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Not Ready, Aim, Misfire America's Modern Military

Embarkation is the business of puzzling large weapons and vehicles, and the Marines that go with them, onto a ship that is run by a man who insists he does not have enough space for all that you need to take in order to do your job once he takes you where you need to go. Fitting four howitzers where three is a crowd is the most glamorous part of embarkation; the least is counting and issuing the sheets that your Marines inevitably will use to polish their boots or clean the deck of the berthing area once seasickness has set in. This is the good work that I was seeing to in August 1990, getting set to sail with my platoon from Okinawa to the Persian Gulf.

On the day the last truck was griped down, my battalion commander, the aptly named Lt. Col. Swords, called me to his office and handed me a copy of a Rudyard Kipling poem entitled "Snarleyow." Snarleyow is a horse, the best loved of a team that is charging, cannon and crew in tow, into action. "When a tricky trundlin' roundshot give the knock to Snarleyow," the poor horse is "almost tore in two." The driver cuts him free from the limber. In spite of his mortal wound, Snarleyow tries to follow after the cannon "as a well-trained 'orse should do." One of the crew, the driver's brother, asks the driver to "pull up" for the wounded horse. The driver responds that he would not stop a charging gun even if the driver's brother...

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