Wednesday, February 08, 2006


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.

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