I'm 0 for 2, with as many on-the-spot corrections made on yours truly in as many days. Yesterday, I made the mistake of assuming that officers would not want to be saluted outside our the Entry Control Point (E.C.P.) of our big circus tent of a Tactical Operations Center ("TOC").
Once, in my experience, officers avoided being saluted "in the field," fearing observation by enemy soldiers with long-distance rifle scopes. Soldiers would darkly joke about "sniper checks" when forced to salute under field conditions.
Our TOC tent complex is surrounded by three strands of Concertina--looping strands of flesh-and-uniform-stripping razor wire. To enter the complex, one has to clear one's weapon, present security badge, and proceed along a hard-plastic walkway into the TOC. Again, I figured that the ECP is a choke-point for larger groups of people. A suicide bomber need only wait until observing a flurry of salutes outside the ECP, before going for it. They wouldn't even have to get into the wire.
It seems I was wrong. Already seated in the chow hall, the operations sergeant major waited until I was juggling my Styrofoam tray and my fruit punch and my rifle, before calling me over to ask about why I wasn't saluting around the TOC.
I was busted, I guess, but I thought I was just following procedure.
He was right, of course, but it pretty much ruined my evening. I had been hurrying to get back to the TOC to work extra hours. After the sandpaper-napkin treatment, I opted to take my time getting back.
Tonight, I was rushing to dinner chow again, when I passed the new brigade commander and command sergeant major. As I may have mentioned, I've deployed with them before, and I appreciate their calm-and-quiet command styles. (OK, the sergeant major can get a little loud when he wants, but that's a sergeant-major thing.) I popped off the new greeting, "Red Bull, Sir!"
Instead of answering with "Attack," however, the commander pulled me off to the side of the road I was walking. "Let's see here," he says, only half-smiling. "Look at my sergeant major. Look how he is holding his weapon to the front. Look how he has positive muzzle control, with both hands on the weapon. You're holding your weapon slung off to side. It looks like floppy socks. No more floppy socks!"
You know the quote about how diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go jump in a lake and have them like it? I think the commander's got a bit of that blarney-kiss, too. I'm not crazy about keeping my weapon at the "modified low-ready" at all times, but I sure as heck didn't mind being corrected. Given the high ranks involved, I would've predicted otherwise. I guess it's all in the delivery.
After I'd had my meal, and returned to the TOC, I asked the operations sergeant major about the apparently new policy. He told me it was all about positive trigger, muzzle, and safety control. How are the troops supposed to know about this, I asked?
"It was in that FRAGO [a written "fragmentary order"] you helped push out this morning," he replied. "You should really read them sometime, when you're delivering them."