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Hoo Ah Golf Today!
[RICH RADFORD]

The lieutenant colonel called the other day. He wanted me to play golf. We civilian types kind of like it when the military folk call. It usually means playing a military course. And you know the military. They can be militant, even about things like keeping civilians off their pristine golf courses.

The conversation went something like this: “Hey Rich, do you wanna play on Saturday? I’ve got a tee time at 7 at Sewells Point.”

Coming from the lieutenant colonel, I heard this: “Mr. Radford, we have a sortie planned for oh-seven hundred on the 24th of this month at Sewells Point. I’ll be your wing commander if you are interested. The mission will be to overcome the 18 infidels that have aligned themselves with various plots of grassy burns and waterways. This will not be an easy mission. They are using a variety of ground cover: trees, bushes, you name it.”

I told him I’d play. Then I thought about the lieutenant colonel’s actual first name: Charlie. He would have had a heck of a time in Vietnam. Too bad Forrest Gump wasn’t in his platoon: He’d have surely found Charlie.

Now, Charlie drives a truck because, well, can you picture a lieutenant colonel driving anything else? OK, maybe a jeep. And maybe, just maybe, a big old sport utility vehicle. But I always picture him in a truck. And on the rare times when he’s caught driving his wife’s Taurus station wagon, I just look the other way. I think he likes that.

Charlie picked me up at oh-dark hundred, and we headed for the golf course.
“Seven o’clock,” I ask. “Is the sun even up by then?”

“Oh yeah,” Charlie says. “It’s the first tee time. I only got it because the general is out of town. He usually plays at that time every week.”

It was good to know that the general was sharpening his skills regularly. I would fret if I discovered the general had more important things to do than golf.

We were paired with two other Marines. Well, actually, it’s hard to tell a Marine from an ex-Marine because I really don’t think there’s such a thing as an ex-Marine. Even years after they are out of the service, they still holler “Hoo-ah!” when they hit a big drive down the middle of the fairway. And they holler it even louder if their opponent hits a shot into a pine tree.

Even after they’ve retired, Marines regularly go into a branch of business that deals with, well, the military. That’s what companies like General Dynamics are all about. One of the ex-Marines in our group worked for General Dynamics. He gave me his business card, which identified him as a futures analyst for TRADOC DCSINT.
Being as I live in Norfolk, Va., the center of military might for the free world, I’ve grown accustomed to names of things in all capital letters. I don’t understand any of it, mind you. I can’t tell you what CINCLANTFLT stands for, I just know that I pass the entrance to CINCLANTFLT on my way home.

The same goes for CINCUSJFC and NAVSEADET. I know it means something, but I don’t have Rudy Boesch at my side to clue me in. (By the way, have you noticed that Rudy didn’t win that first Survivor series, but his shelf life has been a lot longer than the others? I think it has something to do with his Navy Seal training.)
Anyway, Tom works for General Dynamics, which kind of described his golf game. It was generally dynamic. Shots went all over the place, often at a high rate of speed.

Kevin was the other player in our group. I asked Kevin what he did in the Marines.
“I’m in charge of B, B and B.”

I gave him a puzzled look.

“Beans, bullets and Band-Aids,” Kevin said. “The big hitters always think they run the show. But it’s guys like me who really run the show. Some general says he wants to take 200 helicopters across 800 miles of desert. I tell him we’ve only got 120 helicopters and we can only go 400 miles across desert with them. His plans change.”

I thought back to when I was a kid watching MASH. Radar always ran the show. And after he left the unit, it was that guy who was either dressed in drag or wearing a Toledo Mud Hens jersey. Yeah, Klinger. He was in charge of the whole war, wasn’t he?

It was good that Kevin was in charge of supplies. He’d be ordering a dozen golf balls to replenish his supply after this round. For the moment, he was ordering us another pitcher of beer.

One thing about Marines, ex or otherwise. They know how to have a little fun.
They might play Army golf – Left, left, left, right, left – but they do so with a bravado that far exceeds those other branches of service. And when they hit a ball into a lake, they hit it into the middle of that lake. They don’t mess around with it. They don’t trickle it into a water hazard. They are the few, the proud.

We played 18 holes that day. We played skins. I probably skinned them pretty good, even though I was giving them a lot of shots. I brought my “A” game, as we civilians like to say. Meanwhile, it looked like they had bought their games that morning at the Naval Exchange.

But these Marines, they are a smart bunch. When we sat down for a few rounds after our round, Charlie said, “Who’s got the card?”

“I thought you had it,” Tom said.

“I thought you had it,” Kevin said.

I certainly didn’t have it. I was still trying to figure out what COMMARFORLANT meant and why the public affairs officers I always spoke with couldn’t be as open about “bombing the crap out of Iraq” as these guys were.

I discovered that day that “bombing the crap out of Iraq” would take a lot of beans, bullets and Band-Aids. And that General Dynamics would definitely be involved if it ever happened. And that Charlie is Charlie, he’s always the bad guy, whether he’s in Southeast Asia or the Middle East.

But my Charlie, he’s a good guy.

He got me on one of my favorite courses.

And for that, I say, “Hoo-ah!”

During times of failure, human nature dictates that something or someone (other than you) is really the culprit. Often you don’t need to look far to find the real reason you can’t perform. This holds true in all aspects of life.

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