Monday, April 24, 2006

EIBEIBEIBEIBEIBEIB

The sizzling sound of one young male's brain as it struggles to form words on the computer remind the male of that old anti-drug commercial with the egg and the frying pan. The sleep deprivation isn't that bad, to be honest. Nothing to really complain about. We hit up more stations today, started at the same early hour, and remained out there until after the chow hall was closed (unless it stayed open late for us?). As always, some stations are insultingly easy, and others...give you a healthy push down the road of accepting the blank space on your uniform where an EIB should go.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this particular award, let me shed a minute amount of light on it. The actual badge worn on the Class A uniform has a blue background, because blue is the infantry color. A long rifle adorns the foreground. The BDU version is a green patch with the same rifle. The ACUs now have a metallic black pin on-badge. That's how you spot someone who is more badass than you, and has the testicular fortitude of Terry Tate.

9mm handgun: easy. NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical): Not so easy. I'm sure that someone out there with their EIB will read this and laugh, which is technically their right. Well I say that its hard, because it is. You have nine seconds to take your helmet off, put it on the barrel of your rifle, open your gasmask carrying bag, put that bad boy on, cinch it down, and clear it. That sort of thing takes a lot of work and muscle memory. Then there is all the questions you have to answer, etc etc. NBC, grenades, and M240B machine gun are so far the most likely killer of EIB candidates.

I actually fired a .50 cal for the first time today, even though it was with blanks. Though I would only be firing off four rounds, I wasn't completely stupid, and I stuffed my earplugs in. The 240Bravo had my ears ringing yesterday.

Another odd thing about all of this, is that you have to do all of these tasks by the book, and not in any practical, real world way. Once again, its difficult to throw a decent post out there, because I feel about as slow and sluggish as nearly frozen molasses. Its time for a quick shower, and then deep comatose sleep.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Guess What? EIB. Still.

Random sidenote before I get started. I had an epiphany about an hour ago. Milkshakes with alcohol content! It couldn't get any better. Then my dream was shot down when someone else informed me that they do in fact exist, and are commonly referred to as 'mudslides'. I died a little inside.

This morning demanded a 0430 wake up, in order to draw out weapons at 0500, and leave for the EIB site at 0600. Rather than hanging around our immediate area, we actually went to the spot that will be used for the testing in a few weeks, with the graders and everything. I forgot to get autographs, which I would later superimpose onto my grade sheet while marking all columns off as "Go" rather than "No Go", which in layman's terms means "You failed completely and miserably, and consequently, you suck."

"But wait there, Mr Unlikely Soldier dude, isn't today a Sunday?"

Why yes it is. It was also a fifteen or sixteen hour day. This trend will be kept up for the next few weeks. I was so distraught over this theft of my weekend that last Saturday, at Applebee's, I ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. I got kicked out. Apparently the Rule of 21 doesn't follow the Close Enough guideline. Six more months, and then I'll start posting the police reports on here too.

It was cold in the morning, the kind of cold that makes one want to piss and moan in the traditional Private fashion. But it wasn't long until I got it in my head that we were going to be there for a long time, and for the next few weeks, this is all we're really going to be doing. So I just sort of went along with it. And go figure, I learned quite a bit today.

First off, we plotted points that we could see in the distance onto a map to get the grid coordinates, and the instructor knew someone we know, and told us a story about someone in their unit accidentally shooting their own tire out in the humvee when in Iraq. We also enjoyed some map reading activities, and that's sort of confusing. Contour lines and all sorts of crazy graffiti that doesn't belong on maps, and we have to understand that gibberish? Maybe I should still be renting shitty Vin Diesel movies out to bored customers.

Before, I always had trouble with the AT-4s. They're these one time use, disposable anti-tank rocket launchers. Today though, the gods seemed to be favoring me, and the mojo was flowing. I found a way around a part of the task that I was always getting hung up on. Apparently a lot of people get hung up on the M240B machine gun, because if you do any of the simple steps out of order, its an instant No Go. I managed to do all right on that too, but then again, this is all practice, so I can't get cocky. The grader for the 240 was some E4, and really seemed to take his little position of authority to heart. We were using "his 240" and had to make sure not to step on "his sand bags", and he gave the impression that we were going to follow his rules at "his station". What a freaking hall monitor.

We did a lot of shit today, range cards, grenades (I did surprisingly well, considering I throw like a little girl on a high dose of Percocets), amidst numerous others. I planned for this to be an interesting post, but my brain is scrambled, and this is only the beginning of long workdays, so I'm better off hitting the shower and going to bed.

Tune in next episode to see how the EIB drama plays out. Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Right In Two

Today is my only day off. Tomorrow I get up at 4:30 to get ready to do more of this EIB stuff. I could have ordered some tickets to see Tool perform in Seattle on May 2nd, but that's a Tuesday that we happen to be working late on. All for this EIB that I probably won't get this year. I'm not being melodramatic, I just don't care about the badge. The upside is that there's a lot of good training we're getting out of this, that we usually don't from day to day.

These days, I'm pretty much just existing here. Its all becoming tedious and monotonous, the way it always does, the way everything does. How it all comes in phases and cycles, a lot like the tides do. There really isn't anything that I'm looking forward to. In the somewhat near future, we'll be spending more time in Yakima, and who knows what else. I'm just along for the ride, really. Its all kind of like a roadmarch. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other. No point in trying to rationalize it, you just keep on doing it. If you think about it too much, it makes it that much harder. I'd buy a car if I had anything to do off post. Since I don't, I'd pretty much just be dumping money down the drain, and giving people rides to buy alcohol on the weekends.

But to be optimistic, there is one thing I can say. Being mind-numbingly bored like this is better than being down and depressed. Oh, and apparently someone in the distant area around here got into a small amount of trouble over OPSEC. I don't really know the details, and I don't care a whole lot either. Apparently I haven't screwed up so far. And it looks like people from Fort Lewis are starting to find this site as well. Kind of a weird feeling. Reminds me of that really crappy Christian Slater movie about the high school dude who starts his own pirate radio station or something like that, and pisses the PTA and the FCC off. Another correlation: I'm starting to think that this generation is just as lame as the one from that movie. Just different flavors of What The Hell Were We Thinking? Pop culture will probably always suck, which really makes you wonder how it all works. Wait, no I think I have a potential answer. Its in mankind's nature to totally and completely suck. Yeah, that makes sense to me. That certainly is one profound little quote there. You'll be seeing that at the beginning of books in the future.

"Its in mankind's nature to totally and completely suck."
-The Unlikely Soldier

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Yawn

Excluding the evacuation (which was not at all like what you'd imagine. No Day After Tomorrow pandemonium, instead "You can't be in the barracks or in the area. Just go somewhere for a few hours. And don't let me open up one of them rooms and catch you sleeping."), not a whole lot has happened. A couple guys and myself ventured off to Lakewood or one of those strange towns and enjoyed some McDonald's. We returned to find that the only thing that had changed was that the MPs were gone.

I still don't know what to believe. You hear some people saying that they actually DID find a bomb, and were going to blow it up with a 50 cal round. Uh.....k? Who knows. I've learned not to believe ANYTHING I hear. For all I know, Natalie Portman was coming through, and they got rid of us to prevent a feeding frenzy of sorts.

Natalie, if you're reading this, call me. I like long walks off of short piers, dressing the same as all of my friends and superiors, cleaning rifles, waking up early for exercise, and The Sopranos. And I don't live with my mom. Something to think about.

Calmly and Quickly!

Once again, we're doing EIB training. I messed with a .50 cal machine gun, as in attaching a barrel and setting the 'headspace and timing', which basically means making sure the barrel and the pieces it works with are the proper distances apart, etc, so that the weapon system would operate correctly. Loads of fun. Then I went to the only other station that was set up, the call for fire station.

That's basically what the forward observers do to get the information that we mortar fellows need. Interesting look at the other side of the coin. That one was simple enough, so I ran through it a couple of times. Beyond that, my friends and I pretty much stood and sat around and felt sorry for ourselves for having to do this, and we also made fun of each other, which we do a lot. I just bought my ACUs (Army Combat Uniform - http://www.rangeroutfitters.com/acu.htm -), which the army is slowly transitioning to use as its official uniform. When we were in basic training, the Army Chief of Staff, General Schoomaker, came out to our MOUT training because he was also going to attend the Best Ranger competition. He was wearing ACUs, and at the time, they were pretty rare. You'd only see high ranking personnel wearing them. So we've got a running joke that if you're wearing ACUs, you have way more clout than someone equal in rank to you who is wearing BDUs. We're losers like that.

As we were walking back to our barracks, we noticed a bunch of people standing outside of a building, and there were MPs all around, and one of them ran across the street to where we were and told us that we couldn't come through that way, and that we needed to calmly and quickly walk the other way and go around. Naturally we scoffed at him, but did as we were told, running our mouths the entire time. We assumed it was a bomb threat or something like that, which would make perfect sense, because everyone was standing right NEXT to the building in question. That's all I know for now, and odds are, it'll be nothing. There's your update, not a lot going on. We'll be working part of the weekends for a couple weeks, which is lame, but what can you do? I ordered an Xbox 360 online that should be here in a couple days, and with that, I intend to kill all monotony and boredom, whilst off duty.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Catch Up

I've been shamming the past two days, trying to make up the SRP paperwork (Soldier Readiness Program or some weird crap like that). I was gone when everyone else did it, and so far, I've only made up the injections, which are always fun. I've been running around left and right trying to get this done, but everyone is telling me something different.

"Oh, you have to have the training room schedule an appointment."

"Huh? No, just go over to S1 and they'll hook you up."

"Nah, just go over to the SRP by Waller Hall and you can do it then and there."

"Well, I'm afraid we can't help you without an appointment. You'll need to have the boys in the training room schedule an appointment."

I love this.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

EIB A La Unrelentum

Guess what we're doing? I'll give you a hint. It involves spending all our time training up for EIB. Calling for fire (a mortarman calling for fire...that's funny), grenades, bunch of different weapons, both operating them, correcting malfunctions, and assembling/disassembling them, to name a few.

Basically, a whole bunch of crap. You probably won't get any good or interesting news for a while. Oh, and if anyone would care to write and let me know how college would have been, that'd be great. ;)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Land Nav Pt II

I'm done with the night land nav as well. Got a "go". Whatever that's worth. More shit ahead.

....Great.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Land Nav...Tedium

The past two freaking days have been dedicated to the Land Navigation task for the EIB trials, which I completely hate as of now, just to let my beloved readers know. Let me break it down for you.

Fort Lewis is a rainforest. I don't mean like those idyllic movie backdrops that leaves room to walk around, HELL NO. No, this is more like your worst impression of NYC. Its every man, plant, creature, and aspect of nature for itself. Trees and brush and godknowswhat wrestling in a frozen battle royale with a moshpit proximity to each other. If you could freeze time and try to navigate through a moshpit or a riot, you'd have a slight idea of what this abomination of God (rainforest) is all about. Navigating in normal terrain isn't TOO bad, though I suck at every form of navigation, especially when it involves driving.

So there we are, a bunch of young, dumb, and ugly Joes, herded out into the woods to continue our EIB adventure. A quote I overheard when one dude said he didn't even want his EIB:

"You will GET your fucking EIB, and you will fucking LIKE it!!!" He then went on about how maybe the Joe should reclass and be a cook, and flip burgers, etc etc etc. I just chilled. At this point, I was already pissed off. Let's take a look at why, shall we?

Our hero has successfully completed a grueling roadmarch and qualified expert with his rifle. Sweeeet. Now he has 3 hours to find 2 out of 3 points. He is given a map, an answer sheet with coordinates, a compass, and a protractor. Go play. I plotted my start point and my three destinations on the map before stepping off, figured the azimuth (think angle I suppose) that I had to travel, and the distance to and fro, yaddah yaddah. As I stepped off, I had to do my best to stay on my azimuth (direction of travel is probably a better description) as well as monitor my pace count, which would tell me how far I've traveled.

Apparently I was an intruder in these woods. The trees are hostile. They LOVE to slap you in the face as you "Pardon me" your way through. My legs are covered in cuts and bruises, and my hands aren't doing much better. I could swim upstream with salmon better than I could crawl through these woods.

By some miracle, I found my closest point. Whoo hoo. I wrote down the letters and numbers from the sign, proof that I had been there, and began to travel towards my next points.

Let me spare you the details. "You are a NO-GO at this station." That means I failed. Get back in line, do not pass Go, do not collect EIB. Try again. All day yesterday I was doing this, hurt as HELL from the roadmarch, to the point where the night before, it was a challenge to roll over. It was an epic BATTLE to get out of bed in the morning. That kind of hurt. After the all-day land nav, it was time to do the night course. Needless to say, I failed. I love getting lost, its almost cooler than Richard Simmons. Almost. Tromping through the woods, using Vietnam era training as always, your mind begins to wander, usually debating on which direction your ankle or knee is most likely to break in. Then a tree slaps you in the eye, also fun.

I'd been doing this over and over for two days. Walking kilometers upon kilometers through thick woods. "No Go. Do it again." My morale withered with amazing speed. And while I'm complaining, let's be sure we get one thing straight.

I have a lot of respect for anyone who earns their EIB. Its not easy. I'm three events into the prerequisites, and I'm ready to kill someone. Personally, I think it would be cool to get one, but I'm not placing any hope on it. I don't want one, but I don't NOT want one. I just don't care about mine, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try. This year may not be the year for me though.

I finally DID pass my day land nav, but remember how I said my expert rifle qualification seemed suspicious? Well, let me just say that my day land nav is also suspicious. More so. I still have to go back out tomorrow night and do the night navigation, but where I'm sitting now, if by some miracle or manipulation, I DO get my EIB, I'm not going to wear it. Not if I'm not earning it. I might as well go to one of the shops on post and just buy an EIB patch and put it on my BDUs. Maybe the higher ups just want their units to have a large number of EIB qualified soldiers, or something stupid like that. Whatever, already, it isn't mine. Just like that army achievement medal or whatever that's supposedly coming to me for that day out on the mortar range, where I didn't do shit but play with my camera, help prepare a few rounds, and fire ONE round....oh, and get wet.

Wish me luck on earning my now hollow award.

Aside from that subject, I'm doing very well, and actually don't have much to complain about.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rifle Qualification

So far as I know, there isn't REALLY a nightfire tonight. God I hope not. My feet still hurt, and I just realized that my asscheeks are chapped. I had forgotten how bad that sucks, which isn't THAT bad, but there's still the fact that your ass is chapped, and that can never be fun.

On to the meat of this update in the Quest For The Holy EIB. We joined another company for some fun on the rifle range. Nothing too special, really. I rezeroed my rifle (to a point, I'm still not positive its dead on, but whatever) and then stood in line to qualify. They gave us four 20 rounds mags each. When you qualify, you fire 20 rounds in the prone (or foxhole) supported position (you have a sandbag to rest your rifle on) and the other 20 in the prone UNsupported.

After a good four attempts, I finally managed to shoot expert. At that point, I was sick of shooting and figured I'd have to come back a later day and try again. So when the first target popped up, I put the red dot from my sight on it and squeezed the trigger, acting like the helicopter gunner from Full Metal Jacket, capitalizing on the infamous quote, "Get some!"

Figures, I stop caring, the targets uproot themselves and RUN to catch my bullets. So as of now, I'm still in it for the EIB. Tomorrow is Land Navigation, and we DO have to do a night course as well, so it'll be a late night. Yay for that.

EIB Roadmarch

I've been gone the past week, but apparently all I missed was a long day of paperwork and plenty of needles. Now that I'm back, I was welcomed by a 3:30 wake-up to prepare for our 12 mile Expert Infantry Badge ruckmarch. To pass this phase of EIB testing, you have to complete the march in under three hours.

I got myself pumped ahead of time with the recordings of loud 20something year old men who scream for a living. Totally sweet. I brought the trusty iPod, but didn't bother using it, because I recalled that it was put out that we couldn't use them. So it stayed in my pocket like a little security blanket.

We crammed into a cattle truck with our rucksacks, and that's never fun, but usually not too bad. A slightly interesting experience the first couple times, then it becomes pretty mundane. I tried to catch some sleep on the way, but that never really works out. At most, you can daze a little, and that's if you have skill. When we arrived at our start point, we piled out, dropped our gear, and stretched out for a few minutes until we were told to get on the hardball (apparently it means "paved road"). Several companies, if not the whole battalion was out there, so it was pretty much a sea of young men with obscenely large backpacks and M4s. Standard issue for soldiers and students of inner-city LA schools.

Once we were given the command to begin, the aforementioned sea of backpacking, rifle toting, testosterone fueled Everymen became a river, lurching forward a bit with a creaky start. This is what the inside of an anthill must look like. It was like trying to drive on a freeway with no lanes. Already, everyone has their own pace, and there you are, wanting to take off, but the dipshit ahead of you is going so slow, and you don't really have an opening to go around. I KNOW you can atleast relate to this.

Before long, the Dudes On Crack (me) began to seperate themselves from the Dudes Who Hadn't Had Coffee Yet (them). There I was, completely full of myself because I did so well on our last six mile march. So I'm just shuffling along, passing people like a dude with a new Mustang, and before I knew it, I was past mile 3, and I was without a doubt The Coolest Guy On The Planet. Soon I started getting sick of running all the time, so I'd periodically look at my watch and calculate how much time I could spare. Factor in the time buffer that you want to have, and basically, your calculations don't matter, and you just keep on boogeying. I ended up finishing the first six miles in an hour and twenty minutes, roughly. That's pretty much what I expected, but Houston, we have a problem.

There's still another six miles to go.

At this point, I'm having to force myself to jog, and when I need a break, to take long, quick strides. Did I ever mention that roadmarches suck? The further I'm going, the more my feet are screaming at me while my endorphins take the day off, and my knees ache and I'd rather be eating milk and cookies and watching Spongebob. At certain points, older soldiers who already had their EIB set up points where they'd hand out styrofoam cups of gatorade (if I may be so bold as to call it that) and orange slices. Apparently oranges give you energy or something. I figured it was either that, or all the acid in it would upset our stomachs and make us that much more miserable. Neither would have surprised me. Graveyards of discarded styrofoam cups lay on the right side of the road for the next fifty meters or so, and orange peels were more or less randomly thrown. For a moment, I almost felt bad for whoever has to go clean all that up. It was at that moment that I did what any good samaritan would do. I threw my half full cup off to the right side of the road, and savagely tore an orange apart with my teeth as I strutted along. Hey, they TOLD us to leave the cups there.

Around mile 8, I, The Dude Who Is Not So Cool Or Good At Roadmarches As He Thought, cursed myself for not wearing underwear, as the chafing on the insides of my legs was making me feel slightly forlorn. It was also around this point that the sweat on my face dried to leave that nasty salt residue. The miles seemed to stretch on longer, which also wouldn't surprise me. Pretty soon, I was straight up sucking. I went into Fussy Baby Mode. I stayed there for pretty much the rest of the march. At mile 11, my legs put their conspiracy into effect and cramped up. I was not pleased with their mutiny, and at this point I couldn't really run, just shuffle and hobble. I kept checking my watch and I started to wonder. I'd be cutting it close. I swear, the guys walking back to encourage us had been saying, "Half a mile" for three miles. I crawled across the finish line at zombie speed and dropped my gear off to the side to have it inspected (to ensure I wasn't shamming and carrying a lighter load).

As of now, I feel like Tank Abbott just made me his lover, the tough way. We have to go qualify at the rifle range after lunch, and stay to do a nightfire qualification. A nap is in order.