Category Archives: Army Officer

Calling it: Another One of Those Days

Whenever I have a bad day at work, I’ll tell Mrs. Horseshoe to remember days like this when the time comes for us to decide whether we should stay in the Army or leave. We’ve had more days to remember lately than I can remember in a long time.

Recently, as a result of the government shutdown and the budget issues the federal government has had, my work life has been chaos. On a Thursday afternoon I was told that an upcoming Temporary Duty (TDY) trip was cancelled. Definitely cancelled, not going to happen. So I came home and gave my wife the good news, I wouldn’t be gone for two weeks after all. We made plans for the weekend and invited some friends over for dinner on Sunday. On Friday afternoon, as I’m walking out the door, I get another call that says the TDY is scheduled again and I have to leave on Sunday. So, I get whopping 36 hours of advanced notice I’m to leave for a week. I spent my drive home trying to figure out how to apologize to her for my career. My wife and I have been fighting all weekend, and I’m sure this ihas something to do with it.

I don’t mean to complain; life could be much worse. My best friend is in Afghanistan away from his infant child. Two weeks isn’t so bad. This job is tough as it is, but if the federal government can’t get its act together and the Army can’t do the little things right, than its an organization I don’t think I can spend another decade and a half with.

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The Evangelical Staff Officer

As a Staff Officer during a deployment, it’s easy to find oneself chained to a desk, and bored. Such was the case during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. After working in close quarters with my boss, Matt, I began to pick up his sophomoric sense of humor. As a matter of fact, I embraced it. Matt had known for awhile that he was going to be leaving our unit and moving up to work at our higher headquarters. He was qualified for the newer job and we really weren’t too busy doing what we were doing. This meant that I would take over for Matt and a replacement take over my position.

About two weeks out from when Matt was to leave, he received a message from an eager young Lieutenant named Dan. Dan was just finishing his Officer Basic Course and was naturally excited to deploy to the fight and become a member of the team. Naturally, we were just as excited to have someone new to play pranks on. Dan’s email read something like this:


My name is Lieutenant Dan and I found out that I will be coming to work with you in theater. I am very excited and I was looking for some advice as to what I should be doing to prepare for the deployment…

Very Respectfully,

Lieutenant Dan

All things considered, not a bad first introduction, right? Matt’s response was as follows:

LT Dan,

I am moving to our higher headquarters, CPT Horseshoe will be taking over for me. He is a good guy, but he is extremely religious, so be sure to watch your language around him. (Let’s just say I’ve had a few Inspector General Inspections because of it).

Good luck to you,

-CPT Matt

Matt “bcc’d” me on this email and I waited.  LT Dan emailed me shortly thereafter.

CPT Horseshoe,

CPT Matt has informed me that he is moving so I will be working for you. I look forward to it. I just finished my officer basic course and I have in-processed at our home station, so I should be deploying to you in a few weeks. Is there anything I should do in the meantime to prepare for deploying?


LT Dan

Because Matt trained me, I had to follow on with the joke. Not to mention, it was pretty funny.

LT Dan,

It is truly a blessing to have you joining our team. Don’t worry too much about getting ready for the deployment, just enjoy your time at home and take care of any last second personal business. Just to let you know, our religious services on our FOB are a bit lacking, but we do the best we can. We don’t have church services on Sundays, but Fridays because of schedule. I know it isn’t the Sabbath, but we make due.  Once again, we’ll be praying for your safe arrival.

God Bless,

-CPT Horseshoe

I later found out LT Dan was slightly concerned about his future boss, but he was okay with it since I seemed like a nice guy. One of my new Soldiers that met LT Dan back at home station also told me that Dan went to a small, religious college and had a Christian radio station license plate holder on his car. Shit. I’m going to get fired for pretending to be religious with a guy who actually is.

A few weeks later, LT Dan arrived in my office. He was going to be assigned to a subordinate unit and would only be on the FOB for the next day. During our conversation, I did the right thing with my prank. I pretended it never happened. Using my profanity laced Army vocabulary to describe our situation, Dan became even more puzzled. We parted ways.

Later, after the deployment ended, LT Dan and I were working in the same office; we compared notes on my supposed evangelism and had a good laugh about it. In the end, the prank was a success. We had confused a Lieutenant.

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The Horseshoe Formation

Ah, I can almost feel the freedom of a four-day weekend beckoning to me. The end of the duty day is here, the floors are mopped and still wet, the police call has come to an end, and the First Sergeants and the Command Sergeant Major seem to be pleased that their little empire is presentable enough to be evacuated by its citizenry.  Of course, anyone who has spent at least a month in the Army knows there is one more task yet to be completed; the safety brief.

The safety brief, the final chance for leaders to espouse last minute advice, wisdom, threats and orders to Soldiers before they venture off into a perilous world.  Well, it really isn’t that dangerous, and come to think of it, it’s the exact same world they were in before but with ninety six hours of freedom from adult supervision. Historically, four day weekend are disastrous ventures for the Army. If one believes the safety briefs, it is entirely probable, likely even, you will die. Moreover, you will die on a motorcycle, intoxicated and committing adultery while assaulting your spouse. The only thin red line that holds these Final Destination type deaths from us is the safety brief.

Contrary to the movies, it’s damned near impossible to address a large group of people standing in a rectangle. Command Sergeants Major believe that no matter how big the formation, the secret powers of a Sergeants Major Academy Ring will allow their voice to overcome the laws of physics and project their voice even into the farthest reaches of the Milky Way.  The Romans figured out how sound waves travel a couple thousand years ago and in turn built the circular amphitheater. Army Officers learned this same lesson and invented the horseshoe formation.

“On the Command of Fall Out, fall out and form a horseshoe formation around me”.  That’s how it begins. The commander, depending on his personal style and aptitude, either gives a recollection of the events that have been accomplished recently, a philosophical treatise on safety, and a reminder that we deserve to have some fun, but to have it safely.  The horseshoe formation is a chance for a commander to impart wisdom and guidance to his masses, whether they want to hear it or not.

That’s why I have decided to name my blog the Horseshoe Formation. I don’t really know what it will become, or where it will go. However, the main point of it is for me to put my thoughts out there, maybe put a smile on your face, and perhaps even impart a shred of wisdom.  Welcome, and thank you for visiting.

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