Fobbits Kill

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little about “fobbits.” I won’t rehash the term since I just linked it, but I want to talk about the “fobbit mentality.”

There is a distinctive difference between the fobbit who has been outside the wire and experienced the realities of war and a fobbit who will earn their combat patch having never left the wire. Among the former group, there are two additional sub-groups – those that still recognize that even though they will never leave the wire they are still in a combat zone and those that think they live in a bubble and that nothing can touch them on the FOB (forward operating base). I’m going to talk about an exchange I had with a member of the latter sub-group I just described.

Last night, Kandahar Airfield came under rocket attack at approximately 20:21. I know because I write every rocket attack and “all clear” in my journal. There are processes and procedures that are supposed to take place when an attack happens. I won’t go into the details, but the obvious response is to seek shelter in a nearby bunker. That’s exactly what I did last night, but apparently it’s a novel concept where I work since there was only one other person in the bunker with me.

As we waiting out the attack, a few of my Soldiers drove up to our nearby building and joined me in the bunker. Every now and then, I’d spot someone walking lackadaisically towards the latrine. That’s fine. I have no problem with someone risking their lives to cleanse their bowels and bladders before facing potential underwear altering events! Sometimes it’s better to just be a mangled, bloody mess than a mangled, bloody mess and have a mess in your pants.

However, when the Soldiers left the porta-potty, they would begin walking back to their buildings. Keep in mind that KAF is a large base. Just because the entire base is under a rocket attack doesn’t mean it’s anywhere nearby. It’s possible to be under a rocket attack and never even hear the explosion of the impacts. Then again, the rounds lobbed over the perimeter could be duds and we just got lucky. But, it doesn’t matter. When the siren sounds, Soldiers are to take particular steps to protect themselves and their troops.

As these troops would begin walking back to their workplace I would inquire as to whether they were looking for the bunker, knowing full well they knew where it was and they weren’t headed towards it. I then explained that we were under a rocket attack and that the “all clear” hadn’t been given and would require them to enter the bunker. Some did so without waivering. It’s easy inside some of these building to legitimately not hear the siren and loud British woman monotonously repeat “Rocket…attack…rocket…attack.” So, I consider it my duty to inform them such is the case. Yet, others want to play little Soldier games until I am close enough to them that they identify my rank and decide against arguing with me. It’s dark out so I have no idea at whom I’m yelling. Some of the unsuspecting targets of incoming rounds last night were officers and one was even a Sergeant Major. But, it doesn’t matter. Typically when a Master Sergeant tells you to get in a bunker, you get in a bunker without questioning it, officer or enlisted.

At one point, a Soldier in the PT uniform drove up in a Gator and began to head towards the door to his building.

“EXCUSE ME!” Nothing.
“Hey, Soldier!” Nothing.

To his credit there are a lot of generators running nearby making it difficult to hear. So, I bring out my 1SG voice.

“HEY, YOU. SOLDIER!!” The Soldier looks my way and then walks into the building. Not a good move…

I make haste towards the same door before it can close and track the Soldier into an office and begin to rip him a new one.

“Didn’t you hear me calling you?” I ask.
“No, Sergeant.”
“Don’t lie to me, you turned around.”
“I don’t answer to ‘hey'” was the reply.

The veins in my neck began to surface as if to want to dislodge themselves and strangle the Soldier at will. I notice that there are three other Soldiers in the room and I hear others in a conference room across the hall. One of these Soldiers is a Sergeant First Class. I redirect my anger to the one that should know better.

“Is there a reason you’re not in the bunker during a rocket attack?” I shout.
“We thought they had called the ‘all clear’,” he replied.
“No, they called the all clear for Sectors [I won’t name them]. Ours is still unclear. Get your asses out to the bunker.”

Now, these aren’t my Soldiers. They’re not even in my unit. Doesn’t matter either. They fall under RC(S) and KAF rules and rules are lawful orders. As a senior NCO, I enforce lawful orders.

I then walk into the conference room and explain to the five individuals in the room that we are not yet clear. I ask them if what they are doing is a mission essential task related at this moment. A female Soldier approaches me obviously frustrated that I’m there and moves to a position where I can clearly see that I’m now speaking to a Major.

“Ma’am, is there something you’re doing here that supercedes a general officer order to seek shelter during a rocket attack?”

Even I was not prepared for the answer I was about to receive from the “slick sleeve” major. I’m not going to paraphrase a bit here. This is a quote, word for word.

“Yes. We have to update the slides for a briefing tomorrow.”

The veins in my neck pulsate and beg to be released in an angry stranglehold of the woman I’m now staring at blankly with my mouth wide open. I grab onto the door frame to steady myself. My right hands begins to tremble and I recognize that my blood pressure has just shot sky high! I recognize instantly that I have two choices: lose it and completely get unprofessional on this Major or walk away.

I looked around the room at the other Soldiers obviously trying to avoid eye contact. How could anyone, even a Major, so readily ignore an order meant to protect the lives of our troops? I couldn’t care less if the Major wanted to pretend she’s so out of touch with the reality of our location on the FOB and proximity to POO (points of origin) sites. But, she wasn’t just willing to risk her own life. She was risking the lives of every Soldier in there. Granted, two of them were Lieutenants, but there were younger enlisted Soldiers in there too.

I made the decision to simply keep my shut, but my face obviously showed my contempt towards such a reckless decision. I know the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major and will simply bring it up with them tomorrow…if a round doesn’t hit them first.

It’s easy to feel cocky and get complacent about rocket attacks, especially since they don’t always hit where we can see, hear, or feel them land. It’s a natural desire to resist spending hours in a dusty, concrete bunker in 100 degree heat. I get that. You begin to feel numb to the sirens and warnings. But, this is where the two fobbits part ways in ideology. The fobbit that recognizes we are still in a combat zone will take measures to potentially save their own life even if the chances are so small that they will be affected as to be virtually non-existent. The absolute Fobbit, the one that everyone makes fun of because they think they’re untouchable and safe within the impenetrable fortress of FOBitude, is more worried about their powerpoint presentation the following day than protecting the lives of their own troops.

A few days ago, a rocket attack hit one of the buildings nearby. I was only a few blocks away during this attack and when I heard the sirens I knew this wasn’t an attack like any other. Normally, you don’t hear sirens during an attack because no one is really affected. Either the launch was inaccurate, it landed in a vacant location, or it was dud. The area is checked and cleared and then the “all clear” is sounded.

On this day though, the rocket went through roof of a building used by ManTech. The building is used to rebuild MATVs that have been destroyed. Thankfully, no one was killed in the attack, but there were several injuries. A large hole was left in the building where the round pierced through the outer shell, continued through some skylights, and landed in the back of an MATV. The impact and explosion sent shrapnel throughout the shop. This shop is located about 300-400 meters from me.

I can’t help but wonder how that Major would feel had that rocket landed through the roof of her conference room that day and she survived only to realize that her slide clicker’s lifeless body was now hunched over the laptop, his bloodied hand unconsciously adding more blank slides. I wonder if those slides could have waited another hour – when the “all clear” was sounded – to complete before a briefing being held about 12 hours later.

The reality of combat in Afghanistan is that no one is safe. Not even the most fobitious of the Fobbits. A contractor or TCN (third country national) can sneak in a bomb and detonate it near a populated area. An insurgent can penetrate the perimeter and kill or injure a few troops before being gunned to his death in a blaze of glory. Or a particularly advanced rocket can be launched into the perfect conference room and destroy all the slides quicker than the click of a mouse. And our offices aren’t necessarily out of range of even the cheapest, homemade rockets.

Fobbits kill. Unfortunately, the consequences of this fobbit mentality will inevitably lead to the death of a fellow Soldier.

Postscript: As I was finalizing this post, we came under another rocket attack. The day began at 0600 with three rocket attacks and at 2005 we had two more to end the day with. These were close tonight and only serves to further punctuate what I’m saying here. Because of the proximity of the blast, I saw more people in the bunkers than ever before. They should be there during EVERY rocket attack!

I’ve also removed a few details related to BDA from my initial post. Unlike some “independent war correspondents,” I’d rather put the safety of my fellow troops and contractors over the need to tell a good story. I would rather the enemy NOT know how much success or failure they enjoy in an attack, even if that information could be easily seen from the fenceline or read in a newspaper. They’ll get no satisfaction from me.

32 Comments on “Fobbits Kill

  1. Senior NCO my ass! If you were you would know posting this crap including pictures and location is against your general orders! Post your name and unit so you can be STOPPED!!!!!

  2. Ah familiar with the Chain of Command but not familiar with the reality of the situation. I’ll merely state that I would agree with you but then we’d both be wrong. 🙂 We’ll agree to disagree and from my point I will disagree with you because of recent experience in Afghanistan and you will disagree because of your prior service as an officer which you apparently think gives you have more insight into the workings of the CoC than the Senior Enlisted. Have a nice day.

    • BTW Steve he didn’t say he knew the Major’s BC or CSM merely that he knew a BC and CSM which leads me to believe that he intended to go to HIS CoC to report this. His comment is that he knows the BC and CSM (not necessarily hers) which as a Senior NCO and someone who has worked at the Battalion Staff level he would easily know.

      • Actually, in the original post he claimed he knew the CSM and the BC of the unit in question and he had fought with them in Iraq. For some reason the post was changed.

        • Steve the post was NEVER changed since being published. This is just another example of your ignorance and desire to simply be combative and argumentative. HERE is a screenshot I just took that shows EVERY revision made to this post. I even included your comments so you see it’s for this post. I’m starting to see, though, why you’re a “former” officer and not a current one. Though, you’d probably fit right in with the Major.

        • Ahhh, silence speaks volumes. But, you’d be so proud of me, Steve. We had TWO rocket attacks today and you know what?! I didn’t say a thing to all those troops violating the General Order. Like a good Master Sergeant (at least in your eyes) I just stayed in my bunker and kept my mouth shut. And, when the MPs came by in their little Toyota SUV and were telling people to get in their bunkers, I told them that if YOU knew they were driving around trying to enforce General Orders, that they’d be verbally skewered as power hungry, out of control, tattle-tales! I told them that YOU were an officer and knew better than we did as NCOs and that they should get in a bunker immediately and forget protecting everyone else.

          Yup, you would have been so proud!

        • That screen shot doesn’t go anywhere. If the post was never changed since being published why would there be a screen shot showing revisions? Which is it, “the post was never changed since being published” or “I’ve also removed a few details related to BDA from my initial post. Unlike some “independent war correspondents,” I’d rather put the safety of my fellow troops and contractors over the need to tell a good story. I would rather the enemy NOT know how much success or failure they enjoy in an attack, even if that information could be easily seen from the fenceline or read in a newspaper. They’ll get no satisfaction from me.”

          When you tell a lie the most important thing to do is keep the details straight.

        • I am sure the MP’s were thrilled you wasted their time. We both know they were doing their assigned jobs. The MP’s are the ones charged with enforcing the GO’s. That’s why an MP (on duty) can drive faster than the speed limit to pursue a speeder or to get to a crime scene. That’s why an MP (on duty) is allowed out after a curfew to enforce the curfew. They are the lawful authority in this situation too.

        • Who’s the hypocrite now, Steve? The MPs can “do their job” but I can’t do mine outside the bunker? You have no credibility whatsoever.

        • You can do your job, which is to make sure your people get in the bunker.

  3. Apparently you have a man crush on the MSG if you know all of this and yet claim to not have known who Yawn was prior to this. Again my suggestion to you would be to stand down and learn first what it is you are talking about. Until you have firsthand experience from a Senior NCO/Officer perspective you will have no idea what it is that MSG Grisham is talking about. To a civilian it appears that the MSG is violating the very same order he is trying to enforce but as I have stated before those who have never served will have no idea what it means to put your ass on the line everyday when you are in the war zone. Even some troops I know would argue the very same thing you are trying to say but when the error of that thinking is pointed out to them they realize they are wrong and thus understand the responsibility of leadership at MSG Grisham’s level. BTW I find the Banned by Yon page to be quite funny since it is ok for Yawn to censor and ban people on his FB page but it is not ok for someone to do it to him.

    • I was an officer in the army. And as such I am familiar with the chain of command. Which CJ has decided to subvert in order to enact revenge on the Major who he fills didn’t show him the proper deference.

      If this were really about achieving the proper outcome Cj would go to his CSM and say, “hey, there was a group of soldiers who did not go to the bunker because they were working on a PP and I think it’s because their OIC is exercising undue influence on them”. Then his CSM would call up the CSM of the other unit and say, “Hey my squared away MSG told me this….”. Then that CSM would talk to the BC and say, “Sir, we may have a problem with some of your officers preventing some of my guys from getting to the bunker during an attack”. The BC would talk to the Major and settle the situation, end of story.

      But no, this is about CJ getting to be right and getting someone else in trouble. He planned on going directly to the CSM and the BC of the other unit and using a past personal relationship to be a rat tattle tale and get someone in trouble.

      If he had to run out of the bunker to rescue a soldier wounded on his way to the bunker=hero. Running around looking to bust people when he himself should be in the bunker=hero in his own mind.

      • CJ is right. I too am an NCO here in KAF. It’s as simple as this. “My two basic resposibilities will always be upermost in my mind, accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers.” Now before you make the argument as a “professional”, we are responsible for ALL soldiers. Translation just in case you missed it: ALL soldiers are my soldiers. How dare you suggest that we not try to do the right thing and protect the lives of those whom we are responsible for, even from thier own poor judgement. A dead soldier learns nothing, he/she can only become an example to those left behind of what not to do. I tell you what Steve, why don’t you lose a couple of people you’re resposible for through your inaction and then tell me that you still wouldn’t want a good NCO looking out for your people.

  4. Having military and combat experience myself I can validate what the MSG is saying as being correct and indeed it was the right thing for him to do. Had he not done his job and one of those soldiers had gotten hurt and he knew about it he would have been held accountable for it. By leaving his bunker to enforce the General Order (which by the way is called a GENERAL Order due to a GENERAL having issued it) he was doing his job. If he had been injured or killed because of this the ones who would have been held for charges of violation of said General Order would be those he found inside that building if they had survived. Most likely the Major and her crew would have received a permanent reprimand in their files and for an officer that would have killed his/her career. Furthermore I too would have taken it to the Battalion level, whether or not I knew them, in order to ensure that something was done about this serious violation of orders. The MSG did his job which is to enforce the orders and standards and it has nothing to do with his ego or anything else. Rather it has to do with MSG Grisham knowing his job and his willingness to do said job even if it meant putting himself in danger to get it done. I’d suggest Steve that before you bring your Yawn loving self over to this blog you learn a bit about the US Military and the jobs of those who are at the senior NCO/Officer level.

    • Actually, I would have never heard of Yon if it weren’t for CJ’s man crush on him. Now if I where a lame ass I would start a facebook page called “Banned by CJ Yon”. For they are cut from the same cloth.

  5. Awe, did I hurt your feelings? Back to deleting comments again, eh mini-Mike Yon?

    • No, Steve, I’m just not going to allow you to publish threatening comments about me getting fragged. Sorry I don’t find such comments funny or appropriate.

    • It’s a shame that people with no combat experience can sit on their duff back here in the states and THINK they know what to do. I’d be willing to bet when you went to join you were a Cat 4 and you’ve been mad ever since. And for your information, I check with my son who is a LTC with multiple combat deployments and he says that CJ was correct in what he did — officers and senior NCOs are responsible for the safety of all soldiers, whether in their chain or not. Yes, he was out of the bunker, but if he had stayed in the bunker, and they had been killed and he had seen them and done nothing, then he would be derelict in his duty. As for the deleting of comments, I know what was deleted and those sort of comments can land you in jail.

      I would follow CJ through hell with a gasoline can — that is how much I trust him. It’s a shame you can’t garner that trust with anyone.

      • Having been an officer in the military and a retired federal LEO, I’m not worried in the least about those comments landing me in jail. There was no threatening statement. You don’t know what you are talking about.

        And he didn’t see the major until he went snooping around looking. He went to throw his weight around and ran into someone he couldn’t use his rank to bully so he ran to tattle to the BC and CSM. He is the little bully who got beat up so he ran to get his older brother.

        I wonder how many of those people he called into the bunker slipped away after he left to go into the briefing room. If it’s not too dangerous for him out there, it’s not too dangerous for me, see you later.

        • Just more proof you have no idea what you’re talking about. First, everyone was there when I got back to the bunker. Second, I didn’t go snooping after anyone. I chased a Soldier down that completely ignored my orders to get in the bunker. Once I caught up to him, I heard the Major and her troops in the conference room right next door. Again, because you’re so absolutely, unequivocally wrong, it’s no wonder people question whether or not you were really an officer.

        • How many of the soldiers from the Powerpoint Major followed you out?

        • Why are you changing your story again? In the first telling you called out to the soldier to try to get his attention and he kept walking into the building. In the most recent comment he completely disobeyed your order to get in the bunker so you chased him down. What disciplinary measures did you mete out to the hapless victim of your rage? Not only did he disobey your order, he bested you when he said, “I don’t answer to hey”. If you don’t smack the wiseacre down now next time he might have the temerity to say, “Hay, isn’t that what horses eat”?

          Your actions were based in anger. You were pissed because the soldier ignored you and it spiraled from there. You went into the briefing room to look for someone to vent your anger and when you ran into someone who outranked you, you decided to seek revenge outside the chain of command.

  6. Even though you removed a few details, you still published them. You closed the barn door after you let the animals out.

    As far as the rest of the story. This is a standard case of someone being “dead right”. While you were investigating those who were not in the bunker, YOU too were outside the bunker before the all clear was given. Were you assigned by anyone to police for people not in the bunker or did you decide to do it on your own? You could have just waited until the all clear and then gone over to find out who and why they weren’t in the bunker and then make a report through channels. This isn’t about safety though, it’s about getting to throw your weight around and being RIGHT. If a mortar fell on you while you were getting to be RIGHT it wouldn’t matter because you got to be RIGHT. And that’s the important thing.

    • What were those details, Steve? You obviously have NO idea what you’re talking about here. You see, I’m a senior NCO. No one NEEDS to tell me what to do. I know what my job as an NCO is – it’s to enforce the standards. And if I have to put myself in danger to potentially save other lives, then so be it. It has NOTHING to do with throwing my weight around and EVERYTHING to do with enforcing the standard and leading from the front.

      You have no idea what you’re talking about but a lot of it is coming straight out of your ass.

      • Let’s see, I didn’t right them down but you wrote something about the round that landed in the back of the MATV did some damage and that the MATV shielded much of the blast from a guy who was injured and you had a quote from the guy something to the effect of, if that MATV didn’t shield me I would be dead.You also mentioned you knew the BC and CSM because you had fought with them in Iraq. How’s that? Keep in mind I only read it once, didn’t print it out and wasn’t looking to gather any intel.

        So you’re a free range NCO who isn’t accountable to anyone? You could also lead by example and stay under cover of the bunker until the all clear is given and then take actions to make sure the standards are enforced in the future. Much safer, and in compliance with the general officer order to seek shelter during an attack. Like the major, you were not doing anything which superseded the order.

        • Yeah, Steve, you’re all over it. With your considerable combat experience and time as either a Senior NCO and Officer deserve special attention and deference. You’re so far off-base, you’re not even in the same ballpark.

        • I don’t have any combat experience, but what does that have to do with the matter at hand. If I had been one of those Lt’s I would have said, “MSGT Why aren’t you in the bunker if it’s so important”? And then let you explain when you got your article 15 for disobeying the order to be in the bunker. Then the major would back me.

        • Again, you are completely, 100%, unequivocally wrong, Steve. Sorry, but that isn’t how the military works. Any LT (or anyone else for that matter) would have been laughed out of command at the suggestion that it’s not a Master Sergeant’s place to enforce standards and place himself in harm’s way to protect other troops. Sorry, you won’t win this one. You’re just being combative, argumentative, and wrong-headed.

        • Were you looking in the mirror when you typed that last sentence? I’m not the one running around, during an attack, in violation of a standing order, to confront people about why they are not in a bunker.

        • Well, since I wasn’t violating a standing order by enforcing a standing order your question lacks merit. You obviously have no idea how the military works, Steve. Plain and simple. Maybe you were in one day and you lack of knowledge explains why you fail to understand a simple principle today.

    • If you are a Senior NCO you would know posting this crap including pictures and location is against your general orders! Post your name and unit

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