Saturday, April 23, 2005


A Special Group of Soldiers

There are a very special group of soldiers who are part of our unit here, deployed with us as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF) III. They are a tight bunch, and many of them have trained together in the Guard for several years.

When I say train, I really mean train. Back in the days when the rest of us thought of Annual Training (AT) as a two week stay at a Hilton (biggest concern: did they have a bar or a pool?), these guys were trying to get survival training at whatever extreme location they could. Now, part of that is their job: these guys are ground surveillance radar operators (GSR), military occupational specialty (MOS) 96R. They call themselves, the "Romeos."

I say part of their attitude is tied to their MOS. As Romeos, their job is to go wherever they have to go, do whatever they have to do, to get highly technical sensors onto the battlefied and directed against potential threats. Usually that means way out in front, on their own, stealthy, they need to get in without being detected, and get back out. So clearly, their training would need to be very tactical. Basic soldier training, infantry skills, ranger type stuff.

The other part is all Romeo. They thrive on the tough slog, the hard climb, the fast pace, and the harsh conditions. They've trained their entire military careers to be ready for a fight, to "get 'er done."

All through our mobilization training, it looked less and less likely that they would get a chance to do their jobs, to have a real Romeo mission. There are plans even to do away with the MOS altogether. From the first our Romeos helped train the rest of us, and when we were sometimes resistant to their guidance, they led by example hoping others would follow their lead.

One day early in training, several soldiers got in trouble, basically for not taking the training seriously enough. I was pretty mad, and having difficulty working with my non-commissioned officers (NCOs), most of whom had never had any kind of experience with deployments, combat, or the kind of intensive training we were going through.

That's when the Romeos did something I would never have expected, and taught me something about loyalty, and service, and leadership.

I came out of my office, and there was their Senior NCO, who had the whole squad down on the gravel in front of my office, doing pushups, and something more. All lined up, in the front leaning rest position, they were one at a time getting up, picking up a stone, carrying it back to the grass, then returning to the pushup position at the end of the line and so on.

As they did this, the stones began to spell something out on the grass in front of my office. I was pretty upset, I thought my Staff Sergeant (SSG) had gone too far. This verged on abuse. I came up alongside him, and asked him what he was doing, what he was having them do. He said, "teaching a lesson."

I said, "Your guys weren't the problem, heck, you guys make everyone else look like pikers."

"It needs to be done," I think he said. I told him to let them finish it up, and come talk to me about it when they were done. I watched the rest of this little demonstration from my office window upstairs, as they finished spelling out, "We're Sorry."

A few minutes later, the SSG reported to my office. "Top," he started, "that was a little demonstration. It wasn't for my guys, it was for everyone else in the platoon to see. The ones NOT taking this seriously enough, that we're going to war. My guys volunteered."

I stood there not sure what to say. What he said sank in. But he continued. "And Top, if you need us to do anything else, and I mean anything, to help you get your job done, you just say the word." And he meant what he said.

Those Romeos have done everything we've asked them to do, and very little of it has been what they've trained on, what they're best at, what they enjoy most about the Army. And they've excelled with all.

With pride but some trepidation, I can report that our Romeos were finally given that long hoped for Romeo mission. While it's not perfect, and they pull a lot of extra guard duty, they are out there on the edge, at a little outpost, in harm's way but through their efforts putting a real dent in their enemy's ability to harass the post or mount any significant attack. And by doing that job that well, they keep their entire base that much safer.

But, you know what? That's what Romeos do. They "get 'er done."

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