Friday, December 30, 2005

Home?

A year ago, I was sitting at this exact same computer desk, considering enlisting. The more intuitive of you can probably guess which choice I made. Now I'm on the last couple days of my leave. I was pretty excited to come home. After spending so much time at Lewis, I was good and ready to get the hell out for a couple weeks. Its kind of one of those "Grass is always greener" things.

The night before I left, I partied with a couple friends. Very good juju. Though it DID involve me being made fun of for drunkenly stumbling about on a Dance Dance Revolution machine in the mall, and doing somewhat well no less. My only defense was, "Dude, shut up. You watch Dawson's Creek....and LIKE it." The next day, I hopped on a train in Seattle, looking for a pretty young girl to sit with, and ended up meeting a guy who had just been medically discharged and had done two tours in Iraq. So we talked a lot, while some guy in the seat in front of us lied to his "Single Serving Friend" about being a former Marine. He talked about basic training and drill sergeants. Marines have boot camp and drill instructors. My veteran pal and I would listen and laugh quietly as we picked up on every discrepancy and blatant mistruth. Then I went down to the lower level of the train, and learned how to play Craps, thanks to an 18 year old kid who then invited me to "go blow a line" with him. I laughed and declined, because I'm smart like that. "Ok, I'll be right back," he said. God it was interesting. For anyone who cares, if you want drugs, take a train somewhere. I've never been offered so much or asked for so much paraphernalia. I should have brought rolling paper. I might have made some money selling zigzags.

The train ride was boring with a capital terrible, and sixteen hours later, I was at the town I was born in. I stepped off of the train, and one of my little brothers promptly saluted me, which was the last thing I wanted to see. And then I went home and lived boredly ever after up until now.

I actually had a conversation with my brother in law, who is an MP in the Air Force. We were talking about what it's like to come home on leave. He asked if I was being treated like I was still in high school. I had to laugh. Empty Nest Syndrome tends to creep up on the parental units. On to the negative side, the first few days were really bizarre for me. I couldn't think of anything but military things to talk about. Other than that, I had nothing to say, and nothing to relate to. Not a whole lot has changed in that department, but I'm starting to get used to it, which is perfect, being that I'm going back now. I definitely felt very different, and actually foreign.

"You can't go home again."

You come back home, and most things haven't changed at all. The things that DID change almost always bother you. And if you don't have a car when you're on leave, god help you. I lucked out. Plus, there isn't a lot of relaxing involved. Instead, its your duty to run around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to balance seeing all your friends, etc and your family. There seriously isn't enough time.

I was actually uncomfortable coming back, at first, but now I don't really think about it. I figure its best to just turn your brain off and mellow out and behave like a deadbeat high school graduate. I still don't know if I'm looking forward to going back or not. I haven't really thought about it. It'll be nice. I'll complain a bit in the morning when we're getting ready for PT, but all things considered, all should be good. I got a text message from my team leader saying that our first day back will be a long one. No idea what that means, and I don't care right now.

My attempts to describe leave are failing, and my head is scrambled with fatigue. Leave is odd, it kicks ass, and it sucks. Its like everything else in life: pluses and minuses. The word 'duality' applies here, doesn't it?

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, you can always find something to bitch about. Vent it. Maybe someday, someone will read one of my better posts and be inspired to rant and rave about whatever their heart desires. That would be cool. And if someone could email me and offer a suggestion as to why hotdogs are sold in packages of 10 and buns in packages of 8, that'd be awesome.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Short Timer...Sort Of

We formed up at 0600 in what I was told was 22 degree weather. Scheduled was a squadron level run. We waited in formation for a good minute, naturally, and frost collected on everyone's black PT beanies. Eventually, we moved to the area where we would meet the other troops (companies). We waited for the Lieutenant Colonel and Command Sergeant Major to give their speech. Are they gonna zonk us?

"Zonk" v. (zONk)
A sudden and unexpected command rarely given during first formation before PT that signals everyone to disappear before the officer or NCO giving the order can count down to 10.

Speakers and music were set up, and Ozzy's "Crazy Train" was rocking. We began to worry. From within my troop, I heard a Sergeant First Class tell those around him, "Feel the zonk, be the zonk, know the zonk. If you will it, it will come."

We willed the zonk. Hard.

The Sergeant Major gave his speech, told us we'd be going home to friends, old enemies, girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, which I applauded with a heartfelt "Hooah". It remained delightfully anonymous aside from the immediate individuals around me, and I felt super special.

"Dude, this is it. He's gonna zonk us..."

The Sergeant Major then turned the squadron over to the LTC.

"Fuck..."

He gave his speech as well, telling us to have fun, be safe, and not to go back to any old ways that would show up on a urinalysis. He talked about a few things we'd have coming up once we came back from leave. He complimented some of the things we'd been doing. He made mention of some changes that would be made thanks to the gripe session he held with us.

"All right, he's done, he's bringing the zonk, I feel it..."

He calls us to attention, and we unleash a sonic boom that is our squadron motto. My muscles tense up and I prepare to sprint up the hill and into the woods, where I can bee-line back to the barracks and catch a nap. Everyone's quiet, straining to hear it. Our First Sergeants turn to face us.

"Riiiiiight.....FACE!"

"FUCK!!!"

"Oh my god dude..."

"What the shit? Its like 16 degrees out here!"

An E5 ("Buck" Sergeant) looks at the person who made the last comment. "Shut up. Wait til you go to Alaska." He points to his PT cap. "This'll be a damn ice block. Negative 50 degrees, once that cold air hits your skin..."

And so we went on a little four mile run, and after the first mile, my face stopped hurting and my lips were able to form all syllables once again. We called cadences about jumping out of planes, and loving to run, and mowing down "Hajjis", and begging someone not to close the liquor store, and an old lady that's an airborne instructor and a Ranger Indoctrinate or whatever the hell RI stands for. The air is too damn thin this time of year. I'm not a fan.

I'm heading home tomorrow for leave, and its going to be even colder. So I probably won't even do PT. At most, I'll lift weights on the air force base, and be cooler than them, because that's what I'm about. I can pretend to be a total badass. Hell, I might as well walk around in Class A's, showing off my blue cord to everyone that doesn't care.

Realistically, I'll be wearing my army issue polypro thermal underwear (the stuff that puts Long Johns to shame, remember?) under jeans, a T-shirt and a hoodie, with a hat to hide my high and tight. The hat will be vital if I happen to go to Canada to do a little drinking, which is highly unlikely, but I've heard they aren't extremely fond of us. Aside from that, I'm all about Cartoon Network, a jar of peanut butter and a spoon, driving on the snow at 3 AM, wasting an entire night in a 24 hour diner with a friend, and being completely worthless, consuming large amounts of food and converting oxygen into carbon dioxide.

But for now, I need to get dressed, eat some toxic chow hall grub, and then stand in formation and pretend to care about whatever menial things we're doing until our early release, and likely extended safety brief, which is always the same.

Dont do drugs.

Wear a rubber.

Dont go swimming in the winter, and dress warm.

Get tire chains.

Dont beat up your wife, kids, girlfriend, boyfriend (pause for laughter), or battle buddy.

Police each other up.

Let the damn CO and 1st Sgt have a weekend (in this case, vacation) without getting a phone call.

Dont be stealing no damn cigarettes from no damn PX.

Dont do stupid shit. Dont do it men. I be jumping on yo ass like a frog on a damn hot plate. I'ma drop the hammer. You see that tall-ass tree over there? That's where I live. I'll swing on down and bust y'all up. Don't do no damn stupid shit. Platoon sergeants, take charge, get they asses outta here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Classes

We spent all day in classes once again. Same old story we've ever heard. Don't kill yourself. Don't drive drunk. Don't drive stupid, especially in bad weather conditions. But there was one class that left an impact on all of us.

The STD class.

Sure, we've all learned all kinds of crap about STDs and how they are totally terrifying, and definitely not cool, in any size, shape, or form. So you'd think it would be old news. Think again, cowboy. They had pictures. Projected on the huge screen behind the podium were horrors that no human being should ever have to see, ever. This is the only notes I took.

"My libido has been slaughtered in a manner very similar to the way Russell Crowe eviscerated his enemies in the film 'Gladiator'."

It was disturbing. I suppose the class had its desired effect. Once again, the army has excelled at creating an intense phobia of women for me. I'll probably be ok though, I'll just sign myself up for therapy or something. I don't think this is enough to constitute as PTSD though, which is a good sign. To borrow from James Bond, I'm "Shaken, not stirred."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sigh of Relief

Understatement: It feels nice to be finished with a long roadmarch.

Throbbing feet, knees, and ankles are basically a harsh echo of the march. Shrieking shoulders and back, and face peppered with flaky white electrolyte sweat residue are the trophies of another "gut check", or test of fortitude. Most people aren't doing things like this, and that's actually a comforting thought.

Now and then, when no one "in charge" was around, I'd take my helmet off for a minute to let my head cool down. When I'd put it back on, the sweat inside it was ice cold and felt wonderful. During the first or second mile, the end nozzle of my CamelBak (basically a little backpack-like contraption with a rubber bladder and a hose, intended to be filled with water and used for hydration purposes) popped off and fell to the ground, spraying water out of the open end. So there I am, struggling to find and close the valve on the tube while it squirted water and I squirted obscenities. I looked behind me at the ground wherever the nozzle had landed, and new that I could easily retrieve it, but it was sort of a Harold and Kumar moment, when one of them realized he left his cell phone in his dorm room twenty feet down the hall.

"Forget it, we've gone too far."

I walked/ran the whole march with a friend of mine. We BSed about pretty much anything and everything. I harassed him about how he needs to grow some melons and sweep a particular girl off of her feet, and also about the book he intends to read, which I guarantee will be good. The subject matter is priceless, and the insight he has on it is so funny and so true, it should be a sin. Too bad I'm not going to tell you what its about. Its that good. We also came up with a great title, but you also don't get to hear about that. So you'll have to do what I do, and wait. The people you meet in the army, I swear...

There are also plenty of times where you don't talk at all during marches. Instead, you just let your mind wander, to whatever strange place it drifts to. I personally didn't care at all for this march as we were getting ready for it. Thing is, while you're actually doing it, its not too terribly long before you just say, "The hell with it," and start busting your hump. It seems easier when you just let yourself get pissed off at the march itself. I find myself aggravated, and as a result, walking at a pretty hard pace. It was a 12 mile march (alllegedly. Those last two miles are pretty long), which is the Expert Infantry Badge distance. I shaved a lot of time off of my previous record time. In fact, this time I almost "accidentally" made it within the EIB standard. So next time we do one of these, if I just happen to get a wild hair up my ass, I should be able to break the three hour mark.

A hot bath would be awesome right about now. Not to mention a skilled back massage. Cocoa Pebbles, Cartoon Network. Heh, I'm not even in the mood for a beer. Gimme a warm bed and a soft pillow.

Instead, I gotta take a quick shower, throw on a clean set of BDUs, choke down a PowerBar, and go to some class or something. Not even sure what its about, but I think its a holiday safety briefing, or something cute like that. Whatever, works for me. Each minute, I get closer to taking leave, so bring it.

It would be nice to use a wheelchair for the day. I'm being a big baby.

My Spirit Is Dry Heaving

Morning everyone! Been up since 0200, O-Dark-thirty in curmudgeon time. About to go on a 12 mile roadmarch in the cold. My sweat is going to freeze to my body, and I'm going to be fussier than any infant with the worst case of diaper rash. Its going to be awesome.

Right now, I'm wishing I had bought one of those damnable iPods to sneak along with me, because music would help a LOT. Instead, all I'll have is my mental music player, and all the random abstract thoughts that flow like molasses when you do things like roadmarch. At one point, I thought I had testicles, but I think they're trying to become ovaries, what with the cold and the anxiety about this wonderful endeavor we're about to undertake. I'm way too chipper at this hour.

Whenever I quasi-recover, I'll endow my beloved readers with a healthy slice of pseudo-comedic self pity, and all shall be great and wonderful in the world of The Enlisted New Guy. Atleast I'm not stationed in Alaska or Fort Drum, NY.

Happy trails, see you neat fellers on the other side. =)

Oh, and also, Git R Dun.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Assaulting The Bunker

We've been spending ungodly amounts of time in the field this week. The weather itself wasn't very sympathetic to our presence, but atleast it didn't rain or snow. Though I will attest that out in the boonies, there's still snow in Washington. Take my word for it. Now that its over (for today), I don't care at all about the cold. Its over, so its suddenly not so bad.

Our purpose out there was to do a squad sized assault on a a couple bunkers that have obstacles in our way. Thing is, this type of thing really doesn't impress as much as the old me would have thought. However, if anyone is going to take time out of their day to read this, then I'm going to take the time to atleast try to make it somewhat interesting, but forgive me when I don't marinade it in Hollywood sauce.

Mind you, we ran over this exercise many times, and it takes it out of you a little, but not terribly bad. I won't bore you with the mundane details, even though that's what most of the army is. Here's your badass, gung ho version, which is my scattered recollection of our final live fire run through the exercise.

We began out in the sticks, moving as quietly as we can through the thick woods, which basically means we might as well have had a mosh pit amidst us. I was somewhat nervous, but the thing is that most of the nervousness you may have takes a back seat once you actually start doing whatever it is you're doing. You've got officers watching you, observing, and looking for every wrong move to scrutinize, plus you've got live ammo, and you're a freshfaced moron with no real experience, and you're not John Rambo or G.I. Joe, but instead you're The New Guy (yes I'm referring to the movie again).

Now, this won't be the most informative narrative, because I want to make sure I'm not selling out our battle tactics or anything, but here's more or less what I can give you and still not have to worry that I'm not pissing off the OPSEC monster. So instead you'll get my personal experience, without the who what when where why and how.

We were walking through the woods, bushes thwacking against me from the guy ahead of me pushing through them. Our breath comes out in fog, and I can hear my own breath more clearly because of the foam earplugs I had in. I also had my goggles, I guess you'd call them, on, because usually we're required to wear eye protection. They were cutting off my peripheral vision and slightly dimmed everything. With the muffled sounds and the constricted line of sight, I felt extremely disconnected from everything, and I'd need to be as aware as I could, especially with live rounds, so I lifted the goggles off my eyes and let them rest on my helmet, which probably made them look like a second set of eyes.

My team leader stopped and signaled for us to get down, so naturally I did, and began watching my sector while we waited. After a short time, the ripping sounds of the 240Bravo machine guns broke the silence and we got up and started pushing through the woods again. Stepping over logs and all the foliage of this wet state, and finally pushing through the last of the brush, we came onto a muddy road, which we hauled ass down. At this point, my own breathing is pretty loud with the volume of the rest of the world turned down. I was doing everything I could to keep from flagging anyone with my rifle as I sprinted, which isn't a strong suit of mine, even as skinny as I am. We came to a burm and I found a place on it next to our SAW gunner, and we started shooting.

Across from us was a constantina wire fence, beyond that, two mock machine gun emplacements set up with the comical looking army targets. Beyond them was a downward slope, so nothing else was in view. We pounded rounds into the targets, and very soon, the only smell I knew was that of carbon. Expended shells from the guy next to me tapped off of my helmet. I have to shoot left handed because my left eye is dominant over my right eye, so with one eye, I'm looking through my optical sight, while the other one catches glimpses of my own shells flying past my face. To my right, the SAW is munching up rounds and spitting them out. As we light the machine gun nests up, we can see red tracers zipping through the air from the 240Bravos, whose location I never learned of until we had to pick up all the shell casings.

Two guys from the other team bounded towards the fence as we stopped firing. They hit the deck and went to work cutting a hole in the fence for us to pour in through. I can see them laying in the mud, working, while the 240s kept firing. The tracers are still doing their UFO streak through the air, and I wonder how close its firing to them. They finally get a hole made in the fence, and their team moves up, pouring through the hole while the 240s are still shooting. It looked like it was cut close when they finally did stop shooting. The first team ran to the end of the hill and hit the deck.

We waited for the command for us to haul ass through the hole. None, so we remained there, laying on the burm. The 240 gunners stormed through the hole next and took up another position. This had never happened in the practice runs. They'd forgotten about us. The other team leader finally shouted for us, so we eagerly popped up and sprinted. The constantina wire and its hole kept growing as I got closer, and I began to wonder in the back of my mind if I was going to make it through without getting snagged. I did, and continued to sprint to an open spot on the hilltop, at which spot I dropped to the ground and began firing at one of the bunkers. I ran out of ammo after a couple shots, so I screamed, "Mag change" and yanked a fresh magazine out of my ammo pouch and stuffed the old one back in there. I slammed the new mag in and slapped the left side of my rifle to release the bolt catch, so a new round would be ready for me to fire. It was ready, and with the squeeze of a trigger, I sent it soaring at ungodly speeds to the bunker, where it probably drove itself into a sandbag and stopped. I'm sure it wasn't lonely though, because I sent a good deal of companions with it, and I so did everyone else, and the SAW gunner brought even more to the party.

The air was filled with puffs of foggy breath and clouds spewing out of our rifles when we were given the order to pick up and move. We leapt to our feet and started racing down the edge of the hill. I was absolutely positive I was going to slip on one of the icy snow patches, or screw my ankle up in a small indentation in the ground or something. Downhill sprinting with a loaded weapon? I vaguely remember my hunter's safety classes way back when. I think they frown on this kind of thing. This was the sprint that our SAW gunner ate shit on during the last practice run. By some miracle, I made it down just fine and thumped my pathetically thin form onto another burm. We cleared the bunker with a grenade, which was actually a training explosive designed to simulate artillery. It even whistles in that decrescendo before the loud BOOM! Once that was clear, once again we were running, and then we were on the ground again, taking cover, and the other team was already taking out the second bunker. And then we were running again, and then we were on the ground again, lots of shouting, people doing their individual jobs to tie the mission up, and then we were off again. Not a bad run.

Now here's an interesting sidestory. During the last practice before the final run, things went horribly wrong just because our CO felt it should. Our squad leader was killed by indirect fire (mortars or artillery, whichever). There was then confusion as to which team leader would step up. We had managed to clear both bunkers, but things were degrading fast. We waited for the right orders to get the area finished up so we could move out, but they never came. Atleast not fast enough. The CO threw another artillery simulator. At this point, two people were already struggling to get our squad leader off of the field, and he is a BIG dude. The rest of us picked up and began to move out. One team leader pointed to me and ordered me to be the flank/rear security as we pulled out. So there I am, covering a very wide sector of fire with what must have been a priceless facial expression denoting confusion, anger, and an overall sense that we were doomed. I took a knee when they stopped, as they were struggling with the big dude. I'm scanning the area and fearing to think what the CO and First Sergeant are thinking as they watch this pitiful spectacle. It was right about that time that I noticed the CO look directly at me, and pull out another artillery simulator. He tosses it near our general area, and in order to play fair, I wait until it starts whistling, then I scream "INCOMING!!!" I sprint a few steps and hit the dirt, facing away from the explosion, praying that the slight dropoff from the grass to the road is enough to save my ass. BOOM!!!

The First Sergeant walks up to me as I prepare to jump back up. "Don't move, don't say nothin. You DEAD, private," he says with a grin, a heroic amount of chew in his lip. So I did as instructed, unslung my rifle, and went completely limp. I layed there for maybe fifteen seconds of confusion, when finally someone comes running back for me.

"Hey! What's your status? You all right?" He rolls me over. I say nothing and stare at the clouds, thinking about how cold we're going to be once the excess heat leaves us and only the sweat remains.

"Hey!!! Can you hear me?"

"What's wrong with him? What's his status?"

"He's dead!"

"FUCK!!!!"

"AID AND LITTER!!! GET YOUR FUCKIN ASSES BACK DOWN HERE!!! NO, THE FIRST TEAM!!!"

Two or three guys come running down, one takes my rifle, and the other two hastily try to decide how to carry me. I'm not cooperating either. I'm a wet noodle. Completely limp. One guy stands me up and the other gets me in a fireman's carry. Still I do nothing to assist, and don't use a single muscle. I'm slowly sliding down his back, and his elbow hits me in the helmet with every movement of his arm as he runs. My head is bouncing up and down, but I still didn't move. In the back of my mind, I was kind of hoping that I'd slide right off the back of him, because that would be pretty funny, but we got to our rally point before that happened.

During the After Action Report, we were told that we executed the mission first, and this was done to remind us that sometimes, things go bad, quick. Big inspirational speech, and then we walked back to go choke down some disgusting MREs.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

David Spade Must Retort


Hey there, Jen-Love. Goin' after the nerdiest of army guys now, are we? Wow, seems someone has hit rock bottom.

When's the last time you had a career? Just curious. Have fun with your newest enlisted infatuation. I'll be waiting in the car.

A Dose of Truth


Hi! I'm Jennifer Love Hewitt, and I totally WANT The Unlikely Soldier, but seems he is too busy to email me back. What do I do? I've never faces such rejection and I can't get him out of my thoughts!

Any advice? I'm sure he wants me, deep down! I'll make him see!