Monday, November 06, 2006

Hypothetically Speaking

The Devil Wears Combat Boots

Let us say, hypothetically speaking, there is this female officer in my chain of command who is, er, well….., a battle axe. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Let us further suppose that said battle axe is in a position of authority and very much enjoys cracking the whip and spewing forth hate and discontent at people who get in her way. Since we’re only speaking of an imaginary person, I’ll continue.

This woman is hell on wheels on some days, and really fun to be around on others. The problem is she can go from zero to a screaming, irrational nag in under 10 seconds, without warning. From her perspective there is nothing wrong with her behavior. From everyone else’s perspective, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Lot’sa luck! That’s the problem with crazy people; they don’t think they're crazy.

Working with her, remember… this is a fictitious person, is a mental and emotional drain. To frustrate matters more, the woman is absolutely a subject matter expert on many issues and lots of people would like to use her as a resource but they would rather go around her, do extra work, dig into the archives, work with less competent people, work longer hours, than ask her for help. Nine times out of 10, you’re asking a dumb question from her perspective. It’s just not worth the verbal beratement you’d have to endure as a consequence of asking for help. So most don’t.

I have worked with women like her before in my military career. Female officers are in the minority in the Army and the DoD as a whole. In years past, if a female officer wanted to not only advance, but simply survive, she had to be very thick skinned and willing to put up with a certain amount of abuse in order to succeed. Some women even took it a step further and “slept” their way up the ladder. Others resorted to being abrasive and rude in order to project a certain toughness, an “I can hang… bring it on” sort of image. Throughout their careers, many become mean, crotchety, backbreaking shrews or performed gratuitous acts to advance.

Now, by no means is every woman in the military a nasty old hag, and there are only a small minority that have performed certain favors for special consideration. But I know there are a few. The crotchety ones are out there. You’ll know them when you see them. And the rumors of the latter are simply too pervasive not to be true.

Given that there has been a lot of social and institutional change in the military, women no longer have to resort to such extreme measures to advance. Thank goodness. In fact, recruitment numbers are so low, the slogan is no longer, “Be All You Can Be.” It’s more like, “We’ll Take Whatever You’ve Got.” Okay… that’s a joke. Things aren’t quite that bad. Are they?

I have always felt that a person should advance in an organization based on their professional performance and competence. I have no doubt my fictitious person is very well qualified, in fact she is one of the most intelligent and adept officers I have ever known. But professionally speaking, she is an uncivilized ogress. She has no sense of tact or even the slightest idea what the word means.

I have often wished that someone would put this woman in her place, but then that would deprive me of the pleasure of doing it myself. Regardless, I wouldn’t stoop to such levels because I’m a professional and I refuse to debase myself just to prove a point. However, that has not stopped me from dreaming of choking the ever-livin’ crap out of her tactless behind.

Would I want her on my team? Sure, as long as I could lock her in a room and minimize her contact with subordinate officers, other units, our higher headquarters…. Okay, I’d not allow her to speak to anyone…I might even tape her mouth shut… but she could be on the team. Sort of like Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We’d ask her questions and she’d spit out answers. But much like when Hal flipped his lid, we’d pull the plug on “Old Batty” at the first sign of synaptic dysfunction.

Would I want her as a friend? Nope. Well, maybe. It’s hard to say because the ground is just too darn shaky. Hypothetically speaking.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Who / What is “Sojack?”

The term Sojack is short for Notary Sojac. And my version uses a slightly modified spelling.

In my original disclaimer to the blog, I tried to explain how I came up with the idea to use the name “Sojack.”

“I needed a name for this blog and Sojack immediately came to mind. It also satisfies the requirements for OPSEC and just plain ole' personal anonymity. The word "Sojac" comes from the Smokey Stover comic strip that was popular in the 1920's and 30's. The phrase "Notary Sojac" was frequently used in the comic strip and few people knew what it meant. Supposedly in Gaelic it means Merry Christmas. I don't speak Gaelic so I can't confirm this. My dad grew up reading the comic strip and Notary Sojac became one of his favorite sayings. He still uses it today. Out of deference to my dad," and Bill Holman, "I've purposely misspelled "Sojac" as "Sojack." One Notary Sojac in the family is enough.”

As the internet has grown and matured over the last few years, a lot more information has become available online about Smokey Stover and the term “Notary Sojac,” as well as some other nonsensical terms found in the comic strip. I thought I’d share a little bit of this trivia with you.

Since I first began writing and compiling this blog, I’ve learned that “sojac” may also be Gaelic for “horsecrap.” Hmmm. That’s good to know, as I have a propensity for waxing poetic about nonsensical B.S.

Sojac is not the only nonsense term used in Bill Holman’s comic strip. The terms “foo” and “1506 (fifteen Oh six) nix, nix” were also coined by our beloved character Smokey Stover. “Foo” may have been inspired by the French term for fire, “feu.” It was also adopted in WWII by Allied aircraft pilots to refer to UFOs or mysterious aerial phenomena. They called them “Foo Fighters.” Interestingly enough there is also a rock band called the “Foo Fighters” which I rather like.

Holman said the term “Foo” was something his “uncle found… engraved on the bottom of a jade statue in San Francisco’s China town. The word Foo means Good-Luck.” Other sources say it means “happiness.”

In regards to “1506 nix, nix,” it was the hotel room number of a fellow daily news cartoonist Al Posen. I just like saying it...., “Fifteen oh six, nix, nix.” It really flows off the tongue.

Something I find really funny is the little known fact that at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, one of the delegates cast a vote for Smokey. Think it was his way of making a statement about the candidates?

Continuing in the rock band tradition of weird and obscure names, in the '60s and '70s, there was a band from the Pacific Northwest called “Notary Sojack.” As luck would have it, they are putting together a CD. I think I might order it!

More links about Notary Sojack, “sojac-isms,” Smokey Stover, and other useless but interesting trivia.

Official Smokey Stover Homepage

Straight Dope

Smokey Stover: Foo Fighter Extraordinaire

Foo Fighters: Mysterious Aerial Phenomena of WWII

Foo Fighters: The Rock Band

Friday, November 03, 2006

Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET)

The HET is one big, bad, monster truck. It's a logistical support vehicle which provides line haul capabilities for combat units. It carrys tracked vehicles and other heavy wheeled vehicles. Earlier models of the HET were used during the Persian Gulf War, but we quickly learned that they couldn't tolerate loads over 60 tons. Current HET semi-trailers are equipped with a heavy-duty winch capable of pulling an immobilised tank on board and they can carry up to 70-tons. Moving tracked vehicles in this way saves wear and tear on the track as well as the roads.

If you'd like to read about some of the remarkable people who drive these monster trucks into harms way daily, read "On the Road Again..." on page 6 of the September, 2006 edition of Desert Voice. If you're really interested and want to read Part II, just follow this link.