Thursday, February 08, 2007


The last few days have been hectic--it seems that as soon as we get back from one mission, we're preparing for another. It's for this reason that I haven't posted as much recently as I would like. Also, I've been caught up in a conflict of creative interest. I want to avoid the impression that my military service sums up my identity, though at the same time, I am a warblogger, and thus I do feel a certain obligation to record my experiences and obligations for as long as I am here. I want to write about this war, but I want to avoid a "Thin Red Line" kind of experience. This dilemma only continues to magnify, as lately I find the rift between my professional and personal identies growing.

Our squad had a sensing session today with our supervisor--Sergeant Killeen. Jeffrey Killeen has been my first-line NCO since just before I left Germany, and he's fairly new to positions of leadership. He's married to another soldier over in Second Platoon, and he's about six months my junior. I liked Sergeant Killeen well enough before his promotion, but since the start of this deployment I've come to develop certain differences of professional opinion with him.

Sgt. Killeen means well--he really does. I also understand he came into his promotion with a relative lack of experience, and thus is under a lot of pressure from the other NCOs. But while Sergeant Killeen is perhaps less domineering than his peers, I find his lack of ability to delegate tasks to be at times irritating. He micromanages to an insane degree, compromising my own limited personal time and pressuring us to fit a template that rarely takes into account the wildly varying backgrounds and experiences of his squadmembers. Though I have no significant problems with Sergeant Killeen, I do have significant doubts that he will ever send me to a promotion board, or that he will ever have any real confidence in my own abilities. I feel like I'm stagnating under his leadership.

Case in point: while debating recently some of his more "creative" ideas for professional development within the squad, Killeen tried to justify his micromanagement by telling me that he simply wanted me to be the best.

"My goal," he explained, "is to have you and the rest of the squad be the best NCOs in this company, whenever you DO go to the board. Hell, I want you to be better NCOs than me."

"I understand that, Sar'nt," I replied, "but my question is, why do I want to be the best at something I hate?"

Sgt. Killeen couldn't answer me.

So today, the five of us--Sgt. Killeen, Spcs. Meiers and Villareal, Pfcs. Brooks and Stein, and myself--gathered at our company's staging area for a little chat. It was actually Staff Sergeant Smith that put him up to it--I think Smith realized that Sergeant Killeen's soldiers were damned close to mutiny. But all things considered, I do think that some important points were raised, and I do feel that this discussion was a key step in the direction of progress. I left the session feeling that Sgt. Killeen better understands our needs as soldiers, and I do hope that this will help accelerate my own career development as well.

Still, as much as this discussion was needed, I can't help but continue to have doubts about my supervisor. He's stressed out so much of the time that his hands twitch, and while he almost never yells at us, he still manages to give off the signs of someone who is slowly losing an internal battle--a dangerous thing in a combat zone. He reminds me of an exotic housepet--some sort of predatory wildcat, perhaps--left in a neglectful home for many years. Sure, the Humane Society might come pick him up, but he hasn't learned how to read people's signals, and he tends to be very defensive. He might be quiet and a little antisocial now, but it's only a matter of time before the claws come out and he rips off somebody's face. I hope to God we're not outside the wire when that happens.

Worst of all, I have a hard time understanding the source of his trouble. I mean, for fuck's sake, he's married, to a woman who very clearly loves him, and whom he gets to share quarters with, even in a combat zone. Wisecracking about his sex life aside, I can't help but feel that, man, if only I got to have my wife here with me every day, I'd be untouchable. There is no stressor that the company of my adoring wife cannot place into perspective. I'd kill to have the deal that Sergeant Killeen has right now. And still, dangers and combat stressors aside, that guy cannot seem to just take a step back and fucking chill. I don't get it.

Sure, his job is hard; sure, he's under pressure from the other Sergeants. But unlike him, the rest of us with wives worrying about us don't get to hold our loved ones at the end of the day. The rest of us have to face mortal danger on a daily basis, all without seeing or touching our partners, for up to a year at a time.

So right now, my ability to sympathize pretty much counts for dick.

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Blogger cinnabari said...

Just a guess...what's making him crazy is feeling like he's responsible for the rest of you. And all the wife in the world won't change that.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Chris Rich said...

Yeah, You are stuck by collossal betrayal at delivering the impossible. The stress on all is huge.

That said, a razor edge wariness and mastery of perception should get you through but my purpose here today is to let you know that I am contacting bands all over the country about a Milo Freeman Support the Troops Compilation.

Your lyrics are top notch, forged in a crucible of danger.

I notified Mike Watt last night and linked your URL. I intend to find Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, the Killers and many others about a Troop Support CD.

I don't know what will come of it but your lyrics are better than most rock crap.

I am also furious with neo con thugs who accuse us of being traitors because we are trying to get all of you out of there.

You have my url link to email. I will happily burn you piles of music from my archive in either mp3 or cd format, just ask.

You and many kids there have amazing futures ahead if we can just throttle Bush and get you home

10:49 PM  
Blogger iamcoyote said...

It is kinda scary, having to worry about whether your supervisor might crack up at the worst possible time. I think about the scene in Aliens when the Loot just froze and Ripley had to save the men herself.

But you know what, if your wife were with you right now, wouldn't you be a wreck worrying that a stray mortar or IED could take her away at any moment? He really does need to chill before he whacks out. Take care, Milo.

11:24 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Wow. This brings back memories.

I did a stint as an "acting jack" for 6 months. I was very lucky to be with the same 3 guys the whole time-we knew each other, knew what we were supposed to do, and never had a problem. All the same though, it felt good to put my actual insignia back on.

I was a (p) when I left-I went to the Board, but having to re up was more than I could bear.

3:39 AM  
Blogger Seven of Six said...

Milo, Remind him he is not CONUS, this is a more stressful situation. This reminds me a lot of when I came from Panama to the States @ Ft. Riley. Things were lax in Panama, after I was in the shit, CONUS was so uptight, I said shit, this is only training, no need to freak out. Needless to say, my fearless leaders were not impressed with my comments.
As always, good luck troop, keep the head down, chin up!

Coyote may be right, he could be worried about the wife. Sometimes things get simpler when the ones closest aren't in the mire as well!

6:50 PM  

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