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by OPOVV, ©2014

(Aug. 8, 2014) — To the untutored (or maybe just misinformed), veterans are a cynical bunch rather than, say, willing to err on the side of caution, and there’s no group more cynical than your Seaman apprentice or PFC: they expect the worst, but usually end up with even worse than they expected. They see the dark side of everything, which is acceptable in their world because, as it turns out, the only good thing this sorry group can actually count on is that, even in their wildest imagination, things may get worse, much worse, as they often do. So as a purely defensive mechanism, this group takes great delight in the misfortunes and hardships of anyone, including themselves: “Ha! The joke’s on me, after all. Here I thought the bilges would only be 115 degrees when it’s really 128! HA!” or, “Hey, Maloney, guess what? You’re next on the list: rat-guard-tie-off duty and we’re not going to Norfolk; no, our next port-of-call is Newport, RI, and it’s 10 degrees. You know what that means, don’t you? Means them hawsers are going to have ice an inch thick. Let’s take bets on him falling into the drink!”

Next are the pilots, and there are no better pilots than US Navy carrier pilots. In a perfect world, the captain of a carrier would be rated “Instructor, Glider and all other Lighter-than-air Flying Contraptions” and say things like, “I don’t care if we’re not heading into the waves, steer course 270 for aircraft recovery.” Pilots quickly learn to say things like “It’s a nice day for flying” only after they’ve made their last landing of the day.

The third tier of cynics are the Army’s 2nd Lieutenants who get treated like, well, unfortunately there’s nothing quite like them, now is there? First, they can’t show too much initiative for fear of making everyone above them look bad and, second, they can’t appear to be too dumb as to be considered dumb. Their very existence is on the knife-edge of Damocles’ Sword, which is a very nerve-wracking existence, to be sure. No wonder when they read, “Maneuvers will last until 1700 hours,” they just naturally add five hours, and the more experienced just figure that they’ll spend the rest of their lives going around in circles out in the boondocks, never to hold a glass of beer that’s sooo cold as to have ice nodules clinging to the sides of the glass.

I used to think that the offices of CINPAC (US Commander in Chief Pacific) was up-in-the-clouds, until I saw the building, in person, at Pearl Harbor. Heck, so that’s where God lives, or, in my case, lived since I was out, retired, youth past: enter the “Age of Reflection” where “The Ghost of Mistakes Past” visits in the wee hours of the morning, before the cock crows and cardinals arrive at the feeder. Always on the periphery, on the edge, the memories have been suppressed by Herculean effort in order to appear to live a “normal” life. Actually, a very small percentage of those in the military experience first-hand combat. I had a knife pushing against my throat, what about you?

This is how it works, this “cynicism game”: first of all, you have to be at such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time. Those are called “orders.” No calling in sick or “I’ve changed my mind,” none of that stuff. Your mama is long gone and nobody can help you: you learn to go with the flow or get trampled-on. The military is even more Cosa Nostra than the mob is: “Hey, don’t worry about it, it’s just Uncle Sam.”

The Big Brass get a kick out of planning. One of my many jobs was a burglar alarm salesman, and all the boss liked to do was schedule meetings. I had more meetings than sales. The military is like that, too. “Let’s plan it this way;” the only trouble is, most plans fail to take in every and all possible contingencies.

Enter the Cynic. You want to storm a beach, get that PFC up here in the War Room and let’s ask him: “Sorry, Sirs, this plan doesn’t take in the possibility of a fog bank moving in, and there’s no backup for fresh water supply for the men’s canteens.” Let’s ask that new 2nd Lieutenant and go over it with him: “Well, not to be any too disrespectful, Sirs, but your plan here will get us all killed.”

If you want to transport someone who you know has the Ebola virus from point “A” to point “B,” avoid any intersection in Charlotte, NC, that has a traffic light. The illegal immigrants of that town seem to take great offense in stopping for a red light. It apparently is some kind of macho thing that only certain people stop for red lights. Go figure.

Have you considered the possibility of having the ambulance hit by a drunk driver? Maybe someone didn’t take his meds? Maybe misread the instructions: “Do not operate heavy machinery under the influence.” I used to think that “heavy machinery” was a bulldozer, maybe a Caterpillar D9, and not just a 3,000-lb. car that’ll do 160. A cynic would have figured out all possible angles, just about every conceivable contingency. Meteorite? A real honest-to-God cynic would recommend not to storm that particular beach, not storm that house, just drop a Bunker Buster on it, not negotiate with Iran about their nukes, and certainly not allow anyone who may or may not be infected with the Ebola virus into our country. Let ‘em get well on a Navy hospital ship, but don’t bring them into our country.

So says a true cynic: prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Semper Fi


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