U.S.Army Specialist 5th Class Dada assigned temporary "glamour job" duty as Erosion Specialist. "It was my duty to expedite the decomposition of discarded desert beer bottles back into nature by pulverizing 'em with a tire iron - into sand. Today, if one walks through this deserted desert area, green and brown patches of sand still provide evidence of once exotic military duty performed there." ( Photo circa mid-Sixties Vietnam era.)
When I went into the kitchen to make coffee this morning, there was an article with a part circled from yesterday's newspaper. It was left by my wife. She does this sometimes when she wants to make sure I haven't missed an interesting little blip of news. (I had.) It was a nice little story about the Pentagon and United Airlines.
See, if you're lucky enough to fly United Airlines between April 17 and May 17, you may might catch an interesting 13 minute video segment called "Today's Military." In what's most likely a trial balloon for future in-flight "entertainment" possibilities, it's a film put out by the defense department (although passengers maybe not realize it because no where does it actually ever tell them that).
To make sure it's included in the airline's programming, the Pentagon is paying United $36,000 to run it for the month. So it's nice to know that while you may be trying to catch up on lost sleep from your exhilarating five day stay in Topeka, your 15 year old son may be getting indoctrinated as you snooze. But that's not the point of this. No, it's about what that little film is trying to sell.
"Today's Military" highlights military glamour jobs. Jobs like an "animal-care specialist doing humanitarian work in Thailand," the exciting career of an Air Force language instructor or some navy guy teaching top guns how to survive bailing out of aircraft. (I'm always amused by those stories of how, before their F-14 Tomcat crashed into the sea, its two crew members managed to ejaculate safely. Now I know where they learn that.)
But enough of the Pentagon's exotic jobs. "Glamour, Schmamour, I say!" After spending time in the army, I can tell you about real glamour job opportunities. You want glamour?
Stationed at a missile research and development range in the southwest for three years during Vietnam, I had the privilege as a personnel clerk to envy the occupations of a number of soldiers whose daily jobs seemed much more exciting than typing up next month's payroll.
A couple of my platoon chums worked in "Pictorial". It was their jobs to photograph missile launchings. If that sounds mundane, be assured it wasn't. Actually catching on film one incredibly fast anti-ballistic missile's launch (under development pre-ABM treaty) was like hitting a grandslam homerun with two strikes, two out, in the bottom of the ninth of a game you were losing 3-zip.
And I had buddies who actually tracked those missile's flights and chased 'em across the raw desert as they came crashing back to earth. They were assigned to "Recovery". And trust me, experimental missile flights didn't always go as planned. They sometimes "turned" on you. Or on rare occasions, flew off on their own into Mexico!
Talk about your exotic jobs. Imagine my shock, looking up from my desk one day, to see standing before me in cowboy boots, jeans, blue denim shirt and jacket, kerchief and dusty hat a guy there to review his military records! It was a young army specialist about my age. A cowboy! And his garb was his official military uniform.
That's because our little army base encompassed 4,000 square miles of desert dotted with all kinds of hi-tech radars, missile launch sites and secret weapons under development. As I learned, it was the job of this cowboy and about four others just like him to ride the range with his army horse five days a week keeping the base free of communists and errant shepards. Talk about envy. Living out on the range with Trigger, eating K-rations, no pre-dawn reveille formations or cleaning latrines!
But probably the most glamorous job out there was one I had the fortune to interview for. I don't know how I came to the attention of the Army Intelligence Agency (AIA), but was I ever excited when I did. See, in our three storied headquarters barracks, the entire top floor was occupied by just two very mysterious guys! We never saw much of 'em. They didn't have to make formations like the rest of us. In fact, so secretive were they, they didn't even associate with us. But we knew they were there because they were *special*. They got to sleep in.
It was the job of these GI's to dress as civilians, to go across the border into Mexico; to frequent the bars and brothels that other off duty soldiers were known to frequent; to blend in, observe, and to drink. All in an effort to counteract those ubiquitous tenacles of the information probing Communists.
My interview for this job went very well I thought. But hopes faded fast when I learned one of my fellow co-workers the AIA interviewed as a character reference had a very animated reaction to one of the questions asked him of my requisite qualifications. Seems "Arlo" burst out in guffaws of laughter when queried, "How well can he hold his liquor?" Thus ended my flirtation with the glamorous job of secret agent with the AIA.
I was destined to finish my army career as a clerk typist. But that wasn't bad because there was a bloody war goin' on.
But so much for namby-pamby defense department infomercials for exotic military jobs like foreign language instructor as in-flight entertainment. Isn't it ironic that those exciting job opportunities comprise less than one tenth of one percent of military job vacancies, but those are the ones the pentagon choses to focus on? To glamorize? When the greatest number and urgency of vacancies in need of filling are those of combat infantrymen?
I just know that in the "old days" Uncle Sam didn't need to make infomercials. He had a draft. The number of "volunteers" was nearly limitless. Perhaps we should reactivate that selective service capability. To increase public interest in our military and its aspiring global ambitions.
What better way to stir up interest in wars than to have the public sacrifice family members and loved ones to the effort. And who knows? Those who don't end up extricating Iraqis from their beds in the middle of the night or dodging IED's on Baghdad streets, may end up becoming a cowboy, secret agent, or "animal-care specialist doing humanitarian work in Thailand"!