for today's IOC.   Oh, and the course is now ten weeks long -- each and every day as challenging as the most challenging day in 1978's six-week course .

The Colonel thinks that is a very good thing.

For the past 14 years, young infantry Marines have fought in battles that compare favorably in terms of ferocity and deprivation with any of the most famous battles of our Corps -- Samar, Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Chosin, Khe Sanh, to name but a few of the many absolutely horrendous fights from which U.S. Marines emerged victorious and the lore of which animate our Corps today.  The fight for Fallujah in Iraq a decade ago will go down in history and be held in the same awe as any battle of the Pacific war against Japan.

Those young Marines, volunteers all, deserve the very best battle leadership possible.  Their officers should be the most qualified our nation can afford to place at their head.  And, we should never stop increasing the quality and ability of those officers.  To do otherwise is a treasonous disservice to those young Marines they will lead and to the mothers and fathers who give their children to the Corps' care.  

In the current fight, Mom and Dad can rest in the assurance that the officer leading their son into battle is so physically and mentally capable that he will continue to operate and make sound battlefield decisions under the most demanding conditions imaginable (and even conditions far more demanding that most can imagine).

The Colonel credits the superior American political leadership of the 1980's to the world-class military America fields today.  Today's U.S. Armed Forces are without peer -- as it should be.  

The political leadership 30 years ago set the priority of quality of force and military prowess over political correctness and social engineering.   

Today, the reverse is the case.

For the first time in its proud history, our Republic, which used to pride itself on its moral and ethical superiority, will now consciously send women into combat as infantrymen, er... persons.  

To quote the current temp help in the Oval Office, "That's not who we are, as Americans."  

The Colonel cares not that other nations have women in their infantry formations.  Our nation should not be in the business of adopting other nations' practices.  

We are better than they are.  

Just because the Israelis have women in their infantry units doesn't justify American women serving likewise.  The Colonel has trained with the Israelis -- they are good against Arab armies; they wouldn't last a day against most western armies.

No other infantry fighting force on the planet can stand toe-to-toe with American infantry.  

No. Other. 


End. Of. Discussion.

Our physical fitness and training standards are unmatched.  

Of two dozen who have tried over the last couple of years, no woman has even made it through the first grueling week of IOC.  

Neither did lots of men.

But, mark the Colonel's words, the physical standards for IOC will be gender-normed before the next year is out.  

The result will be an Marine Infantry Officer Course whose standards will be lowered to allow women to pass.  The argument, by men and women who have never served in combat, will be that the standards are unreasonably high today.  

Oh, and the women who pass the course under lowered standards will step in front of 40 enlisted Marines who know.  Not fair for those young ladies -- a brand new infantry second lieutenant has a hard enough job gaining the trust and confidence of his men. 

Is that what you want, America?  Do you want America's premier force in readiness -- the world's finest combined arms battlefield dominator -- reduced in effectiveness against the enemies of our Republic and the freedoms its Constitution enshrines?

It will be.

Don't say the Colonel didn't warn you.  

Friday, December 11, 2015

Saving Christmas

There are two times of the year for which the Colonel's disdain-o-meter pegs.

One is that foul-breathed, runted dragon of a month, February, whose wanton waste of space on the Colonel's calendar drives him to rabid mental and physical excess, seeking a minimizing temporal distortion.

The Colonel has never been convinced -- and many have tried -- that the month of February holds any redeeming value.  It is the desert wasteland on the annual landscape through which one must traverse, maddening inexorably with thirst for something -- anything -- of intellectual or manly pursuit with which to sustain one's self.

If February was a man, the Colonel would challenge him to a duel.   

Every stinkin' day. 

The other time of year that wrings the Colonel's rag is Christmas.

Yeah, that's right.  The Colonel hates Christmas.   

Well,... it's not so much that the Colonel hates Christmas.  The reason for the season is his raison d'etre. 

The Colonel hates what everybody else has done with Christmas.

The Colonel hates the artificial amplification of cheer pumped into every human activity, and the subsequent disdain in which anyone is held who doesn't routinely sidle up to the helium tank to have his balloon bloated with faux spirit.

The Colonel doesn't mind being told to "have a Merry Christmas."  He just doesn't appreciate the cheerful condescension from most whose demeanor in the other eleven months of the year bordered on sullen with a side order of disgruntled.

The Colonel ain't no hypocrite -- he'll remain sullen and disgruntled all year long, thank you very much.

The Colonel hates the ubiquitous donation hustlers, parked outside Sam Walton's ultimate expression of capitalism, ladling out guilt for not responding to their call to give.  Oh, don't think the Colonel didn't notice the subtle quickening of bell-ringing pace as he brushed by.  And, telling him "Merry Christmas?"  Might as well have yelled out "Scrooge!"  

The Colonel hates that Christmas has become in many minds the counter-attack campaign season in the cultural long-war.  Keep Christ in Christmas?  The Colonel didn't take Him out.  Seems to the Colonel that anyone who needs to be reminded to keep Christ in Christmas many not have ever had Christ in their hearts.

It just might be that anyone who feels the duty to not-so gently remind others to keep Christ in Christmas, or who respond with crusader-like outrage at perceived assaults on Christianity, may need to do a little recentering of their lives on Jesus' teaching. 

In the Colonel's not-so humble opinion, keeping Christ in Christmas starts and ends in his own heart.  If he does what Jesus would have him do, the Colonel is convinced, without a shadow of a doubt in his military mind, that the Spirit that animates his faith will do the rest.

He might even start to like February.

Christmas doesn't need men to save it.  Christmas is salvation.