No, I Didn’t Get That SF Colonel Arrested… But I Kind Of Wish I Did
by Michael Kane
We all have them: those moments in the military where we are surrounded by so much stupidity that we think “no one would ever believe me if I told them about this.” Well, this is my story about one of those moments. A moment that lasted for months and ended with a “long-tabbed” (i.e. Special Forces) Army colonel sitting in a Qatari jail.
It was early 2008 in Iraq. It was only supposed to be a quick four month rotation with the National SOF Task Force, but it turned into a six month rotation just before I deployed.
I volunteered to do an extra 2 months so one of the Reservists could go see his family, since he had been away for quite some time. I had no complaints about a 6 month deployment as I knew others were doing 13 month deployments and sometimes even longer. Besides, the pay was good and the work was exciting
I remember meeting Major Scott Faith for the first time. He was my new boss both in garrison and in Iraq. I would be serving as the NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge) of the section we would be working in downrange. I remember how relieved I was when I realized the field grade officer I would be working for was humble, very friendly, and extremely down to earth. I only had one other boss in Iraq, and he was British Army major—the self-styled “Token Brit”—and that would take another article to explain how awesome it was to work with him.
I was looking forward to the next six months. I was working with some very experienced folks and supporting some of the best heavy hitters in the country. And outside of the top-level command leadership that everybody had, I only had 2 bosses for this rotation. It should have been an awesome deployment (as far as deployments go).
And then Scott told me he was heading home. That. Bastard.
He told me that a full bird colonel would be coming to replace him. I asked why an O6 was coming to replace an O4 in charge of a small section, and he told me that this colonel was a Reservist from another command who had called in a favor so he could deploy. Scott didn’t give me much more information about him. I would find out why in a few weeks.
For the purpose of the article, I’m just going to call him Col D., because the other officer was kind of a dick. Or a douche. Or something else bad that starts with “D.” Anyway, it was about a month into my deployment when COL D. showed up. Things were running as well as they could have been in our environment. There was some friction with the command leadership because what we were doing had never been done before, but the door kickers were happy with us which ultimately made the command leadership happy.
Like any new leader, COL D. wanted to have lots of meetings to understand what was going on, what our purpose and tasks were, and how we were accomplishing our mission. Most of the folks in the section had been working in their routine for months. While frustrated they had to keep breaking their routine, everyone understood. At least in the beginning.
And then COL D. wanted to have meetings to talk about what we were going to have in the actual meeting.
And then the “finger taskers” started. During these pre-meeting to the actual meetings, he would go down each of the rows in our plywood conference room and point to each person and give them a task… tasks completely unrelated to supporting operations and what seemed to be unrelated to anything. These weren’t short taskers either, and most of the folks were already working 16 hour days to support specific operations.
As the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) and COL D.’s nominal #2 man, I was getting lots of complaints about being pulled off important work to support Ops in order to work “finger taskers” related to nothing. Initially, my first instinct was that COL D. was a senior long tabbed O6 and that he knew what he was doing. So while I was receptive to complaints, I usually ended the conversation with “keep doing your job, do the tasker, and just do the best you can to make it work.” And then COL D. started forgetting about taskers he gave to people. And to make it even worse he started falling asleep in the meetings… the ones he called, like the pre-meeting to the meeting.
And then he took away our late Sundays. In the Task Force, there were no “days off.” There were no “down days,” no mid-tour leave, no trips to Salsa Nite or the Pajama Jammy Jam or whatever it is the conventional units did right outside our wire. Sundays were, traditionally and throughout the Task Force, the one day out of the week we could sleep in for a couple of extra hours, or attend church, spend an extra hour in the gym, or do laundry. Whatever. We all looked forward to it. All week. And suddenly it was gone. So we were all fairly put off by him but, we had a very rewarding job to do so we stayed faithful and kept going because that was the right thing.
And then the angry, completely-from-left-field outburst started. At one point, he had traveled from our location to Baghdad. When he called me to check on his flight back and I told him there was a sandstorm in Baghdad and our pilots weren’t flying until it cleared, he screamed at me and told me “You’re a bad NCO, a good NCO would have gotten me a flight out of here”
…you’re right sir, I’m sorry, I’ll start learning on how to stop sandstorms.
Shenanigans like this went on for 4 long months. The only reprieve I got is when Scott told me COL D.’s replacement was never scheduled and that he would end up coming back to replace him, and I would finally get to work with him for a the last couple of months of my deployment. Oh, happy day.
The command leadership understood the difficulties I was having and it became a joke for the leadership. My Sergeant Major would check in and make sure he didn’t need to do any damage control but thanks to the Brit, we were always able to manage the BS and keep support to ops going.
So the glorious day finally happened. Scott returned and did his turnover with COL D. Scott already knew about all the bi-polar like outburst from COL D. and he apparently told me he knew about the COL’s reputation before he showed up. But he didn’t tell me about it because he didn’t want to taint my opinion before the guy even showed up. So yeah, thanks for that, boss. There was also a great deal of talk that COL D. was an alcoholic, and now that I think about it, his behavior during the deployment could have been withdrawal. Or he could have just been in over his head, who knows.
Scott also explained to me later that he suspected COL D. was a “paper tab” guy. Apparently there was a time when you could do the SF Qualification Course via correspondence. Yes, there was a time you could literally “mail it in” and get your tab. Scott said he wasn’t sure about the math (they stopped this process a long time ago), but he had heard that COL D. had earned his tab in that way. Any credibility COL D. had with me was now completely gone.
When I told Scott about all the things I dealt with while he was gone, he laughed, apologized for it and assured me the rest of my deployment would be awesome. And it was. Here’s why: