Captain Dye's Blog
These are all the Blogs posted in February, 2009.
Friday, 20
No Faint Hearts in Fly-over Country
In its typical hubris, Hollywood arches a metaphorical eyebrow and calls places such as Lockhart, Texas "fly-over country" inhabited by folks who don't really matter when it comes to questions of good taste, intellectual achievement or artistic sensitivity. Well, my friends at the Sunshine Café, Lilly's Tavern and the Cedar Hall honky-tonk may not know what hubris is but they know horseshit when they smell it. That's the term they've been using most in discussions with me about all sorts of topics including Hollywood movies and TV shows during the past couple of weeks that I've spent down here at El Rancho Dye in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
There are a number of reasons I bought this old house (built in 1911, the year my Dad was born) and the rolling terrain that surrounds it just off Lockhart's historic town square, including a growing desire to escape the fiscally-irresponsible and mostly ungovernable state of California where the new motto is: "If it moves, tax it. If it doesn't move, tax it some more." I love the feeling I get when I punch out of LA and float down here in Lockhart where I can ride my mower/tractor over the ranchito, drink cool, tasty water directly from the artesian spring that runs through the property, and stroll around a picturesque town square that reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting with a kitschy Texas twist. But mostly I love to talk to the folks here in Lockhart just thirty miles south of The Great State's only liberal bastion, the capital at Austin.
See, folks here in Lockhart - and in thousands of other small towns between New York City and Los Angeles - don't think of themselves as the great unwashed or some horde of unlettered hicks despite the opinions of them held by artistic snobs in Hollywood or the elected versions in Washington, DC. People around here know their history. They may not be able to recite dates of a time-line leading from the original thirteen colonies to the first lunar landing but they Remember The Alamo. And they know it was folks just like them who fought for freedom and independence from San Jacinto to Cuba, through France in two World Wars, on Iwo Jima and other Pacific hell-holes, through Inchon to Seoul, from Danang to Khe Sanh and from Kuwait through Iraq and Afghanistan. They figure they earned a right to their opinions and that their opinions should carry some weight. I agree with them.
I'm delighted to hear so many Texans in this time of fiscal peril and potential governmental tyranny talking about the 10th Amendment to our Constitution. They know what it says and what it means - which is likely more than most of the elitists on the Left and Right Coasts can claim. They are in full support of Texas - and a number of other states here lately - that have used the 10th Amendment to propose or pass law reaffirming separation between their state and the Feds that essentially says they feel no obligation to enforce or pay for Federal laws for which there is no enumerated power in the Constitution. If that sounds like state-level mutiny or some kind of revolution, so be it. They are smelling horseshit and they are doing something about not voluntarily stepping in it.
For those reasons - and because I recognize good common sense on the rare occasions when I encounter it - I also agree with the folks here in Lockhart and elsewhere in fly-over country when they tell me I should find a way to do more movies and TV shows that celebrate our American men and women in uniform both past and present. Because I believe they are right and I need to get that done, I'll leave my little patch of paradise next week and return to LA for another spell of Hollywood movie-making hell. And maybe I'll bring along a little Texas horseshit just so the moguls and mavens can get a good look at what they are purveying.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 5:12 PM / Category:General News
Monday, 2
Ye Olde Dogge and new tricks
Late last month I spent a couple of very illuminating days in a major aorta that feeds the throbbing heart of the United States Marine Corps. Hard to recall what was on my mind when I accepted the invitation because the experience at the Corps' West Coast School of Infantry shorted the old hard-wired circuits in my brain-housing-group that connected the concepts of Marines and Training. Suffice to say things in the vaunted pipeline between Boot Camp and battlefield have changed rapidly and radically since the time I was bashing around the boondocks at Camp Pendleton trying to graduate from Grunt U.
These days, those who pass muster at one of the Corps' two Schools of Infantry (the other is at Camp Lejeune on the East Coast) come away with a whole hell of a lot more than the GED or high-school equivalency certificate we got back in the 1960s. Marines heading for duty in a non-infantry specialty get what amounts to a baccalaureate degree in the sweet science. Grunts who pass through the school - and they all do - get a master's degree in the tactics and techniques of bashing bad guys whenever and wherever required. SOI even offers a graduate school for professionals in fields like reconnaissance and small unit leadership. If it has to do with ground combat, SOI teaches it very effectively - even to old dogs struggling to stay current with new tricks.
As usual in Marine Corps methodology, most of the classes were taught by experienced noncommissioned officers who expect, demand and get their students' full attention using the time-tested technique of making you feel like a snot-ball if you appear to be drifting during instruction. During my day, an NCO instructor was more likely to crack you over the helmet with an entrenching tool should your focus blur, but today's SOI instructors don't resort to that. They don't need to because today's Marines are paying attention. The youngsters sitting under a blazing sun in those bleachers know two things for sure: The instructor has been in combat and knows whereof he speaks, and they are unlikely to survive their follow-on assignments in Iraq or Afghanistan if they don't pay strict attention to what he's teaching.
During my visit to SOI there was some obligatory time spent with colonels, captains and senior staff NCOs where we debated philosophical stuff. That's to be expected, I guess, given my background and current billet here in the Hollywood Area of Operations. These senior leaders represent not only the heart but also the corporate brain and they'd like to insure I get it right when and if I can bring a modern Marine Corps story to a film or TV show. But the gut of it all was the time I spent learning from the sergeants, corporals and PFCs. Without trying they convinced me they are serious guys teaching, learning and sharing serious stuff in a pursuit where lives are regularly in the balance on a very fragile line.
Some of what I learned was very visceral and easy to grasp. Strap on a modern flak jacket complete with SAPI plates, hydration bladder, fully-loaded ammo magazines and a bewildering assortment of other weighty gear and you very rapidly learn how fit our folks must be humping hills up in the Hindu Kush under a blazing sun. And in Vietnam we used to bitch about a thirty-five pound pack and a couple of canteens of dirty water. Other techniques took some re-wiring of ancient synapses developed in combat when the only thing between your ribcage and an enemy AK round was a jungle utility shirt.
A wiry little Staff Sergeant, whose three combat tours in Iraq led him to a Chief Instructor billet at SOI, taught me that these days Marines close on an enemy and engage him with rifle fire by keeping your body square to the front exposing only the SAPI plates in your body armor. I got metaphorically blown away several times before I was able to defeat my muscle memory and stop engaging from an oblique angle in the classic rifleman stance. You live and learn. Or, in the case of the young Marines learning at my side, you learn and live. The option is unacceptable...and fatal.
And then there was the business of learning to use the M-16A4 rifle with the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG) which is standard in Marine Corps infantry squad these days. For a guy who never failed to qualify as an expert rifleman on a known-distance range using iron sights at ranges out to five hundred meters, it was a challenge. It was also an epiphany. Once you learn to use it, the magnification and precise targeting capability of that ACOG simply makes you a better, more effective shooter. There are very few "free-fire zones" in the current campaigns. The ability to quickly and accurately assess a target using the ACOG; then engage or not in the space of a heartbeat, is invaluable. It's under-stating the case to say that I had a little trouble getting used to it and the harassment I suffered was well deserved. But the Marines on the firing line with me shot quickly and accurately blowing away pop-up targets with aplomb as if the ACOG was just another eyeball. That's what's important...and very impressive.
The highlight of my visit - at least according to the command - was an hour or two that I spent bringing what's known as Professional Military Education to the staff of the School of Infantry. I shared some insights about Ye Olde Corps; about combat leadership, motivation, guts, determination and other curriculum vitae from the School of Hard Knocks, but I felt like a substitute teacher grasping at straws most of the time. In fact, following my florid introduction by Colonel Brennan Byrne, CO of the School of Infantry (West), I felt like stepping up in front of these accomplished professionals and simply saying "Well, here's living proof that you can't polish a turd."
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 10:43 PM / Category:General News
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