Tombstone: Now, this is how to fight a war

A fighting organization needs uber-confidence. Pride in self as well as mission are essential. Its players need to get into character for the big show. They require a rhythm. A vibe. Charisma. Sexy works. Lethal is even better.

It seems the Army has broken the code.

Not to regurgitate old news, but the Associated Press has reported on an atypical forward operating base in Afghanistan. It’s called Tombstone, and visitors beware. Tombstone conjures images of gun-slinging outlaws of the Wild West. Sexy? Yeah. And lethal with attitude. It implies operating on the edge; risk (just short of mayhem); us against a larger, collective them. (I’m sure you have other interpretations.)

The gunslingers at Tombstone are deep in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand province. One sergeant major said of the name “It’s got pizzazz.”

It has a lot more than pizzazz.

Tombstone’s OK Corral houses teams of Stryker vehicles. There is a likeness of gun-totin’ lawman Wyatt Earp at the base’s entrance. The civilians there also have embraced the theme adding a number of Wild West touches. There are door signs reading “Long Horn Saloon” and “Big Nose Kate’s”. “The Crystal Palace Saloon“, pulled right from 1881 Tombstone, is where soldiers hang, smoke, tell lies. “Wanted Dead or Alive” posters of the likes of Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, and the Sundance Kid adorn the dining hall.

Some say Afghanistan reminds them of the American West desert. But we think it is more than that. Another repro sign reads, “Notice! To Thieves, Thugs, Fakirs, and Bunko-Steerers … If found within the limits of this City after TEN O’CLOCK p.m., this night, you will be invited to attend a GRAND NECK-TIE PARTY, the expense of which will be borne by 100 Substantial Citizens.”

Gallows humor.

Base themes typically are more somber, sometimes named after the fallen, or as in the case of neighboring Camp Leatherneck, the Corps seems to draw upon its proven narcissism.

This is one to study in retrospect, and top behaviorists would enjoy studying Tombstone and the cultures of these far-flung outposts. Sure “cowboy” may have its negative connotations, but if it gives these gunslingers a much-needed edge, maybe others should take notice.

Viva la Tombstone. Yee-hah.

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