Dear Jack: Help — My Platoon’s in the Middle of an Ambush!
My platoon is literally in the middle of an L-shaped ambush as I write this. We are running low on ammo and can’t get air support. What should I do?
Please help us,
1st Lieutenant Nicholas Vanderbahn IV
Whoa. That sounds pretty stressful, pal. Good call on coming to me about this. Being that I’m a straight white male in his late 30s who lives in the suburbs and maintains a relatively sedentary lifestyle, I’ve spent the last few years bingeing numerous Netflix World War II and nature documentaries, so I think I know a little something about late GWOT-era military tactics.
I’d say the first thing you do, above all else, is look at the positives. If you survive this thing, you’ll have a great opportunity to write yourself up for a juicy award. And with a name like “Vanderbahn IV,” it doesn’t take much deducing for me to know that you’re an academy grad.
You take that borderline-earned Silver Star you’re about to get, build up that résumé, and rise to the highest ranks of the US military — until, of course, one day NBC runs a story about how you got caught banging some major on your staff and you’re forced to retire with full pension and take a six-figure board position with a historically powerful private defense firm. Good times!
But as for your immediate predicament, I have a couple of suggestions.
Like I said, nature docs are my jam. Have you tried just getting your troops to stand up and start banging a bunch of pots and pans with their arms raised high in the sky? It works for bears. Bears want nothing to do with that kind of commotion. I would imagine an enemy force in a third-world country — who are more than likely being quietly funded by an emerging world power — only dares challenge the US military because we haven’t established how alpha we are in primordial situations. Drop your rifles and just scream at those losers. They’ll find their honey elsewhere.
My other suggestion is based on personal experience (I’ve never faced a bear because I’ve rarely left the suburbs).
Have you tried crying? Think about it. Watching another man cry uncontrollably is one of the most awkward things you can witness. A guy with cauliflower ear was about to beat my ass in a bar in Akron, Ohio, in 2008 until I just curled up into a ball and started sobbing. Yeah, I killed my pride, but at least I saved my teeth. He knew, in that moment, that beating me up would be only a slight step above beating up a developmentally disabled person, so he spared me the ass kicking I wasn’t willing to take.
A lot of these third-world enemies of America rely on machismo to justify their willingness to fight. Get a step ahead of them by getting your troops to completely break down and cry like infants with poopy diapers in order to make your adversaries feel sorry for you and not see you as worth fighting. The first step in the Art of War is deception, right? Hell yeah!
I dunno, man. Netflix just rereleased World War II in Colour. I’m watching it as I write this, and I can’t spend my valuable time stressing out about your problems. I’ll be thinking about you next Veterans Day or maybe even Memorial Day — depending on how this firefight works out for you. Gotta go! They’re talking about Operation Barbarossa, and boy is Hitler in for a doozy with them Russians.
I love you,
Jack Manford Mandaville I
This story first appeared in the Fall 2021 print edition of Coffee or Die Magazine in the Dear Jack column.