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REMFs.

In my war, we coined a term to describe the guy who lived in Saigon in an air-conditioned trailer with access to clean water that didn't smell or taste like bleach, who worked in an area where the greatest danger was spilling a drink at Happy Hour, who took PX breaks four times a day to see if his new TEAC stereo system had arrived, who exchanged his boots for new ones whenever his spitshine was scuffed, who spent his days tweaking his Efficiency Reports to achieve maximum promotability, who had starch lines *sewn* into his jungle fatigues to nullify the effects of the humidity, who may have once heard a mortar explode a couple of miles away -- and bitched about how tough it was being in Vietnam.

The term was REMF. Rear Echelon Mother-F*cker.

REMFs are present in all branches of all militaries -- they aren't common, but they make themselves obnoxious in ways that are impossible to ignore.

Michael Yon is no longer embedded with the Brits in Afghanistan.


The surprise discontinuation of my embedment from the British Army left my schedule in a train wreck. Until that decisive moment, I am told, that my embed with the British Army had lasted longer than anyone else’s; other than Ross Kemp’s. I’ve also been told that I’ve spent more time with the British Army in Iraq than any correspondent. So it’s fair to say, we have good history together.

Michael Yon has had a run-in with REMFs, both in-theater and back at the Brit Ministry of Defense..


The Major and I were driving in Camp Bastion around midday when it was very hot. A British soldier ran by wearing a rucksack. He was drenched in sweat under the blazing, dusty desert. I smiled because it’s great to see so many soldiers who work and train hard. Yet the Major cut fun at the soldier, saying he was dumb to be running in that heat. I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat. The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.

That a military officer would share a foul word about a combat soldier who was prepping for battle was offensive. Especially an officer who lives in an air-conditioned tent with a refrigerator stocked with chilled soft drinks. Just outside his tent are nice hot and cold showers. Five minutes away is a little Pizza Hut trailer, a coffee shop, stores, and a cookhouse.

*That* torques me more than I have the words to express it.

Something else about REMFs -- they're control freaks. If there's a hint of bad news emanating from their bailiwick, they suppress it, even if the news has implications which ripple beyond their own fiefdom. And, cutting to the chase, here's the bad news that's being suppressed in this case:


This dispatch, and many others, should have been about soldiers at war. But it’s not. This dispatch is being written in downtown Kandahar City and I have not seen a soldier in days. The Taliban is slowing winning this city. There have been many bombings and shootings since I arrived in disguise.
 
Read Mike Yon's post, then go visit Cassandra.

Be back later. I have to go punch a wall...

14 Comments

If they didn't like the taste of chlorine in their water, how bout some taste of UREA and AMONIA?


 
REMF... Funny, Bill.  The moment I read your title, I had a flashback to the same emotional feelings I had in the early 70s when I first joined the Army and learned two new 'cuss words from the Vietnam Vets: REMF and Lifer.  Now the terms seem prosaic and tame, but I remember well that calling the wrong person one of those could get you laid out in a hurry....

I guess there will always be those folks...

That was a great essay by Yon on BS Bob too.  I would hate to have him PO'd at me....  Ouch.

 
Eliminating REMFs is like stopping the tides. Can't be done, unless you nuke the moon (apologies to Frank J)...and then we'd only get rid of the tides.

Seems the higher I got in the USAF, the more I ran into these types. The only thing that made it bearable was that many of them were lesser beings harassing my lesser beings, at which time I was able to complicate the formers' lives more than they were used to.

Must. 

Control. 

Fist.

of

Death...
 
I used to have snide comments about our Service Battalions until I worked with 1 Svc Battalion in Germany. Not only were most of the soldier ex-combat arms who transferred as their bodies began to wear out, these guys worked their butts off to keep supplies moving. It certainly changed my attitude. Now with the same units doing all the resupply in theater and suffering the costs of IED’s and ambushes. My respect is even higher. There will always be base plugs that either don’t care or are locked in a peacetime mentality.
   
 Greetings:

In my neck of the Viet Nam woods, there were the combat arms, (infantry, artillery, armor) and the rest were collectively referred to as "clerks & jerks".
 
Colin -- there is a clear distinction between support troops and REMFs.
 
Colin-
I was going to point out the same thing Bill did, but he beat me to it.  Remember- the Major in Yon's story had never been outside the wire, unlike your supply/support battalion.
 
It's not that he didn't go outside the wire, Twin -- it's that he had disdain for those who did.
 
<i> It's not that he didn't go outside the wire, Twin -- it's that he had disdain for those who did.</i>

Bingo. Our SGT B didn't go outside the wire, but he had the utmost respect for those who did... and wished very much he could've been with them instead of in the TOC.

 
I always made it a point to hob nob with the support folks.  They typically worked hard and without them, you'd have nothing. With them on your side, everything was much easier .... especially with maintenance for dispatching your vehicle, the armorer for weapons check in & out, commo, cooks, and supply.
 
To all:  There are rare qualities in the craft of writing on  display on display here. These would also include the links, including Mike Yon's article.  There is the appropriate balance of not too much or too little. Those qualities  are being "tact full and subtle".
 
While with grunts, REMF can be applied to anyone who aint a grunt, and, somewhat, even to other grunts (mortar doods, for example, since they're usually a couple hundred yards behind the fighting edge of holes), in truth, REMF is a mindset.

In the Corps, they're called Pogues. Pogue is shortened from Poguee, old Tagalog slang for a prostitute.

The term was picked up by USN and USMC personnel during the Philippine Insurrection. Poguee bait was slang for candy, since that was often the payment of choice for prostitutes in that era.

In the 20's and through the '40's, Pogue meant queer or weak. Later it came to mean everyone who wasn't infantry. And, it is often a derogatory term tagged onto others within the infantry as either an insult or in jest.
 
Grimmy, thank you for the history lesson!  My ex-marine step father used a bunch of Marine slang: bug juice, SOS, pogey bait, etc.  I never knew there was a reason behind that last one.  Cool!