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Thread: Best Staff War Stories

  1. #1
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    Default Best Staff War Stories

    Thought I would start a thread where real warriors could swap yarns about the center of modern warfare - the staff. COIN, SSTR, MCO, Thermonuclear War all share one thing: staff officers. Only one rule: no second-hand war stories. However, feel free to poach any found here next time you're sitting around the lobby of the Doubletree knockin' back a few appletinis.

    Here's my favorite:

    Back in the day, we were preparing to take on the 3rd Guards Shock Army at Hohenfels, when the brigade assistant S-2 got up to brief. Everything was going well when the brigade commander interrupted. "What was the basic load of AT missiles carried by the T-80?", he asked. The A/S-2 looked up from his notes.

    "I don't know, sir."

    The brigade commander was a good guy, not prone to torturing briefers, so he let it pass.

    Next day, the same young intelligence officer got up to brief again. At the end of his briefing, the brigade commander again asked how many AT missiles the T-80 carried.

    The captain took a deep breath and replied in a tone one normally reserved for dealing with slow children. "Sir, as I briefed yesterday...I don't know!"

    He never briefed again.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Ok here we go...

    In 1991 as we the Air Operation opened, the CSA decided he wanted a private brief at code word level with only staff principals. The normal brief in the ops center would go on as scheduled but we would hold the special brief downstairs adjacent to the intel SCIF. The new briefing area immediately became known as the Bat Cave.

    The set up showed who was a prince and who was not. The CSA and Vice sat in high back leather chairs, The DCSOPs (3 star) sat at on end of the table and the AOC director (2 star) sat at the other. Their chairs were leather as well; the backs were not quite as high as those of the CSA and Vice. The other three staff principals (3 stars) sat in cheaper chairs along the back wall; these chairs did not even have arm rests.

    There were rules: The brief started when the CSA's butt hit the chair (or the Vice if the Chief was gone); and everyone had better be there when the CSA sat down. An unspoken rule was only questions came from the CSA, the Vice, and the Ops (who generally did follow up questions after the CSA or Vice had asked something. The three principals along the back wall were there to answer questions, not to ask them. Their main rule was to stay in their own lane in answering such questions.

    Well one of those guys just couldn't follow the rules. He showed up late. He asked questions about ops issues. He even suggested ops changes which sorta broke the camel's back. The next day I heard the Ops and the AOC Director exhange a few words concerning the offending principal, something to the effect "its taken care of".

    The CSA was gone so as the Vice walked in and sat down I started talking. Only to stop as you know who walked in late. I noted that the AOC Director winked at the Ops as the late comer hurried to his chair and sat down.

    Instead of just sitting comfortably, the late 3-star who was fairly short had to do a sort of jumping perch onto the chair and then immediately grab both sides to keep from falling off. Someone mysteriously had extended the chair as high as it would go. His feet could not touch the floor. He remained caught in a teeter-totter balancing act for the rest of the brief.

    As the briefer I could see all of this but I could also see that the Ops and the AOC Director could barely keep from giggling while they watched me try not to laugh.

    It was the last time the offender was late to a Bat Cave brief. And he always checked his chair before sitting down.

    Generals will be boys too

    Tom

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    It is with tremendous gratitude that I can say that I spent over 80 percent of my career at the company or platoon level. Thus, the nearest story that I have involves a company CP - but I think it is close enough to qualify, since their duties mirrored that of the TOC rats at our BN staff...

    During OIF III, our company CP was run by our NBC NCO. He was an easily excitable fellow. At about the midway point of our deployment, we had managed to tame our city such that instead of 1 firefight and 1 mortar attack every day, we were seeing no direct fire engagements and we went about a month without a mortar attack. That is, until the the day of this story.

    After a few weeks without a single mortar attack upon our small, humble patrol base, some new mortarmen arrived into the city and announced their presence with a salvo of 82-mm mortars that were among the most well-placed of any of the 100+ that we were hit by over the course of a 12-month deployment. In the past, such an incident would barely cause anyone to flinch. But, I guess that during the month of inactivity, my NBC NCO got a little complacent. The mortar salvo happened to hit while we were eating our twice-weekly hot meal. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that, upon the impact of the first mortar round in the 5-round barrage, my NBC NCO flipped over backwards in his plastic lawn chair and literally threw his plate of General Tso's chicken no less than 8 feet into the air. The CP was covered in the foul-smelling, foul-tasting, wretched slime that is General Tso's cruel legacy. My commander and I were laughing so hard that I nearly forgot to go outside and check for casualties.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Smile I have to keep it generic for obvious reasons

    But as an analyst I was working in the staff section for about a week during which I completed my assigned tasks and then in the extra time found ways to make fancier and more detailed representations of said info.

    Worked pretty hard and was kinda proud of myself till couple days in someone asked why I was doing that; it wasn't necessary, and silly. So I stopped adding to it put all in one folder and set it to be the screen saver.

    Two days later had been sent somewhere else to work on a different project and recieved the first of two or three calls from various individuals asking "
    that thing on the computer where'd you get it?
    and
    How'd you do that again?
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    If you guys are going to do this, I'm going to have a start another thread entitled Real Professor War Stories. Like that tragic time I could find neither latakia based pipe tobacco or a decent dry sherry anywhere in town...

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    Perhaps Steve Metz could divine a good war story from the late, great Harry Summers since Steve's office at the AWC is Harry's old office. I think that is totally cool. The closest I can get to that is that my office on the first floor of Thayer Hall on the west side of it probably had Patton and his horse ride over the same spot when it was a horse riding stable back in the day.

    My staff war story, unlike Schmedlap, but like other old staff hands like Tom Odom and Ron H, I have lots of time on staff. Let's see; OK, I remember in the BCT Toc when I was BCT XO in OIF1 in Tikrit within days after he took command we briefed LTG Sanchez on current operations. I remember him being really good with numbers, much better than me, but fortunately the Bde 3 was a lot smarter than I was and briefed the General and handled his numbers questions pretty well.

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    Council Member Mark O'Neill's Avatar
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    Default One of those moments...

    I was recently in a brief for an incoming BCT. The majority of the Comd and staff were on their second or third Iraq tour.

    The 'cultural intelligence' expert takes the stage, adopts a suitably 'expert' demeanour ...and begins the brief with the pearl of wisdom that '97% of Iraqis are Moslem....'

    The BCT commander immediately dead pannned back ' No ####! If only we had known that five years ago.....'

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Default Learned at the hands of merciless masters

    Back in my sordid past, I was a logistician (and terrible at it, but that is a seperate story). I was the S4 of one of seperate battalions, so I was routinely at the COSCOM staff briefs to the general. The CG, Brigadier General Larry Lust (no, I could not have made that up) had a reputation as being an ogre to brief. He routinely ranted and questioned the intelligence and competence of his staff and commanders in open forums. No kidding, colonels would sweat and tremble like they were about to fall out when they briefed him, his own staff was so scared of him that they told people to... finesse numbers in order to avoid upsetting him.

    So there I was, 1LT Van, Bn S4, when BG Lust decided to go on a rampage about "why all these darn reports of survey don't move faster". I had recently completed two, but only just under the time limit. And then BG Lust turns the guns on me, why did these surveys take more than a month to complete? And there was an intake of breathe out of sympathy and pity for me. I looked him square in the eye, told him I screwed up, that I was new at this, admitted that I had lost a lot of time because I was learning the process, had learned a lot, and would do better next time. At which point BG Lust nodded, said "O.K." and moved on to the next issue. His own staff was stunned and amazed that he hadn't eaten me alive in front of the entire COSCOM command and staff. And on that day, I truly internalized the whole "make no excuses" thing.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Brilliant!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O'Neill View Post
    I was recently in a brief for an incoming BCT. The majority of the Comd and staff were on their second or third Iraq tour.

    The 'cultural intelligence' expert takes the stage, adopts a suitably 'expert' demeanour ...and begins the brief with the pearl of wisdom that '97% of Iraqis are Moslem....'

    The BCT commander immediately dead pannned back ' No ####! If only we had known that five years ago.....'
    That would make a great Guiness commercial....

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    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Talking Never act like you know more than your spouse...

    A different title, I know, but you'll understand if you can get through to the end of this posting...

    There I was sitting in an Ulchi Focus Lens exercise as an ADA BN S3 with the 101st AASLT (MAIN). I was a recently returned planner from 2ID, and I thought I had a pretty firm grasp of the unique challenges associated with conducting operations on the Korean Penninsula...

    As I came on duty, I thought for sh!ts and giggles, I stopped by the plans tent to see what Corps had dreamt up in the middle of the night. As I walked in I saw a buzz of activity at the map board (1:25,000) involving the Chief of Plans, Div G3, and CoS. Sensing something big I asked the plans CPT for a copy of the FRAGO causing all the action. He quickly handed the hard copy to me, stating smuggly "Planning big Air Assault Op." Hmmm.... Despite the fact that this seemed unfeasible unless someone did some magic moves during the night, I read the order... I paraphrase....

    Conduct AASLT to secure bridge at grid AB12345678 IOT pass 4ID, graphics due NLT 12 hours Seeing as I am not an infantryman, I focused more on the pass 4ID (deliberate river crossing) than I did the AASLT. Silly me!!! When I tried to pry the Chief of Plans (a good friend from SAMS) away from the map board, he informed me they were too busy planning the AASLT. I mentioned that a couple of CPTs could pick or at least recommend the LZs, and that they might want to start planning the deliberate river crossing and passage of a Heavy Division. I got a blank look and then, "We do AASLTs" they'll worry about the river." The graphics produced literally resembled a toilet seat in shape and had one contact point and passage lane for 4ID...

    A little saddened, I ran into the previous year's G2 planner (and the Chief of Plans Wife) as I exited the tent... Her first words were, "did you see what they are doing?" When I nodded, she stated "he wouldn't listen to you either? The hell with it let him fail, it'll teach him lesson in humility."

    Now that's harsh, but she was right and it did.

    I bet Gian can figure out the names.
    Hacksaw
    Say hello to my 2 x 4

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gian P Gentile View Post
    Perhaps Steve Metz could divine a good war story from the late, great Harry Summers since Steve's office at the AWC is Harry's old office. I think that is totally cool. The closest I can get to that is that my office on the first floor of Thayer Hall on the west side of it probably had Patton and his horse ride over the same spot when it was a horse riding stable back in the day.

    My staff war story, unlike Schmedlap, but like other old staff hands like Tom Odom and Ron H, I have lots of time on staff. Let's see; OK, I remember in the BCT Toc when I was BCT XO in OIF1 in Tikrit within days after he took command we briefed LTG Sanchez on current operations. I remember him being really good with numbers, much better than me, but fortunately the Bde 3 was a lot smarter than I was and briefed the General and handled his numbers questions pretty well.
    LTG Sanchez WAS pretty good with numbers. But sometimes he seemed a little challenged with "reality".

    We were briefing him with a series of slides, and it always amazed us with how he was able to "zoom in" on a number as the slides whipped by him. But one day, we found out mere moments before the briefing started that one number was not correct. So, when the slide flipper (not me that day, thank God) got to that slide, he made a special point to mention that the numbers on the flatracks returned for the PLS was incorrect, the actual number was "umpteen" instead of "gazillion". Of course, LTG Sanchez zoomed right in on the "gazillion" number, and started grilling everyone in effective grenade range on why that number was "gazillion", despite being corrected every single time, that the "gazillion" number was misreported, and was not correct.

    Between that and the constant input on slide color, I developed a certain dislike for the good LTG.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I would ask, seriously, why the Corps Commander

    was getting briefed on something as down in the weeds and stupid at his level as the number of flatracks but I know the answer:

    We've lost our cotton picking minds and the inmates are in charge...

    Sheesh...

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    When I was a young Squadron S2, our Staff SGM once sent a newly-minted 96B E-5 out to find "soft-spots" on the armor of the M577. He gave him a ball-peen hammer and a piece of chalk, of course, but right after he left, the BDE CDR, a COL Ferrea (4th BDE, 3ID circa 1989) showed up unexpected. COL Ferrea was a bulldog, who was doing his "thing", and we'd forgotten all about the good SGT, until the tapping of the hammer started to be heard, followed by the squeak of chalk.

    Our NCOs were turning a shade of purple, and COL Ferrea glared at me and said, "1LT, what the hell is going on here." Staff SGM had mercy on my tender soul, and nervously told the good COL about the 96B SGT, and the COL got the most evil twinkle in his eye, and excused himself. He confronted the SGT, and asked him what he was doing. The SGT decided to cover his ignorance of armored vehicles by "making #### up" to explain what he was doing, which was hilarious.

    Later on in my career, in my first Troop Command, I had a TOC daddy that was a freaking genius. He kitted out our TOC like the Taj Mahal, complete with a full kitchen, stereo, and all the amenities of home. Unfortunately, the Squadron and higher staffs started figuring out that meal time around our Troop TOC would be the optimal time to "inspect" us, and obtw, they would graciously accept the fine meal my TOC Daddy had prepared. So.... initially, he would only give the grid location "offset", so that only Troop personnel would find it. This didn't last long, so he enacted "Operation Friskies". He went to Aldi's, where he purchased a flat of cat food, and a flat of potted meat, and swapped the labels, throwing away the cat food.

    The next few times that Staff types showed up to "inspect" at meal times, they would pop a couple of cans of "cat food" which they'd be eating by the time the Staffer made it through our perimeter. Of course, my TOC Daddy would always be gracious enough to offer a can to the Staffer, saying that "Hey, this stuff is only 17 cents at Aldi's, and most of the cans are pretty good!!!"

    I have more, but I gotta go back to work....

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    was getting briefed on something as down in the weeds and stupid at his level as the number of flatracks but I know the answer:

    We've lost our cotton picking minds and the inmates are in charge...

    Sheesh...
    Actually, it's as simple as the Corps ran out of flatracks, because units were dumping them in the desert and leaving them. Same thing with shipping containers. Evidently, "real men" don't backhaul empty flatracks....

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm old...

    There used to be a simple fix for that sort of stuff -- which is as old as war -- and it didn't need to involve a Corps Commander, who was told without numbers or naming units merely that it appeared to be the beginning of a potential problem and lower echelon Commanders fixed it before it got there...

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    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    If you guys are going to do this, I'm going to have a start another thread entitled Real Professor War Stories. Like that tragic time I could find neither latakia based pipe tobacco or a decent dry sherry anywhere in town...
    Given that the Colin Gray book I'm reading quotes Fred Charles Ikle as saying that a good strategist's:

    . . .soul must be in harmony with this world of ours. He must not only appreciate different cultures and and good art, but also find nourishment in things that are beautiful and be endowed with a sense of humor. He might have an eye for architecture or painting, an ear for the best music; he must have a broad understanding of philosophy, literature, and, of course, history. And - why not? - let me have men about me that are sophisticated epicures.
    I wasn't so sure before, given your affinity for rattlesnake barbecue and the Gamecocks, but now - latakia based pipe tobacco (whatever the hell that is) and fine dry sherry - I am convinced strategic studies is indeed your proper calling.

    I'll buy the new book now.

    Regards,

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

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    Again, not while I was a staff officer, but this one occurred in our battalion staff room, as all company XO's met with the new battalion XO to give him an overview of our maintenance issues. Close enough.

    The new XO had apparently been listening a bit too much to our 2LT BMO. The BMO's big thing was dispatching. He was a stickler for dispatches. Apparently he had convinced the new XO that any maintenance issues that existed in the battalion were due to dispatches - or lack thereof. To those of us who were scrambling to just repair critical battle damage, dispatches were not high on the priority list.

    We had been in the meeting no more than 30 seconds before the XO asked me about my dispatches - or my lack thereof. I casually pointed out that none of my vehicles were dispatched, not realizing the outburst that was about to follow. The XO, whom I had only met for the first time 5 minutes earlier, pounded his fist on the table and unleashed a thundering rebuke of my performance as company XO and, with the accusatory point of his finger, declared that "you haven't had more than 12 out of 14 Bradleys FMC in two months! That is a direct consequence of blowing off dispatching procedures!"

    My response: "Sir, I haven't had more than 12 out of 14 Bradleys FMC in two months because we've got 2 Bradleys that are in the process of being coded out due to battle damage, but they're being included in our maintenance status because they're still at our patrol base. They're still at our patrol base because the BMO won't cut us an M88 to drag them from the patrol base to the FOB. I'm not going to use my M88 because it is deadlined due to parts that have been on order for a month and we still use it pull pack and recover damaged vehicles everyday. I'm not risking any more wear and tear on it just to do the BMO's job. But I will dispatch the other 12 Bradleys if the BMO can fix his ULLS box and provide us with some 5988E's. We haven't gotten any since April, so we've been writing our faults on notebook paper, then copying them into emails and sending them to the BMT."

    A very awkward silence followed for at least 3 or 4 seconds as everyone looked at the BMO in anticipation of some response. Instead, the silence was broken by my maintenance team chief who was sitting in the back, reveling in the moment. Unable to think of any other way to convey his thoughts about the exchange, or his pleasure at the "oh crap" look on the BMO's face, he simply shouted, "DAMN!"
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 05-07-2008 at 04:38 AM. Reason: Spelling error

  18. #18
    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    There used to be a simple fix for that sort of stuff -- which is as old as war -- and it didn't need to involve a Corps Commander, who was told without numbers or naming units merely that it appeared to be the beginning of a potential problem and lower echelon Commanders fixed it before it got there...
    Agreed. There is/was a definite lack of people held responsible for their lack of leadership.

    Several of the active duty folks responsible for these kinds of failures were 'gently' moved to other responsibilities to allow more capable reserve officers to try to fix it, and then 'gently' moved back into the job just prior to the end of their rating periods, so they could get their "1" block.

    As one of those reserve officers who took over a job from an active duty officer one grade my senior, I have since developed a healthy chip on my shoulder vis-a-vis the active component's officer corps.

  19. #19
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Same thing happened during Desert Storm.

    Sorry way to do business. Had it not been for the Guard and Reserve in DS/DS, logistic failure would've virtually been guaranteed.

    Both the then Chief of staff and the then DCSOPS tried -- very stupidly, IMO -- everything in their power to avoid a callup. Abrams had outsmarted 'em

    We really need to repair that AC/RC disconnect, it's every bit as dangerous as the conventional force / SOF disconnect. Both are wrong and both need fixing.

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Default WARFIGHTER EXERCISE, Fort Lewis 1999

    As a NG Divison Cavalry Squadron S2, I watched the S4 write out a resupply message requesting amongst other things "50,000 gallons of cottage cheese and three lederhosen", just to prove to the Squadron commander that no one at G level was reading our reports.

    The request, in it's entirety, was approved...


    Grafenwohr WARFIGHTER, April 1999

    Playing the part of the night shift BDE S2 (with someone else's NG Division), we were doing better than projected against a quasi-Iraqi OPFOR. I watched a young RA 2LT LNO (1st ID, IIRC) updating his Commander: "Sir, they're not like us... they're playing music and ordering pizza to the TOC. I don't know exactly what they're doing or how they're doing it, but it's working".

    *snicker*

    Fort Drum, summer 2000
    As SQD S2, I laid out a Route Recon lane for the Scout Platoons. The PSGs in A Troop were both older (the oldest pushing 50), so I got an MRE box and set it under a bridge along the route. In laundry pen, it was labeled WHEELCHAIR PARTS. I'd also made up some the Blair Witch Project icons (out of W2 wire and straight branches, knitted togethor at the last Command & Staff meeting), which I hung in the trees just short of the bridge. See http://www.lovefilm.com/lovefilm/ima...2132-large.jpg

    About two hours later, "Black 2, this is Red 4. Spot reports follows. Possible Satanic activity and age discrimination, vicinity A003..."

    Same time period: an Infantry Battalion insisted on making up their own interpretation of the SOI and using the code page for how many days they had been at AT (rather than which day of the month it was, 1 thru 10). This put them on our Squadron push, and they failed to listen to reason.
    The S3 gave me permission to chase them off our frequency, so it became a training opportunity (section drill, how to do your own MIJI mission). Every time they started to broadcast, we transmitted the Volga Boatmen song (track 8 on this very CD http://www.amazon.com/Cossacks/dp/B0000058FS) from our CD player (as well as rude comments in mock-Russian accent) until their TOC finally whimpered "All such-and-such, switch to alternate frequency".
    Last edited by AdamG; 05-07-2008 at 03:30 PM.

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