Re: Military Terminology

Ralph S. Carlson (
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 15:40:17 -0400

The "STAC" usage in the "Debridement" passages has puzzled me, too, since
it consistently sits in the modifier position that a title such as PFC or
SGT or SFC would occupy (Private First Class, Sergeant, Sergeant First
Class for those who wish expansions of the acronyms), but the Army
environs to which I was exposed in the past didn't include the usage of
STAC or the suggested interpretation "STRAC" in that context. I heard of
"strack units" or a new commander who was "really strack" because he
intended to make his outfit a real spit'n'polish unit, but I never
encountered "strack" replacing a rank designator -- in conversation or in
the print literature I have seen since.

Does anyone who served with an armored or mobile cav unit know of any
Military Occupational Specialty, perhaps relating to scouting or recon,
which would reduce to the acronym STAC?

R. S. Carlson VOICE: (818) 969-3434 x3102
Professor, English & TESOL FAX: (818) 969-7180
Azusa Pacific University
901 East Alosta Avenue
Azusa, CA 91702
^^Opinions expressed are my own, not my employer's^^

On Wed, 16 Oct 1996, M Bibby wrote:

> John:
> Thanks for your reply.
> On Tue, 15 Oct 1996, John Baky wrote:
> > Could you use the word in one of the contexts in which it appears?
> *Debridement* is a sequence poem composed of several texts written in
> different voices. It opens with an official citation for the Medal of
> Honor given to "STAC JOHN HENRY LOUIS" (the text is written in all caps
> to emulate the officialese of military discourse) for bravery in
> the face of an ambush of his tank patrol in Dak To. But in other texts,
> those written in normal type, Louis is referred to as STAC John Henry
> Louis and sometimes just as STAC.
> The poem is actually based on the real story of a black vet, and I think
> he was listed as a Spec/4, from Detroit who was given a medal of honor
> for similar circumstances, but was later shot for attempted robbery by a
> white shopkeeper. In a New York Times account of this vet's story (I
> can't recall the name right now), his friends from service recalled the
> crazed violence this vet demonstrated under fire, noting how he finally
> had to be held down and given morphine when rescued. In both the poem
> and in the original story, the vet's tank patrol is ambushed by
> Vietnamese and almost all US personnel were killed, tanks blown up, and
> Louis/the real vet saved just a couple of US soldiers
> and also single-handedly killed 25 Vietnamese, sometimes beating them to
> death with his rifle butt.
> There is
> > a term STRACK or STRAC which was in wide use in the army at that time. It
> > referred to an official condition of combat readiness applied to certain
> > units identified by the Pentagon to be maintained at a very high degree of
> > efficiency and quality - characterized by unblemished service records, high
> > readiness of equipment, morale of the soldiery in the unit.
> >
> > This term then became adopted by the army in general to refer to any single
> > soldier or small unit that was considered to be very "together," very
> > military in the by-the-book sense, well-turned-out, efficient, etc. In
> > short, it became slang for the best the military had to offer. It was a
> > very wide-spread trope from about 1967 to about 1973. Today I believe it is
> > virtually non-existent. The concept of STRAC units in NATO was a cold-war
> > development that probably carried over into the mid to late vietnam era.
> These possibilities are very interesting, since in both the poem and the
> NYT story, the main character is *represented* in the military as the
> best it has to offer--in both the original citation for the medal and in
> the officialese of certain texts in the poem.
> Michael Bibby