I just got back from Ft. Polk. LA, where I was invited by the Spouse Club to speak at their March luncheon. Though the journey was filled with plane delays/cancellations/lost luggage, etc., I had a great time once I got there and saw a couple of long-time friends. I especially enjoyed the book signing after lunch when I got to meet the ladies and talk with them informally while I “autographed” their books. They were such a warm and friendly group.
The following day, I got to tag along on a spouse tour of “the box” which is what they call the reservation at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC). In the training scenario we watched (we were behind a duck blind), a female first lieutenant attempted to lead a convoy through an Iraqi village. It really did look like an Iraqi village, complete with extras in Middle Eastern garb. In the process of clearing the town, the convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). While managing that, they received machine gun fire from the opposite side, followed by a second RPG that disabled a vehicle and injured several soldiers and civilians.
I was standing next to an evaluator so I heard all the radio transmissions. One thing I can say: that female Lieutenant was one cool customer. When I was a Lieutenant, I could barely walk and chew gum at the same time, and there she was calmly issuing orders, instantly re-prioritizing, evacuating the casualties, ordering a tow for the disabled vehicle, and maneuvering the convoy out of the kill zone. I was amazed at her composure during this stressful training.
Today’s junior leaders are far more proficient than I was at that age and stage (in 1987). Cognitively, they are extremely high-functioning. For sure, the stakes are much more acute and immediate now than they were in the Cold War, at least at the junior leader level. All the Soldiers are asked to do so much and they rise to the challenge.
My trip to Ft. Polk opened my eyes to the vital work that takes place at the JRTC. I have great respect for all the Soldiers, the Operations Group, and the families at Ft. Polk who support this important training. Thank-you Spouse Club for the kind invitation!
marna at householdbaggage dot com