Ultimately, as missions dictated, the roles of support and main effort between grunts and spec ops flip-flopped. Discriminate direct action: the spec ops game, with grunts usually in support as cordon elements and/or trailers. When we were pulling surveillance and over-watch, we were supporting the grunts; spearheading some imminent, righteous violence.
Doc that night in Ft. Story didn’t demean what we were doing—why the hell would he? After all, he was also taking a beating to advance in the community. What he did rather was explain the central mission of the infantry… and to never forget it.
I for one never did, but it’s kind of hard. . . even if one wanted to. Ask an infantryman and they will gleefully remind you of their romantic placement in the annals of warfighting. But it has to be said—equally observable, however, is how they live to stick a figurative bayonet in the eye of anyone in proximity. This goes for all other military personnel, soon-to-doomed hipsters at the bar, or the uninitiated—the distant oglers, romancing some idea they have for the fightin’ man.
I once watched three psychos march into a Lejeune PX with their arms interlocked like the Rockettes, ready to Can-Can. The freak out these guys caused, how they stormed into the place like banditos, or a pack of wild dogs. Their 0311 tattoos could be seen on their intertwined arms, pushing some artificial sexual limit to the point of PDA. Or the time I watched in stunned admiration as a grunt road-march burst through an uber-POG formation-run. The sun bleached Cammies, caked in sweat. Tattoos, middle fingers and mortar plates. . . they personified Warrior, and War.
All too often these days the laymen (AKA the consumer) sees the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan were fought efficiently and smartly by the Hollywood names. The SEALS and the other silver screen figures, contrasted against the mediocre “rest”. . . akin to the savvy detective against the backdrop of the mouth-breathing, near-useless street cop. It’s a shame it gets portrayed this way. Makes for a Primetime script, full of the subplot and hero worship that sells the tickets and renews the advertisement. But those of us who live(d) it know the truth. . .its large numbers of like-minded shooters that ultimately won the day. . . and will win the day again; existent in the grunts as much as special operations. It is the individual, hard-as-nails combatant that forms the lethal, collective body. Or simply, as Kipling wrote—the strength of the pack is the wolf.