Captain Briscoe, Captain Simms, and I were three of a kind. We were all junior officers in the battalion’s operations office. Major Hall was the operations officer. He had a gut and a rounded face but was easy to work for. In the 11 months that we were in Iraq I don’t think I saw him do PT (physical training) once. He had better things to do to keep soldiers alive through his planning initiatives.
The two captains and I had a ritual we performed, almost nightly. Cigar time.
Briscoe was the assistant operations officer. Simms and I were battle captains on 12-hour shifts. I took the day shift and Simms pulled up the night shift. After he relieved me and I grabbed dinner for the evening, Briscoe and I would toodle back to the TOC (tactical operations center) and invite Simms out for a smoke.
One night, before my promotion to captain, the three of us moved outside for our nightly smoke. Someone had placed a no smoking sign in our usual smoking area. We didn’t know who and didn’t care. It was likely one of the non-commissioned officers working on Battalion Commander (BC) Hall’s (no relation to Major Hall) personal detail who put the sign there by the BC’s direct order. It was a minor obstacle to our enjoyment.
Briscoe had confided to me that he was a lover of men. A rumor had been spreading among the officers in the unit that he and another officer were lovers. On the way back from the mess hall one evening, Briscoe asked, “Have you heard the rumor that me and Captain Davies are lovers?”
I hadn’t, but Davies was a little on the girly side. Briscoe overcompensated.
“No, I haven’t.”
“Because we spend a lot of time together, that makes us gay?”
I joked, “I guess I have to watch how much time I spend with you, eh?”
During one of our cigar sessions, BC Hall sauntered up one night and tried to make himself the center of attention.
“Talking about me?” he asked.
I thought, Actually, we’re trying to forget you exist.
Briscoe liked BC Hall and the BC liked him. Briscoe told him we were discussing Michael Jackson, who was still alive at the time and involved in some sort of litigation.
BC Hall chimed in, “Oh, the pole smoker.”
I couldn’t tell if he was trying to be funny or just pugnacious, but I thought how ironic it was that his favorite officer was the pole smoker. I don’t think he ever knew.
When BC Hall left, Briscoe shared a conversation he and the commander had the day before. Major Hall was on leave and Briscoe was filling in for him. He told me and Simms that the BC told him he should be gunning for Major Hall’s position. I could hear the BC saying it too. But Briscoe’s next comment took me by surprise.
“I’m going to make an end run around that motherfucker.”
He wanted Major Hall’s job. It was well known the two of them didn’t get along real well. It was no doubt because of Briscoe’s constant showboating.
We finished our cigars and Captain Simms went back to work. Briscoe went to his sleeping quarters and I went to mine. Those nights under the Iraqi stars with those two captains were some of the best moments of my deployment. But I wouldn’t do it again.
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