Friday, September 30, 2005

The Hare and the Tortoise.....and Frogs???

This morning was spent doing a 12 mile roadmarch. As I've related, roadmarches are the suckiest of suck. They are the epitome of crap. A roadmarch is like taking needles and stabbing them through your eyelids and setting flame to the ends of them, while being very very bored at the same time.

With that said, it wasn't too bad. You get very used to roadmarches, especially when you're in a mechanized unit that just happens to roadmarch....ALL THE TIME. They drag on quite a bit, but you live.

The ultimate goal of this roadmarch (for some) was to finish within EIB (Expert Infantry Badge) standards, 3 hours. Now, you've got people like me, who do not plan on making a career out of the army, and don't really expect or plan to get their EIB. So naturally, some of us were a little less hard-pressed to finish in that amount of time. We still met the troop standard, so we're good. I congratulate everyone who DID make the 3 hour time limit. I wonder how their feet are doing. Mine aren't pretty.

Ok, long introduction out of the way, there we were, marching before the sun even rose, in the rain and apparently, fall in Washington consists of rain, all the damn time. Each mile seemed to drag on, but after 6 miles, it seemed I no longer had control of my legs, and they were automatically walking for me. The pain in the feet remained the whole time of course.

About halfway through, we came across the Frogs' Trail of Tears. These tiny little frogs littered the road here and there, killed by traffic. Now and then you'd see one darting across the road, apparently not learning his lesson from his comrades. It was at that time that I realized how profound the game Frogger really is. That was their life. Cross road, and die, or else live to cross another day, but ultimately, you as a frog, are fucked. That relates to all of us, I suppose.

Yeah, these are the kind of thoughts you have while roadmarching. Take the strangest most abstract thoughts you've ever had while, I don't know, sitting on the john or something. Now extend that for three and a half hours with quasi-beautiful early morning Washington scenery.

One guy, who I will nickname Jesse, came across a frog whose leg was badly broken. He picked it up and carried it in his hand. I believe this one was named Ribby. Not even an eighth of a mile later, another frog came hopping along the road. Good ol' Jesse scooped it up, and named it Squeak. He ended up collecting five of them, and I named the last three Toby, Brak, and Zorak. Jesse ended up putting the frogs into his canteen (yeah, I know), which had a small amount of water in it. Every fifteen minutes or so, he'd open it to ensure they had air.

Near the nine mile mark, just after one of the medics' temporary aid stations, which was basically a pickup truck, we came across a little Phillipino man named Sergeant L. He was getting an IV, so we decided to be lazy, set our rucksacks down, take our helmets off, and rest for about five minutes. After stepping off, we soon caught back up to him. The way he was standing, turned to face us as Sgt B caught up to him to assist with his IV, amidst the scenery and everything, it all looked like it belonged on the cover of TIME magazine. He had the IV bag strapped to his helmet with the band that kevlar helmets always have over their cover. Unfortunately, it wasn't high enough, as his blood was running out of him, back into the tube. I ended up walking with him for a while, holding the bag up, but after a while the catheter slid out of his vein, and we had to scrap it. I then had to run to catch up with my marching pals.

By then, we were nearly done, and our feet were rather unhappy, and our shoulders were getting fussy, and our backs were spewing complaints. Sgt L hooked me and a friend up with cigarettes, and we marched maybe a quarter mile with our hands cupped to keep our precious carcinogens from getting wet.

That's right, mother nature, not even YOU can save me from the wonderous delights of thick black tar in my lungs!

And now that we're done, I'm going to get cleaned up, take a nap and do a little laundry, become human again, and hopefully get drunk with some college girls. I think I've earned it. Time to cash in on my good karma. Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Space Baby Raised By Wolves

I hope more people think like this guy does. This is from the comments section from another soldier's blog, to a post that described an intense firefight in Mosul:

This was quite a story, my friend. I've never heard a story of war quite so vividly told by an involved party so close to the time of the battle. It's truly awe-inspiring to imagine what you faced, and the bravery with which you and your fellow soldiers faced it.

I know that what you are doing is important and necessary, and that someday history will look upon you and your fellows as heroes the likes of which some parts of America believed we could no longer produce. But I feel a pang when I read stories such as yours, as one who supported the war from the beginning, and still supports it today. It's the pang of responsibility for every risk you must take, every scene of violence you must witness, and every life you must end. And at this moment, that pang exceeds any sense of the value of the work you are doing in Iraq, protecting our nation by putting yourself in harm's way.

But more even than that pang, I feel a sense of admiration and gratitude toward you that I can't hope to express. Your courage and self-sacrifice is what keeps America safe, and allows all of us to enjoy the freedoms we so cherish. May you be safe under fire, and remain strong in your heart for as long as your strength is needed. And may America never forget the sacrifices you have made on her behalf.

Carbon Stained Fingers

I decided to be cool and change the colors of the page so that attempting to read my posts doesn't blind anyone, so hopefully now you won't have the after-image of my idiotext burned into your corneas.

Nothing necessarily humorous has happened today. We woke up (too) early to draw our weapons from the arms room in order to head to one of the ranges to qualify (again) with the wonderful M4A1 assault rifle of Holy Goodness. It seems I can never score higher than Marksman on these. I usually get the same score, in fact, I've only had a one-point variation so far.

This is really frustrating, because the first firing order I went through today, I am almost certain that I qualified for Sharpshooter status, maybe even narrowly missing Expert. Once the time came to hear our scores, we find that the computers were acting up. So all we got to know what whether we ranked as Not Qualified, Marksman, Sharpshooter, or Expert. I grimaced and prepared to hear the word "marksman", as my luck just rules like that.

HAHAAHHHAH, you could only be so lucky, kid.

I was informed that I didn't qualify, though I watched a lot of targets go down when I shot them. Riiiiiiiight. So I ended up having to fire again, and the second time around, the blame fell completely on me. While in the foxhole, I just shot like shit, missed shots I normally never do. I missed nine out of twenty I think. Once we moved to the prone unsupported position for the second half of the qualification, I kicked ass.

Marksman.

So once again, I meet the minimum standard. Sorry to anyone who came across this blog hoping to hear from some gung ho Rambo G.I. Joe badass. I don't plan on making anything up or sugarcoating anything, because I don't need to lie to myself. You're getting the cold, hard truth. I struggle with this profession. I endure, I survive, I moan and groan, I sweat, I hate, and I laugh. The day passes, and the next comes. All things considered, I enjoy it.

The rest of today will be spent cleaning weapons. I'm already done, because I'm the best soldier ever, and I am absolutely 100% squared away. Oh, and I look somewhat like the skinny dude from Road Trip and The New Guy, only I am infinitely more attractive, and females desire me above food, water, and oxygen.

Someday, I will dethrone Ben Stiller as the King of Awkward.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Fun Training

We got up early this morning to do some neat bit of training. For this morn, our happy little crew were to partake in a Humvee Rollover Into Water Simulation of Doom. Sound neat? Eh, it wasn't bad.

Now let me just say first and foremost, that this is going to be another story about how bad I suck and how awkward I am.

For this simulation, you must pass three phases. The first consists of wearing goggles that keep water from filling your nose. You're submerged into water and must SUCCESSFULLY remove your seatbelt and exit through your door. The second phase is the same, minus the goggles, which were pink, and very unflattering, but I'm sure they looked good on me. The third phase is what I call "The Motherfucker Phase". No other name says it. In this bastard of all bastard phases, you are BLINDFOLDED, and your door does not work, and you must escape through the passenger door.

Now most navigated this course with little trouble. But you know me, I can't allow myself to do anything without screwing it up in some way. The first attempt went off without a hitch for the most part. I forgot to take the seatbelt off, so I spent two seconds wondering why I couldnt get out of the open door. That was remedied after I found the buckling mechanism, which was on the opposite side of that which I was fumbling with. And then the seat belt caught me, but it was easily removed, and I ALMOST gracefully emerged from my deathtrap.

The next time around, I was more prepared and acquainted with my surroundings, though in this case, that didn't mean shit. The seat belt ended up clotheslining me, and there was much confusion, and then a hint of "Oh fuck, I don't think I like this whole not-breathing and not-escaping thing very much". I still didn't panic, though I was good and lost inside this evil training tool. However, I did move with a sense of purpose. Just a little. Had to redo that attempt, and I succeeded, after struggling with that fucking seatbelt again. I swear to god that bastard is out to get me.

On to the Motherfucker Phase. Here, we are blindfolded, and we aren't looking forward to this, but our mentality is one geared towards getting it done and "driving on" as the cliche has it. So now you're blind and half drowned. You're being coached on the subject, but its all just words to you. "Take a deep breath, count to 10 and stay calm" just before you're plunged into water, sure. Perhaps you've misinterpreted it, but either way, you dont plan to relax for 10 seconds under water. You adjust your kevlar helmet and fasten the seatbelt, blindfolded, because you are such a ninja. Now you're underwater. You unbuckle the seatbelt and you very deliberately move the entire seat belt and shoulder belt more than out of the way. You grab the handle of the first door and attempt to open it, but it isn't opening because your beloved platoon sergeant has blocked it. You knew this ahead of time, so it doesn't irk you much. Now you must find the other door. So find it. You should be feeling a handle by now. Where the hell is it? Is that it? No, that isnt. Where the fuck are you? Come on man, what are you doing? You still can't breathe. You've got adrenaline pouring through your system like the soup of survivalistic instinct that it is, ice cold and white hot at the same time. You are amplified and your thoughts take a back seat to action, and you are half spectating yourself. So why are you still inside the humvee? You can't last like this forever, its time man, get it done. Where is it? You better find it, FAST! You've been in here too long! You have to get out! Is that it? No! That? No! Your personal alarm clock is ringing and you know you've had enough, so you scramble to find your feet and stand with your head above the water to catch your breath, remove your blindfold, and make some smartass comment for a laugh to mask your anger towards yourself for failing again.

They explain to you that you ended up in the backseat, and you acknowledge that bitterly, knowing that backseats have doors too, dammit. You climb back into the seat and strap yourself in for one more attempt. You're underwater again now, and you've pushed that fucking seatbelt well out of your way, and you hope to never see the damn thing again, and now you're on to your next objective. No surprise your door doesn't work. So you make sure to stay under your seat and feel your way to the other door. But where is the handle? You are relatively sure that you're at the door, but where is the handle? You fumble around for too long, and finally find it, and slowly push the door open and swim through, as if through a cervix, leaving your umbilical seat belt noose behind. You rise out of the water, and another wisecrack emerges from your mouth.

"I am born again."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And So On

After battling internet problems for a week and a half, I can now give you a minor update, as not really anything is happening.

We've begun work on training that I think is actually necessary, for once. I don't know if I should go into detail about it. Not that it would hurt anything, but I'm sure someone could find a reason to crucify me for mentioning exactly what we're doing, so instead, I'll just be a super-secretive bastard of all bastards. I'm also considering uploading pictures from time to time, but again, we'll see.

CBFTW went through plenty of shit thanks to his chain of command over OPSEC etc, and that sounds like one headache that my underachieving ass doesn't necessarily want in the near future.

Two privates from my company were court martialed last week. Drugs. Now these guys get to spend a month locked up, then when they get out, they're being chaptered out of the army, and they have the rare priveledge of being able to go home and explain to their proud families why they're home a few years early. Its too bad. One of the guys was a dude that I flew in with on our way to Fort Benning to start this whole endeavor of ours, and he's a really cool guy. Some people can't stop to save their souls, I suppose. What are you gonna do though, right?

Our platoon is growing, and our training is picking up, so hopefully that can help to pass the time in this unfamiliar foggy, rainy state that sucks exactly as much as every other state, thus elevating it to a painful norm. Remember to wash behind your ears, and we'll see you next time.

Love,
Denzel Washington

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Stagnance

Things are completely normal here. Apparently there will be some refugees coming to live on part of this base.

We're just training as normal.

Nothing has changed.

We now have tentative dates for Christmas leave. I've been here almost three months now. Wow.

I'm considering just closing this blog down. No one really reads it. Now and then I get a comment or two. This is all just failed personal journalism. I could be wasting my time in other ways. I don't know.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kicked In The Balls

I have learned that it apparently IS NOT POSSIBLE to receive a temporary transfer from an active duty unit to a national guard unit. The rational part of me understands this, understands the paperwork, and all of the tedious horseshit I would have to go through for this transfer, that by the time I was finished with the processing, the worst of it would already be over, and CNN would have found a new boogeyman to keep us awake at night.

The only thing I can do is donate money. Fuck, better than nothing, right? We can't all be winners, but there's no point in doing nothing. I'm not a fan of the self-serving, fuck-all-else mindset. Call me old fashioned.

1-800-HELP NOW

That is the hotline for donations to the Red Cross, for any of you who aren't too concerned with the rising price of gas to throw a little bit of money to a decent cause.

What is money?

Money as in abstract concept created by complex carbon-based life forms to facilitate society by means of providing incentive for people to perform necessary trades and favors, as well as create a universal bartering system. It is an IDEA manifested in coin and green paper. This idea is embedded deeply enough into our hearts and integrated so well into our society, that it is held more dearly than another person walking down the street. Money helps to maintain the class system that whether or not you want to accept, is NECESSARY for a society to properly function. That's the grim and ugly of it. Communism doesn't seem to work too well, with the exception of third world countries. No, we CAN'T all be equal. There must be a bottom and a top.

Just like there can never be anarchy. There are natural leaders and natural followers. We will never exist in a completely autonomous state. We are societal creatures. The strength of the wolf is in the pack.

The strength of the man is in his wallet.

That's fine though, I'll choose weakness, if the above statement is true. I'll tighten my belt for two weeks, a month, two months, however long. I'll eat balogna for a week. I'll eat in the chow hall for a month.

Because THAT is all the power that I have to help. All I can do is throw my share of "incentive" in a direction that I feel should not REQUIRE incentive. Yes, resources require money. Why? Because big businesses apparently can't forget the concept of profit long enough to distribute necessities to those that direly need it.

I hope I'm wrong, and Albertson's and WalMart are currently handing out groceries and rafts and camping equipment, sleeping bags, gas lanterns, generators, and clean clothes to the victims.

But hey, what would I know? I'm just a babykilling private.

Helpless

Talked to my platoon sergeant. He says that the chain of command is fine with me going, but I still can't, because I only have 1.5 days of leave, and they don't want me to go in the hole. Staying on post for Christmas won't work apparently. God forbid something ever made sense.

Now if I were to go down south alone, I'd be putting myself in a pretty tight spot as well. Nowhere to stay, limited funds for food, etc etc etc. Well shucks. I'm of the opinion (call me irrational) that I shouldn't even have to CONSIDER spending leave to assist my people. Before I could even form the thought, we should be getting word that we're heading down there ASAP.

But that isn't how things work. Yes, I'm aware that we don't have the vehicles right now. I can accept that this unit is still not on its feet. Why can't we offer to loan men to units that ARE aiding? I didn't get a straight answer for that one, other than it just isn't going to happen.

Its fucking awesome that my platoon sergeant was willing to send this up the chain and see what he could do for me. Its fucked up that it just won't seem to happen. I don't fucking get it. People who are capable, have the resources, and are ABLE to help...don't seem to want to for the most part. Fucking beautiful.

So for now, it looks like I'll be staying here, doing NOTHING, like the rest of us. Great. Just the news.

Oh, by the way, the former star that played the youngest male of the Partridge Family has a new reality show about his alcoholism and his dysfunctional family.

I'm going to put in a fat dip, get shitty drunk after work, pay my bills and debts, send the rest of my paycheck to a charity or something, and go climb Mount Rainier.

Fuck you very much, American mindset.

Idle

As I come out of the shower, kicking my dirty sweaty uniform aside, and donning a freshly pressed and starched uniform, having returned from a 6 mile roadmarch (which is absolute priority), CNN brings me images of mobs of children chanting, "We want help!" from the hurricane and everything it fucked up.

Can we go now? Or is our four day weekend more important? Yes I know it would take time to prepare for this. So what? Start now. "All right boys, call your families, tell them you'll be going away for a little while to do your job, and you'll talk to them when you get back. Kiss your wife and kids, and then go save someone else's. We pay you so you can feed your families. Now take these MREs and help feed other families. Here's your packing list, we'll keep you all posted, be ready and waiting. Dismissed."

Dream on, right?

If anyone knows of a reputable charity group that's providing relief, let me know, and I'll funnel money in there without hesitation. If that's the LEAST I can do. My material desires can wait, dammit.

"We want help! We want help!"

I want to help.

I pray to God, Zeus, Allah, Wonderwoman, whoever is listening, to convince our leaders to send us down there to control looting, bring food, treat the injured, and show the humanitarian side of the military that thos little masses of wasted sperm in the music store back home claimed we cannot ever possess.

Give me the word. Fuck money. Fuck self-preservation and false sympathy. Fuck CNN, fuck everyone that gives money to them to prey on human suffering. Fuck anyone who doesn't give a shit. John Lennon would be singing an interesting tune right about now. Oh wait, we killed him, like we do with all the good people. Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Ghandi, Malcolm X, Lincoln. Need I go on? I digress.

I hope someone "important" stumbles upon this, and has the common decency to realize that we are ALL in this together, this strange and bizarre anomoly called "life", and that no one survives alone.

Sure, I didn't make a huge fuss over the tsunamis overseas. I will eagerly admit that I am not pperfect. But now I have to go to a VERY IMPORTANT LAND NAVIGATION class. Not that I've ever done land nav before, ever, and certainly enough times to make me want to puke blood.

DEPLOY US TO THE SOUTH NOW!!!