FORT HOOD, TX – As conventional budget cuts loom on the heels of sequestration, leaders across the military are considering innovative and helpful ways to lower operating costs without hurting unit training or weapons qualifications. However, one common-sense suggestion — “a no-brainer” according to one Pentagon official — has ruined at least one officer’s career on the sprawling Army base of Fort Hood.
The suggestion: shrink the enormous 1st Cavalry Division patch down to a size comparable to the rest of the military.
The storied division has seen action in every American conflict since its 1921 formation. The most notable thing about the unit is not their impressive combat record, though, but their patch: an elephantine black and yellow Norman shield sporting a horse head.
Unlike other military emblems, the 1st Cav insignia has been known actually to extend below the elbows of shorter soldiers, and is greeted with a level of mockery and derision usually reserved for things like the green fleece cap, or ACUs.
Miles Detrich, discharged Army Captain and former comptroller for the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cav was the man who ignited the firestorm. Duffel Blog talked to the now-unemployed Detrich while he sat drinking at a dirty bar in Killeen, Texas.
“It all seemed so simple you know? Our Colonel told us budget cuts were coming, and we’d have to get creative with how the units spent money. Everyone else was coming up with off-the-wall stuff, while this was staring us right in the face. Literally.” Detrich sighed and gestured at his own worn 1st Cav patch, which he had removed to hang on the back of his chair, where it dangled and brushed the floor.
“Did you know these things cost the Army over fifty bucks a piece? Look at it. Fifty fucking bucks! Ridiculous!”
Shortly after formalizing the suggestion to reduce the size of the patch by a mere two inches, Detrich was given a General Letter of Reprimand by his chain of command and removed from the company commander’s list. Less than two weeks later he was presented with his paperwork and chaptered out of the Army, three years before his scheduled ETS date. Now, Mr. Detrich sits, alone and jobless, wishing his impressive resume lands him a job offer, but he’s not hopeful.
“After my little incident, no one in this town will even look at me. I can’t even move away. My entire family is from this area. I can’t even get a job flipping burgers after my commander followed through on his threat to make sure I’d never work again.”
The man glanced around the empty bar and finished his beer in one long gulp, the very embodiment of self-loathing. “All I wanted to do was save the Army some money. Was that so wrong?”
According to Command Sergeant Major James Norman, CSM of the Division, the answer is an emphatic yes.
“This punk-ass captain is going to come along and say we need to change the damn patch? Almost a century of blood and tradition behind those colors, and some paper-pushing finance weenie decides to save a few nickels by shitting on the legacy of countless better men before him," said Norman, who became increasingly annoyed. "Well, not on my watch! We’ve got plenty of money. I don’t understand what those queers up in Washington do all day, but I know the Army will always have cash to spend. In fact, just this week I commissioned a gold-plated statue of the patch to be placed in front of the headquarters building, just to remind all our young troopers that they’re part of the First Team! HOOAH?”
He smiled as if envisioning the future memorial.
“We’ve also got a plan in the works to extend the size of the combat patch by another 2 inches, and add diamond studs to the spurs that we veterans have the privilege of wearing at every social function, on-post and off!”
When the Sergeant Major finished, he was shown several documents. The first was a report that highlighted the fact that not only was Detrich’s proposal to trim the 1st Cav patch sound financial advice, it would have saved the Army enough money to deploy an entire combat brigade to and from Afghanistan, twice. The second was an excerpt from CPT Detrich’s service record showing he was actually a decorated infantry officer who’d earned the Silver Star medal before being forced into the comptroller position.
Norman refused to back down, calling Detrich a “fucking POG,” before breaking into a horribly off-key version of Garryowen, the 1st Cavalry Division song, and ending the interview.