Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oscar Mike

About a year ago, I read an essay called "The Killer Elite" while waiting for a bus (this was just after the bus cuts, so I had a good long wait). Evan Wright followed a marine recon battalion around Iraq and fortuitously (in terms of writing opportunities) joined them as they were the first to roll into Baghdad. I was so affected by this piece that I couldn't sleep at night. It made me regard my marine acquaintances in a new light. I made Corey read it, and he loved it, too.

Then I heard that the creators of The Wire were turning the subsequent book into a miniseries called Generation Kill. I had to watch it. Corey and I devoured those DVDs like food, watching each episode twice and the director's commentary and all the many hours of special features. It was understood to be grounds for divorce if one of us should watch the Netflix offering before the other got home from an activity.

Weeks later, we still speak to one another in military lingo, so engrossed are we in the world of that literature. We'd call each other Assassin One and Assassin Actual for awhile, ending our sentences in "over." We talked in terms of clicks for kilometers and that sort of thing. But one group of words above all the others stuck to our ribs: When the soldiers need to be on the move, they use the phrase Oscar Mike. This is not laid out for the lay viewer in the film, but Corey figured it out one day. When the commander yelled Oscar Mike! The Humvees began to move and the troops cleaned up their bedrolls and stopped pooping in the desert. Like immediately. The phrase fits very seamlessly into our lives.

Just as the soldiers sit around and wait and goof off until a higher power commands them to be Oscar Mike, Corey can loaf until the deer invade our backyard, staring off into the distance, sleeping, eating beef jerkey, whatever. But now I have this new tool that gets him to jump into action. "Oscar Mike!" I yell up the stairs when he's slept until 8:45 and has to be at work by 9.

"Oscar Mike!" when we need to be at Crossfit in a few minutes and he's still in his pajamas. Something about this phrase prods him to move far better than my nagging or polite asking or angry begging or sad begging ever could. Late for the airport? "Oscar Mike!" Time to eat dinner and stop watching the Colbert Report on the internet? "Oscar freaking Mike!"

And instead of ignoring me, he says, "Yeah, yeah." And gets up!

I wonder why he has embraced this expression so. Is it because of Wright's wonderful writing and the vivid film making of Generation Kill? Is it because we are both so thankful that we don't really have to desensitize ourselves to the point that we could kill another person? Or perhaps the US Military has done what generations of wives/partners could not. They have, perhaps, finally found the secret to get a man to move his ass.

If the latter is true, you can bet my boy baby will be named Oscar Mike in gratitude. (Only then, would I have to stop using it to evoke action at my house? Perhaps I need a more fitting tribute...)


Chris Mayhew said...

FWIW I own the Wright's book. I also own the companion (and more literary) _One Bullet Away_ by Nathan Fick, who was the commander of the platoon that Wright embeds with. You're welcome to borrow either or both. They're quite good.

Katy said...

oooh i'd love to read the Fick book! he doesn't come across too wonderfully in wright's version. it could be SO interesting to have future students read both iterations and talk about the differences in representation!! right now i am bogged in two book clubs. i'll hit you up this spring for lending.

Chris Mayhew said...

Just let me know. It's quite good. He was Ivy League schooled, so it's well done and a different perspective.

I think the main issue is "who likes their boss?". Almost no one _GK_ is written from the perspective of the lowest rung on the totem pole and Fick happens to be the boss.

Anyways, let me know.

Chris Mayhew said...

PS, OSCAR MIKE means On the Move

Anonymous said...

Umm... link to essay please?!


PS - my captcha is "unchol", which is like a cross between "uncle" and "alcohol" -- that's me!

Chris Mayhew said...