By: Peter Sessum
So there I was, in Afghanistan, no shit. I was in Khost Province on FOB Salerno and about to go on a mission. There was a part missing from my machine gun mount so I went into the supply room to see if they had what I needed. The week before the supply sergeant had told me that the extra gear in the box was not accountable so I could grab what I wanted anytime. That is why I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
So I was surprised when the supply sergeant kicked me out of the supply hut. He said that they were doing their morning PT and so I had to leave. Despite the fact that I was on the far said of the hut and not anywhere near them, I couldn’t be in the same building while they did pushups. Even though I was going on a mission in less than 10 minutes and the mount would help me be more combat effective, the guy who never left the wire kicked me out not because it made tactical sense, but because he can. And that is why grunts hate POGs.
The term grunt used to refer to just Infantry and later to combat arms soldiers in the Army. A POG (Person Other than Grunt) is everyone else. With the Global War on Terror (GWOT) there were no more front lines. With soldiers of all jobs in the Army coming in contact with the enemy it really became about the grunt v. POG mentality.
It all starts in basic training. Drill sergeants tell new recruits that THEIR job is the most important job in the Army. Cooks are told that without them, no one would eat. Without finance, no one would get paid. In the end, it gives the POGs an attitude and they act like the Army revolves around them.
Infantry are taught the same thing. I was told that the Infantry makes up 10 percent of the Army and the other 90 percent support the war fighters. We took pride in the idea of what we do and that everyone else supports us. But that doesn’t mean that they are less, just another part of the team.
The problem is, most POGs don’t see it that way. They look down on “dumb grunts” that don’t bring anything to the table. A finance soldier will think that grunts need him to get paid, but the grunt doesn’t do anything for finance. Cooks feed grunts, but the existence of grunts doesn’t enrich the cook’s life.
If a soldier isn’t getting paid and goes to the finance people, they will act like they are doing the soldier a favor for fixing the problem even though that is exactly what they are paid to do. Because of a screw up at the Personnel Action Center (PAC) the Army took 20 days of leave from me. I spent three days running all over post trying to get all the right paperwork together to get it taken care of. Something a PAC person could have done in about 30 minutes.
If you give PAC attitude, nothing will ever get done. The smart grunt makes friends with as many POGs as possible in the unit. It is the only way to get things done. Otherwise you have to use other tactics. I once entered a PAC office at 10:45 and they were already closing for lunch. Sergeant Goldman was the last one and he was turning out the lights when I walked in. In the Army, lunch doesn’t start until 11:30 but this is what POGs do. Instead of leaving, I sat down in the dark. He reminded me that they were going to lunch and I said, “I know. This way I am first in line when you get back.”
He studied me for a minute and thought I might be crazy enough to do it. He decided to help me and was still out the door before 10:50. It is pathetic that I had to go to extremes just to get him to do his job. When I was trying to clear that unit Goldman would walk to the far corner of the room whenever he would see me. “I can’t fuck with you Sessum” he would say. He would stay there until I left.
One way you can tell if someone is a POG is if they have “Sergeant’s Time.” The Army instituted Sergeants Time Thursday to give the soldiers a day for training. Grunts train every day. Or as an old platoon sergeant said, “We are Infantry, everyday is sergeant’s time.”
It can be difficult to transition into civilian life for grunts. Not because they are used to combat but because they have little time for POGs. It is difficult to take attitude from a person who isn’t even doing their job right. The reason is that grunts have to do their job to the best of their ability 100 percent of the time or something really bad is going to happen. If a POG doesn’t do his job, no lives are at risk so the POG doesn’t care.
The grunt mentality also exists in the civilian world. Anyone who has a job where people will die if they do not do it right will know where a grunt is coming from. A firefighter can’t refuse to answer a call because it is lunchtime. An EMT can’t say that she will only use one bandage on a gunshot victim because she doesn’t want to have to restock the entire vehicle.
The best thing a POG can do, and I have seen it happen, is to act like one of the team and do the best job possible. If the grunt’s finances are in order, that is one less thing to think about and he can focus on the task at hand. Or just do your job and you will earn the respect of those that do the tough jobs.
Grunts should treat all POGs that do their job with respect. A soldier is not less because he is in an easier job. There is nothing wrong with having an air conditioned office in a combat zone rather than running missions all day, you just can’t look down on us for it.
UPDATE: Due to incredibly high traffic on this post a follow up piece entitled POG is a Mentality not an MOS was written in May 2014.