Solving The Problems 1

Summer 2007

On our way to work out at the gym each day, Boss Tom and I trade updates on various subjects that we find amusing. Being in a position to pass on the really juicy stuff from staff meetings with the colonel, Tom’s intel is highly prized. (I never pass it on with attribution. Best to protect one’s sources …) In trade, I give him the street-level junk, the hoi polloi’s raucous opinion, which he’s too lofty to run across on his own. No one but me shares the dirt with management. I think of our daily tête-à-têtes as filling a critical communication gap in the chain of command.

This week has been particularly rich in regards to the Basrah Overhead Cover project. The BOC, a plan that recently progressed from the planning to plan a plan stage into the more active planning to plan stage, essentially proposes building a big steel roof over the Basrah camp. This idea originated somewhere in the upper stratosphere of the military hierarchy, and is considered by most of the hoi polloi to be a colossal waste of money.

Day 1:

Boss Tom reports that Colonel Jeep also thinks the BOC is a stupid idea.

“Why are we building buildings, then building buildings over the buildings,” he petulantly snapped to his management at the morning staff meeting. “Why don’t we just build concrete buildings with thick roofs in the first place?”  

COL Jeep turned to Tom. He stared at him for at least fifteen long seconds with his trademark expression that is sort of blank astonishment, sort of mild disgust. “I just wanted to be a farmer,” the Jeep said with flat resignation. “That’s all.”

Day 2:

I report that Lt Willy Beal has studied the trajectory of incoming rockets (low) and the angle of the OC (none), concluding that OC would provide almost no protection at all for the camp. If they come in on their normal trajectory, they could just as easily slip in under the steel roof. He also performed some calculations on the weight and impact strength of the rockets and laid that against the strength of the proposed OC, concluding that the rockets would barrel right through the OC. If they come down atop it, they’re likely to explode on impact with the OC, but still bring down a heavy rain of concrete and metal on the inhabitants below.

Day 3:

Tom reports that adequate funding isn’t available to build the BOC.

Day 4:

I report that camp residents in Diwaniyah are pissed off that Basrah is being seriously considered for OC while their own camps are getting pounded by rockets and no one’s talking OC for them. (“Whiners,” Tom mutters in response.)

Day 5:

Tom reports that since there isn’t enough money to build the BOC, and Colonel Jeep thinks it’s a stupid idea anyway, the colonel has proposed placing half-inch thick steel plates on top of the desks in the hooches and in the offices. People can crawl under the desks for protection.

This idea sends both of us into a laughing fit. A desk with a steel cover strikes us as adorably understated protection set against, say, a 240mm rocket!

It also seems adorably and attractively low tech, the dead opposite of the US military’s typical overblown fondness for the complex, expensive, bigger-is-better answer to anything. This is the equivalent of the WWII jeep versus the twenty-first century Rhino … Instead of one over-engineered and under-functioning multi-million dollar hunk of high tech junk over the whole camp, how about building one hundred fifty little individual OC roofs with nothing but some slabs of steel? It’s practical. It’s cheap!

It’s a farmer’s solution.

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