Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Blood Wings

In a rush, so this should be a quick post. Finally got promoted to PFC (Private First Class). The metallic pin on rank has needles on the back that are held in place with brass clips, and is worn on both collars of the BDU blouse. When you get promoted, there's a tradition where the rank is pinned on your collars, and without applying the brass clips on the bottoms of the needles, pretty much anyone in your chain of command or anyone who outranks you then thumps both insignias, causing little piercings, hence "Blood Wings". I got hit quite a bit. My left collar didnt get it too bad. As for the right...


Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Moron Surfaces Again

We had our squadron ball last night, which I honestly couldn't have cared less about, but still decided to go just for the sake of going, seeing as it seemed a good weekend to NOT drink for once. So I opt to get all dolled up in my Class A monkey suit, convincing myself that the food just may be decent. Once arriving at the parking lot with a friend, it dawned on me that I was the only one wearing traditional Class A's.

Everyone else had substituted the light green collar shirt for a white one, and a bowtie instead of the necktie. Great. I decided to just wait in my friends car instead of making an embarassment of my platoon. Freezing inside the little Intrepid, for a brief moment, I cursed my parents for feeling frisky that night some two decades ago.

My fellow Americans, I am an idiot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Garbage Men

I spent today tasked out to another platoon. Our mission: to pick up trash littered throughout post. We rode in a van, and picked up trash. Simply amazing. Exactly what I envisioned myself doing as I sat in the recruiter's office. No ordinary American could understand the prestige, honor, and sheer adrenaline rush that one experiences while picking up an empty pack of Marlboros which has been run over several hundred times.

Oh, and we also found a purple vibrator. Thinking of running an ad in the paper under "Found".

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Checking The Pulse

In case any of you were wondering, I am in fact still alive. Nothing noteworthy is really going on. Same daily grind, tiny uninteresting little adventures here and there. As always, I'll keep you posted. Til then I'll continue to watch these quick days fall off the calendar like drunken trapeze artists.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Funeral Detail

For the past two days, myself and a few others from our platoon have been uptraining for a funeral detail. As far as I know, there is no scheduled funerals, but if one comes up in the next two weeks, we're on call to do our part in the ceremony.

I'm part of the rifle team, you know, the guys in Class A's that fire the three shot volley? Yeah, that's me. The training is very repetitive, and we shoot blanks without the adapters on the end of our barrels, so after each shot we have to manually chamber another. Another issue:

You see, I'm a tall scrawny bastard. We don't have M16s, we have M4s, which are shorter. So standing at attention or parade rest with an M4 is nearly impossible for me. I have to bend my knees slightly and VERY slowly move my hand up on the barrel until the buttstock rests on the ground. I'm so terribly awkward, its almost amusing. The hell with Jarhead, watch me in action.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Raid

The past two days have been spent at a ghost town training area, involving lots of trigger time. As always, I'm going to be careful not to expose our tactics too much, because that may be wasteful.

Yesterday, we had come out to this particular range in the morning, feeling quite cold. As always, things started with a slow creaking crawl that bears a startling resemblance to my morning rituals while on leave. There's always a lot of preparation in things like this, yet another part of the big scary Hurry Up and Wait monster. Once the ball began to roll, we would run through the scenario over and over, screwing up here and there, all the while being corrected. After a while, things became pretty smooth. Eventually, we'd finish an iteration and feel we had completely dominated the village in a way that would make even Chuck Norris afraid.

We were still criticized, nay, whittled down to little nubs.

They'd tell us to do things one way, then change their mind. I'm guessing we were more or less guinea pigs sometimes, testing out what worked better, or looked better, whichever. Other times, it seemed that it was more just different NCOs and officers force feeding us their preferred techniques. Two days of this. Lots of running, lots of blank rounds. Filthy M4s. When the sun went down, we'd strap on NODs. When we got hungry, we'd keep training, and eventually we'd grab some MREs and chow down. The first dinner was the worst chilli mac I've ever force fed myself. Let me reiterate: EVER. Though it instilled me with confidence. If I can choke that biosludge down, I can do anything. I can build Rome in a day, and I can become the only man to beat a brick wall in a game of tennis. I'm the reason Waldo has to be found.

Several Nuggets of Joy discovered on this adventure:

*Vomiting medic. Very profound.

*One of the vehicles being taken back to bring a sick soldier who had shit himself back to the rear, much to the dismay of the NCO who was in charge of the vehicle.

*Doing pushups for joking around with an E5 (Sergeant). Sure, this is common, and laughing makes pushups a little harder, and its always great fun to give NCOs shit when you can get away with it without getting in REAL trouble. The phrase "Do pushups" can counteract any statement a Joe offers. Following the original conversation was a debate of sorts, that involved pitting cereal box cartoon characters against each other to see who would win. Tony the Tiger just didn't seem to win much favor. The Trix Rabbit decidedly has a great deal of pent up aggression.

*"Retrieving" the space heater from the other platoon who was sleeping in a shack on the range.

That's all I can remember at the moment, fatigue being the culprit. Here's a second person narrative of the final run through the village.

You're in a ditch with live rounds in your magazines. Every round you have happens to be a tracer round. Its dark, and your eyes have adjusted, and the moon provides a decent amount of light, almost enough to go off of alone. There's actually a wide halo around the moon for some reason, which distracts you for a few seconds as you wait. You can see the village ahead of you, an assembly of wooden shanties that seem like they'd house the Unibomber or Gary Busey.

You lock and load when told to, and climb out of the ditch, kneeling in the greens. Your squad leader whispers "Alpha team move," and now you and your team and running across the field. Watching the landscape move past you through green nightvision, you wonder when you're finally going to misplace your foot and twist an ankle to oblivion, or faceplant, but karma's busy at the moment. Your team takes cover behind a fallen log, and you can see Bravo team doing their thing as well. The first target building for your team is in clear sight, and the door is closed. Before you know it, you're up and moving again, the door of the building getting bigger with each footfall. Now you're outside of it. Twas the night before tomorrow, and not a creature is stirring. The door receives a kick and it swings open, and your team pours in like molten steel. Your weapon is up and you shine the light mounted on your rifle onto the figure in the far corner and place the little red dot on it, and the work of one little index finger initiates the cataclysmic bangs that spew metal. The red tracer zips behind the round across the room, followed by a few more. Now your team leader is shouting for information, and your senses are halfway coming back to you, trying to process a million things.

Teams are wiping through buildings with juggernaut momentum. Racquetball wishes it was this fast. When ready, your team pours back out and crashes the next party. Then the next. Soon its all over, and your breath is coming out in fog. Your mind is playing catchup, but you really had little idea what was going on outside of your own narrow window. You played your part, and that's all you could focus on. Once things are finally finished, the entire squad gathers for the After Action Report. Everything is discussed, and you hear all the small stories. You reflect on everything that just happened, what everyone did right, what everyone did wrong, what everyone could do better. You recall seeing your buddy blast a door with a shotgun, and after a nanosecond of deliberation, you decide that it was in fact, very cool.

Now, while I was in one of the buildings, pulling security while the rest of my team did something else, I had a bit of a scare. There were these life size green plastic people mold targets we were using, and there were balloons attached to the back of them that we had to pop with out bullets to take out the 'enemy'. One target hadn't actually fallen, and was leaned against the wall. After the room had been cleared, I was watching out of one window further down, making sure that no imaginary bad people shot my friends with their imaginary bullets, because that would just not be kosher with me. The aforementioned target suddenly fell, and it quite frankly freaked me the hell out. I jerked around and nearly flipped my switch from Safe back to Semi with the intention of making green Swiss cheese, but common sense grabbed me by the neck quick enough to prevent that.

While I downloaded the remaining ammo I had back at the ammo point, I watched the next squad run through the exercise, red tracers zipping through the sky, breaking off and ricocheting into the air, while mortarmen somewhere on a different range in the distance played with illumination and High Explosive rounds. Then it occured to me that I haven't seen anything yet.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Panic Prone?

This morning, PT consisted of combatives (hand to hand). So we're all outside on the wet grass and mud in BDUs and tennis shoes, throwing each other around. I was very successfully body slammed by a Polish guy in our platoon.

For our daily training, we hooked up with a medic from a different unit and went to the old Madigan hospital, which is now a training center for the medics I suppose. In any case, we entered a room that used to be an operating room, but was instead covered with camo netting and had sandbags and $20,000 dummies set up, all of who were pretty messed up, and also had realistic genitalia, in case you were wondering, Jen. They breathed, had pulses, and when they were first turned on, one of them screamed, and I could have sworn it was Sam Kinnison.

We spent a few minutes adorning each other's imaginary and inconsequential wounds with field dressings and pressure dressings and mock tourniquets. After that, we were all sent to a classroom to wait while four guys at a time ran through a training exercise. The first group went, and the rest of us chilled, waiting, and BSing. After a while, our turn came, but now the NCO that came with us, who is apparently a good friend of the medic, decided to spice things up a bit. He took us outside, the four of us, and told us not to bother putting our berets on. Next thing I know, we're doing "Front, Back, Goes", front meaning pushups, back meaning flutterkicks, and go meaning run in place. When the first group had totally finished failing their exercise, it was our turn to screw it up, and we all sprinted in, working in teams of two, swiping up a medic bag on our way into the room.

The room itself was completely different from what it had been before. The lights were off, save for a few strobing lights, and battlefield sound effects were cranked up. It wasn't until after we were done that I realized that Black Hawk Down was playing on a projector, and was shown on the wall not five feet away from me. This was also done with little prep time, being that our training was scheduled on short notice. We were later told that normally there's also smoke and pools of blood, etc.

When my partner and I entered, we immediately ran to the casualty at the end of the room, since the first two guys jumped onto the nearest one. The NCOs were screaming, sound effects were going nuts, I couldn't really see anything too well, my partner and I are yelling what we consider vital information to each other ("How the hell should I know?! Hold on! .......K, yeah, he's breathing...sort of....He's a dummy! How are you supposed to check for responsiveness?! Shut up and dress that wound- - I AM dude! Don't talk to me, I'm busy!") and time passes a little too quickly.

Your mind races but not clearly, like a blind mouse on crack in a maze. You put your ear to the casualty's mouth and watch the chest for a rise and fall, looking for breathing. Then you're searching everywhere for signs of bleeding and you tear his BDU top open and he's got an open chest wound, and just as you're trying to process all of this, your partner is hitting you on the shoulder, announcing something sticking out of the casualties leg, so you turn your head, identifying another wound, but fuck, that one isn't priority, you gotta take care of that chest wound fast, and just as you turn your head away, it jerks back and you notice the bruising on the lower leg and the disfiguration, so now you have to splint the leg before you can elevate it to help relieve the bleeding, and you're trying to tell your partner all of this while you tear apart the medic bag looking for a piece of plastic to tape over the lung wound, and now the NCOs are yelling at you again, having a ball stressing you out, and actors on the wall are making your job look more glamorous than it really is, and the whole time, seconds are falling away like the skin of a skillfully peeled potato. Its extremely chaotic, to say the least.

I personally have a lot of respect for medics. They see a lot of things people shouldn't have to see. More than the rest of us. Their job is all about aftermath. Destruction is easy, anyone can do it. Creation and preservation is what takes talent. Not to mention a very clear head in their case. I may have to search and see if any medics actually write about their job or not. By no means is it an easy job.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

5.56mm Deja Vu

The past two days, we've just been working on reflexive fire techniques out on one of the rifle ranges. It seems like I'm becoming nearly complacent with this whole Army thing. Nothing that we do is overly exciting or seems special. When I expend seven full magazines of ammunition, 210 rounds, to me, its like throwing a basketball through a hoop casually as you take the trash out. It feels that commonplace and ordinary. Each day comes and passes. Its all pretty much the same. Morning PT, some downtime, then a formation, and then its weapons draw and head to a range, or else its a class, or its weapons maintenance, or some other tiny thing. If time permits, afternoon PT, and final formation. Free time, sleep, repeat.

At the same time, its true that we aren't doing a whole lot that's completely amazing. We've got guys away training, and other guys learning something else, and those of us behind are trying to keep busy I suppose. Either way, its still the same routine, and days turn into weeks. I haven't been following the news, and I didn't watch Bush's little talk yesterday. Heard some guys talking about Iran, whatever. I'll concern myself with that later, possibly this weekend, possibly not. I try to keep busy most of the time.

But seeing as this won't be a stellar post, but a yawning brief narrative intended to ensure everyone that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, I'll get to today's summary.

As always, PT, then we gathered all our gear and had an inspection (an NCO demanding we show him each item on the packing list) and grabbed our M4s. After we accomplished this landmark feat, we all earned every penny we're paid by sitting in the Day Room (barracks version of a living room) and playing the waiting game. Hurry up and Wait, your daily dose of cliche. We didn't even make it out to the range until about 10:30 or so, and once we were there, just as we were ready to start firing, all the ranges on post were given a 'check fire', meaning "Don't shoot". Apparently some artillery guys screwed something up, though I don't know what. As far as I know, the PX is still on this plane of existence, so that's a plus.

Finally at around 2:30, we were able to start firing. So really, all we did were drills involving reflex using your rifle when a whistle is blown or someone yells "Target up" or something quirky like that. Sounds great, but as always, its done at a snail pace. We had a lot of ammo and not a whole lot of people out there, so everyone got plenty of trigger time. I know I spent more than 300 rounds, but I don't THINK I used more than 500. Hey, who's counting right? My M4 is filthy, and we'll all be spending more time cleaning our weapons, which we seem to do a lot of.

So there you basically have an address that is less vague, and more honest, devoid of agenda. The State of The Unlikely Soldier Address, a gift to the common populace in exchange for their tax dollars to pay my wages. In closing, readers of The Best Blog In The Universe, I am faring very well, and am enjoying my army career at a reasonable level. Not too whiny, not too Hooah. Though I am bummed that I don't have anything to really write about as of now. Tune in next time.