Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Just a Memory

With the Alvin Greene episode still continuing in South Carolina.....I came to remember a fascinating event in 1984 around one of the US Army posts in Germany.

Typically, a Army guy will come out of basic training and then be assigned to further training or just be labeled "infantry" and then sent to a staging point. In Germany....between 8AM and noon....at least two passenger jets would roll in each day and dump off around 200 Army personnel on any given day.

The troops would all process through a unit in front of the air terminal and then they'd get their real orders or assignment in Germany. Up until that point....they had no idea where they were going.

There would be some chow, and then they'd hand you the bus assignment...and around 2PM....the buses would start to roll out across West Germany.

So there was this Army kid who arrived...was processed....and then sent onto his post. He hands over his records, and there's supposed to be a financial briefing within three days.....and you get your paycheck all fixed up. This kid....for whatever reason...never attended the briefing.

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. This kid had a three-year contract....and spent the entire time in Germany. So he comes up within sixty days of leaving Germany, and the Army....and they pull his finance records.

In basic training.....he got two partial checks, and then one final check before departing the US. Then, nothing for the entire period of 2.6 years. The finance guys couldn't understand this.

So they brought him in. They discovered at that point....that the kid had marginally a sixth-grade education. He had some basic reading skills....and was mentally no more than a twelve-year old kid. The guys in the barracks knew this. His boss knew this. His commander knew this. None of them ever put one and one together....to realize the big picture of this kid (he was now 21).

So they added up the missed paychecks....and it came near $35k total. In 1984....that was a fair sum of money.

Then they asked how he survived. Soap, shampoo, etc? He told that his mama was sending a envelop each month with $40 in it.....and that was more than enough to pay for everything. He ate every meal at the chow hall. He drank water from the tap. He never consumed beer. He never went off-post. He had the same clothing that he had from high school. He had bought a couple of pairs of tennis shoes but mama paid for those.

So the finance guys sat down and spent an entire day with this guy....explaining basic finance and how to handle money. They didn't feel good about giving him almost $35k.

His plan? He was going back to home and didn't really have much of plan beyond that.

Through these years....I've always been curious about this guy. I'm guessing that he made it ok, and maybe his mama kept the money in the bank for him.

He was happy with what the Army gave him.

He was Alvin Greene in a way. He didn't really think beyond his little world and was able to enjoy being what he was.

A One-Man War

Sometimes, all it takes is one man to end a war.

Today, in Pakistan, the local authorities came upon an American, and started asking questions. There are so few Americans in Pakistan...so it kinda makes things interesting when the cops do come across one.

They found he was armed with a pistol, night vision goggles and a 40-inch sword. His trip to Pakistan? He came by himself....to kill Osama bin Laden.

This guy....Gary Brooks Faulkner, a 52-year old California construction worker...apparently meant every word he said. The cops thought it was a joke originally, and then realized that Gary wasn't joking.

Gary even came to admit that he'd visited Pakistan seven times. The cops appear to be headed to simply deporting Gary and sending him back to California. From their prospective...there's not much to charge him with...except perhaps visa violations. A guy in Pakistan can carry just about as many swords and firearms as he can physically handle.....kind of a different stance from an American prospective.

From a California prospective....there's probably forty-four charges they could toss against the guy....but I doubt that they want the press asking stupid questions.

There are several observations here. First, I doubt that the US government knows that Gary has been going back and forth....which is amusing because of the filtering system to identify Americans going to Pakistan. How'd he travel? That might be an interesting tale.

Then you have this question of how much success a guy like this might have. One guy....alone....no massive government operation or permission by the President required. Statistically....sooner or later, he would probably find and kill his intended target.

Sometime today, I expect Gary to be on a plane out of Pakistan. A curious CIA group is probably wondering about Gary's travels and how he accomplished seven trips. And a couple of California political folks are wondering if they can charge him with any crimes. And Gary? Well....he's planning trip number eight already.

Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean died Sunday. There are a thousand words that could be written about the guy. As a kid, I remember eating Jimmy Dean sausage and considered it the only five-star sausage out there.

He became a national icon in the 1960s....and was probably recognized as much as Lady Gaga today.

But the thing that always impressed me about Jimmy Dean is that he admitted that he grew up in poverty. If you asked him to tell a story about growing up.....he would relate the hardships and then the movement up the ladder of life.

At one point he proudly stated: "Poverty was the greatest motivating factor in my life." He had an appreciation of everything he accomplished....whether small or large.

You have to admire the guy.

9-11 Equals Gulf Mess?

There was a presidential visit to the Gulf yesterday....and somewhere in the midst of speeches and sound bytes....there was the equalization of 9-11 to the Gulf BP mess.

After this was uttered, a number of folks went into analytical mode and were either for the comment or against the comment.

I sat and pondered over this for about five minutes....and then figured that the number of shootings in DC over an entire year equates to a third-world country running amok.

I also equated George W. Bush with Andrew Jackson....just because.

And I equated Wal-Mart donuts with Dunkin Donuts....but not Krispy Kreme.

When you get around to equating....it's a funny business. You try to compare Pete Rose with Ty Cobb....and it's really not possible. Or you compare a Camero with a Mustang, or perhaps McDonald's burgers with Wendy's burgers.

Some folks need to equate....to make things fit into their mind. Eventually these equate-freaks can compare Toyota-made cars with Chrysler-made cars....at least in their mind....they are of the same quality. Once you reach this status....your mind is pretty much shot.

As for 9-11 and the Gulf BP mess? Well....the truth is that the Gulf mess will eventually come under control and the BP crews will disappear from the beach clean-up business (maybe three years from now...but it will eventually happen). And just like the Alaskan episode with the Exxon Valdez episode....most folks come to forget the entire matter after ten years. Within twenty years....no one will be able to remember what company was involved in this Gulf matter. But 9-11? Well....that's kinda different....it's an Normandy invasion moment....folks don't forget this very easily.

The bright side of this comparison? Well....we will be able to get both Gulf BP experts and 9-11 experts on this upcoming weekend....in one forum....and you'd never think it'd happen. It's like one wrestling generation meeting up with another wrestling generation. They will argue on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News and NBC. And come Monday of next week....hopefully....we've got a new and fresh topic to discuss.

The Questions You Would Have Asked

Today, I finally came across two personal comments on South Carolina's Alvin Greene (the guy who won the state Democratic primary for senator). These were military guys who had supervised him at points, and they were posted on a forum. Both comments went hand in hand. They described Alvin as being a non-starter, a poor learner, and not easily grasping things around him. We aren't talking about a 18-year old kid....this was the description for a guy in his late 20s and early 30s.

In short, they suggested Alvin was mentality underdeveloped or possibly mentality retarded.

When I came to Tucson in 1989....the administrative guy in my office was a NCO who was rather odd from day one.

I came to realize after about two months....that he was mildly mentality retarded. He could read through a book or study manual, and remember enough to pass tests. If you asked him to explain the material....he'd just look at you. He could not comprehend. Question X met up with answer Y. That was his entire comprehension.

He did his job, but the minute he finished the tasked assigned....he just sat there staring at the wall. He could spend three hours a day staring at the wall.

After six months.....I came to realize there was a list of issues with this guy. He'd been in fourteen years and would probably make Master Sargent within a year or two. He could not supervise anyone, and he was a total loss at taking an emergency and reacting to it. He had the responsibility ability of a twelve year old kid. He could become ballistic and slam his fist on the table with only a marginal chaotic situation going on. With three or four beers....he'd just sit there staring at the wall and not react much to anything you said.

Did the Air Force realize this guy's issue? I think most of us did....but the leadership didn't ever see it as a reason to let the guy go. That was the general attitude in 1989. Could a guy survive in today's atmosphere in the Army or Air Force as mildly mentality retarded? Maybe...at least for the first four years. But after that point....they kinda expect some leadership to come out of you....and if you can't perform as a leader...they'd eventually let you go.

So....this is the sad part about this entire story. Americans really don't ask questions about who they vote for or why....and in the case of a bunch of folks in South Carolina.....just being a black guy on a ballot....might be enough to win an election.

Did Alvin get help or $10k to register as a senate candidate? Who knows? Who cares?

The public spoke, and this is basically over as far as I can see. The public didn't want to ask serious questions....so you just might have a terrible choice for your Democratic candidate. You might bring up voting in 2008 and suggest that few if any questions lead to folks voting a certain way then.

It's a story that will simply linger. If you start asking questions....you won't be happy with the answers. And if you just accept fate....you won't be happy. It's life....and you just gotta accept it.