Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Ultimate "It's A Small Army" Story?

When I worked at the Pentagon, once every few months I would run into an officer with whom I'd served in the 82nd Airborne or Korea. I once even ran into my Fire Support instructor from my Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, whom I'd last seen in 1994. I would then proceed to send out mass emails to all my military friends to relay the encounter, and thereby once again confirm the truism that it is a small army.

Yesterday may have topped all previous stories.

Tomorrow, due to circumstances which I'll explain later, I'm flying to Ft. Bliss, Texas, for my final pre-deployment processing. I went to the Mobilization Command's transportation office to arrange a flight and a ride to the airport. I'm waiting for about ten minutes in an outer office for a Mr. Harris, when I hear a gravelly voice from inside say "Runkle? Runkle!"

Out walks a dark-skinned African American man, about 50 years old, standing 5'3", and with a luminous white grin from ear to ear. "You're not Mr. Harris," I said. "You're Mr. Booker."

It was Command Sergeant Major Booker, who was my Sergeant Major at Johns Hopkins ROTC in 1993/94. While I was admittedly something of a ne'er-do-well as a cadet (too many fraternity parties, I guess, although I had the highest GPA in the "Blue Jay Battalion") Sergeant Booker loved me because, like him, I was a wrestler, and because I was the only soldier/cadet he'd met that was shorter than him. Booker and I ran into each other again in 1997 when we ended up in the same Brigade here in the 82nd Airborne.

CSM Booker went on to be a Command Sergeant Major for two battalions here at Bragg, taking one to a deployment in Kosovo, and a tour as a Brigade CSM. He finally retired last year after 28 years and 9 months of service on active duty. (He was also kind enough to let me borrow his car for a few hours today to help expedite my outprocessing from Ft. Bragg).

Since I can't go any further back in my military career than Johns Hopkins ROTC, this may be the ultimate "It's A Small Army" story for me.