I have bounced back and forth between three separate ideas I wanted to write about. My head has been so clouded, that every time I sit down to write, I would get too depressed and walk away. I have two unfinished blogs. I’m going to combine them now, because they’re intertwined and require the support of each other to do each of them justice. Here’s the “why” of TERMINALCWO in conjunction with the state of affairs within the Army. If nothing else, maybe you’ll at least be amused by my thought process and have some insight as to who I am.
I hardly used Instagram until a year ago. I would casually scroll through my feed on my personal page, but I hardly knew the ins and outs of social media like I do now. I started getting involved in video production and editing in September of 2019 for someone else’s page, and I absolutely fell in love with it. It was a rush for the nerd in me to have my own (or what I thought) creative authority to essentially direct and edit the videos I made. I didn’t know what I was doing on social media, I didn’t know how the algorithms worked or how to grow a base of followers, but I was learning every day. I quickly found out that what I thought was a creative license to make new things and grow a social media presence as I wanted, was not the case. It belonged to the person I was doing it for. Because of some disagreements and “too many chefs in the kitchen,” I walked away from it. However, the desire to create never left. Like I said, it was a rush. I started a meme page in November, and initially I had no desire to make it a “milmeme” page, nor did I have any kind of direction as to what it should be. I made memes to make myself laugh, and that was the extent of it. Wading into Instagram with a meme page is like being a sardine in a school of thousands of other sardines; good luck trying to break free and get noticed. I learned, I followed best practices, then I finally gave up and just focused on entertaining myself. I had made several military related memes, but they weren’t a focal point. I covered the military, politics, and anything else a person could relate to in every day life. In January, I discovered my first milmeme page. I engaged, they engaged back, and I realized I really enjoyed connecting with a community of like minded veterans who got a kick out of the same kind of humor as I did. I changed the account name a few times until I finally decided I wanted to be relevant to who I was and the world I knew. I was a SNCO who switched over to warrant later than most of my peers, and I was at the end (potentially) of the road in my career, so TERMINALCWO became the name.
I never had any intention to do anything with my page other than make memes. There was never a desire to change the world or go on a crusade for the “downtrodden amongst us.” I engaged with the other pages, made stereotypical jokes about officers and NCOs from a warrant’s perspective, and I just focused on getting some laughs. It was legitimately fun for me, and it was an incredible way to exercise my overly active brain. Then, overnight it seemed, the whole world flipped upside down and went haywire. The dreaded Coronavirus was to be feared above all else, and everyone, to include the United States Military, was to toe the line and play by the rules. General Orders went into effect, bases were locked down, and the existence we’ve known for our entire lives was suddenly a vastly different creature. Nothing about my approach to making fun of different aspects of the military had changed up until this point. I had made a couple of memes here and there about various commands, but it was nothing serious. Then, the 101st ABN DIV Commanding General made waves by saying, “soldiers are safer in the field,” as if this simple statement would somehow displace family member’s fears about their soldier being gone and corralled together with a bunch of other people. It seemed fairly obvious to many of us that this was a ridiculous statement, likely not thought out very well because we were still in our ‘rona infancy, but I lobbed off a couple of memes and a few soldiers within the 101st took notice. It was nothing enormous, it certainly didn’t gain the attention of anyone in the command team, but it was technically my first volley. Then it ended and everyone moved on. At that point, I hadn’t engaged with Fort Rucker but a few times, and they were always fairly harmless volleys launched across the bow of their deck. One day I get a message in my inbox with a screenshot of a group text from a cadre member at the schoolhouse telling the students “not to like or share terminal CW2 or USAACOM memes or you could get in trouble.” I was fairly stunned, actually. First off, it’s “CWO” (don’t presume my rank), and second, are they really threatening them for liking a meme? This, right here, became the true launching point for the stories and investigating this page does. I soon found out that not only were officers and warrants being threatened with career ending measures if they liked a meme, which isn’t legal, but they were being given conflicting guidance between the General Order itself and how brigade interpreted it. Directives were being issued through text, official memos weren’t signed, everything conflicted with what the order said and what the Chief of Staff at Rucker was saying on Facebook, and from the outside in, it looked like a complete meltdown of leadership and communication. Someone dropped a tip in my inbox, I found the articles detailing the sordid history of the brigade commander, and I wrote an article. It was nothing that hadn’t been put out before, but it was still news to many who had no idea that she had been recommended for relief of command as a Battalion Commander. The story was a hit, more people started writing in, and the floodgates opened with the kind of climate and oppressive environment the student pilots were living in. I released several stories about what was taking place, and then, suddenly, three civilians who work within the USAACE footprint messaged me over the course of 24 hours and said they had seen the Commanding General in a specific restaurant at a specific time, the implication being that he had broken his own General Order. Their stories all lined up, they were official accounts and the names checked out, so I put the story out there. The response was overwhelming. The restaurant chimed in on both the manager’s profile and the official restaurant page to say it wasn’t true, the PAO of Fort Rucker entered the comments and said it wasn’t true, and there was a backlash from people who claimed they knew the general and how this was all a lie for clout. I didn’t say how I had verified the information at the time in the interest of protecting the people and conversations that took place, and it hit my credibility pretty hard. “Oh, you’re the guy who publishes lies and salacious rumors to get likes and follows.” I realized if I was going to keep doing this, relying on corroborating stories alone could no longer be a thing. I had to have documented proof, real evidence, that what I was claiming was in fact what had happened. Though at the time, I had no intention of continuing on with this. Quite frankly, it creates a cloud of negativity that I simply don’t want to deal with. The stress from all of it didn’t seem worth it to me. What was worth it was all of the messages I received from junior officers saying they weren’t being given GOMORs anymore, and they directly attributed that to me. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but maybe the attention I brought to the situation actually had that effect. Fast forward to the 101st and JRTC….
I get a message from a fellow meme account from someone claiming to have evidence of soldiers with spiking temperatures being forced to go to the field and being denied medical treatment. At first I got emotional, then I had a conversation with the group of people I bounce ideas off for these stories, and I decided it was nothing at the moment. (You can read the full timeline of events on my stories page for the 101st ABN DIV.) As I ask around and look into things more and more, I realize that dozens upon dozens of soldiers all have the same story from every brigade in the 101st. They’re being told by their commands they can’t go to medical under threat of UCMJ, the medics are being threatened with UCMJ if they see anyone without command consent, and all of this is happening in the dark recesses underneath the house that is Fort Campbell. Officially, as the 101st Public Affairs Officer is stating in social media and stories released in the local media, all soldiers get seen if they have Covid symptoms, and reports suggesting otherwise are lies. Keep in mind, I’m getting hundreds of messages detailing command malfeasance in every corner of the 101st while the official word is that a few disgruntled soldiers are making up nonsense to avoid going to the field and JRTC. I’m being sent official emails and texts from commanders talking about quarantine buses being sent to Louisiana for those who are sick. All of this, to include the denial of medical care, the buses carting sick soldiers to JRTC, and the PAO maintaining there are no sick soldiers in the field, is an effort to keep soldiers out of quarantine and get them to JRTC. If you don’t know, a certain percentage of a brigade has to be present to be validated at JRTC or NTC. Anyone who’s ever gone has seen the hobbling of soldiers on crutches or many other adverse conditions, and that’s just the way it’s always been. Yet this time we’re dealing with a contagion that the Army has given specific guidance on how to handle. ALL soldiers will be tested prior to attendance to a training site, and anyone testing positive will be quarantined for 14 days. I can tell you I’ve never seen a division, let alone multiple divisions and commands at every echelon, publicly spinning outright lies while they do the opposite right under the noses of an unsuspecting public. For many, this was a Covid issue. Spouses didn’t want their soldiers getting infected then bringing it home to the kids. My concern, however, was never about Covid; it was, and always has been, about soldiers being denied medical care and command teams who flagrantly disobey orders of their higher commands. It was happening all the way from the company to brigade level, and I have a hard time imagining that a Division Commander doesn’t know what his Brigade Commanders are up to and what’s going on in their formations. I suspected that commander’s intent was displacing what was in writing. No one would be stupid enough to write an order contradicting a higher order, but a foot stomp and a “make it happen” to your subordinate commanders is enough of a message to let them know their formations better have the numbers to accomplish the mission. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you can prove, not what you know. Regardless, the anger I felt (feel) about commanders, who often have what few realize is a vast amount of authority, abusing their position and no one holding them accountable, drives my efforts. Where is this supposed integrity, honor, loyalty and selfless service, four of the seven Army Values, that is constantly preached about? Where are the standard bearers who are charged with conducting themselves in a manner that displays what right looks like to their formations?
Good men and women exist all throughout our ranks. I think, just as it is in many other facets of life, the bad surfaces over the good, because when you’re doing the right thing, there’s nothing to talk about. We talk about the ones who are doing wrong, because they’re news worthy; they’re committing violations of their oaths and sacrificing their integrity for the sake of another irrelevant notch on their belt, and this is what people want to know about. Often, those who are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed are the ones who succeed. The meek may inherit the world in another life, but in this life, the ruthless and driven are the ones who reap the spoils. This is, in fact, what the military ultimately wants. If you stay in long enough, you’ll discover that soldiers who are comfortable operating in the “grey” area of morality is the unspoken goal of an organization that, at the end of the day, is ultimately tasked with defending the nation and its priorities and accomplishing that task by killing people if necessary. The “Righteous Knight,” who is filled with honor yet can cut a man in half without thought, is a rarity. It’s not even an idea that is courted in thought anymore. Our leaders aren’t operating in the grey area for the sake of mission success, instead, they’re blatantly lying in order to achieve the next “level up” on their chest. Tell me why commanders at every echelon are aware that a Mission Essential Task List is practically unachievable when combined with higher’s ad hoc taskings, yet we keep piling them on company commanders with full knowledge that 100% green chiclets across that tasker sheet means they’re lying. The higher commander knows, the lower commander knows, and everyone in the room knows that it’s a lie. That lower commander has to pick and choose which ones he’s actually going to accomplish and which ones aren’t as important and get lied about. It’s common knowledge among everyone in the room and across the Army, but it’s always existed in hushed conversations because we have to show the world that we’re accomplishing all of these tasks on the surface and project to our citizens, our enemies, the lawmakers who direct our funding, and the whole world, that we’ve done it all. If you don’t, there’s the door. Somehow, in all of the lies, we said that training outweighs troop welfare. We said it to the extent that we’ll use every tool at our disposal to enforce it. Don’t talk about it, and don’t you dare show the world what’s really going on. We’re going to call it OPSEC, but we’re not concerned with Operational Security; we’re concerned with the world seeing what we are. We CANNOT give the appearance of being less than the righteousness we put on a recruitment poster. To do so would expose the cracks in our hierarchy. To that end, I’m not really interested in outing every misdeed that takes place. I’m interested in a soldier who raises his hand, swears to obey his superiors and defend the constitution, then gets flattened by a steamroller of ambition with zero thought to his welfare. Who does he go to? IG? Please, regale me with your stories of how the system works. Tell me all about whistleblower laws and how IG protects the soldier, not the command. I’ll laugh in your face. If you want to see change, then rip open the blinds and shine a big, fat spotlight in every corner of that dark room, and watch the cockroaches scurry. That’s how you affect change. I wrote a long dissertation when George Floyd was murdered. I talked about abuse of power and a crowd who watched as a man was publicly murdered. Well this is my small attempt to affect change. I’m not going to be a participant in a crowd of onlookers and do nothing. I won’t pretend the dots on my chest have any ability at all to stand against the blowback of someone wearing stars, however, exposing their actions might. Or, it might not. Only one way to find out, but in the meantime, I’ll keep giving my version of humor a home for others to connect until I get Zuckerberged or simply get tired of it. An alliance of people traveling the same path, towards a similar destination, is a great thing to be a part of. Knowing a community exists, and you’re not alone, can make all the difference sometimes.