14 January 2010

I've Got (Battle) Rhythm

"Battle rhythm" is what soldiers call the daily and/or weekly schedule of events. There's a more-doctrinally accurate definition of the term, I'm sure--something like "the process where the commander and his staff synchronize the daily operating tempo within the planning, decision, execution and assessment (PDE&A) cycle to allow the commandeer to make timely decisions"--but for Joe Snuffy, "battle rhythm" is synonymous with "the daily grind."

When you're living on an Army Post--and it's a "post," folks, not a "base"--you know that the bugler (or, more likely, a recording of one) will play reveille when the U.S. flag is raised before sun-up. There's an old Irving Berlin song called "You're in the Army now" that mimics those perky trumpet notes, a song which my parents used to sing when they were rousing Lil' Sherpa out of his lil' rack: "Ya gotta get up, ya gotta get up, ya gotta get up in the morn-ing!"

As with anything else that happens before your daily coffee ration, that's pretty darn annoying. It's even more annoying when you get it stuck in your head. "Ya gotta get up, ya gotta get up ..."

Every time I'm awakened at 0500 to the sound of reveille, I'm 5 years old again. Same internal whining, same attitudinal static, same need for coffee. The only difference is that I have to dress myself now.

Then comes PT (physical training), then comes chow, then comes the morning briefing, then comes chow, then comes vehicle maintenance, then comes chow. Like any mental or corrective institution, it's all very civil and predictable and organized.

In a foreign country, when the bullets start flying and personalities start fraying? There's a daily grind there, too. But that's a topic for another day.

Back in garrison, retreat is played at the end of the duty day, as the colors are lowered. When it's time to turn out the lights, the bugler plays taps. Taps is sweet, and dark, and sounds like a lullaby. Boy Scouts sing the second verse at the close of a campfire: "All is well, safely rest; God is nigh." It doesn't matter how routine or bad the days has been, taps is guaranteed to stop me cold, shake some perspective into me, and give me chills.

Not surprisingly, taps is also played at military funerals. One of the most jaw-dropping, life-and-soul affirming shards of trivia that I've recently come across involves Winston Churchill, the bulldog British prime minister of World War II. The way the story goes, he planned his own funeral: One bugler to play taps, to be followed by a second bugler, who would play reveille.

Get it? Rise after sleep. Life after death.

That story alone gives me chills.

I started this post with the intent to discuss how sparks from my initial blog experiments quickly ignited into full-blown execution. I thought I'd mention how the original purposes for this blog--tell a few war stories, translate National Guard and Reserve-speak into plain English, try to put world events into perspective, encourage people to find small and personal ways to help the troops--seem to have already resonated with a few people who know me, and a lot more people who I just met. I'm overwhelmed by your encouragement, and hope that my words continue to serve.

I haven't quite got my "blog battle rhythm" established--book reviews on Mondays, thoughtful news analysis on Wednesdays, service opportunities on Thursdays, corned beef hash on Fridays? I'm sure the schedule will work itself out toward some equillibrium. And I'll continue to keep you posted on how a citizen-soldier works with his friends and family to get ready to go do a job. Right now, however, I'm moving out smartly toward the sound of the guns. Thanks for having my back.

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