Randy Brown's new work, titled "Unmasking Procedures," contains language borrowed and adapted from a procedure familiar to all U.S. Army soldiers. The task involves the deliberate removal of protective gear when a test kit for battlefield chemical agents is not available. (There is no such test kit for biological agents.)
The procedure is described in the U.S. Army “Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks” (Skill Level 2) and related training. Most soldiers are annually tested on their abilities to correctly perform these and other tasks.
For troops, the unmasking process notably involves the selection of one or more soldiers—likely the lowest-ranking or least "mission-critical"—to serve as test subjects on behalf of a larger group. For more discussion of the ethics involved in such decisions, visit this link.
"This poem is in response to an on-going news story," the poet wrote as part of his submission. "The governor of my Midwestern state has repeatedly said that moves toward 're-opening the economy' would be deliberate and based on COVID-19 testing data. Despite continuing concerns regarding test accuracy and availability, however—as well as increasing infection numbers—the governor determined earlier this month to reopen most businesses statewide."
He adds, "I hope my poem's potential metaphorical connections are evident, regardless of readers' party affiliations or policy-positions. Further—given our shared experience—the poem might be a catalyst for respectful and constructive conversations, among veterans and non-veterans alike, and across the 'civil-military divide.'"
A former newspaper journalist, Brown encourages other military-adjacent poets engage in artistic reactions to current events. In addition to The New Verse News, Brown notes, news-driven poetry markets include:
Photo caption: (From left to right) U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jesse D. Backman, an armor officer, and Cpl. Bryan D. Russell, Sgt. Patrick J. Sisler and Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Brun, cavalry scouts with B Troop, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, exit a CS gas chamber, Jan. 9, 2012 during quarterly Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear training on Fort Stewart, Ga. The “Bushmaster” soldiers received refresher training on the proper wear of the field protective mask and the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology protective garment, and gained confidence in their equipment by unmasking in the gas chamber. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Mary Katzenberger.