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Former logistics officer has a few words for unappreciative grunts

May. 5, 2014 - 03:36PM   |  
Jeff Clement, author of 'The Lieutenant Don't Know,' writes about logistics Marines downrange.
Jeff Clement, author of 'The Lieutenant Don't Know,' writes about logistics Marines downrange. (Jason Dixson Photography)
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Jeff Clement, author of 'The Lieutenant Don't Know,' writes about logistics Marines downrange. (Courtesy of Jeff Clement)

Capt. Jeff Clement’s story is not like that of Nathaniel Fick, the Marine reconnaissance officer whose military memoir helped to inspire the gritty miniseries “Generation Kill.” He calls himself “kind of the average guy in combat,” but argues the story of Marines like him is one well worth telling.

Clement, an active-duty logistics officer, released his own memoir, “The Lieutenant Don’t Know,” through the military publisher Casemate April 19.

The book offers a rare look into the world of the Marines whose job it was to ferry supplies to the fighting forces in Afghanistan by way of vehicle convoys, a job that could be mundane and deadly by turns.

Clement describes one such mission, a 205-truck convoy of British and American troops through the Now Zad district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province in April 2010, as a grueling six-day mission during which he was awake for more than 64 hours, trouble-shooting problems from improvised explosive devices in the roadway and vehicle breakdowns to AK-47 crossfire from insurgents and mortar blasts. As the eight-mile line of trucks rolled at a crawling pace to its destination and back, Clement described an experience that might not be as adrenaline-filled as a recon mission or scout sniper patrol, but was sometimes just as dangerous.

Clement also describes efforts to combat the long-standing Marine Corps rivalry between infantry Marines, or grunts, and support elements, or persons other than grunts.

“’Oh, gotta head back to Leatherneck, gotta get some good chow and a shower,’ grunts would catcall,” Clement writes. “As if a hot shower at the end of the convoy somehow reduced the risk we faced ... or erased the memories of friends loaded on medevac helicopters.”

Clement told Marine Corps Times he wants those who read his account to gain entree into the lesser-known world of the troops who brave all to provide support.

“Everybody’s job is important, and you know, without us, you can’t do combat operations,” he said. “...We absolutely were persons other than grunts or POGs, but I don’t think that should diminish the courage or the sacrifice that logistics Marines made.”

As to the title, Clement said it spoke to the challenge of being a good Marine officer: providing confident leadership while staying humble enough to learn from the experiences of enlisted Marines and include them in tactical decisions. He writes extensively about lessons learned in Marine officers’ training.

“At the end of the day, as an officer or commander, you owe it to your Marines to be decisive and intelligent, but don’t make that decision in a vacuum,” he said.

Clement will leave the Marine Corps at the end of the year, he said, to pursue a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland.

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