Saturday, December 30, 2006
THE USUAL SUSPECT'S STRATEGY FOR SURVIVAL WHEN HE COMPLETELY LOSES HIS SHIT AND GOES BATTY!
Ladies and gentlemen, people have all sorts of different coping mechanisms, some more healthy than others, but here's one that I'd prefer to cling to. You see, in the event that I temporarily "lose my mind" (grown-ups call it 'being stressed out'), I will lock myself in my living quarters, whatever they may be, and watch episode after episode after episode of [Scrubs] until the waves subside.
And on that note...Jenni...I kinda stole Season 2 from you before I got on the plane. That will be all.
Got a digital camera now. Maybe I'll share a few pictures now and then. Not sure why I still bother with anonymity, I'm sure the Pentagon already knows who I am. But the less attention, the better. They executed Saddam while I layed on my bed and slept through Rocky. Now I just need to keep busy in my little oblivion until everyone comes back and the tempo picks up.
Before leave, we had the field training exercise that everyone here knows about. Julie Anna wrote about it a little. On my end, for the most part it wasn't too interesting. I'm not going to really touch on what exactly we were doing as far as missions go, seeing as I'm still being as adamant as I can about not giving away any more information than is already thrown out there with all the care of a flicked cigarette butt in a haystack.
Several elements make up a day in actual soldiering, as far as our part goes. Details, waiting/eating, preparing, waiting, rolling out, waiting/anticipating/searching/whatever, and actual contact, well that's a variable. As far as I'm concerned, you get your game face on and go out and do whatever the mission is, and take it from there. No sense complicating it.
More thoughts/stories/rants/babblings as they come.
Monday, November 27, 2006
I'm in combat life saver course again. You know, where medics teach you how to try to save your buddies when they get fucked up. We got to see all sorts of graphic pictures of soldiers and Iraqis that were in pretty bad shape, to say the least. Those types of pictures don't really bother me at all (and yeah, they were pretty damn bad), but I wouldn't want to see any of our guys looking like that.
I call that stating the obvious.
I wonder if any combat medics blog? Those guys have some stories. They see a lot of shit. Kinda glad I'm not one of them. But for some reason I always enjoy being in that class. I don't find it hard to pay attention. And thankfully its dumbed down, Army style.
Oh, and get a load of this. In the class, they give us "book answers" (the answers for the test) and "real answers" (the answers for when shit hits the fan and those bullshit book techniques aren't feasible. I don't feel too "Army Strong" about that, but whatever.
Monday, November 20, 2006
With that said, I'm taking a break from this site. When I started, I was all about getting my experience out there for the world to see, but I just don't feel the same way about it these days. I work and then I relax. Storytelling isn't so interesting now. Maybe later.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
That aside, I also get yelled at a lot because driving a stryker is a lot different from driving a car. No big deal really, I can handled being yelled at no problem. The worse part about it was the sinking feeling along with my own inner dialogue saying, "God...I should NOT be in this position. Someone else should be doing this, I'm not cut out for it."
I went to bed last night and had probably ten different dreams about driving. This probably has something to do with dreams being essential to learning. Who knows.
Anyway, to wrap up this flavorless post, today was probably one of the funnest days I've had in quite a while. I'll explain why after a few notes.
Basically, we had to go back out to the mortar range to clean up all the trash, etc that comes along with doing a live-fire. In the army, this is called "policing it up". So we drove out to the aforementioned range, and driving wasn't nearly as bad this time around, so there may be hope for me yet. When we arrived, we find that another company is doing a live fire, and we have to drive back to get our body armor and helmets.
So we turn around, and head back to the barracks, grab our gear, and start heading back, when blocking an intersection are two humvees stuck together. Apparently one was towing the other, and they slid on a turn, and jack-knifed. They were somehow stuck, and our other stryker had to tow them far enough to pull them free. It was a great, happy, We Made A Difference moment.
Cleaning up the range was pretty simple, but uneventful. Its the kind of thing no one ever really talks about; the boring tedious things we do everyday that might make some think twice before enlisting. But who wants to read about that?
On our way back, we took a detour and went mudding with our strykers. It had rained the previous day, so there were some huge pools of water in this open area. I'd wait for the lead vehicle to get some distance ahead of me, then I'd gun it. Water shot in all directions, we were like a big green mechanical Moses, just parting the seas. Brown muddy water spraying up over the sides, soaking the two guys standing in the hatches. From all angles, it came pouring into my driver's "Hell Hole". It was hitting me in the face, in my mouth, spraying down my clothes and the goretex jacket I had behind my seat.
We'd get through one lake of water, then angle towards another, and I'd pin the accelerator to the floor with a vengeance. The vehicle would pick up speed and then WHOOOOOOOOOSHH, once again we're flinging the filth everywhere.
We changed our uniforms when we got back.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
It does state that he visited the aforementioned establishment, and did make a contribution, but that the story itself was tainted to shift blame to actors like Madonna and Sean Penn.
All this goes to show is one thing...YOU CANNOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ. God I love disinformation. If I wanted, I could make up a whole bunch of shit about how the army brainwashes us. I could make us out to be stormtroopers. Or I could spout off all sorts of Holy War, God is on our side, we are right and they are wrong bullshit.
The truth is, everything is one huge complicated web of miscommunication and the endless chain reactions that result from it. Welcome to the truth, life is just semi-organized chaos.
So just like the article I was sent from Chet Zar (awesome artist by the way), who got it from another website, use your own discretion and judgment when reading not only what I post, but EVERYTHING in general.
You know how you can BE THERE and witness something, and when someone you know retells the story, its not quite the same? Some things are omitted, some are exaggerated, and some are outright fabricated? Well the media is even better at doing that. Its their bread and butter. So once again, think for yourself, don't swallow the bait all the time. Disinformation is an excellent tool for manipulation.
Germany come to be hospitalized in the United
States, especially burn victims. There are some
buildings there called Fisher Houses. The Fisher
House is a Hotel where soldiers' families can stay,
for little or no charge, while their soldier is staying
in the Hospital. BAMC has quite a few of these houses
on base, but as you can imagine, they are almost filled
most of the time.
While Denzel Washington was visiting BAMC, they gave
him a tour of one of the Fisher Houses. He asked how
much one of them would cost to build. He took his check
book out and wrote a check for the full amount right there
on the spot. The soldiers overseas were amazed to hear
this story and want to get the word out to the American
public, because it warmed their hearts to hear it.
The question I have is why does:
Alec Baldwin, ? ?
Sean Penn ? ?and
other Hollywood types ?
make front page news with their anti-everything
America trash and Denzel Washington's Patriotism
doesn't even make page 3 in the Metro section of
any newspaper except the Local newspaper in San
There are pictures, but I'm sure a simple google search could lead you to some obscure article about this. Normally, I don't care much for chainmail, but this is pretty awesome, so there you are.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
We still aren't doing anything that I'd consider interesting. We finished the Stryker Net training, and now we're slowly chipping away at more mortar certification. Gun drills and exams. More crap that we won't use in Iraq. And honestly, that we hopefully won't use anywhere else, because hopefully we won't go anywhere else.
I no longer have the idealist illusions about more soldiers being needed, etc. The idealist illusions that caused me to enlist. My presence here is an anonymous blip. All I do is show up, jump through hoops, and collect a paycheck while leaving my original life on hold.
No one likes to listen to someone else bitch, but believe me, this isn't me bitching. I could write a book if I wanted to full of complaints, but so could any of you. Like I'm always saying (to myself mostly), this is how it is, go from here.
I hate politics, so I won't use my very limited knowledge of how the world works to spout off about whatever party its currently trendy to dislike. I don't pay any attention to the news, its just people twisting words and events to further their own careers. The commercials advertise products I'm supposed to buy while the news advertises things I'm supposed to believe, and opinions I'm supposed to have. So there's something I won't be writing about.
Tell you what, I'll summarize what the deal is right now. Just like the title says, I'm just another fish out of water, doing my time. One of the guys in my unit reenlisted for six years today. You'll never see me do that. A handful of guys have gone AWOL since I've been here. You won't see me doing that either. Instead, you'll see me taking the bad with the good and sucking it up for a few more years. As for now, everything is pretty stagnant, and I just can't seem to bring myself to care about the busywork they're handing us. We are very VERY unlikely to be using mortars in the desert.
But, as always, I'll post later. I'm so unmotivated that even this writing is shitty. Thank god I'm not looking for a book deal huh?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The following is a bulletin reposted by an artist I admire a lot, Mr. Chet Zar. Though the original author of the bulletin is obviously of left wing alignment, ignore that. In my limited knowledge of the world, I've gained the sneaking suspicion that political parties just fuck things up more than they already are. That is why I invite you to read something I found intriguing, and form YOUR OWN OPINION rather than jumping on your own favored bandwagon (a woman who called me brainwashed before I offered a single opinion during a train ride home almost a year ago comes to mind). So come on, think outside the TV shaped box now and then. I'd like some input on this. Whether I hate it or love it is unknown to you, and also irrelevant. Agree or disagree, here it is.
MoveOn's Plan to Win Congress, One Vote at a Time
An Opportunity for Change
Our country is headed in the wrong direction, but this fall is the best opportunity we've had in several years to turn it around.
It's a dark time. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer; the deficit is through the roof; the climate is warming but our energy policy has been written by oil companies; our basic democratic traditions, from the 4th amendment to the separation of powers, are under attack; we're spending billions each month on an occupation that's killed thousands without making us any safer.
Our body politic has been wounded, and as long as right-wing Republicans control all three branches of government, we can't even stop the bleeding. MoveOn members have voted to pursue clean energy, universal health care and democracy restored as our core positive agenda. But this kind of progress is difficult to imagine as long as Republicans maintain their lock on power in DC.
That's why our goal is to win control of Congress, so we can begin moving forward on the issues that matter.
The Outlook for November
That won't happen overnight. But this fall, we have a chance to take a big step forward, to win a bunch of seats or even take the House entirely.
Why are we so optimistic?
Public frustration with the mess in Washington rose this winter to historic levels, and has been largely stable since then. The Republican Party is split over civil liberties and immigration. Polls show disapproval with Congress is higher than it's been since 1994, when Republicans first swept to power. The number of competitive congressional races has jumped in the last year, and Democrats' advantage in Congressional polls is as great as the lead Republicans enjoyed in 1994.
In this context, it's possible to imagine a tipping point election where Democrats sweep into power, just as Republicans did 12 years ago. In fact, experts say it's increasingly likely.
(Of course, simply electing Democrats won't solve our nation's problems, but once we've helped get Democrats into office, we'll push hard to make sure they live up to their promises and fight for progressive causes.)
Voter Turnout Is the Key
It can happen. Whether it will depends in part on what we do.
This election will be all about turnout. Congressional elections generally have much lower turnout than presidential elections, and pollsters expect this fall to have even lower turnout than usual. In this context, the winner will be the side that turns out its base.
Getting people to vote can be as simple as getting in touch with them, reminding them what's at stake in the election, and making sure they know where to vote. But to do this, you need people. Person-to-person contact by energetic volunteers is far better than direct mail, computer-generated "robo-calls" or TV ads.
The good news is, we have people—3 million motivated MoveOn members from coast to coast. If we can tap into this enormous well of potential energy, we can get enough voters to the polls to help defeat the Republicans.
Our plan is to organize the largest grassroots phonebank in nation through Operation Democracy, MoveOn's network of local volunteer leaders. Between now and Election Day, MoveOn members from New York to New Iberia will make over 5 million phone calls into 30 highly competitive congressional districts plus selected Senate races . We'll use cutting-edge technology to connect volunteers with progressive voters who might not otherwise vote. We'll talk to enough people to change the outcome in some of these very tight races.
At the beginning of the program, we're going to use a new technique to increase the efficiency of our calls. We'll call voters in target districts and ask them a few questions. Based on their answers—and some high powered statistics—we'll be able to tell who is likely to be progressive and who isn't.
In October, MoveOn volunteers will call millions of these targeted progressive voters to talk about the importance of the upcoming election. Then, in the 4 days before the election, we'll go back to these voters to remind them about the election and make sure they know where to vote. And finally, on Election Day, we'll make sure they get to the polls.
And the best part is, this works. We tested this method in the April special election in California's 50th district. The result: our calls had a greater impact, per voter, than any volunteer phonebank ever measured! And we'll continue to use experimentation and technology to increase our effectiveness.
The key is to make lots of calls. We'll need 50,000 MoveOn members, making over 5 million calls from home, from phone parties, and from MoveOn offices. If we can do this, we'll make contact repeatedly with over 20,000 voters in each of our 30 target districts.
We can't get that many people involved by email alone. That's why we're deploying 100 skilled field organizers around the country. They'll help volunteer leaders in their area recruit MoveOn members to join in as Phone Volunteers, and then support those Phone Volunteers throughout the campaign.
Our efforts alone would be enough to swing a number of close races to Democrats. But fortunately, we're not alone—some of our most important allies are also working hard to make sure progressives vote (and, where possible, we'll be coordinating our work). On November 7th, these efforts will help Democrats win a bunch of seats--or even take the House entirely.
But this doesn't end in November. That's why, even as we get voters to the polls this fall, we'll be building for the long term. By the end of the campaign, we'll have a vibrant progressive infrastructure in cities from coast to coast that can focus on holding the new Congress accountable, electing more progressives, and winning change from the ground up.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
And, as the more intuitive of you may have guessed, my morale has been pretty low these days. I went home for the weekend of my 21st birthday, and it was awesome to say the least. I'm just going to leave it at an understatement, and hopefully you can connect a really really great time with this notion here. Just to make sure we understand each other though, it was a weekend for the history books. And no, I didn't throw up.
Getting on the plane to come back would have been nearly impossible if I would have allowed myself to think about it. Being record-breakingly hung over probably helped too. For now, I'm here. I'm in the army. I got myself here, I'll deal with it. Same rant you've heard over and over again.
I'll reward you all with better, more interesting, nay, CAPTIVATING writing later on, when my muse has returned, and is in the office on the same day that something interesting actually happens.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
DO NOT BOTHER TRYING TO MEET GIRLS OFF OF MYSPACE.
"Oh come on dude, why not?"
Why not, oh well pull up a chair, princess, and I'll tell you why not. You see, MySpace is the score upon which Satan writes his requiems of treachery. Nothing good can come from meeting a girl off of myspace, sorry. The truth is one bitter, broken glass shard pill that may be hard to swallow for some of you young hopefuls. But do yourself a favor and listen to the wise sage that is me. DON'T DO IT. Treat this with more importance than the safety briefings you disregard every Friday before close of business formation.
"Dude....I asked why not. Either answer or leave me alone."
All right spanky, listen up. Its a well known FACT that its not smart to mess with army wives. Its an even MORE well known fact that it isn't smart to mess with army wives whose husbands are DEPLOYED. Now, some, not all, but some army wives (or girlfriends even) are less than trustworthy. And MySpace, ladies and gentlemen, as you well know, is a perfect breeding ground for ALLLLLL sorts of scandalous activity. Hey, if guys weren't getting shot over this, I wouldn't care.
TWO married, YOUNG girls just left our barracks. They were hanging around here with some guys I know. After they left, one dude told me they were both married, which is why he kept his distance. Congratulations, guy, you aren't a moron.
But all ranting aside, let me just reiterate my point. DO NOT MESS WITH OTHER SOLDIERS' WOMEN, THIS IS NOT DIFFICULT TO GRASP. Save everyone some trouble and keep that Days of Our Lives bullshit ON THE TV where it belongs.
That, and any girl who will meet you off of myspace, will ALSO meet almost any other guy. Sorry dude, but this isn't a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie. Use your head.
"Then why the hell do you have a MySpace account for your stupid-ass blog?!"
Shut up. No myspace girls/wives. No! Bad!
If by now I haven't made myself clear, well then you deserve to be shot (minorly wounded of course). Go look for girls in bookstores or something. Anywhere in the REAL world. Stop sucking so bad. The Divine Sage is going to bed. If you have any questions, don't look for girls on MySpace. Problem solved.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
"Well how do you plan on doing that, oh ruthless one?"
Simple. I walked to a friend's room and knocked until HE answered. Keyword here is HE. I then addressed him.
"Jessica, hi, listen, I'm going to need you to go ahead and grab those neat little keys of yours and hop into your beloved car and drive me to some place that sells DVDs. Now, seeing as you're currently eating pizza, I won't even have to feel obligated to buy you dinner or anything, which really makes my own selfish ends that much more wonderful. So whenever you're ready, knock on my door, princess, and I'll leave you some gas money."
We went to the main PX, where some musical pop-pseudo-divas that I've never heard of were supposedly autographing CDs while remaining an otherwise anonymous blip on the American Pop Culture radar. After he bought what he needed, my friend and I trekked to Target or something like that off post, where I snatched up Season 1 of the best show ever, Scrubs. Those of you who are in fact, Scrubs-savvy will catch my borrowing of Dr. Cox's use of patronization and calling a guy by a girl's name.
To compensate him, I took him to see Jackass 2.
And now I'm going to investigate a disturbance in the hallway.
The barracks are slightly festive. Scrubs is my alibi.
Murphy's Law states that anything that can go wrong, most likely will.
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamic Gravity as per the definition a friend of mine and I have given it, states that "gravity" takes everything that is good and pulls it down and causes it to seperate. Its the force that causes the unstoppable decay of anything that doesn't completely suck. It steals the good and leaves only the mildew and rust of the bad. And apparently nothing is safe.
This is where everything turns into different shades of gray, and I stop caring. Rather than lamenting it like a victim, I turn to stone. Not even bitter, methodically update the iPod and grab the hooded sweatshirt. Leave the barracks like a curse for a little while. Maybe I'll catch that new movie about dreams or whatever. Same guy who made Eternal Sunshine. Is that irony or what.
Atleast the sky is completely gray and isn't trying to lie. Blue skies on a shitty day are hypocritical. Like sweeping dirt under a rug and pretending it isn't there. The honesty is a lot better. Makes it easier to digest it all and spit it out that much faster.
The calendar is losing weight.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Another one of my friends went AWOL. My roommate has begun the long tedious process of receiving a medical discharge.
Last night, I walked to the Rec Center and traded my ID for a movie and a pair of headphones. I sat down in the dark in a recliner and watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
It was the highlight of my week.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
It was supposed to be our last workday. We were covering up bulldozer lines where the dozers had stripped everything off of the ground, leaving only dirt, so that dickhead fire couldn't cross. That's right, after we finished annihilating portions of the woods to keep the fire from spreading, we had to go back and UNDO what we'd been doing. Sounds like the army, right?
So we cover the lines up with fallen trees and brush and pretty much anything we can get our hands on so that no one uses the lines for dirt bikes or whatever. Yeah, I didn't understand that one either. Soon enough, we get a change of mission. There's some spotfire that we need to lay the smack down upon. Once we get there, we realize its nothing. Let me tell ya, there is nothing more terrifying than two inch flames and tiny whisps of smoldering dirt. After that patronizing bit of work, we all rested on the hill while one of the chainsaw operators from our team cut a tree stump into a toilet. We took photos, laughed, the usual bit. And then one dude actually used it. Number two. I'm telling you, there are some weird fucking people in the army.
Because of these charades, and since it was nearing the end of the day and our spirits were high, I expended all the exposures I had for my crappy disposable camera that I still havent developed. Moving on, we walked down the hill and to a road to take a "shortcut" back to the buses. Does anyone else smell bullshit here?
By some magical coincidence, we come across ANOTHER line that needs to be covered up. One of the worst parts about working on these hills is the grapefruit sized rocks that roll down and clip you in the ankle. After you shriek in agony, someone from up the hill will yell, "ROCK!" because apparently that's supposed to be funny.
We covered this line up as well and were finally ready to get the hell out. Our path (or lack of it) happened to be a steep downhill trek, which was something we had become accustomed to. But this time, it was so far down and so steep, it was just killing our knees. I'm a young buck and I'm bitching about my knees? Yeah.
We slid and stumbled down, using our tools for balance. And like I said, this damn route we were taking went on forever. I was really starting to get impatient, when our path took a turn around some trees and rocks and then up a short hill. I followed my cohorts only to find a cliff. A large one. Right in our path. Way the hell below, you could see the road. I can't even begin to describe my frustration. Everyone was bitching, I hardly said a word. Wait, no, I'm sure I was bitching up a storm. Come on, its me.
The LT that was with us felt it was necessary to take a different avenue. We walked off for a bit until we came to a spot where it wasn't so much a cliff as it was an INCREDIBLY STEEP ROCK BED, WITH JAGGED EDGES AND NO STABILITY. IT WAS DEATH IN A LANDSCAPE. We're all standing there going, "Ah HELL no..." and eventually the first guy starts moving down and a few follow, and they initiate a slight rockslide. We make the decision to keep a healthy distance between all of us. One of my buddies even played Traffic Cop, directing our order of movement. It was cute. Almost as cute as navigating a rock quarry.
The first seven or eight guys slowly begin to navigate the Face of Demise when my turn comes up. I start my slow, deliberate descent, just wanting it to be over. And that's when I hear the rockslide.
A wall of dust is kicked up between me and the guys ahead of me (at this point, they were actually to my left, as we were snaking down the hill). I couldn't see anyone, and these bowling ball+ sized rocks are tumbling over each other. It was loud, like river rapids. And it just kept going on....and on...and on. It must have gone on for twenty or thirty seconds.
There I am with my mouth open with that dumbfounded I-Just-Saw-A-Guy-Get-Hit-By-A-Car frozen trance. And I remember thinking [....I'm pretty sure someone just died. Holy shit...]. I stood there, watching and waiting, craning my neck to one side as if I'll somehow be able to see around the veil of dust, waiting for shouting or some kind of acknowledgement to come from the guys ahead of me. Finally the dust clears enough and everyone is still slowly moving along. Shaken, not stirred.
I turn to my friend who's about ten feet behind me and give him that wide eyed frat boy shit eating grin, "Dude!!! Did you SEE that shit?!"
He nods and says, "If anything happens out here...I just want you to know...I always thought you were cool."
I laughed, and then we told another guy that we always thought that he was an idiot. He announces that that is thoroughly fucked up. Then my friend makes a reference to a running joke I have.
"Hey, what are you gonna do when you get home?"
In war movies, you do NOT talk about what you're going to do when you're done. Because its always THAT guy, right when he's giving his sentimental monologue, that gets WAXED because filmmakers love irony and tragedy. I respond.
We continue to descend, taking each step carefully. At pretty much all times, I'd have a foot, a hand, and my tool in contact with the rocks, since there really was no ground. I'd test each rock for stability before I stepped on it. Pissed off and deliberate.
How many rants about blaming my recruiter have I gone on now? I've kicked that dead horse til my boots wore out. No, this time, I went straight back to the source. I cursed my parents for conceiving me and bringing me into this world where such colossal challenges lurk to torment me. And then I hit my shin on a jagged rock. This initiates a string of bizarre and random expletives. As I attempt to navigate this hill, my mind is constantly filled with images of me and my friends slipping and rolling with the rocks down the hill. Yellow helmet flying, heads striking the edges of rocks, painting them in splatter-patterns. Twisted and contorted limbs and crushed bones.
Yeah, so I decided that I was going to let my arrogance mingle with my meticulous care for safety. Call it a compromise. It beat the "We're all gonna die" mentality, atleast until it became more funny. We stopped for a break after a few million miles, and I offered a friend of mine, a non-smoker, his Last Cigarette. He took it. It was awesome, everyone had this "We're So Fucked" mentality. Most of us were joking about it, a few others were just straight up pissed off.
We finished resting our weary bruised and scraped knees and rolled ankles and decided to meet Death head on by continuing our mission. Around this part of the bend, we had a better view of the road, only now, the bus was there waiting for us. But GOD was it still far away. And behind the bus was our commanding officers pickup. And outside the pickup, standing with his arms crossed, very pissed off, was our commander. Apparently he wasn't pleased with our improvised route. The Sergeant Major apparently had already driven by and seen us. Rumor has it he laughed.
We finished our death march and all snatched powerades out of the back of the bus and guzzled them down, feeling like we had just slew an army of giants. Then we took a few team photos and headed back to camp. Once we were there, it was kind of funny, we all quickly learned not to even bother telling anyone about it. You'd start to explain how RIDICULOUS it was, especially without hazard pay, and then some dumbass would go, "Yeah, we had to walk X number of miles uphill and downhill today too, its sucked so bad (etc)" and that was about the point where I laughed and walked off to clean myself up. Any time any of us from our team would run into each other, we'd just kind of look at each other and shake our heads, letting out a kind of exhausted chuckle. A quote from one friend, in his southern drawl.
"Man, I've seen some crazy and stupid shit since I've been here at Fort Lewis, but this is by far the dumbest, most out there, unreal shit, bar none. That shit was crazy."
So yeah, we didn't REALLY almost die, but I'll be damned if you weren't curious when you saw the title. The best part though, is that I can do what we did with the members of all the other teams and say, "You couldn't understand unless you were there."
Yes, I am an ass.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Driving with nightvision is an exercise in futility. Visibility? Hah, no. No humorous details, it was just a big mess and nothing bad happened. I was pretty certain I was going to end up rearing-ending a Stryker, but luckily, nay.
See you all in a few days.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
"Whoa, hold on! Military vehicles are sweet! Why wouldn't you want to be licensed to drive them?"
Well my friends, the answer is very simple once you lace up your desert boots and dive into the world of the line company lifestyle. You see, when you can lawfully operate such "cool" machinery, that means that your name pops up anytime the bosses need a vehicle for whatever mission or errand. If a vehicle needs to be ready bright and early at some ridiculous hour, YOU are a volunteer.
"Ah. Well atleast you still get your weekends guaranteed off."
WRONG! The more vehicles you can drive, the more you are everyone's bitch. But that's the army lifestyle. What's worse, when we next go into the field, there's talk of me driving one of the strykers. That's cute and all, but I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be a SAW gunner for the time being. So I'm employing confusion and disinformation, as well as conspiring with others to somehow get a different driver OKed for our squad, so that I can stick out of one of the hatches on the Stryker and spit lead.
In other news, Liberals and Conservatives continue to argue and slander each other, effectively leaving me with large amounts of doubt and no real source for guidance. Information is twisted, sometimes even falsified. Thinking for yourself has never been more difficult.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Some of you may recall the post from about a year ago where my platoon went to some pool and did a humvee rollover simulater. Well guess what? That's right, this time, it was the Stryker sim. Last time was no picnic, and this one really wasn't one for the Top 10 Most Enjoyed Moments of My Army Career either.
I am not afraid of water, I like swimming, even though I can't swim fast at all. I'm not claustrophobic. I don't mind being inside the cramped driver's Hell Hole in a Stryker. Being blindfolded doesn't worry me too much...when I'm not doing anything. But when these three elements are combined, I'm afraid I nearly lose my shit each time.
Allow me to break it down for your reading pleasure.
Hop in the seat (this sim is just a frame, not an actual stryker. If needed, you can swim through the open frame when you get completely disoriented and are about to die of Pussyitis), strap yourself in to the seatbelt/harness, and cross your arms over your chest. Now pause for just a moment to hate EVERYONE within your vicinity. Hate the person(s) responsible for sending you here. With nervous apprehension turning your veins and muscles and nerves into cold goo, hate the world in general.
You knew it was going to happen, but its a damn shock anyway. The water piledrives into your face with a slap that's cut off early by the sounds of rapid submergement. Open your eyes and yank on the harness release, spilling out of the seat in a discombobulated mess devoid of confidence. Grasp the poorly simulated latch and push the flimsy wannabe door open and swim through. Feel sorry for yourself because the body armor, uniform, and helmet all weigh you down when soaked. Feel sorry for yourself, because next time, you have to do it blindfolded, swimming all the way out the back.
I watched the others go through the second phase with contempt and loathing. I defiantly ask the lifeguard girl if she takes bribes. My turn comes around, and with the air of impending doom, a death sentence, I climb into the abominable contraption and wish for a swarm of locusts to attack my peers. I tie my blindfold while fantasizing about kicking my recruiter in the groin repeatedly and setting for to the MEPS compound. I fantasize about time traveling and dragging my past self into an alley and beating some sense into him, forcing a college application into his mouth. And why not, a swift kick in the jewels for him too. And while we're at it, the shins, and a Three Stooges eye poke.
This incendiary hatred filled reverie is shattered with the surprise of the water slapping the taste out of my mouth. I manage to get my harness off and twist around in an attempt to get right-side-up again. This motion lacks grace, to say the least.
[Where is the fucking handle? That's not it, that's not it, THAT's not it, and THAT IS NOT FUCKING IT!]
I'm stuck under the seat and I'm pissed off and nervous, and panicky. I am the epitome of all that is manly. And I'm a liar.
I'm not feeling any handle, and I have almost no sense of where I am. I can't stand straight up because the seat is in the way. I'm feeling around and I'm about to lose it, I can't find the goddamn door, fuck it, I need to get out, I'm stuck, I hate the army, I want out, I want out NOW, NOW DAMMIT, FUCK ME I CAN'T GET OUT, THE HELL WITH THIS!!!
I grab one of the poles and pull myself towards it and feel for a break in the panels. I flail about, in exaggerated gestures that comically defy the act of swimming, and finally stand up when I'm out. In the spirit of a pissed off nine year old Little League baseball player, I throw my blindfold across the pool, then rip my kevlar helmet off and throw it. It arcs through the air and splashes. I'm then told to take a break.
The intensity of my hatred threatens to boil the water around me. I lean against the side of the pool with my arms folded, pouting like a little baby, hoping someone breaks that fucking contraption. My turn to go again comes way too soon.
I mount the beast with the reluctance of a dog who knows a severe beating is on the way. Nervous and shaking, half shivering, half being a wuss, I take the better half of an eternity to put my blindfold on. Yes, I'm a complete pansy. I curse everyone who passed the second phase with ease, and silently hope they contract some nasty STD. I think by now you get the point that I was one pouty little bitch.
The water devours me whole and I yank my harness off with extreme contempt. I violently thrash around looking for the handle to the door, as attempting to exit the hatch is part of the exercise. I basically hit it with my hands a couple times and feigned to attempt to open it. In reality, I probably only spent a half a second on it, but I honestly could not have cared less. I spun around clumsily and began to swim/pull/thrash my way to the back. I can't see a damn thing and don't know how far I've gone or where I am or whether I'm moving at a slightly off angle and will end up exiting out of the side, nullifying my attempt. I finally hit a wall, and I push on it with murderous determination, and it slowly opens. I tore myself through the opening and stood up.
Ripping my blindfold off, as if my decision would carry any weight, I grumble, "I am NOT going through that motherfucker again. Tell me I got a No-Go, go ahead. See what happens."
One of my buddies tells me I got a No-Go, and I shrug with homicide in my eyes. He laughs and reveals that he's kidding, convincing me that he sucks at life and that I don't like him for the next five minutes. I give my name to the lifeguard lady and ensure that she writes me down. I hate those goddamn dunk tanks so much, I would prefer to be Susan Surrandon's housekeeper over that.
The rest of the day was spent viewing driver's ed videos, completely unnecessary. At Final Formation, we received neat little coins for our firefighting exploits, and may possibly receive a humanitarian ribbon for our Class A uniforms, and maybe even back pay, about three dollars a day. After that, I received my Stryker driving certificate from my section sergeant, that FINALLY came through from when I took the training several months ago.
That's right. I did the dunk tank thing again for NOTHING.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Oh, and I also found out that I scored the highest out of all the SAW gunners in the company. With one day of experience. Awesome. Its cool to brag, but if it weren't for the guys giving me pointers and even calling out targets, I'd still be in that concrete box trying to qualify. So there's their shout out that they'll probably never see.
Anyway, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Before I get into this, let me add a little footnote about the end of the night. The rest of it was spent lazing about while everyone else burned up tax dollars, SAWs and 240s alike. Once we were completely finished and had picked up all the brass shell casings and links, we waited for the bus and cheered, beatboxing a techno rhythm while one of my friends swung chem lights (glow sticks) attached by 550 cord (super durable string) with his finely honed raver skills. Someone broke a chem light near the bleachers, and my assault pack (just think "backpack", not rucksack) glowed with splatter patterns. I somehow managed to get that crap on my hand as well.
Anyway, I had managed to get into the first firing order, eager and anxious and apprehensive to do what I came to do.
Now let me just state a few things before I allow you to laugh at my expense. It was dark. My nightvision (only covers one eye) was adjusted to see things further away, like the targets. I was very nervous. I had never used a PEQ2, a laser pointer on steroids mounted on the side of the gun. The NCO in the tower is calling out to see if everyone is ready, so I'm being rushed here. I worry that my barrel is high enough where I won't shoot the concrete ledge in front of me. I'm trying to make sure my NODs (nightvision) are set right. I'm making sure the bolt of the weapon is locked to the rear. I'm making sure its on safe. I'm trying to move the sandbags from under me so I can plant my feet effectively. I'm making sure that I can see the beam from my laser through my NODs. I'm making sure the belt of ammo is laid down so that it will constantly feed with no problems. Lots going through my head, and not enough time.
My friend is to my left and a Specialist (rank is E4) is standing on the ground to my right above my pit. Both of these guys are aggressively "helping" me to ensure that I'm good to go. It was like staring at a wasps nest inches from your face and trying to track only one wasp, just so many things going on. The tower tells us to lock and load. I lay the belt of ammo onto the tray and it falls out before I can slam the cover on it. I fumble for the end of the belt the way a running back with vegetable oil on his hands fumbles the ball. I toss the belt in and slam the cover shut.
The first target pops up, so I put the laser on that little green bastard and squeeze the trigger.
Cue the self-chastising profanity while yanking the charging handle back.
I point the laser just under that arrogant little plastic green prick and squeeze the trigger, anticipating a hail of lead to wipe the imagined smirk off his face.
More profanity, repeat step one. Repeat results.
I pull the handle back again and put the noncompliant bitch on SAFE and open the feed tray cover. The rounds fall out, and just as I see the error, the two guys flanking me announce my stupidity by informing me that the rounds were in BACKWARDS. At this point, I'm listening to ridicule in stereo. I have once again proved that I should have been a cook, or continued to work for a warranty company, answering angry phone calls all day, or shelving low quality blockbuster movies for more people to rent and hate. Anything but be behind the trigger of such a sarcastic and vindictive weapon.
At this point, there's no sense in correcting it and firing, since I hadn't let loose a single shot. I have topped my Unfastened Barrel Folly. I might as well keep the grenade and throw the pin. Waiting until the next iteration, I shake off my inconceivable level of moronic density and watch all the wonderful red tracers sail across the field. After all, it really is one hell of a spectacle, to be in the middle of all this noise and imagery. A line of SAWs, all about thirty meters apart (my best guess....not so dependable) intermittently roaring like drumrolls on dangerously tight snare drums; red lines streaking through the air, sometimes bouncing high into the sky and burning out. And that's through one eye. The other is a sea of green, where the surroundings can actually be seen, and the tracers are bright green, and glow with a halo around them.
The time for the next iteration rolls around, and I defiantly set my belt of rounds with the tips pointing away from me. When the command is given, I give every ounce of my concentrated attention, my violent and artful focus, on properly loading the ammo. I seat the first round impeccably, daring it to screw with me a second time, and slam the feed tray cover on it like the lid of a coffin. I put my SAW, which is now a part of me, an extension, a medium through which I will communicate my determination to put the green men down. We are one, and we have one singular purpose.
The first target pops up and I squeeze the trigger. A torrent of metal spews with maniacal fury towards my inanimate opponent. The little blinking light on these targets only blinks for a second or two. I don't know if I got him or not. My SAW and I decide that we'll make sure. Another burst of tenacious stopping power spits into the green night and I hear one of my comrades announce that this particular green man has cashed in his chips.
I wait. The anticipation is sweet and almost addictive. Attention span is not a factor when you are completely committed to one simple and all important task. I yearn, I need, I LIVE for another green enemy to rise to my challenge.
The next target leaps up and the light on it blinks. My laser snakes across the field onto the chest, then I dip it just below and walk a line of fire into it. For those of you who have never had the chance to operate a fully automatic weapon, I sympathize at the treasures you have been denied. But hang on a second, there's another target.
Bursts and bursts racing to meet their mark, the SAW protesting against my shoulder as I lean into her, regulating her intense desire to sling lead in every direction. I am her muse. I inspire her. The green target guy definitely does not benefit from our union.
Somewhere along the lines, I missed one. That doesn't break my heart. What almost breaks my heart is that I ran out of ammunition, and had to watch three targets pop up to taunt me. The storm I would smite them with if only I had more...
And with that, the romance that I shared with the SAW ended for the night, because I qualified.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
By some bizarre twist of fate, your favorite writer has been assigned (temporarily?) as a SAW gunner.
That, my friends, is the SAW.
"M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon)
The M249 SAW provides crucial support for infantry units. The ergonomically shaped polymer buttstock contains a hydraulic buffer that allows gunners to maximize accuracy while maintaining high cyclic rates. In addition to the M249 standard features, it has a removable heat shield and flash suppressor."
Your typical belt-fed machine gun, using 5.56mm rounds, the same that the M4 rifle uses. Now we also know that after enlisting, I ended up as an Eleven Charlie (Indirect Fire Infantry - Mortar) and not Eleven Bravo as was planned. The mortar section is actually attached to one of the "line" (or 11B) platoons, for an indefinite period of time. Meaning I get to do more of the 11B work that I signed up for.Rant aside, yesterday all the SAW gunners and 240Bravo gunners were to go to a weapons range to zero and qualify with our weapons. Give me a little time, and I should be able to upload a short video for you. Yes, naturally I brought the camcorder.
I hadn't fired a SAW since basic training, and had never used the optic sight mounted on this weapon. So I pretty much started from scratch, not knowing a damn thing yesterday. I took my sweet time making sure my weapon was atleast CLOSE to zeroed (there's always a rush to do that and get it out of the way, so half the time I have to use 'Kentucky Windage' with my M4 later on).
Let me pause once more to try to describe the soul of the SAW. Its best compared to a very vindictive woman. And I mean VERY. She'll take complete control of you and make you her plaything and embarass you if you aren't 'assertive' and take charge. You've got to lean into it hard, and with your non-firing hand, pull it into your shoulder from the buttstock to try to keep it stable while it rests on bipod legs. Otherwise, your rounds will jump all over the place. Learn how to work with her, and she's a very great asset. Not for the squeamish, which is why its typical that they put it in MY confused and uncapable hands.
Each firing iteration, you load a belt of ammo and slap the feed tray cover down on it, pinching the belt in place, ready to rock. At first, we would load only one round, and fire three seperate shots like this to zero. Boring. I should shoot myself for even writing about this part. However, once you start firing in bursts, the magic unfolds and a blanket of warmth and fully-automatic security falls upon you, and all is great and wonderful in the land of the SAW gunner.
We first qualified on paper targets. The sight we were using has multiple horizontal lines, like the binoculars used to estimate distance. You'll see why I'm an idiot in a minute here. Anyway, we used the 800 meter line to zero on paper targets from 10 meters away. This somehow works out apparently. But once we shifted over to the pop-up target range, a friend misunderstood my question and said, "You used the 8 line to zero right? Yeah, so use that."
This means that I was using the 800 meter line for every target, regardless of distance. Someone please do me a favor and cue Carlos Mencia's "Dur-da-durrrr" noise. And I wondered why I wasn't hitting hardly anything. I began to wonder if I hadn't zeroed properly, or if I had offended God in some way, or maybe if I just sucked at life. The positive side of this is I got to unload a LOT of ammo that day. Eventually, between firing iterations, another friend of mine and I are talking and I ask him what the hell I'm doing wrong, and luckily mentioned the sight. He pointed out that the numbers next to each line in the sight correspond to a certain distance, and that's what you use to estimate where you need to fire. Exactly as I suspected but was too afraid to try before. I should be waiting tables, while wearing a crash helmet to ensure my own safety.
At one point, we were off the lanes for a while, slacking and waiting, being lazy. We left our weapons where they were so we could start up again immediately when needed. I'm almost positive someone messed with my weapon to be a prick, because the next time we fired, I get my sights on a target and squeeze the trigger. The bolt slams forward and the weapon doesn't fire. I don't notice this next part, but I have it on video. The barrel (which is removeable) shifts forward a small amount. I charge the weapon again and fire. This time, the barrel nearly jumps off the weapon. No freaking wonder it won't fire. And in the spirit of Joe Rumors, later on someone approaches me and says, "Did you find your barrel?" At which point I inquire as to exactly what the hell this apparently hallucinating individual is talking about. He says, "I heard it wasn't on all the way and went flying when you shot." This is where I employ thinly veiled sarcasm. I tell him that yes, as a matter of fact, it did take a journey with the cow to jump over the moon, and also pulled a feat similar to one seen in the original Superman movie, where it travels so fast that it actually time traveled and took out the Twin Towers a day early. My feeble attempt at squashing that rumor.
With this new gem of wisdom bestowed upon me, I was prepared to fire once again. I fetched another delightfully long belt of ammunition and jumped back into my firing bunker....thing. Target pops up, my friend calls out a distance, I put the respective line on it and fire a burst. Miss. Burst. Miss. Dirt clouds kicked up in little plumes, which is a perfect reference point for adjusting. Another burst. Target goes down. I fire another burst. Yeah, I don't know why either. Squeezing that trigger is like eating peanuts. You can't stop. Its glorious.
More targets pop up, and I hose them down with lead. A few bursts per target and they go down. One thing: when I'm looking through the sight of a weapon, I don't think about much else. Even if I'm pissed off or depressed because I'm doing horrible that day, its all put on hold when I'm shooting. Thank god for that, or else I'd really screw myself over mentally. So with this mindset, I'm not getting overly excited. Its damn near emotionless. I feel it afterwards.
From the tower, over the loudspeaker, an NCO announces which guys qualified and which didn't. He announces me as qualifying with a perfect score, and invites everyone to congratulate me, give me a slap on the back, and a punch in the kidneys. I brag. I invite all to worship me if they feel inclined to do so, in fact, I even encourage it. I then turn water into urine. After all, I HAD declared myself the Messiah of the SAW, after one day.
Tonight, I have to qualify night-fire with the SAW, so now just watch as I totally botch it up. By the way, I have NEVER cleaned a weapon so filthy. Thick carbon like you wouldn't believe. Wet black residue just caked all over everything inside it. Its obscene. The black tar of the seventh level of hell is all over that thing. But now I must return to work.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
This just needs to serve as a warning, a reminder that myself and other writers have to be careful about what they put in writing, since anyone can see it. Same as always, I'll post when anything interesting happens or when I have some rant I feel I need to post. Unfortunately, I probably won't be posting pictures or any of the videos I make, or atleast not at first. Never say never, right?
An example from one voice of reason.
"It's your call of course whether or not you shut down your blog. But consider this; they'll still be using the internet as a tool to kill us. On the other hand if you shut down your blog; it's a small victory for THEM. You are a rational, intelligent, creative writer with a great sense of humour. We in the western world need people like you to voice their thoughts. You will soon be going from training to making history. People such as yourself, Tim Boggs, Buck Sargent and Colby Buzell help get the word out without endangering OPSEC.
Many people here in Canada and The USA have lost their moral compass. They can not/will not come to grips with the fact that we are at WAR. Our civilization is in danger. Think long and hard about this please. Don't hand them even the tiniest victory. Don't let them silence you." -Membrain
To let someone stop me from doing something like this would be completely unamerican. Fuck these guys, they aren't taking anything from me..
Friday, September 15, 2006
I can't even imagine...this has to be every wife/mother's worst nightmare. Suddenly getting mad at Chris for taking the Powerade I was going to use for my lunch seems so trivial...so foolish. Would I be upset about the damn juice if he was going to be gone forever, tomorrow? I just remembered this quote I read, "A husband snoring is the sweetest sound in the world. Ask any widow." It's so true. I can't imagine what good can come out of this, but I know God has a plan, even if we can't understand it yet...but I know I'll think twice before I get upset with my mom for caring a little too much, or aggravated with my husband for not folding the towels just right. Life is too short, too unpredictable...
Monday, September 11, 2006
Now normally, I refuse to post articles by others, or even link to other sites, because this is supposed to be an account from my eyes only, but this is relevant I think.
Actually, nevermind. I WAS going to link some videos I found on YouTube, but a lot of it is shit no one needs to fucking see. I'll just get to the chase.
Anti-American Muslims are all over our neck of the internet too. I'm not talking about this because I heard some horror stories from my chain of command, I fucking stumbled across them myself. Using our own video sharing websites, speaking to each other on message boards IN ENGLISH. I mean fuck, they trying to recruit from within this country too? Example, paraphrased:
"Do not share any videos with [username]. He is pretending to be Muslim so he can report the videos and have them removed...Peace be with you."
There are also comments about a video where an M1 Abrams tank is hit with an RPG. One Marine (no shit) comments:
"I'm a M1A1 tank crewman for the Marine Corps and all I can say is that the crewmen in that tank are laughing their asses off, All it sounds like from the inside is as if someone threw a big rock at it. You can only disable a tank with an RPG by breaking the track."
Good idea, give them a strategy. This one is worse:
"he tank is fine. If you want to take an abram out with an rpg you have to hit it in the exuast where the jet engine is. That or take out the tracks."
A seasoned warfighter would probably already know this, but how stupid can you be? No wonder they shove this OPSEC shit down our throats. People are idiots.
Back to the "peace be with you" remark, I don't have anything against a Muslim wishing peace on his brother, but I find it VERY FUCKING IRONIC when he's talking about peace in messages attached to videos glorifying the death of American soldiers. I watched one of his videos, and it opens with quotes and stock footage from GW Bush. Part of it was him at some large party or some shit like that, telling a joke about how "the WMDs have got to be SOMEWHERE." Cut to a picture of maimed or killed Iraqi civilians. "Nope, not there." Another picture. "How about over here?" Another picture.
Its fucking propaganda. The same shit we churn out ourselves. For fuck's sake, this is synonymous with the way our world is. All this talk about good and evil, its all bullshit.
We're two different sides holding different views.
But that's too simple I guess. So apparently these people really don't like Bush. Ok, I can understand how that has happened. I'm not informed enough to villainize him or point the finger solely at him, nor is it my place to. For now, yes, he's my commander in chief, but that doesn't mean I have to blindly follow every word he speaks either. A president is one man, whose purpose is to represent the people and run the country.
My purpose is to be a good and decent human being, and to think for myself. To know right from wrong and to make my own decisions. And to serve this country, and the men I signed up to assist. Not for oil, not for dominance of the Arab nations, and not to spread Christianity. Part of their propaganda is stating that we are all Christian Crusaders. COME THE FUCK ON.
Let's open our underused minds for a minute and face the facts. We as Americans, are diverse. Every race, creed, religion, ethnicity, the whole potpourri, we're all here. We aren't clones. We aren't all the same. And the same goes for Iraqis and Afghanis, Iranians, Syrians, all of the Arab nations, and all of the rest of the world as well. There is no one purely evil collective of people. We all eat, breathe, love, hurt, shit, work, sleep. We all procreate and raise families and try to live our lives the best we can. Its just these major cultural differences, and people's own inability to see past the bullshit people feed us, that's a major part of the problem right there.
But there's no fixing the entire world's problems. John Lennon failed, because that's not who we are. The world is beautiful and hideous. Bad shit is always going to happen, because people, while wonderful things, are also shit. Once again, the Yin Yang, Duality, is a valid symbol.
But that's not why I'm posting this. That was a rant, not thought out, coming straight to the keyboard as fast as my mind thought it. The key issue right now is that these guys who hate us and want us dead, the guys who are our enemy for as long as they choose to fight us, can access anything we put out on the internet.
I'm all for milblogging as you can tell, I really enjoy doing this. But there's no veil between the two sides. I don't want any harm to come from writing on this site. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. Fucking bummer, too. Earlier today, I was once again throwing around the idea of talking to my First Sergeant about this site, but now I may not have to.
Title of one of their videos: "Good way to slow down humvees"
They use the fucking internet for intel. You can find their videos pretty easily. And they've always got this really peaceful sounding Islamic (sorry if I'm using the wrong title) music playing, while a US military vehicle is bombed. They honestly believe that what they're doing is the right thing. They believe it 100%. There's no reasoning with that. When I say, "they", I mean the ones fighting against us, not all Muslims. I am aware of the difference. This is all one huge clusterfuck.
I'll keep writing offline, because my memory is shitty, and maybe one day after this is all over, I can post it or something, but for now, I may have to exit stage right, for the greater good. What an ironic day to end this blog.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
We woke up before the rooster even took its morning piss and brought our gear downstairs. Plenty of waiting. Load duffel bags, wait, load rucks, wait, climb onto cattle trucks. They took us to the stadium where there was supposed to be a speech or ceremony of some sort. Instead, it was even more waiting, and lots of it. I don't know what happened with all of that, but eventually, we just got on the buses.
The ride itself was uneventful. When we came through the mountains, guys would stand in the aisles, taking pictures, and generally acting like they'd never seen mountains before. I'm from Montana. I wasn't at all impressed.
When we neared our destination, a huge column of smoke could be seen over a few ridges.
After a lot of hustle and bustle bullshit, we got our camp set up. Its not bad at all. We've got a tent city type thing going on here, and we each get our own. Civilians are running the chow show, so the food is actually pretty damn good.
We were told to pretty much stay in our area, and not to mess with the women. It was actually suggested that we not even bother associating with them at all. Makes me wonder what everyone else thinks of us infantry guys. Tomorrow we go out for some training at an actual fire site, but it should be pretty mellow. We were also told to bust our asses so that we can get all the "good" missions. To the north over the ridgeline, mixed in with the black sky is dark red illumination from the fire.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I'm going to keep this short cuz I want to sleep. We woke up before the sun once again and put on our fruity uniforms and grabbed our gear. Due to some random holdup, we waited for a few hours, then took a long ride on buses. Long story short, we went out to the woods where it wasnt burning for hands-on training. All I have to say is that this is no joke. Wears you the hell out.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
More training, this time around an already burned out area. Skeletal charred trees like gnarled black toothpicks. Looks like a closeup of skin, where each hair is enormous. Smoldering holes blowing out smoke, radiating heat, and a campfire smell everywhere. The dirt and the ash have all mixed, and its like moon dirt. The slightest shift of a boot sends up plumes of the dust. When th eteam moves, you travel through thin walls of the stuff, breathing it in, building nasty black boogers in your nose, plus it mixes with the sweat on your face.
We took a horribly long clim up a steep hill through the ash, completely wearing us out, and we didn't even really go that far. Over the LT's radio, we hear chatter about someone in another team putting an axe through his boot. I don't know anything about who it was or how bad the injury was. We dug lines (basically a perimeter of dirt around an area so the fire can't spread).
Atop our mountain, we could see across the valley to the side of another. Seceral scattered columns of smoke were rising from the trees. Firefighters are badasses. This is hard work. This is blow-your-knee-out day in day out shit. Do this for a couple weeks and then try to complain about your job. My team has decided that our 'designated firefighter dude' is everything Chuck Norris wishes he could be.
There was one surreal moment when we were walking along a dirt road, and at the edge on our left, the trees gave way to a view of the valley. The sky was veiled in smoke, and in the middle of the huge cloud, the sun shone through, perfectly spherical and blood red. Where the smoke canopy ended, the sky was pink and orange, fading into a blue horizon that walled along the green valley. Normally that alone would be all sorts of scenic and artsy fartsy, but with the sun was completely behind that veil of smoke, bright red. Neato.
We've got a good setup here too. Trailers with showers, a new AAFES trailer, new phones (though I dont bother waiting in line) good food, an endless supply of water and powerade. When you come back from the day's work, you have a brief team meeting, then you're pretty much off to take care of little things like eating, showering, and before you know it, its 10:00.
Thursday August 17, 2006
First actual mission. Mop up. Pretty tired. Earlier today, I had all sorts of similes and other poetics means of expression sitting in my head, waiting to be used, but its all gone now. I'm tired and grouchy. We did a good job out there, extinguishing little smoldering spots with the ferocity of barbaric death squads.
-Ok, I'm going to deviate from the crap I wrote in the notebook, and just use that as a basic outline for this.
See, we thought we would be fighting these huge infernos, like the movie Backdraft or something. Then each day we'd be brought out to some little Nature's Cookout. Mop up really says it all. When we actually DID see flames, they were campfire sized, except for on a couple other occasions. Someone would spot a little whisp of smoke and shout, "We got action!" Then a few of us would approach it, and beat the hell out of it with our tools. The ultimate goal is to mix cold dirt with the burning shit and not give it anything to burn, but we usually just went nuts and beat it like a compulsive gambler. Watch the scene from Office Space when they beat the crap out of the printer. That was basically it. Anyway, back to the crap I wrote.
A fire cut off our return route and we had to take a long winding detour route from hell. Barely into it, the bus swipes a pickup, and the guy standing by it does the mandatory You-Just-Hit-My-Vehicle-So-I'm-Going-To-Throw-My-Arms-In-The-Air-And-Complain routine, and we laughed at him. He had parked his pickup too close to the turn. Just after that, around a bend, the check engine light must have come on or something. We sat there for about twenty minutes, and I was already trying to decide which of my comrades I would eat first, when other buses passed us. Back at camp, the food was mediocre, something was screwed up with the girls showers, and the lines were ridiculously long.
I really have no motivation to even type all of this up. Its not really that cool or exciting, its all really anti-climactic. Maybe I'll add more later.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Audioslave - I Am The Highway Lyrics
Pearls and swine bereft of me
Long and weary my road has been
I was lost in the cities
Alone in the hills
No sorrow or pity for leaving I feel
I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky
Friends and liars don't wait for me
I'll get on all by myself
I put millions of miles
Under my heels
And still too close to you
I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky
I am not your blowing wind
I am the lightning
I am not your autumn moon
I am the night
I hear a song and I like it, but it's the lyrics that make me love a song. This one to me, makes me think of Ryan.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Maybe it was my junior year, maybe it was senior year, but I remember coming home way past curfew and realizing I had forgotten my keys. You were always there to bail me out :) Then I remember that time I was downstairs, Dad was yelling at me for my latest offense, and you were upstairs, talking to me through my hearing aides with that microphone thingy, trying to make me laugh, not knowing I was in trouble. I tried so hard not to laugh at what you were saying, knowing it would piss Dad off even more, but finally I couldn't hold back the smile. Ha ha...once he realized what was going on he wasn't quite so mad at me anymore.
I think about Grandma Norma a lot. Whenever I see "The Young and the Restless" I think of us, sitting in her lap, asking her when we could have our morning snack. You loved Popeye...and she would give you spinach to make you strong. :)
Remember when we took that IQ test online, and I got so mad at you because you scored higher than me? Ha ha...
I didn't realize this before, but I took having you right there for granted. Now I spend time with Cory and Chad, and I enjoy it...I told Cory he should write something to you, but you know him..."I'll tell him what I want to say to his face." We watched "Yakistan" and laughed so hard...he was able to explain the parts I didn't understand. We're still waiting for the sequel!!!
In a way, I'm a little envious of you. I know it has to suck at times being away from home, but you're out there, doing something. Fighting forest fires is making a difference. Gotta save the critters, you know? :)
Anyway, I'm bored, so I'm gonna go bother Dad and Cory while I wait for Chris to get his lazy bum home from work. :D
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Anyway, thank you not only soldiers, but wives too... :)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I heard Ryan might be able to come home for a couple days after he's done with this fire operation...I would love to see him, but then I know how the military can change their plans, so I'm not getting my hopes up. I looked at a few websites about Operation Task Force Blaze and the fire itself, http://www.northcom.mil/wildfires/wildfire_page.htm and www.inciweb.org/incident/341/...looks like so far the fire's 45% contained.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
From Cory: "So there's my older brother, PFC Ryan aka 'Butters' doing what he does best, being a total bad a*s and showing the world that I'm the shi* and he misses me."
I had no idea what was written on Ryan's hard hat, so I asked him when he called. I guess it's "Butters". I don't watch South Park, so Cory had to explain to me that Butters is a character on South Park. Ryan...what can I say. You're special.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Ryan joining the Army really pulled me out of this sheltered bubble I didn't even realize I lived in. Yeah, I watched the devastating news from my chemistry class when 9/11 happened, and my heart broke for all those who lost loved ones. Yeah, I knew we would respond to the terrorism, but the soldiers who were going to fight weren't people I knew. I didn't know their favorite hobbies, their favorite band, etc. It made the war seem so far away.
So when Ryan first told me he was thinking of joining the Army, I didn't know what to think. The Army was the last place I envisioned Ryan. Maybe behind a computer programming software, or designing a comic, or especially crafting a video to share with his friends for some laughs, but the Army? A part of me, the selfish part, sincerely hoped he would change his mind and remain close by. But as the days turned into weeks, he didn't falter in his decision...he just became more determined.
I hated the idea of him leaving, of something bad happening to him. I wanted him home where I could see him, there when I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to know he was safe. I found the aforementioned quote a long time ago. Once I thought about what Jefferson was saying, I realized he had a valid point. From the American Revolution to the Civil War, to World War I and II, the Cold War (I know it wasn't really a war, but you know what I mean...), Vietnam and Korea, to now, it's true. The reason they're fighting is still the same...to protect our freedom.
It's so hard to say good-bye to him at the airport, not knowing when I'll get to see him again, that he won't be five minutes away when I want to go goof off with him, that I can't call him when I need someone to talk to because he'll be out in the field, it's so easy to lose sight of the big picture...of what's really happening, and what it is he and so many others are really accomplishing.
Because previous generations answered when they were called to protect our freedom, I can post this blog and not be afraid of the ramifications for speaking my mind, I can go to church without fear of reprisal and so on. He's following in our predecessors' footsteps, standing up to our generation's threat against our freedom. Even if he doesn't quite see it that way...
Sunday, August 13, 2006
I was reading the Sunday comics while I was on break today...I came across this comic strip that I feel couldn't be more fitting. No, for once it wasn't 'Zits' (Ryan was the epitome of Jeremy in high school...), but believe it or not, 'Luann'. Here it is...
While I wouldn't be caught dead in Luann's outfit :), I couldn't help notice the symbolism with the fire truck and the way Luann is looking at her brother in a completely different light. It made me think...
He's no longer my annoying little brother who ripped up my beloved California Raisin cards when I was five, or told on me when I said a bad word. I never realized how close we were until he left. Somewhere he turned into a guy that I'm pretty proud of, even if I do wish he would've joined the 'Chair Force' so I wouldn't worry about him as much. Infantry just sounds scary. But that's his decision, and honestly, I'm kind of in awe that he's willing to do what he feels is right when a lot of people his age are choosing the easy way out.
Anyway, so here's my first post. Hopefully Ryan will be able to send his posts for me to publish while he's gone.
Take care Doughboy...
We woke up butt-ass early today and went to some field, where we waited for too long. I had stood there in formation for maybe twenty minutes before I went, "Oh, hey, we're waiting again, aren't we? Heh, I hardly even notice anymore."
The purpose of this was to unite the deploying units as well as the civilian counterparts. They called it a "wedding". I laughed about that. The wedding ends when the flame is gone. Poetic justice at its most twistedly ironic beauty. After that, we ate breakfast at some chow hall I'd never been to. I think we were in the 3rd Brigade area, because the barracks looked really nice from the outside, and the chow hall was amazing. Civilians ran it, and it just looked really good. Like a hotel restaurant almost...or a hospital cafeteria. Anyway, it looked a lot better than the latrine we eat in.
The whole purpose of today was to get some classroom instruction and a little hands on training, as well as issue of more things we'd need. Death by Powerpoint. Everyone was nodding off. The only way I can ever stay awake in classrooms is if I intentionally get a Slipknot song stuck in my head and silently drum my fingers and fidget a lot. Not many other guys have learned this trick apparently.
It wasn't an interesting day at all, and I'm swamped with preparation and I'm tired. So let's get to the point here.
Now is about the time I need to be psyching myself up for this. Going to be gone for a month, living in tents, third world country style. The hours are going to be long from what we've been told. Odds are, we'll be down for the count at the end of the workday. Lots of walking involved. There's that selfish side that I mentioned before that nags. For now, I need to remind myself of good things. Why we're going, how its not bad, etc.
This is a real deployment. The orders came from Donald Rumsfeld's desk. The people fighting the fires are tapped, and they need some help. That's where we come in, step up like we swore we would, get in there, get the job done and done right. There are houses up there, there may be lumberyards or anything else that is someone's livelihood. This is humanitarian work. This is where societies earn their bread and butter. When you get off your ass and help someone else out who needs it. When you put your goddamn rat race on hold and get your hands dirty.
We're representatives of the army, and of the United States. As soldiers do, we complain a lot, gripe a lot, turn it all into jokes, but dammit, we get it done.
This may be long and tedious, but keeping it all in perspective is important. We answered the call, we have a mission to do. And its for a good cause. No one can debate that. No one. There is no disputing the fact that what we're doing is absolutely the right thing to do. And that's worth the shitty conditions.
See you in a month.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Things on the list that make little to no sense:
-Rubber overshoes (NBC): Keyword here is rubber. Rubber melts.
-Polypro: It isn't too cold, and I can see having them with us for nights or something when we're back at the FOB, but as far as work goes, I know someone whose polypros fused to his fleece jacket. That was without fire.
-Pistol belt: these aren't even part of basic issue anymore since we have new MOLLE II gear, which we aren't bringing. Kevlar helmet is also not a part. We'll be issued specialized gear I assume.
-Poncho: also can melt.
-Wet weather gear: MELTS.
But hey, its on the list. Doesn't mean I have to actually use it. Also, our desert boots can't be worn to fight fires, so we were issued new all leather black boots. They look immensely stupid with ACUs. That, and ACUs get dirty easy, and they pretty much suck all around. I'm just going to wear my old BDUs the whole time. For those of you who don't know, BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) are the green woodland camo uniforms that we've nearly phased out, thanks to our fruity new Logic Defying Uniforms.
We also spray painted the bottoms of our duffel bags a sand color and then stenciled in black our unit, last initial and last four digits of our social security numbers. Now we're about to go get a bunch of briefings, so peace, I'm out.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Since I got off, I've been lazily working on packing everything, because we've got a layout tomorrow morning. A layout is when you bring everything on the packing list outside or in the hallway or wherever the inspection is to be, and items are called off one by one, and you hold them up to prove you packed it. Pain in the ass, but Joe is stupid and forgets things, so its a necessary evil. I've got my menial task to keep me busy.
A knock on my door. They tried to call me in for extra duty. Sorry, dick, I'm done. Go away. Return to packing. Another knock.
"Hey man, you gotta have atleast one with us," says a jovial fellow.
"How about you eat my ass? There's no way I can settle for just one. Not doing it dude."
"Come on man."
Once again, slowly packing, like an elderly man going on a vacation he doesn't care for much. I step into the latrine to dump the remaining water out of my camelbak. Three guys, one can of shaving cream.
"Hey man, what are you on extra duty for?" asks one.
"I'm not. I'm done."
"Well what WERE you on extra duty for?"
"Oh. Wanna underage drink with us?"
"No. I'm still on probation. I fuck up again, I get busted down to E1."
Packing. Some more. Then my roommate and I decide to go outside and have a smoke. Exit the hallowed sanctuary of the room into the jungle that is the hallway.
One guy, bottle of Hpnotiq swinging in his hand. He's already killed a fifth of Hennesy. Along with him is a crowd of guys coagulated in one end of the hallway. Yelling, shit talking. Apparently one of the new guys was getting hazed and didn't dig it too much and kept bitching even after they untied him. Drunk soldier has wings and now everyone's a tough guy. More yelling. No action. Go figure.
Aforementioned jovial fellow comes out of his room. His roommate is yelling, "You suck. You're a bitch. He said you won't hit him." Instigating. Who doesn't want to see a fight, right? I mean look at it logically. They're fucking morons. There is no logic, I lied.
Jovial fellow: "What the fuck..." etc. Loud blah blah blah.
How this next part comes about, I don't know. Drunk Hpnotiq guy wants Loud Guy Formerly Known As Jovial Fellow to slap him. Jovial Guy scoffs. Hpnotiq insists. Jovial slaps.
This fool wants a few good bitchslaps, because apparently that makes him tough or something? I don't know. I just work here. Let's take a look at the drink desire scale real quick.
The Usual Suspect's Desire to Drink: 0
Glad these guys make it so easy for me. It was annoying at first, now its a joke. I got two months to go til I'm 21. One month (at most) will be spent on this detail. Two weeks later, Yakima, or so the rumor mill claims. After that, my time comes around. Yeah, I'll drink. Not like that though. Oh, did I mention that we work in the morning? I'm gonna order a pizza and finish packing.
Don't let forest fires happen to you. Kick its ass. Til next time.
We don't need no water let the motherfucker burn
Burn motherfucker burn
No longer bound by the chains that hold me on restriction to the battalion area, my freedom is mocked by our deployment status. Slept like a death row short timer last night, with no particular help from the Black Hawks flying overhead. Read some old posts, contemplated how bad my writing sucks, and was glad. Eventually passed out sometime around 1 AM or so. When my alarm went off at 5:30, it took an act of God to pry my eyes open. Pinkeye can't hold eyes shut this well. We formed up according to the teams we're assigned in, me being in good ol' Team 8, and by that, I mean Ladder 8.
The chow hall was the usual oddyssey of mediocrity. If elementary school cafeterias can get it half right, why can't the army? Because that wouldn't suck enough. Soldiers can't live like rock stars, it ruins the discipline we fake when needed. Want proof? A guy in my mortar section inherited five million bucks, and is now on his way to getting out of the army. Change of lifestyle. Honorable discharge. The rich can't fight wars. Fuck you, I'm a millionaire. Good for him, yeah, but the concept is assbackwards. Funny thing how the dudes who seem like their family could really use/deserve money like that...never get it. I'm not jealous actually: the only way I want to get out of the army is an ETS (estimated time of seperation, or some other string of words that fits the acrononym and more or less suggests fulfilment of contract). I want to do my time and take a bow, exit stage right. There's my four, Uncle Sam, don't ever call me again. Give me my cabin in the woods or some equally cliche romantic ending. I'll be Obi Wan Kenobi living in the hills, hunting the freaks from The Hills Have Eyes. That's an excellent retirement plan.
As for now, I'm waiting. Go figure. Early call, wait. Hahaha. In another hour and a half (an hour has already passed since morning formation), my team goes to do SRP (soldier readiness program, or some shit, which is the deployment preparation, probably at or near Waller Hall) where we'll stand like cattle in a slaughter house, moving single file, mooing and bleating, chewing our cud, minds already numbed to the experience, docile and stupid, as we go from station to station to see all the paperwork on us that's been fucked up.
Oh, and the hell with sleep, I think I'm going to my buddy's place tonight. Got to meet these air force girls. And to assure my dear mother, I won't use the "pickup line" I mentioned the other day.
"Excuse me, miss. Does this smell like chloroform to you?"
No wonder they're sending a little sinner like me to the flames. I love the poetic justice. Consider it purgatory.