Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fairy Dust

I had a very interesting conversation with a couple of ROK officers yesterday. It was by far my most extensive conversation with them yet. Lots of puzzled looks and slow shaking of the head. Seems they don't understand the time honored Marine Corps tradition of "fairy dust."

Exercises of this size are very complex things. They are also very expensive things, with lots of people coming from all over and moving lots of things around the peninsula. There are several staff sections developing plans and coordinating actions and giving briefs and all that other stuff that goes into exercising the war plan. So the last thing the Marines want to do is get hung up on a show stopping problem that grinds all that to a halt. Enter fairy dust.

Let's say, hypothetically, you've got a refueling system that has eight miles of pumping capability and you need to cover a distance of twelve miles. In the real world you'd be screwed. But in Exercise Land you just sprinkle fairy dust over the problem and suddenly the distance you need to cover is only 7.6 miles. Problem solved!

The Koreans are a very by-the-book people. When I tried to explain what we were doing, the ROKs looked at me with a polite smile, sure that the crazy American must be wrong or the interpreter must be translating incorrectly. No, I explained, this is just how Marines deal with potentially devastating situations. You see, we're so confident in our ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome that we just don't let little things like physical impossibilities get in our way. It's worked for over 230 years, I don't see why it won't work for another 230.

So even after they pulled out a very thick binder and showed me where the exercise data showed twelve miles I just shrugged, smiled, and said, "Doesn't matter. For the purposes of the exercise, it works. We'll figure out how later."

And that's the essence of Fairy Dust.

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