The Tao of warrant officers
One base I was passing through recently is large enough that, except for the occasional mortar attack that's more irritant than threat, the war is "out there" on the other side of the perimeter. While on base, its like an exceptionally strict stateside base that you can never leave. People are constantly on duty, and for some people, that includes enforcing petty regulations and uniform requirements.
One of the most sacrosanct and silly army uniform requirements revolves around "headgear." One always wears a hat out of doors and one always removes a hat when going under cover - except that one always wears a hat while "under arms," which is, of course, thanks to army regulations and tradition, not simply the same thing as being armed. And, if you ever want to spend an instructive half-hour of hair splitting interpretation that would be admired for its sophistry by the most exacting of Talmudic scholars, ask a senior NCO to define "under cover", with particular reference to outdoor pavillions, awnings, and the separate roof thingies over some gas station's pump islands.
Also, for the following to make sense, you have to understand that one of the tenets of the army is that anyone can issue an on the spot correction for uniform dicrepancies, even to an individual of higher rank. Some NCOs live for catching officers "out of uniform" and issuing the on the spot correction. By tradition, such corrections are always graciously acknowledged and usually even acted upon - usually.
I was trying to catch up with one of my friends, a chief warrant officer, coming out of the main DFAC (pronounced "dee-fack", by the way), the chow hall for a huge number of conventional troops and the occasional SF guy stuck on the wrong side of the base for lunch. He, as is often the case with SF guys, and even more often the case with SF chief warrant officers, didn't bother to put his hat on for the 50' walk from the chow hall entrance to the parking area where we had left our Defender.
Of course, he didn't make it 10' before he was called on it: "Hey sir," a fearless buck sergeant with an "I caught you" smirk on his face said, "you need to get yourself a hat." Unfazed, our hero patted his leg pocket and felt for his hat as he passed the sergeant: "No," he replied, "I've got one right here in my pocket, but thanks, I appreciate it." He smiled cordially at the sergeant and continued his hatless walk to the truck.*
*This sort of thing is, by the way, one of the truly wrong reasons that people want to be SF warrant officers.
Notes on this post:
1) Please don't think that I'm making light of the threat that all of us - no matter what our job - live under here: yes, people can get hurt or killed, and I have the greatest respect for the bravery that our people show in coming here, especially the mechanics and cooks and clerks and technicians and logisticians who didn't sign up to close with and destroy the enemy, but who do their job and keep things running every day under the threat of IEDs, ambushes and mortar fire. God bless and keep all of them.
2) Someone remind me: in a later post, I'll explore why the army has all these stupid rules and why they're actually a good thing for Big Army to have - and not just because they drive everyone who can think "outside the box" into SOF.
3) Yes, to my everlasting discredit, I already had my hat on when this happened.