The Frustration of Different Priorities

Here's one example of the kind of stories that can be therapeutic to write.  Frequently, seemingly small, insignificant things - when paired with broader feelings of frustration and hopelessness - can rip us apart with anger.  Writing about these situations can help address and cope with this rage.

Afghan Soldiers and a Marine Mechanic Instructor

It’s a common phrase in the military: “experiences will vary.”  Here’s a story that tied into my growing frustration of this reality - of being focused on accomplishing a mission while so many others seemed focused on, well, not that.  One day on base in Afghanistan, I angrily scribbled the below note to myself. Rereading these comments years after I wrote them, my blood still boils:

I fucking hate this place more and more every day- cannot wait to leave.  Some douchebag sergeant major gave one of our Marines shit today about wearing FROGs in the chow hall, despite the fact that he’s a wrecker operator on-call 24/7.  I’m going to leave here with PTSD, and it’s not going to have anything to do with combat, just my frustration with the system. Fuck this.

I’ll translate a few things from the above to better put my rage into context.  First, “FROGs” – Flame Resistant Organizational Gear – are combat utilities that won’t melt to a Marine’s skin like our normal camouflage ones would. So, in the world of ever-present IED threats, FROGs are required outside-the-wire to help mitigate burn wounds.  Second, a “wrecker” is, in essence, an armored, heavy-duty tow truck to recover vehicles in combat. If one of our armored vehicles hit an IED, the wrecker operator is the Marine who drives out with the quick reaction force to tow that vehicle back to base.

Having outlined these terms, I’ll talk through my anger at this incident.  While we were in Afghanistan, our Marine wrecker operator was the only one on base.  And, as you can’t predict when someone will hit an IED, and there were nearly always troops outside-the-wire, this Marine was on-call to respond at a moment’s notice around-the-clock.  As such, he always wore his FROGs, because it wouldn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to have to delay a wrecker response for something as trivial as going back to his room to change.

On the other hand, I recognize my words seem pretty sanctimonious, and I understand the sergeant major’s perspective on the perceived discipline and hygiene concerns of wearing combat utilities in the chow hall.  In isolation, I’d have just chalked this up to “sergeant major doing sergeant major things.” But, this anecdote served as one more element reinforcing my growing notion of a whole system, a new Ministry of Truth, focused on everything except keeping the base and the Marines, Georgians, Czechs, and US Army soldiers defending it safe.

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