Chasing Alpha: Chapter Six

Chasing Alpha – Chapter SIX

Every soldier has his, or her, story and each of those is practically nearest to snowflakes in the uniqueness of it; even from within a box which emphasizes conformation and obedience above all else. The single mind philosophy is not a bad one in situations such as thus, but each individual reacts to it in a different way.

The human mind is uncanny at discovering patterns and making connections. Music is a prime example of such a thing. To some these identifiable patterns and repetitions of them are a form of comfort while others see it as creating chaos from within: going crazy from the monotony or mundane. A place which is supposed to train the most fit of minds and have at the ready skills for the utmost of preparedness. While on the other hand, a form of boredom can set in to those on the base whether wartime or now. Calisthenics, classes, and meals cannot occupy an entire day; no matter how early one is forced to rise. There will always be downtime no matter what the situation is or where any regiment is staged. The mind has its own coping mechanisms to keep the organic computer from going into atrophy or to prevent the boredom from driving its owner mad. Its own puzzles to solve or mischief to make, which varies from person to person. Some of those are soldiers who crave the sense of a sameness in structure, and thrive on it; practically zoning into oblivion. Those who aspire to be the best of the best, in the eyes of others or their own, will go inward and relearn everything which had been learned; including reading everything related or pertaining to the rank or position. Those more ambitious will read above their grade as well as a way to grab hold of opportunity just in case the  chance was to momentarily present itself. The career ladder could often seem to take the shape of a greased firepole. A little extra knowledge was often the best ally of an ambitious man.

One person’s sustenance is another person’s poison, but even that can be toxic to the individual. A preference and what is favored do not go together in many cases. Just as violence can beget violence, trouble is begotten from the troublemakers. The steam blown off can also roll downhill.

All kinds of connections can be made in the form of friendship, and on the dirty side of the coin, connections can also be made between the antagonized and their pursuers. Negatives and positives usually attracted one another rather than the science of magnetic poles or the charging of ions. Sociology studies and anthropology confirm the fact of patterns and connections from the groupings people make. Maybe actual studies have been done and it seems whether junior high, a convention, or even the military; there is going to be the same issue. Groupings are almost as much of a necessary evil as it can be a devastating liability. A ‘with us or against us’ mentality cuts towards most of them- whether it is a hometown sense of loyalty, political affiliation, or as trifling as the difference of two colors.

Most of the time it is a ‘let them fight it out’ attitude until something critical or austere happens to one of the men in the ranks. Men can use words however they wish for the most part, but when things come to fists or grapples is when it becomes a failure on both parts between the parties. As admonished as such a tactic it was, there would be fights. Usually ending fast, but some can drag on exceptionally long depending on how coordinated the bystanders or onlookers would be or how occupied the brass were that moment; often more intentionally distracted rather than unintentionally knocked off course. For most recollections, those types of beefs which lead to fisticuffs or another form of physical showdown were limited to a lump sum. Anything beyond a one time loss of control is better not explained. It is obviously best left in the ranks as far as what such punishments entail. Needless to say, the parties are usually wishing for a way to amend the past by the end of such retribution.

One of the times this horseplay gone sideways is seriously reduced is a time of war. It is when those who should be together finally meld in order to make sure they are the side who march through victory. It is the family at odds which band together to thwart and oppression of a common sibling or relative. It has been illustrated in numerous journals of science how a third faction or entity is usually the catalyst which brings any at odds to an even ground or keel of equilibrium: the antonyms converting to synonyms.

One of the rays of sunshine for the team could be the fact it was during a time of war. It could possibly be the only way the egos, personalities, in  complacency to the ideas of others and acting in concord. Under a more lackadaisical setting, major players of this unit would have erupted from the pressure cooker of the sameness and boredom such as most stateside bases can be.

If an inventory of ego could have been measured in the tangible, this group would have been the bumper crop. As the joke often goes in a time of war: ‘Thank the deity that one’s on our side. I would hate to think what could happen if in the employ of the enemy.’

This unit could have suffered a hydrogen bomb of a shockwave if the personalities would have gone on a collision course with any number of people. The firepower was instead focused towards an enemy. Plans and intricate setups were not riddled with ridicule or the sayings of nay but were instead fostered for a greater purpose or higher duty. All input was considered constructive and nothing would be dismissed as criticism.

None of these things happened overnight or by any synthesized process or structure. It was more of an extreme form of organization which presented itself through chaos. All of it was gradual and from numerous situations in which quickly making the right choice became almost second nature or from an otherworldly source altogether. It was a sequence of events which probably never could have unfolded any other way if the same conditions were repeated. They could not be compared to a finely tuned machine or any of those similar analogies. It was a start and stop kind of thing. More akin to painting oneself into a corner and then  figuring out how to make a single leap and break a threshold to enter another room without incident. Most of this was not solely in the name of true allies coming together to fight the known enemy. It was, but more was hiding below the surface. The unit had a sneaky feeling of the sneaks themselves, and did not want to be the reaction to the actions made by those deceptive enemies in the skin of allies.

The field was not the way it was. The need to employ people who knew what the enemy was saying. A door to door routine which was too close to what regular police do in a small town when there is a runaway teenage girl who got into a spat with her mother over staying out on a school night. This is far more dire and was placed in hands which could either be capable or treasonous. The question to bear in mind is if turning on a foreigner is even a fact of treason when the home land is where the foreigners are in the first place. Tactical gear, uniforms, and fingers on triggers while asking for translators are not the most conducive conditions for telling the askers no.

As just mentioned, it’s a bad situation on both sides. Out of the frying pan and into the fire how the commonplace homespun adage goes. Any man torn between a compliance and country would have a tough time deciding. Especially if there is a risk or leaving others behind to become no more than widows or even orphans. Such a resolution is not the wisest. Especially if that means the departed is leaving those loved ones in a place where they could not be protected; least of the worst is the factor of the unknown. This team knew they were leaving their lives in the hands of someone whose allegiance could be no more than the randomness such as the chance of the flip of a coin. Heads, and an interpreter could be so loyal as to follow the squad through as many of Dante’s circles as exist. Tails, and it’s a matter of time when a so-called friend born from necessity may not only look the other way but also run in that direction too.

An image conjured is similar to a duel of old as far as comparison sake; two men lined across from each other with some sort of firearm. Equating it to the soldier, the opponent would be allowed to fire first, then the serviceman would be able to retaliate in a defensive action rather than making the charge. More often than not the soldiers were making literal house calls. Most without electricity proves even in the middle of the day they can have a dimness of dusk at best inside. Not the most advantageous of situations. That is likened to a home field advantage in more cases than not.

For this group of seemingly normal people despite their personalities, self preservation was above all else. Most of the choices they made or actions they took were each rooted back to all of them staying alive for as long as fate would possibly allow. They had all watched cinema’s take on war and were not in the cards for them. This was not anything like the heroics which were emblazoned in black and white – literally and figuratively – into the minds of almost each and every soldier who has ever passed through the ranks since the last official world war. To contrast, there was no way any possible enemy would be working side by side with the allies. They had internment camps in those days and did not care what blemishes would occur, just or not, due to their fact of a country in war.

These men who comprised the group were not acting out of elitism. They were also not trying to be exclusive. Things seemed to just end up seeming that way. Truly trying to exclude might be to shun all away. It was not the case. The men all got along with the others all stationed together and in whatever camp or base they were passing through or held at bay. The people within the ranks later would just be involved in a case of the group of students who could not keep up with the rest of the class.

Some of the men were able to pick up on what the crew was doing, but most just stood back and let the forerunners do the heavy lifting and take the brunt of the risk. Any of the newcomers were not excluded, but were expected to have a lesser role as well as never deviate from whatever plan was put in place; to the best of the men’s ability. The general rule which was agreed upon all of them silently was if things got crazy, all the new ones had to do was fall back and take cover. It was by far a sign of weakness or retreat, rather it was a matter of respect.

The group really did have an objective overall to keep everyone in the unit safe and sound. It was better to have a few dissipate by their feet rather than accumulating losses from friendly fire. If anyone was returning to the United States in a wooden overcoat, such a thing would have to be from an enemy with luck on their side rather than at the hand of a fellow comrade. This group never had an incident such as. The “friendly fire isn’t” mantra was strongly emphasized. Some units and squads had more than their share. Sometimes from frazzled nerves and not looking or thinking twice. Others were almost on the boundaries of thoughts one wants to fathom as possibility. Dissent can be a killer in more way than one. Not watching the back of the designated because of a petty or sometimes self fabricated reason. Not all could handle the gravitas of the situation they were placed in. The unspoken one is fear. If the actual excuse or emotion of fear did bubble up to the surface, it could be more dire than even death itself; since it is not only a dishonor to show fear but many out on the lines look at it as what warrants a death penalty. Since there is a due process and chain of command, anyone holding such a belief would have to keep a soldier alive – though most likely  wishing for his own death. Not a good thing but an act many people could still understand.

As time went on, the herd was thinned. A squad without casualty or loss of life is beyond the most supernatural of odds. This is an understood fact and there are measures in place to help replenish the quantities due to the depletions of war, but that is still not always an exact science. Sometimes the flow is like a pipeline, and the fresher faced recruits or stop loss soldiers are similar to an oil pipe; flowing freely and seemingly without end. Other times the balance would shift to that more of a water faucet; waxing and waning with little to no specific pattern. For this group, whether it was from reputation of their closeness or mere bureaucratic coincidence is unknown. The handle on the proverbial faucet was often turning more and more clockwise, thinning the numbers on their incoming while the vagaries of a war was still sending men outbound from the group; which was still for all matters a much slower exit than many other groups who were deployed to the same area. The practice of divisions or groups dwindling down is not unheard of, though not an intended practice either. Many times it can even be advantageous for the men who survived within it, and the smaller number helped them thrive even. The pendulum didn’t always swing as for a preference for troops, and those successful were because of that true American grit and can do attitude which was what  may have in fact been cultivated from World War Two; the reputation that was synonymous for all of America’s allies since the boys in the US of A were the ones either brave enough, or dumb enough, to pave the way to save the day.

Never backing down and never questioning if the job will be done. Once there in a plan and the wheels are in place, there is do way to apply the brakes. Just as a wagon tipped over the crest of a steep hill, the men have no other option but to keep barreling on and on. For the most part, there is success too once the dust clears and the bruises stop smarting.

Often it pains the man in charge to deliver such orders of something where odds are beyond less than favorable. Necessity is what often spreads duty and patriotism: within and without; before and after. Especially when there is a victory. One of the most famous of this scenario is of course during the second world war. These men were of the Company B, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Their exploits were of legend; and well warranted. They did it all from necessity and of course never for the attention, despite the fact it was the launching pad for someone who would become famous in a more glamorous than the iron and mortar world which created his legend. The division in question can be easily read about and still amazes people today. One of the most legendary of stories was during their orders while in France was to protect the Colmar Pocket, which was imperative to not lose or there would have been any number of forms of devastation if this critical area was lost. Related to the reserves issue, this was one of the most known: a division which started out with one hundred twenty-eight when deployed in France, but by this point of their campaign, they were down to nineteen men. Their tales are able to be read in more than one book, and are also famous for their creation of the legend; which is a legend not only all true, but downplayed to the eyes of the public during his heyday. Though the division is still in operation, this is not their story: it is the tale of the men  who seemed to be defined more than by war or valor, and rose above their own division’s legend – even if it is not from the same group of peers.

Not all of the closing off was what it had appeared. The lack of new enlists had only helped knit the group even tighter, and less time was lost trying to explain how or why they did what they did. For those who were privy to their insider type of group, they accepted what they did as a given and never questioned its origin or necessity.

Through their time in the proverbial trenches, they all silently had the unanimous decision to trust only those who came from the states, but as a protection move rather than anything dealing with a race or religion issue. The men all still had to depend on those translators who were assigned, and were grateful for it all the same to have those men. The real issued which was underlying seemed to be the way information had to travel second hand; though there was no alternate which could be set in place. A majority of the information and intelligence passed in a redirected route to the men in uniform. Such as a docent leading a school class through exhibits and rattling off information which may or may not be important later. To a classroom it would be a pop quiz, but to the troops it is nothing less than life and death. Follow along and listen at a rate feeling as a mental version of oversampling; retelling it multiple times to one’s self silently within a second. A fear is missing valuable information if raising a hand to have something repeated – since it could lead to missing out on hearing something even more critical. The only hope is another in the group was able to memorize whatever  another man wasn’t able to let fully sink in or comprehend.

Another advantage with less numbers in a group is relying on each other much more as well as forming a better understanding of one another in the process. It’s a lottery or form of roulette: make friends with one who disappears. Stay at a distance with a man; whether on purpose or through a self imposed exile on his part, and that one may stick around the entire duration. After any of the men made it through one form of external conflict or drama, whether a firefight or even something which was no more than a close call which could have gone sideways on the turn of a dime, any new person was immediately elevated to the same level as a “day one” member. It was not anything which came up or was decreed. It was just the closeness some groups can be when the situation battle forces people to elevate their levels of respect and trust. Those who enlisted and served from the states at least.

The men not only had a resolve which seemed to interlock with one another, but also had a leader to instill duty and honor above the other divisions. The man later to be known as Prevante was the type who fostered the best of others, and never used one’s weakness or differences to hinder. People all had a subconscious respect since they knew he was the one to go to if in and sort of conflict, or if a mentor was needed. He didn’t ever betray confidence, nor was he ever afraid to make the hard decisions. This is something which made all under him admire the man even more. He was a parent in many ways, and a friend at the same time. Other men at his rank would chide him for it, either in jest but often as a form of ridicule, since one is perceived to have to be on a pedestal so his boots were at the eye level of those men he commanded. It was unbecoming to sink to the same ground as the troops one commands, or “mingle amongst the lower ranks” which was a common form of slang. The usual train of thought was a man who tries to live amongst the troops can either be too attached, or show an absence of discipline towards his men. A more common term from private citizens is giving the keys to the jail to the inmates.

Whether this leader did such a thing could be up for debate. He did allow a wide amount of leeway, but at the same time there was never an argument or a lapse of memory as far as what the chain of command was. Sometimes there were times of split leadership: which he would be attending to one thing while another group of men were elsewhere, but there was never any misconception with where the true leadership lay. One version of the split would be Prev and the newer folks in one area, and the more bonded of the men in another, but the call was always the true leader; from  orders handed out or what strategy to use. Very rarely was there a deviation, but those were instances in the heat of battle and no other recourse was in sight but to deviate from a formerly ordered plan of action. Another typical plan which from outsiders could have seemed as a split of leadership was when a suspicious situation came to light; such as sketchy intel on a residence, or a locale in which the Yankee boys weren’t the holders of the high ground. A judgment call from the leader, and he knew the mini squad would make all the right moves; proven over and over again. The abrupt end of the streak was still nothing the men could have prevented without any form of clairvoyance; though it was the same sense of duty and commitment which was what set that version of fate into motion. Some said if any of them were less in the way of eagerness or sense of duty, then the twist of fate wouldn’t have landed at their feet. Then again, if anyone would have sacrificed themselves for the rest, it would have been this unit of men; without question.

Many men quickly come to mind as those who struck a chord for all the right reasons: whether their time in service to the division was too brief or just the right amount of time was never pondered with much brainpower. It all was what it ended being. There could be a Greek phrase for it, but these were American soldiers.

Ettariga, Ginger, Emjay, Tressan, Maffick, Ducey, Underpush, and even Acey too. All of them were men outside of the circle who had their own place of history and dedication. Whether a pair of jokers or the catalyst for what saved the lives of dozens. Even helping block the enemy from saturating the ranks, each of them are firmly placed in the gratitude of this division of service.

Time after time all of the men had small and large parts in contribution and success. As said by one in the distant past of Hollwood, there are no small parts. The smallest thing such as organizing a deck’s worth of a card game or even producing cigars from what seemed to be thin air can make as big of effort towards gratitude and morale as paving the way to a victory in battle. Other notable achievements attributed to the men were as vast as could be. From slightly abusing communications equipment or rerouting supplies for exchange; all in the name of helping and for the sake of morale and help others feel more chipper, or closer to home. Also something crucial for their perceived self survival, such as a major defying moment; stemming from a incidental slip of colloquialisms later developed into something sounding as original as an entire language – more than just slang, but hiding dialogue in plain sight. Sometimes a contribution is not anything so overt, or even noticed at the time, but more along the lines as in hindsight; and it may not be an exactly constructive even, but providing crucially needed bouts of comic relief from mild jokes and pranks to stir up brass was a very important way to help others blow of steam or relieve bouts of stress; sometimes putting their military career on the line in the process… Sometimes even their life, though inadvertently and never with the foresight of such a thing ever happening.

To list every man and their contribution to this team would look less of an exercise in literature and rather an inventory of a supermarket or back room of a warehouse; roster of a schoolyard’s students even. But each man makes different connections and no two sets of alliances are equal, whether in quantity or in strength. Each has a few favorites, and no two are the same. Three men cannot have the same best friend is musing with some truth and mathematical merit. Each of the five knew one better than the others, and most knew the other men better than any individual knew himself. Keeping each other cool and collected, even in the heat of battle. Preserving as much of the team for as long as possible.

Same as the best friends or any friendships at all, each man has his own perception of recollections: surviving surprise battles, enduring a tour of duty, a funny joke heard in boot camp, or why a specific ribbon or medal is on his uniform. Really just survival altogether since it is the deceased who have the most to say, yet have no tales to tell.

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