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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The problem with sipping "shut up" juice.

My current supervisors have come up with a saying, “take a sip.” The sip they want me to take is of what they call “shut-up juice”. Be quite, sit still and do not say anything even if you have the answer or solution. I have a real big problem with this approach to life. I think my willingness to “share” information started in my childhood and was cemented into my character during a tragic incident while I was in the Marine Corps.

It was just another scorching 120 degree day out in the high desert of eastern California. We were conducting mounted maneuvers, called a combine arms exercise (CAX), with tanks and armored personnel carriers (APC’s). This type of exercise is very dangerous due to the fact that every weapon out there is locked and loaded with live ammo. Everything from F18’s to M16’s are loaded and fired at various targets. This place is legendary, General Patton himself trained there. I was a forward observer (F.O.) and my job was to put rounds on targets. I was the only F.O. in my Company, and I was good at my job. I loved blowing things up. For me, happiness was a secondary explosion, and a huge dust cloud on top of the objective

On this summer afternoon, we were conducting a live fire mission that would simulate a quick response to an ambush. I was attached to a 60mm Mortar section(effective killing area of 60mm round is 25 meters) in the trailing APC. It came as no surprise that the commanding officer had not paid close attention to where we were in relation to the field infantry and assault sections location, who had already displaced from their APC’s. The actual perimeter of the Company was 1500 yards out. The mission briefing was simple enough. We were to jump out of the track and fire 5 high explosive rounds at a range of 3000 yards utilizing the standard Bi-Pod and base plate. When we disembarked from our track we were ordered to fire the weapon in the hand held mode using a "tac" plate which gives this weapon a 1500 yard maximum firing distance. This is where my bosses today would say “take a sip.

I soon realized that if we fired these highly effective and dangerous rounds down range we would run the risk, with high probability, of killing our own men many of whom I was friends with. I spoke up and challenged the authority in charge. A very heated argument ensued. I was forcibly removed from the “field of operation” and placed back into the Amtrak, my face red, jaws clenching, and my ears on fire. I was pissed off and scared for all of us. The order was given to fire the rounds as ordered. All I could do was sit three and count the hang time like I had done a thousand times. As the sound of the detonating rounds penetrating the desert sand echoed across the heated desert air the radios became alive. Cease fire, cease fire, cease fire rang out with panic and disorder. Five high explosive rounds impacted the thin line of Marines, a direct hit.

Before you knew it Officers with the rank of Major appeared out of no where. The shit had hit the fan and heads were going to roll. Egos, attitudes, and ignorance had caused their wrath once again. Common sense was told to take a sip. I walked away from that day, but that day has never walked away from me. May be I am at fault for trying to give out to much information. May be those in charge do not really care about the details. But I do know that those men, on that day, wished they had cared, they wished they had listened, they wished that there was no shut up juice to be found out in the field on the hot summer day.

Should we speak our minds? Should we tell others there is danger ahead? Should we rebel against authority figures when ego, attitude, and ignorance consume them? May be it is better to let them destroy the lives of other good men and set here quietly sipping our shut up juice



Peajay said...

You know the answer before you ask the question. No. You should stand up for what you believe to be right. Someone has to make that stand, to speak those truths, why not you?

Peajay said...

Oops! Sorry. Over zealous use of new laptops enter button. :D

Talking Bear said...

I too have over used that same button ;), Thanks PJ, why not me? I am getting my bumb handed to me and I am tired....but as you know, i will be back the next day sluging it out....

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