Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

How not to start a deployment

From Chief Red Bull: During Annual Training at Camp Ripley, Minn., my buddy’s wife had texted him from behind the wheel of his $2,000 riding mower. “Something is clanking,” she wrote. Instant messaging isn’t always instant, however: He received her message 45 minutes later. “GET OFF THE MOWER NOW,” he replied. ‘Too late.’ Soon after ...

Clearly Ambiguous/flickr
Clearly Ambiguous/flickr
Clearly Ambiguous/flickr

From Chief Red Bull:

During Annual Training at Camp Ripley, Minn., my buddy's wife had texted him from behind the wheel of his $2,000 riding mower. "Something is clanking," she wrote.

Instant messaging isn't always instant, however: He received her message 45 minutes later. "GET OFF THE MOWER NOW," he replied.

From Chief Red Bull:

During Annual Training at Camp Ripley, Minn., my buddy’s wife had texted him from behind the wheel of his $2,000 riding mower. “Something is clanking,” she wrote.

Instant messaging isn’t always instant, however: He received her message 45 minutes later. “GET OFF THE MOWER NOW,” he replied.

‘Too late.’ Soon after her original message, the engine first sputtered, smoked, then seized.

It turns out that she had used the yellow gas can, the one with diesel fuel in it — the stuff that my buddy uses to burn weeds and trash on his acreage. Apparently, his 3-year-old son had tried to ask, ‘Mommy, why are you putting fire-gas in the mower?’ The warning, unfortunately, wasn’t understood until it was too late.

My buddy was hot when this happened. He did the wrong thing. He poured gas on the fire. ‘If this is what you do on Day 2 of my being gone,’ he says he said, ‘I can hardly wait to see what you come up with for the rest of the 482 days!’

He called back later to apologize. ‘Obviously,’ he says.”

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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