July 05, 2007

Name: Eric Coulson
Posting date: 7/5/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url: badgersforward.blogspot.com
Email: badger.six@gmail.com

A Soldier learns early in his or her career about hand and arm signals, which are used effectively at team, squad and even platoon level to transmit basic information to all members of the group simultaneously. Those of you who have served in the Army or Marine Corps know what I am writing about. Those of you who have not have probably seen hand signals used in films and TV shows, such as Band of Brothers.
Think of a small unit advancing through the woods on foot.

One basic hand and arm signal is the clenched fist, held straight up. This means "stop" or more specifically "freeze, do not move". Of course this clenched fist has other popular varitations in meaning, such as "power to the people" (think any campus protest), "black power" (think Mexico City 1968), or "solid" (think Mod Squad).

Yesterday I was having some leadership challenges moving some vehicles from here to there, and I was becoming agitated, so I stepped out of Badger Main and headed down to Badger Maintenance to put some Command emphasis on the issue. As I walked down the main road in the already 100+ degree temperature, I became more frustrated the more I contemplated the issue that had arisen.

Suddenly, coming the other direction, I spotted what I thought was one of the vehicles in question. I looked to see who the driver was to confirm it was one of my vehicles. Yes, it was one of my Soldiers. This young man is an excellent Soldier, he works hard and does what he is told. He is also very new to the Army, and when I first met him he was petrified to be in the presence of anyone above the rank of Specialist. I thought that he would never be comfortable around me, the Company Commander, or around the First Sergeant. But he has in fact come out of his shell and become more at ease around us.

Now seeing this vehicle drive down the street I wanted to confirm that it was ready for combat. I held up my fist to communicate I wanted him to immediately stop. The Soldier however, interpreted my clenched fist more along the lines of the Mod Squad's "solid" than as a command. The Soldier returned my "salute" with a wide smile on his face.

I clenched my fist again and shook it at him as I glowered. His smile disappeared and a look of horror replaced the grin when he realized what I wanted. He stopped the vehicle and popped the door.

"Yes sir?"

"This vehicle ready to go?"

"Yes sir."

"OK, good. Thanks."

"Anything else, sir?"

"No. Good job. Go park it."

"Roger, sir."

As I turned to stride down to Badger Maintenance, I could not help but let some of my agitation go. Not only was the vehicle ready, but I had seen a Soldier emerge from his shell to feel comfortable being less formal with his Commander. That must be the best part of leading Soldiers, watching them grow, develop and gain confidence. Additionally he (and I) have a funny story to tell, and that makes the load in the rucksack a little bit lighter.


This made me laugh out loud. I can totally imagine it. Thank you for sharing!

Very funny post!
That's what you're there for, to take kids under your wing and train them to become good soldiers. Keep up the good work and keep safe!

This does explain something I read about in the early days of the war, when Iraqis would try to get past checkpoints and end up being shot. One Iraqi in a news account was quoted as saying that he wasn't trying to run the checkpoint, but that he had no idea what a soldier holding up a closed fist meant by his action.

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