A Different Army 1On Armed Forces Radio, President George Bush proclaimed, “Just two hours ago, Allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak.”

Operation Desert Storm, the first Iraqi War had begun. The commanding general of the 122nd Army Reserve Command telephoned my commander.

“We have a military police company that is about to be activated for the war and shipped overseas. It has a few problems. We need a strong first sergeant to whip it into shape.”

My commander, Colonel Thames, replied, “Sergeant Sasser’s your man. He’s not much of a garrison trooper, but if we’re going to war he’s the type of man to go to war with.”

“One more war,” I promised my girlfriend.

“You can’t stay away from them, can you?” she said.

Along with the company commander, I found myself in charge of 122 MP soldiers, 21 of whom were female.

I had been to wars, spent much of my military life as a tough sergeant in combat outfits. I had shot it out with Central American guerrillas, parachuted out of airplanes and crashed in them. I’d been wounded in combat. Old sergeants like me used to stand ramrod straight in front of a formation and bellow, “All right, men! Sound off like you got a pair!”

Not anymore. We were becoming a different army.

As the Desert Storm call-up began, the press exploded with headlines about women and photos of cute rifle-toting blondes from Texas and buxom warrior brunettes from California. “Nanny Wears Combat Boots,” headlines blared. “Papa Stays Home with Junior While Nanny Defends The Nation.”

Women, who made up less than 10 percent of forces called up for the Gulf War, received 60 percent of the news coverage. You would have thought they were going to fight the whole war single-handedly.

My supply sergeant lugged in a Hefty bag of condoms and dumped them on my orderly room floor. On patrols in jungle with Army Special Forces, we stretched rubbers over M-16 muzzles to keep out rain, mud and dust. I looked incredulously at the pile of Trojans. We weren’t going to be doing that much patrolling.

“The company that (loves) together stays together, First Sergeant,” my supply sergeant quipped with a sardonic grin. “Make sure you tell our soldiers to keep the loving within the company. No use raising the morale of some other outfit.”

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Sergeant First Class Joe Kapacziewski is the only amputee in the history of Army Rangers to return to full combat duty. Joe lost his right leg to an enemy grenade in northern Iraq. He had one goal afterwards—return to the line and serve alongside his fellow Rangers. He could not be stopped.

Back In The Fight, by SFC Joseph Kapacziewski and Charles W. Sasser. Available in bookstores and on Amazon.com