quiet as TOC-rats

the talk in the TOC is just talk
and the sergeant major wants it quiet —
more church than circus tent.

we’re not the brains of the operation;
we’re more like a nervous system.
we keep things running, and people reacting.

we pass traffic by radio, Jabber, and MIRC-chat.
our burble and babble is hushed
by the air-conditioning and fluorescent buzz.

we tell stories on boards
and paint pictures for the commander.
we are Houston to his Mars.

through our bright projections, he squints
to pierce the fog of war. He will see his glories
only as shadows on our cave wall.

track the battle.
track the battle.
track the battle.

we no longer run to the sound of guns.
instead, we phone it in
and listen to reports.

our only fear is half silence:
the constant rush of static that signals
an end to our connections.


Author’s note: A Tactical Operations Center (TOC, pronounced “tahk”) is an organizational nerve center, responsible for monitoring and controlling current operations of a unit. This collection of people, computers, and communications equipment is similar to a “mission control” room made familiar to the public by the U.S. space program. Both Jabber and MIRC-chat are instant-messaging computer applications. The acronym MIRC (pronounced “murk”) stands for “Microsoft Internet Relay Chat.” This poem first appeared in The Pass In Review Vol. 1, No. 1, spring 2014.

Author: Randy Brown

Randy Brown was embedded as a civilian journalist in 2011 with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, the Iowa National Guard unit with which he served before retiring in 2010. He is a free lance writer and editor, and he operates a blog about military writing and about his former unit at www.redbullrising.com. His book of poetry is Welcome to FOB Haiku.

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