Most civilians think of the Army as a huge impersonal machine. And in many ways it is. But when you’re in the Army, in many other ways, it is a second family. Your squad mates are your brothers, your platoon, your cousins. The company and battalion are the neighbors. A brotherhood with your immediate circle is common, but strong friendships outside your company are rare. When you start to talk about senior officers, well, they may very well have the best interests of their soldiers at heart, but it is rare that they can show it in any tangible manner.
Our company was once again in southern Colorado, serving as the Opposing Force (OpFor) for one of our sister brigades as they prepared for a trip to the National Training Center. Russell was a Specialist in my platoon, a gunner assigned to the platoon sergeant’s Bradley. Not only was he on his first trip to the field as a gunner, he was also married to a lovely young lady. A very pregnant lovely young lady. To say he was on pins and needles would be something of an understatement.
Any brigade that is preparing to go to the National Training Center is very high visibility. It is going to get a lot of face time with the general commanding the division. Mostly, that means the general will make visits to the brigade commander. But the general will also try to find time to visit the subordinate units of the brigade, and see and be seen by the soldiers of the brigade. And if he still has any time left, he’ll even visit the troops of the unit providing OpFor services.
We had been down in southern Colorado for about a week when word came down that Russell’s wife was in labor, and on her way to the hospital. The company was struggling to find some way to get Russell out of the field, to the cantonment area, and find a ride to drive him the 150 miles back to base in time to be with his wife. Struggling and failing. And during that FLAILEX, the division commander came fluttering in aboard his personal Huey helicopter. Our company commander was no shrinking violet. Almost the first words out of his mouth were, “General, can you give this troop a lift back to Ft. Carson? His wife is in labor.”
Russ did indeed get back to Ft. Carson in plenty of time to be present for the birth of his first child. When the general’s helicopter landed at Ft. Carson, not only was the general’s driver there with his vehicle, there was a driver waiting to take Russ to the hospital.
It was a small gesture. It wasn’t really much bother for the general. But it has stuck with me for years as a nice thing to do, and all too many leaders would have found a way to say no. Not nearly enough company commanders would have dared to ask the general in the first place. I’m glad my Captain did. Family has to look out for each other.