By David Warnock
Best Defense same veterans' bureau
was surprised to see General Sinclair's
splashed all over the headlines recently. Surprised, and then elated. I was in
the 2nd HBCT 1 ID when Sinclair was passed the guidon and we were re-flagged as
the 172nd SIB. We were all tremendously excited for Sinclair to be our new
brigade commander. I came up in 1-18 IN, the unit he had commanded in OIF II.
When I showed up to the unit as a cherry E-1 in late 2005, the man was a
legend. According to my team and squad leaders who had served under him, he
could walk through walls and levitate buildings. They would have followed him
the time he took over I was a sergeant and team leader myself, Col. Burton had
not been particularly well liked by us and we were thrilled to have Sinclair in
charge. However, the reality of his command time proved to be much different
than expectations. The brigade was cut up and reconstructed as a combined arms
battalion. My company, A 1-2 was attached to task force 3-66 AR and sent to
Grafenwoehr while the rest of the brigade stayed in Schweinfurt. This was a divisive
decision as Graf was still under construction when we moved in. There were not
enough barracks and as new replacements showed up one man rooms quickly turned
into two man rooms, or worse, NCO's were forced to room with new privates. Our
company area was not yet finished so we worked a mile away in the training area
in old billets. This was a logistical nightmare considering not many soldiers
had cars. Then came the great eye-pro proclamation. Sometime in summer 2008
Col. Sinclair took the "train how you fight" mantra to extend the practical
application to wearing soft caps and eye pro in garrison, everywhere.
all of those things, something was fishy in the leadership. The field grades
had changed. In 1st ID we were gifted with, for the most part, exceptional
officers. That was no longer the case. Our new round of commanders now made
chicken shit their first priority. We put up with it, of course, by telling
each other that this will all change when we get back to Iraq.
didn't. Task Force 3-66 AR was detached and sent to Diyala province to assist
25th ID in clearing out the remaining al Qaeda in Iraq forces. The bull shit
got so neck deep on the FOB that being out in sector was almost relaxing. On
FOB Hammer, our battalion commander, Lt. Col. Rago, made a policy that we had
to march everywhere we went and an NCO had to escort his soldiers everywhere.
When we were staging for patrols we had to be in full kit or garrison uniform,
no in-between. I was once yelled at by our S-3 for standing by my truck wearing
a soft cap with IOTV. The officers became more concerned with our vehicles'
wire mitigation system than with our soldiers' morale.
effects were profound on my generation of NCO's. We had all been through
Baghdad together, we knew our shit. We were young, fit, and competent. However,
we had a low tolerance for chicken shit. And that was something the Blackhawk
Brigade excelled in producing. Most of us loved being Sergeants -- but none of us
re-enlisted. Almost my entire generation ETS'd after that deployment. Those who
stayed in tended to be the shitbags who were promoted because they'd
re-enlisted. We were broken, but not by the enemy or back-to-back deployments,
or even by the stop-loss.
were broken by the pathetic leadership of
Sinclair and his underlings. I often wondered what the hell had happened
to the earlier Sinclair versus the one we got. Whenever he would turn up, it
was to deliver some monotonous speech about our place in history. I once had
the dubious privilege of taking my men to a formation on our rare day off from
the COP, QRF, and maintenance to hear Sinclair explain his
"plankholder" club. A "plankholder" was someone who came
over with the pilgrims and performed manual labor in return for their passage.
I thought, in that 115 degree heat, "You mean an indentured servant, you
fuckhead." He then bestowed this honor on all the CO's and 1sg's, and
then biggest cheese dicks and lap dogs, not a proper leader among them. Also,
one of the only two females in the task force was made a
"plankholder" as well. Which, given recent developments, makes me
hope you are able to find this letter useful -- Sinclair, Rago, these men were a
massive reason for me getting out. The leadership took a serious turn during
my enlistment, I wish I knew why.
David Warnock served
two tours in Iraq as an infantryman in the US Army and was honorably discharged
at the rank of sergeant in 2010. He is currently a senior studying sociology at
The Ohio State University.
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