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Reavis. Specialist Reavis has been described in many ways.

I guess it depends on what sort of relationship you have with him and how well you know him. Hes a good kid. Well when I knew him, anyway. Hes no longer a kid now, he must be pushin 30. But I remember when I first saw him, when he and Schwartz and Stewart all came to my platoonnear enough the same time. In the Battalion reception area, a small building adjacent to the Battalion. One room, a sort of welcome center. Sergeants and soldiers pulled duty there, battalion staff duty, because the battalion headquarters building had no facility in the building proper. There were couches and it was well kept. The Sergeant Major made sure of that. Immediately upon entering the building, like I said, a one room job, to your right was a desk and the Staff Duty NCO and his runner sat there. Straight ahead was a big screen TV for the troops who had nonealso for the Staff Duty and them to help em stay awake for their 24 hour shift. Someone was always there. Its a hub for quite a bit that goes on in any unit and its a Regulation that someone is always representing the Command and is available for all contingencies. One contingency is the arrival of new soldiers to the unit. My wifewives reallyall knew when I received new soldiers. I was always in a good mood that evening. New soldiers are the lifes blood of a unit. Fresh meat, sure, but also an opportunity. Every time you get one, you have your chance at creating a great soldier. Thats actually a very motivating thing. And if you get more than one? So much the better! When I received new troops, they automatically went to me, there was none of the finagling that goes on in a unit, the bargaining, for newbies. Mine were 11Cs, Mortarmen. They Must go to me. I loved it. Theres only about 30 or forty in a Battalion, so I own them. Every one of them. End of the duty day, on a Friday, I get a call in my office. Im sitting with some of my Sergeants and troops and shootin the breeze before we go down to the Motor Pool for the last formation and obligatory safety briefing the First Sergeant has to put out before the weekend. Ring-ring. Sergeant States? says the voice on the other end.

Mortars. Yep. I say. Hey Sergeant, this is Sergeant Parker. Got a couple Newbies over here in the Welcome Center for ya. You wanna pick em up? he said. ALRIGHT! Sure, sergeant. Hold em right there. I say, happily. To my soldiers in the room, I say, Newbies! I look at my watch and see we have some time before formation, at least an hour. All of you, lets go! Immediately, the three sergeants I have with me are arguing about whos gonna get the newbies. Whos short people in their squad. Who got the last newbies. Its like were kids and its Christmas. I lock up the office and we walk out the building and across the parking lot to the Welcome Center, excited and anticipatory. Im flanked by good NCOs and a couple of my more hard core soldiers. I walk up and into the small building. I scan left and right, putting on my most frightening face for the newbies. The Staff Duty says, heres your new Platoon Sergeant! to three little piggies off to my right. Theyre kinda huddled together for protection. A tall, lean PFC steps forward with his hand outstretched. Hes gotta be at least 64. Im hopeful until he opens his mouth. He says, Hello Sergeant, I am PFC Stewart. I understand I am being assigned to your platoon. He says it with an air of what? Upper middle-class Corporate resignation? Like hes meeting a colleague at a board meeting and hes been assigned to an unfortunate, but necessary intra-agency Task Force thats gonna interfere with his Golf game. I said, What are you, a fucking Vulcan? You dont use contractions when you speak? Am I your buddy? Get at the position of parade rest when you speak to me, shit-for-brains. No, fuck that, just get down! Stewart got down in the modified push-up position. I stepped over him and approached the other two newbies. One was a very thin, very young looking kid. Maybe eighteen or nineteen years old. He had freckles spread across his face, but just before I walked over, I saw a malicious smile on his face when I dropped Stewart. He wasnt as innocent as he looked. The other kid was almost as young looking, but shapeless and heavier. Both had all their hair shaved off in anticipation of coming up here on the hill, Kelly Hill. I shaved my head the past ten years, so it was a point in their favor. I looked at the skinny kid and said, And whats your name, buckaroo?

He was at parade rest, standing straight and hands behind his back, the moment I locked up his buddy Stewart. The fat kid had looked at him sidelong and obviously thought it a good idea, although you could virtually see his thought process working on his face. The skinny kid said, Sergeant, my name is Schwartz. OK. I said, And you, Teddy Bear, whats your name? The fat kid said, Reavis, Sergeant. Robert Reavis, Bobby to my friends. Bobby. I said. Yes Sergeant. Bobby, are you within the weight control standards? You look a little chubby. I gesture to one of the Sergeants accompanying me, Does he look a bit chubby to you? Sergeant Henderson said, He looks like a fat fuck to me. Reavis frowned. I said, Well, what did they tell you in AIT, when they let you leave, Reavis? How much do you weigh now? Sergeant, I lost 50 pounds in Basic Training and AIT. he said proudly. Fifty pounds! OK, Reavis. Thats good, so at least I know youre committed. Very good, then dont give up yet. How about yalls PT tests? Howd ya do? I said. Schwartz said, I gotta 260, Sergeant. Reavis said, I gotta 240, Sergeant. And you, Barrister fucking Stewart? What did you get? I asked. I gotuhmma 270, S-s-sergeant Stewart said, arms shaking with his weight. OK. Well, the platoon average is 270. The goal is always 300 or better, if youve a mind to, gentlemen. I said, You are part of the best motherfucking Mortar Platoon in this Division, certainly on this Hill. I own your ass now. I OWN it. You belong to me. You are a direct reflection of me. You are an extension of MY will. Thats how I see you. Ownership, gentlemen. If you own it, youll take pride in it. I own you, now. I continued, I am going to give all three of you to Corporal Willson. The sergeants with me audibly sagged in uniform. Two of my regular soldiers laughed and high fived each other. One of those two was SPC Maxwell.

He is in PLDC right now, I believe youll have an opportunity to meet him this weekend. He will be your leader for the duration. I know two things thatre gonna happen because of this. You guys will be the best squad in my platoonthats one. The other is, he will make you the very best soldiers you can possibly be. I went on, Looking at all three of you, I can tell you now, this is gonna be interesting. Maxwell jumped in, You guys are in for the fuckin wake-up call of your lives, Hahahaha. Start getting your shit straight. SPC Maxwell is gonna get you set up properly and will answer all of your questions. Maxwell, youre gonna get them in-processed. Try and get them complete as quickly as possible. Ill comp you additional time if you have to do any remedial stuff with them. Come see me after you get them a room. But I want someone checking on their asses through the weekend, they dont need to fuck up their first weekend here, Right? I said. Roger, Sergeant. Said Maxwell. He laughed and said, You guys are sooooo fucked when Willson gets back. Oh My God! He started giving them direction. I left to the sounds of the newbies counting their push-ups out loud, as they did them for Maxwell. The soldiers were ultimately released for the day and I went to what was once a loving home. A couple hours later, I drove back up onto the Hill and checked on their status. I drove into the parking lot and parked. I was just wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I walked up the three flights of stairs to one of my platoons areas. Where I figured those newbies would be. Around the corner from the stairwell I heard Maxwell talking to the new troops, Youre lucky youre in this Platoon, fresh meat. Sergeant States actually gives a shit about us and the platoons the best place I ever worked. I dont even mind coming to work, most days. I aint NEVER been in a job like that; where it could be fun to go to work. Just do what-thefuck youre told. The always a reason. He continued, But as for your Squad Leader. You guys are in for it there. Ive worked with Willson for two years, and he is the hardest workin, most hard core and merciless bastard I know. Youre best bet is just to do your best and dont try and bullshit him. You might get to see him tomorrow. I came around the corner.

Maxwell smiled. I liked Maxwell, he reminded me of my son. A smart-ass and very sharp. A real, almost devastating cut-up, though. He was very much in-love and married to a very pretty young lady who turned out to be much nicer on the outside, than the inside. He, Willson and a few others had all come from the Ranger Battalion, to my platoon. Ranger Rejects is what the chain of command called them. Usually, theyd gotten into some kind of minor trouble over in the Bat and been booted. That had devastating effects on the soldiers involved, but the Ranger unit seemed not to care at all. In fact, Id had to run a great deal of interference with that chain-of-command because they actually tried to pursue charges against some of my soldiers, after they were reassigned; clearly against the Regulation and Command Policy. Id win. The Rangers Eat Their Young. Its true. They dont care. So many kids are trying to get into the Bat, the chain of command for them wont even tolerate minimal infractions. Theres always new soldiers trying to get to the Bat; theres a backlog. Their loss is my gain. Some of the best soldiers I ever saw came from that Bat. All self-starters and great trainers, save one. I should say, some of the best leaders, really. Which goes to show how little the leaders at those Bats have to lead. How hard can it be? When you tell the troops to do it and its already done? Jeez. Anyway, Maxwell was getting the new guys squared away. He had control. I asked him what he thought. He laughed, Oh Sergeant! Joel (Willson) is gonna have a fit. These guys are complete idiots. Theyll take every bit of Leadership he has, just for him not to kill them. He aint used to guys like this. These are the kind of guys you see as soldiers on comedy shows on TV. But theyre trainable, yes? I inquired. Sure, who isnt? he said, matter of factly. I agree. OK. Take care of business and Ill comp you Monday. You can miss that Godawful Battalion Run. Make sure you attach them to a Sergeant for first formation Monday morning. Good? I said. Thanks. He said. He could run, but hated it.

Later, Call me if you need anything. I said.

0530 Monday Morning: Im standing in front of my platoon. Its cold and were in minimal PT uniform. Its the formation before the formation before the formation on the way to formation for the Battalion Run. I have good accountability of my little guys and a minute before we move out. Im looking at them and joking a bit and I notice one guy kinda hiding in the back of the formation. You! I say. Newbiewhats your name? Reavis, Sergeant. He squeeks. Come here, Reavis(he starts to walk through the formation) Jesus Christ, is that how they told you to fall out of a formation in BasicFuckno! Come here! I yell. He exits the flank of the formation and stands before me, favoring his left leg the entire time. I say, What the fuck happened toYou? Reavis is covered, from head to toe, in barely healing blisters and scabs, on the complete left side of his face and body. Bruises run the gamut along his left leg and arm. He looks like hes been in a motorcycle accident. Road Rash from hell. He looked at me shyly I met my Squad Leader, Sergeant. Hmmmm. Are you gonna make this run, troop? I ask, seriously. If he didnt make the run, the First Sergeant would be up his ass for months. I dunno, Sergeant. Ill do my best. He said. No. Go to my office, you know where that is? Heres the key. Wait there until were done this and I want to see you. Itll be in an hour or so. GO! I yell. Off he goes. We return from the run and I release the platoon for refit. I go to my office and sitting in the chair in front of my desk is Reavis, leaning to his right, favoring his left. OK Reavis, tell me why you look like you almost died. I say.

And he tells me the story Sunday. PLDC allows their students out for a little days R&R for the first time in weeks. Willson comes back to the barracks, to his room. The billets doors all open to an outdoor walkway that surrounds each floor of the building. The soldiers can walk out of their rooms and stand on a long balcony. They can also see the entranceways to every door on their side of the building. Standing a few doors down from Corporal Willsons doorway is Robert Reavis. He sees Willson trying to enter his room. He approaches Willson and says, cheerily, Hi! Youre Joel, right? My name is Bobby Reavis! Im new in the platoon and I think youre my new Squad Leader! Willson looks at the Private a moment. Coldly. Wait here. Do not go anywhere. He ordered. Reavis thought he sounded like Clint Eastwood. But he didnt look like Clint Eastwood, he looked a lot scarier. Willson is about 61. Hes a solid, muscular man. Tattooed with a squid sleeve down one arm and various life despising tattoos on the rest of his body. Hes got almost white-blond hair and the same evil blue eyes that you see on Alaskan Wolfhounds. Hes soft spoken until he gets angry, then he turns a frightening shade of red from the neck, up. I love this guy. Hes a great straight man for any Platoon Sergeant, and hes a natural, thoughtful and capable leader and knowledgeable trainer. And he terrifies the soldiers. He went inside his room with his equipment and then came out the door, still in the BDUs he was wearing from PLDC, locked his door and stood in front of Reavis. He glowered at him. Reaviss welcoming smile disappeared. Low crawling is exhausting work. You have to lay on your belly, face rubbing against the ground, use one leg and continuously push your way across the ground while you have

your weapon barrel sitting atop your right hand. You literally crawl, making yourself as low a profile to the enemy as possible. Reavis learned to low crawl, definitively, that day. I received a report that Willson had Reavis low crawling from the billets, across the rear parking lot, down the hill for at least half a mile, into and across a parade field, onto a tank trail and all the way back. Hed been stopped once, by a pogue Sergeant, and told he shouldnt be doing that to a soldier. He gave the sergeant my phone number and continued with his mission. That sergeant called me, expressing his concern. I thanked him and expressed my faith in Corporal Willsons judgment. Corporal Willson told me what he did. He said the soldier needed to learn limits. Especially on how to approach the Leadership. We werent his friends. He thought that Reavis was clear on everything, now.

Reavis, Schwartz and Stewart, even if they never actually liked each other or got along very well, became the very best Squad I had, on-the-gun. The fastest and most accurate. Willson shaped them into an extremely efficient team. They just hated each other. But under the threat of Willsons wrath, they functioned, and functioned well. They had no choice. He was often forced to micro-manage, yes. And it took a great deal of his time. He would wear his CVC helmet just to avoid hearing them bitch at each other. But he ran them with an Iron Fist. Honestly, I dont think they did anything but benefit from it, too. These men never would have been so sorely tested, nor found out what real limits they could achieve, without such a relentless man in charge of them. But more on Reavis, for the moment We were forward deployed to Kuwait, training for OIF I. The start, the initiation, the very beginning of the War. We were to cross the border first. We were to fight the first battles in this action. 3rd ID. Tip of the Spear and all that.

While in Kuwait, living from day-to-day without losing our minds was a challenge; we were there for so long. We were at a place called Camp New Jersey. Kuwait is a blight on this planet. A desolate, sand scoured wasteland. A shit hole. Camp New Jersey is smack in the middle of this arid brown-eye of the world. Its fucking Hot. Its got no plant life to speak of. Wild dogs are about the only fauna scooting around the area, and they are destined to dieoh, yesthere are some lizards, too. Forgot about those. And desert rats. Long tailed jobs that hop like little kangaroos. The heat has a life of its own, though. The heat is like living on Gods anvil, and when hes of a mood, he hammers away at your brain with even more. Everything at Camp New Jersey is a product of man. Here, a product of the United States Army. Nothing there is native but the dirt, the heat and the vermin. Nothing. So, when you awaken, you see tents and sandbags and soldiers and dirt. You feel a profound heat. For example, if you lay on a cot during the middle of the day, the sweat from your body is unusually voluminous. You sweat a lot. The salt flows from your body as much as the sweat. The salt and sweat both leak through the canvas of your cot and little stalactites of salt form on the underside of that cot. You can look under it and see. Day-in, day-out, the same shit, but a different day. Oh yeah, and add millions of flies. My platoon had its own ways of dealing with the discomfort, boredom, frustration and anticipation-of-battle, and the Battalion had its way. The Battalion sponsored a Sports Day once, after a few months of training in Kuwait. Everyone attended, of course, it was mandatory fun. Everyone participated, of course, or how could the fun be had? You make the most of it. You try and win as much as you can. You have soldiers in all the events. If you already have some spirit in your unit, it adds something to the day, thats true. My platoon had a lot of pride, especially in matters of hand-to-hand combat; combatives and the related skill sets.

One of the events was Stick-Wrestling. In stick wrestling, two soldiers square-off holding one stick between them. The soldiers task is to wrest that stick away from the other man. Simple. Youre both holding the same stick at the same time, and you get the other guy to let go of it. You are holding it; you win. Anything goes. Any way you can get him to let go, while you end up with it. You fight over this stick. Its usually a mattock handle. The two troops are laying on their backs, on the ground. Hands stretched above their head, holding the shared stick/mattock handlehead to head. A whistle is blown, and the fight begins. Each platoon had to give up a couple guys to compete. I asked my Squad leaders to choke up two men. One of the men volunteered by Sergeant Willson, was Reavis. Now, Specialist Reavis. I asked Willson if he were sure of his decision. He said, Itll toughen him up. I submitted his name and weight for the competition. Reavis was a good 200+ pounds of bouncing, jiggling flesh. Pasty and undefined. He could keep up, but excelling in physical feats wasnt his forte. Willson described him to me once as a hefty bag full of water. Removing his shirt before the competition wasnt intimidating anybody, but it was a noshirt event. Reavis looked decidedly uncomfortable. He had pronounced mammeries and big ol gum-drop nipples, is what Sergeant Henderson would call em. He was very, very white. He had a fair amount of extra skin from rapid weight loss. Im not sure that Reavis ever had a good experience in this type of venue. In fact, Id bet on it, and I am not a betting man. The event would occur in a sand pit approximately 30 feet across and encircled with sand bags to mark off the boundaries. Right now, hundreds of men were in PT uniform all around this pit. The noise was terrific. The yelling, the hollering, the cat-callin and unit slogans were flying. Insults were hurled. Blood was hot and high. Contestants were called in by name and Platoon.

At least a dozen stick-fights had already happened. Thered been some good blood-letting and the whole Battalion was worked up. In the bout just previous to Reaviss, one man had overpowered his opponent into beating him about the face and shoulders with a stick they were both holding. Strength meant a great deal. There were essentially no rules. Just be the last man standing with the motherfuckin stick in both your hands. Thats it. Do what was necessary. Matches lasted until there was a winner. No time limit, however it usually only lasted a few minutes until one man got the advantage, whether by skill or strength. Ive never seen a match last more than 6 or seven minutes, no matter how tough the men were. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Willson was standing behind Reavis, speaking into his ear. Clint Eastwood style. I heard him say, Dont let go of the stick. If you do, I will fucking kill you. Dont you dare embarrass me, motherfucker. Reavis was terrified. You could see it in his eyes. They called in the contestants. In this corner, said the MC, Sergeant James, Representing the Mortar Platoon, Specialist REAVIS! Cheers from my platoon and Headquarters Companya couple snickers at Reavis apparent nervousness, as he stepped (was pushed by Willson) into the pit. I gotta give him credit, he put both hands over his head and nervously, but with great will, pumped his hands up and down like a champsorta. And in this corner, said Sergeant James, Representing Charlie Company, Specialist Threat! And, for a moment, you could have heard a pin drop on my side of the pit. Specialist Threat was the exact physical opposite of Reavis. Not an ounce of body fat; the man was covered in musclebig bulging muscles and hair. He was a beast. He was a Conan the Barbarian. Tattoos and testosterone surrounded this man. He looked at Reavis like he were a meal about to be consumed. He was better suited to fight Willson, not Reavis. He was a freakin nightmare. Reaviss hands slowly fell down to his sides, his shoulders slumped and he looked like someone had stolen his bicycle. I have a great deal of self control in such circumstances, and even I went, Oh shit.

That phrase was echoed all around me. Willson immediately yelled at Reavis, Reavis! Dont you fucking Lose! Reavis looked forlornly at Willson and gave him a shaky thumbs up. The men looked at each other. Threat, clearly the favorite for winning, was entirely selfpossessed and ready to end this event quickly. Reavis just looked like he wanted to survive the day, much less the next couple minutes. Both men were instructed on the rules; the man holding the stick is the Winner. The one who lets go, the Loser. Both men lay on the ground, face up, hands over their heads, each holding the shared stick, about 3 feet long and wrist-thick, between them. The whistle blew! Threat actually flipped up and over top Reavis, like an acrobat, and started pulling Reavis off the ground. Reavis had still been on his back. Threat pulled him up off the ground. He began whipping Reavis around like a rag doll. Reavis held on for dear Life. Threat tripped Reavis and pulled with everything he had. Again, he only succeeded in lifting Reavis up off the ground again. Threat spun Reavis around, back and forth and back again. He actually had Reavis feet off the ground once and Reavis looked like a kid in that centrifugal force machine they used to test Astronauts on. His cheeks were a-rustlin. Threat threw Reavis back onto the ground and put his foot on Reavis chest and Pulled. Reavis sweaty body helped here, and Threats foot slid off, allowing Reavis to get pulled to his feet by Threat yet again. Still, Reavis held on as if his Life depended on it! It did! In one herculean effort, Threat spun around once more, clearly using all his strength to do so, and had Reavis off the ground again, flying, feet behind him, as Threat spun and let go! Threat lost his grip!

Reavis hit the ground and rolled onto his back, clearly frightened that the man was gonna come after him again. And then, he noticed He alone held the stick! He just stared at it. The crowd erupted in cheers! Reavis jumped up and dancedDanced around with the stick over his head. Threat just shrugged and stepped out of the pit. Reavis was swamped by his platoon mates and cheered! I will never forget that moment. I dont think Reavis ever will, either.