Monday, March 09, 2009

Goodbye, Buzzsaw. I'll see you at Fiddler's Green.

I found out last night that one of my very first mentors from when I was but a young shave-tail 2LT had died from a heart attack. 1SG Bill Magaw, affectionately named "Buzzsaw" for his charming personality, (once you got to know him, he was a huge-hearted man who cared deeply for others) but on the outside, was the mold from which all other noncommissioned officers should be judged.

Bill was tough, so tough that many a private, sergeant, lieutenant and captain would hear his tirades and walk the other way--even if they weren't in the same building. To catch the force of one of his legendary ass chewings head-on was enough to cause a few privates to go AWOL. I had the distinct pleasure of serving with him as a tank platoon leader, he was the platoon sergeant for my Daughter's Godfather, and taught the both of us more about tanking, leading, and soldiering than could ever be captured in a manual.

Buzzsaw was one of the truly great leaders. On his best day, Clint Eastwood's "Gunny Highway" was a pale comparison. Top Magaw was completely unafraid to identify when anyone was fucked up, including company and battalion commanders, and would tell them so--and if the situation warranted it, would do so publicly. I think the most amazing thing about that was that he never got in trouble for it, and it was because he was right, not just in his facts, but in the necessity of being near-insubordinate.

Buzzsaw was as old-school as they come. While the rest of the Army was warming up to blackberrys, pdas, computes, powerpoint, and the whole host of electronic playthings, Buzzsaw had his green cloth bound notebook, and a carpenter's pencil sharpened with his pocket knife. Everything he did was pure common sense. Why a notebook and carpenter's pencil? Carpenter's pencils are flat, so they don't roll off the tank. The lead is soft, so it writes darker. It works when wet. It doesn't leak. Writes upside down, over grease, in the heat and in the cold. Notebooks work without batteries, and are impervious to sand, and will work after getting wet. Both fit in a pocket, and neither costs more than a dollar. Even his writing was simple: Large, block letters, that some would see as primitive handwriting skill, but he wrote that way from practice. His notes were easy to read, regardless of how tired you were, and nobody ever had to think "What does this scribble say?" Buzzsaw was one of the few whom I would gladly go to battle with, and if I had my choices, I'd have follwed him, vs. him following me.

1SG (ret.) William "Bill" Magaw, 53, died Thursday, Feb. 26, at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart.

He was born in Akron, Ohio, to the late John A. and Wanda L. Hambree Magaw. Bill graduated from Akron Garfield High School and attended the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. On Aug. 8, 1980, he was married to Jean V. McDonald. To this union, two children were born. Bill enlisted into the U.S. Army and served his country proudly for 26 years. He served honorably in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Kosovo, Korea, Germany and several stateside locations.
Those left to cherish his memory include his wife for 28-1/2 years, Jean V. Magaw; two children, Erin and Joshua Magaw, all of Hinesville; three brothers, Michael, Russell and Matthew Magaw; a sister, Karen Magaw; a host of nieces, nephews and other family members; many dear friends kept along the way; and last, but not least, the many soldiers he has mentored during his career.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Powerhouse of Deliverance Church on Airport Road in Hinesville.
Visitation in Ohio will be from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Schlup-Pucak Funeral Home, 788 Kenmore Blvd., Akron. The funeral service will be 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home.
Interment with full military honors will be in Northlawn Memorial Gardens, 4724 State Road in Peninsula, Ohio.
Dorchester Funeral Home of Midway has charge of local arrangements.

Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green
Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers' Green.

Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers' Green.

Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.
No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen.
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers' Green.

And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers' Green.

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