Confessions of a Nintendo Soldier
By M.T. Krause
As a soldier, I consider it part of my duty to read the various editorials and Opinion columns relating to my profession. I hear this retired general say that and I read a retired NCO say this, and every column seems to speak of the downward spiral of the modern army, co-ed basic training, the lack of combat readiness, our Chief of Staff’s decision to change official headgear. But the favorite topic by far, is the quality of the “new” soldiers, and the weakness, ill training and overall worthlessness of the people filling the Army’s ranks.
I am not a senior leader.
I am not an NCO.
I am the center mass of the army, a Specialist with two years of service, and not an Airborne Ranger, but a combat supporter. Given the MOS demographics of late, this puts me directly in the category of Joe Average, the everyday, stereotypical soldier. I am also one of the “new” soldiers, who attended co-ed Basic, who missed Desert Storm and Somalia by a long shot, and who, if you listen to the consensus, seems to consistently be “weaker” than the soldiers of yesterday.
Basically, I’d say I’m at the ground level of everything that the retired colonels and sergeants major seem to write about and despise, the very composition of the force that seems to concern them.
So I thought I’d put in my two cents, and let you everyone know what it’s like to be a fabled “Soldier of the Nintendo Generation.”
Despite the pictures that are being painted by everybody, my basic, well…it wasn’t fun. I counted the days till I graduated, and cherished mail, just like the old soldiers did back whenever they were in. I did hundreds of push-ups, I woke up at obscene hours, I was screamed at, despised by drill sergeants, called worthless, I did more push-ups, I didn’t use the phone every Sunday (try twice), I didn’t eat pizza or eat candy, I didn’t have a stress card, and I didn’t have fun.
And that was US Army Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in 1999. I don’t know how these stories are built, and where all the grizzled veterans are getting their facts. Maybe there are some utopian BCT companies somewhere that exhibits all these soft qualities, but I haven’t seen them. I saw professionals, NCOs and drill sergeants doing their best to train civilians to be soldiers, to train us to be like them. And believe me, my Drill Sergeant remains my mentor for soldiering to this day.
Now, I am at my line unit, my permanent party assignment, out in the big, bad Regular Army. And every time I turn around, I read the articles I have already mentioned, complaining of the “soft” soldiers manning the army’s divisions. Well I’m here, right in the middle of it all, and what do I see?
I see “soft” soldiers who work ridiculous hours day and night, privates, specialists, and sergeants.
I see “soft”soldiers who could be making a lot more in the civilian world, but instead staying in boots, transcending fiscal desires for love of country.
I see “soft” soldiers who are preparing to fight and win war, through countless deployments to NTC and JRTC, and experience tough, realistic training on a daily basis.
I see “soft” soldiers daily going above and beyond what they are required to do, putting the accomplishment of the mission before all else.
The army is swirling in a mass of controversy, differing opinions, uncertainty and doubt. The last thing we, the soldiers of today need, are to read volumes of documents by you, our predecessors, our mentors, and our fathers degrading us.
If you disagree with the policies, discuss the policymaker.
If you disagree with the leadership, discuss the leader.
But leave us, the soldiers, out of it. As “soft” and “weak” as you say we are, we remain here, on guard, in Tuzla, Korea, Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell. We don’t choose who we perform Basic Training with or what hat we wear. We just serve.
I am the rank and file of the new army you all seem to distrust. I ask one thing: next time you put us, the new, “soft” soldiers, in the sights of your verbal lashings, have a little faith, because when the dogs of war are loosed again, we will rise to the challenge just as you did, and continue to uphold the legacy of the American Soldier.
Copyright© Michael Krause