Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ha ha ha ha ha

Can't the dreamers dream in the comforts of their own home? I was always taught not to play in the road, because humans vs moving metal is usually a losing battle.

Go to this URL to see what happens when the Grateful Dead doesn't show up to keep these people occupied. WARNING: If you are disturbed by images of hackey-sack kicking, tie-dying, pot-smoking, annoying smelly people, this may not be for you.

Nugget of Joy for the day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stryker Net

From the beginning of this week, we've actually been driving the Strykers. We've also been working very long hours, so I'm not going to bother making this post spectacular. Here's the skinny:

Strykers are awesome. They weigh a good 30+ tons. They don't accelerate too fast, but they handle decently, and they've got power. I managed to get one of these bad boys airborne a good three or four feet. Its been rainy lately, so rather than kicking up lots of dust, we've got wet dirt and mud puddles. Perfect to send the water from these puddles spraying around and over the vehicle, onto the instructor and another student, both sticking out of the top hatches. Granted, driving with the driver's hatch open, you're also vulnerable to getting wet. I've caught a couple mouthfuls of water.

We rigged an iPod to the comm system, so we pretty much just rock out and tool around in these bad boys. I'm exhausted and at the moment, have little else to say. More later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Priorities

Every time I've thought about my situation lately, I've always done one thing without fail. I became pissed off. That alone doesn't do anything, and moping certainly doesn't do anything. So I figured I'd seek the wisdom of a true badass.

What would John Wayne do?

The answer? Well, he'd probably slap the one reprimanding him and demand they focus on the mission. Probably not the best idea. But a better idea surfaces as a result: Take it like a freaking man and learn from it. I screwed up, but the game isn't over yet. Would Ditka complain? No, he may tackle the MPs and use their vehicle as the getaway car and find a REAL party, but he certainly wouldn't feel sorry for himself. Chuck Norris...would probably stroke his beard and then roundhouse kick anyone in his vicinity, while doing a commercial for the Total Gym. But he'd be damned if he'd shed a tear.

I'm relieved. For a minute there, I forgot that I am truly and inarguably awesome.

Stryker

There's a lot of switches and buttons and controls inside the driver's seat of a stryker. Looks like the inside of a airplane's cockpit. I don't like it. We're trying to learn this monster in and out, and its a lot to take in.

The sun is back from its long vacation it seems, and the rain is gone until fall for the most part. I haven't sweat like I did today in a while. I climbed into the driver's hatch, and fumbling around with that, with a helmet on, and just sitting there in the seat, it was stifling. I was dripping sweat in no time. Guys from the Ranger Battalion were also training on some of the other Strykers. They were easily recognizable. Patrol Cap has the trademark roll in it, "Mitch" helmets (I forget the acronym, we just pronounce it mitch, its the newer helmet) painted tan like their berets, and no unit patches worn on the ACUs for whatever reason. They had all taken their ACU tops off, working in their t-shirts. We weren't allowed to do that because apparently you can't do that in Iraq.

I personally have nothing against Rangers, but it seems that all the guys that are actually IN a Ranger unit (not guys who just have the tab on their shoulder) that I've met so far, they sort of strike me as elitists. Yeah, its cool that you're hardcore and all that, but you aren't bulletproof either. Doesn't really matter, I don't work with them, and I also shouldn't generalize. I'm sure they're some pretty kickass dudes once you get to know them.

It may be a while before my potential punishment even goes through, because apparently I have to be counciled by my leadership first, then it can be processed. My leadership is busy these days. So until then, I'll just focus on learning the Stryker.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Wait...

First day of Stryker training. Uneventful.

I'm off work, moping around in my room. I still don't know what's going to happen to me. I'm not the first guy in my unit to do this. I definitely won't be the last. But as it always is in the army, there's loose talk and rumors.

I won't be getting kicked out of the army or anything like that. This is really a small offense, but it didn't happen at the best time. I have a friend who works in the training room, where all the company paperwork is done. He had to fill out a coversheet for a recommendation for a Company Grade Article 15. To his knowledge, that means 14 days of restriction and extra duty, possibly a loss of one pay grade (rank), and forfeiture of 1/3 pay for a month. So my PFC may be gone. Fuck the money, I don't care about that. And the restriction, the extra duty, that's not a big deal to me either. Its not the punishment. Its that thick level of remorse and shame that clings to you. Like wading through tar.

My platoon sergeant is pretty pissed. My friend and I have had better days. Atleast I've only got the underage drinking charge. He's got a DUI. Blew a .082 when .08 is the limit. But excuses don't really matter at this point.

When the First Sergeant was talking to me back at the MP station, he didn't even seem angry. It was like he was completely used to this sort of thing, and probably is. You know when you screw up and do something wrong, and someone doesn't even get angry with you, it makes it that much worse? I sat there, drunk and angry and confused. All he did was give me some advice, along the lines of needing to take a long look at the mirror and figuring out who I am and what I want, and how I'm going to get there. And how I'm not.

One thought that went through my head was "Had I only been stationed in fucking Germany like my fucking recruit said I'd be able to request, this wouldn't even matter." Just an excuse. Part of me is furious that this is even being made into a big deal, because I'm only a few months shy of age. These things must happen sooner or later.

Assessing the whole situation, with the big picture, its pitiful. Here I am in a different state, knowing only army guys. I have nothing to do off post, and without a car, travel is expensive as hell. I can't stand most TV, and can't even bring myself to play video games for very long. Every day, its the same faces, the same chow hall food or Dominoes, the same routine, and the same four walls around me. White painted bricks with two windows on one wall and cheap wooden furniture. A 13" TV stuffed into the bureau. 500 channels of social decay. An empty fridge. Tile floor with a couple mats. Anything to try to keep it from looking like a prison cell. The same voices shouting in the halls for no reason. The same toilets and showered shared by twenty guys. The same laptop constantly online, MSN messenger waiting for old friends to drop a line. Same four walls.

Same group of friends drinking on every carbon copy weekend. Its right there, in your living environment. I don't mention that because I don't want to be the guy to ruin it for everyone else. We're infantrymen. We live in an all male barracks. Some guys were successful and find places to vanish to during the off time. As for the rest of us, we dwell like rats. In this situation, getting drunk really doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

Even then, it doesn't do enough good, and with some guys, does a lot of bad. Its always fun at first, like when I first got here. The good times can't last forever. You wonder what the hell you're going to do for fun when you get out. And all that this tells me is that getting twisted is pretty much a pisspoor escape from this place. I don't mean to come off as an alcoholic, but if I keep this up, I'd sure as shit be in danger. The isolation here is my X factor I think. Shit or get off the pot, I've got to make some changes. As much as this sucks, this is a minor incident, but I don't want a stronger wake up call. I'm better than this, dammit.

At times, I've come to really resent this blog. People immediately in my life have gotten wind of it, and I can't bring myself to lie or sugarcoat anything. I told myself I was going to give an honest account of this whole experience, and I'm going to stick to it. I just don't like people worrying. Aside from really regretting this weeked, and being bored a lot, I'm doing pretty damn good. I stumbled, but I haven't fallen.

So with all that said, I'm going to bite the bullet and take the kick in the groin that's coming to me, and drive on.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Joys Of Being Arrested

No, this isn't a joke.

What? You thought you'd get the sugarcoated version of my army experience? Nnnnnnnnope. Here's the Newly-Fucked-Up-Knuckles truth.

First of all, no excuses. I am the one to blame. I committed the 'crime', and I fully accept that. I am no scapegoat, I'm not even an example (yet). I was busted drinking underage. Big fucking whoop, right? Your kids do it regularly. They pay a small fine, go to a class, and call it a day. Here's what happened.

I woke up. I spent the night before doing NOTHING but watching episodes of "24" on my computer through WinAmp. Welcome to a healthy new addiction to rival The Sopranos. Once I gained cognitive consciousness the next day, I opened my fridge and grab an illicitly acquired beer. I cracked open said beer. The rest of the day had been a downward spiral. Me with my computer in bed, drinking a few. Me at my Xbox 360, playing Ghost Recon with teenage shit-talking strangers, drinking beer. Me watching TV, drinking beer. Me me me, beer beer beer.

Eventually, myself and another of more rank than I end up heading to the shopette. We're on our way back to the barracks, and we see two girls walking. He pulls over and asks what the hell they're doing walking, and offers them a ride. These girls want to meet up with some dude in some random unit that we don't know. For some reason, we have a heart, instead of laughing at them, and accusing them of indirect prostitution. We drive a total of fifty yards, when flashing lights fill our irises.

Our driver is asked to step out. The girls and myself are asked for ID. I supply my military ID like the total idiot douchebag moron that I am. The MP steps away, and cures cancer or whatever it is they do when they aren't grilling me. At this point, I'm telling these two civilian girls to shut up and chill out, and to stop being stupid. Their panic annoys me, and only serves as a flag to further fuck us over. Yes, I said fuck.

Five minutes later, an MP wants ME to step out of the vehicle. GREAT!!! I drunkenly fumble past the steering column, which scored me MASSIVE points. No breathalyzer. No questions. Put your hands on the car, CLICKETY RATCHET CLICK! I'm in handcuffs.

Yes they are painful.

Next thing I know, I'm in the backseat of an MP's cute little car. The seats are plastic. The seatbelt is not reassuring. I realize how easily I could put my arms under my legs and bring them to my front, but decide not to risk it, because comfort is NOT that important. So instead, I do the smart thing, and I shut my stupid mouth, because I'm freaking guilty.

After Jesus rose again and saved mankind from complete stupidity and Reality TV, we finally began to move, and the cute MP Impala crawled down the road along the airfield. After God reinvented Heaven and fixed everything that was wrong with Earth, we arrived at the MP station, which is Spanish for "The Epitome of Suck".

I got to sit in a cell, and lost the cuffs. Everything in my pockets, shoes, and belt were confiscated. Seeing as I escape from prison with my cheap Etnies belt that often...

After I beat on the door and begged to take a piss in a toilet, I was finally allowed to do so. Don't get me wrong, I was not above pissing all over the tiny cell with the two chairs and table in it. I should have written my name on the wall? Why? Because you're supposed to be a pissed off badass when you get in trouble with the law. But I didn't . I'm a sellout.

An MP, Sergeant (E5) comes in and questions me and gets me to sign all sorts of shit. I decline the opportunity to have a lawyer because the truth is that I AM in fact not 21, and I WAS in fact drinking alcoholic beverages, and loving every motherfucking second of it. The MPs themselves were actually pretty cool, considering their suckass job. I have to give them credit. Granted, if I were in their shoes, I'd be doing all I could to reclass to...I dunno.....INFANTRY. That's just me though.

I pissed a couple times when I was stuck in that holding cell. They only watched me once. The first time. I pushed while I pissed, inspired to prove to the MP that I did in fact have to piss. After demonstrating a 45 second urine jettison, I was satisfied for the next five minutes, and was ready to go back to my cell.

After the questioning and after I signed my life away and completely fucked myself (admitted that I was a guilty little moron), I was moved to a cell that had a cute little bed. I sat there for a good thirty seconds before I started to get really pissed. I was in trouble for underage drinking. Whoopity fucking doo. That's like J-Walking when traffic isn't allowed on the road. My buddy was losing a lot more than me. In fact, we're yet to see.

This was all sinking in, and I realized that a damn, DAMN good friend could be losing a lot because of this, and it got to me. I was seeing red, and needed something to break. My knuckles were the only choice. So there I am, half drunk and pissed as hell at myself and the situation in general, beating the piss out of the walls, which have more endurance than I do. My cell door opens.

My First Sergeant (the sergeant that leads the company, the big boss) steps in. He asks me nwhy the fuck I'm beating the damn walls and acting stupid. I have no logical answer, so I stand at parade rest and provide no argument to his assumption that I am in fact an idiot. He manages to mellow me out, and then he leaves to talk to the other guy I suppose. The door closes. I sit back down on the little bed, silently livid. At what, I don't know. At me, at the MPs for doing their job, at the legal system for allowing 17 year olds to join up and get blown into Chef Boyardee splatters, but not allowing anyone under 21 to get stupid with alcohol. I understand that the liver takes time to develop. The liver also doesn't stand so well against explosions and bullets, so pardon me if I don't give two shits.

I wait for a couple more minutes. Eventually, I'm given all my shit back, I put my shoes back on, and the MPs can finally take their gas masks off. I get my precious iPod and my dogtags. My wallet. I am the first OFFICIAL member of my platoon to fuck up. Great. When I got in shit before, we kept it In House, under the table. A slap on the hand and a shitty detail. Now I have a record with the fucking MPs. So we'll see how bad I get sodomized.

I get my shit, we head out. The guy that got in trouble with me is pretty distraught. I'm trying to shut him up, the First Sergeant is driving us back to the barracks. My friend orders me to shut up. So I sit there and listen to him talk all sorts of idiotic shit. We get to the building, the First Sergeant enters first, I grab my buddy by the shirt, give him the evil Steven Seagal stare in the eyes and tell him he is GOING to stay in the barracks tonight and not think about shit. I was told to go to my room and go to bed. Of course I didn't. Can't withold a good story from you great people.

Besides, after all this? What would I do? Go to bed? Or grab another beer? I think you know. Gotta ease the knuckle pain.

:P

[All is good with me, if I lose rank, I'll let you know.]

Friday, May 12, 2006

What?!

They're trying to send me to driving school for Strykers. I suck at driving. Why the hell do they want to send me? Plus my roommate actually WANTS to be a driver, and they aren't sending him to the school. Think I need to try to get out of it. See if he can't take my spot.

Something different everyday...

Monday, May 08, 2006

You Are A No-Go At This Station

The mentality is a lot different when you're actually in front of the grader and he's got the stopwatch. You're looking at what you have to do, and no matter how unmotivated you were the night before, suddenly you've got this desire to conquer whatever it is that you're doing.

We woke up this morning and got all our gear ready, and waited. There was a couple hangups in the transportation department, so we ended up chilling in the Day Room, watching "Boondock Saints" until the cattle trucks arrived. Outside, everyone's sounding off with false motivation, screaming "EIB!!!", the mantra of our misery.

Pile into the truck, sit on the bench, barrel of rifle is pointing to the ground, assault pack (cute little army backpack) resting on your lap. Someone is singing "I believe I can fly..." then "Afternoon Delight". Everyone's spirits are high for some reason. Our entertainer pauses, thinking for another song, when I shout.

"Shot in the heart!"

And five or six voices respond, "And you're to blame!"

More voices, "You give love...a bad name!"

And the mandatory echo, "BAD NAME!"

That was a thing with some friends of mine back home. For no discernable reason, out of nowhere, typically in class, one would give the introductory line and the rest would follow. I guess it translates well to others.

Step off of cattle truck, shouldering assault pack and hanging M4 to equipment vest via carribeaner. Every infantryman in the regiment is out here, masses of formations. Seas of intermingled BDUs (green camo uniforms) and ACUs (bizarre new uniform) fill your eyes as you meld with them. Scoresheets are being passed out like Halloween candy. Loudspeakers are set up, and "Bad To The Bone" begins to play. We get a speech from the Sergeant Major, and then we're off.

Some go to where chow was set up to eat first, but I skipped that. Better to get started while the lines aren't as long. I found myself at the .50 cal stations. First task: set headspace and timing on a .50 cal machine gun.

This is a really easy task once you learn it. One of the gimmes. Basically, the purpose of it is to ensure that the inner parts of the bad beast are correctly spaced apart. Too easy.

"Time starts when you touch the weapon."

There is a memory aid I was taught to make the steps easy to remember. Its pretty humorous, and it works. As much as I'd love to share it, my gut tells me not to. Its basically a big sexual metaphor, and could easily offend people. So it stays there with the .50 cal. Maybe some day later I'll write about it, but for now it probably wouldn't be a good idea.

I lean a little on my hand that's resting on the charging handle, backing the bolt off an inch or so, and with my other hand, I screw the barrel in. Once its fully seated, I loosen it two clicks. I stick one gauge into a small nitch to ensure it fits. I stick a larger gauge into the same nitch to ensure that it DOESN'T fit. Headspace is properly set. I charge the weapon and allow the bolt to go forward, then I wedge a skinny gauge in between the side of the barrel and the housing (or whatever). I take the backpiece trigger housing off of the .50 and loosen a nut until its touching the trigger mechanism. Then I tighten it a click and attempt to push a rod up to make the weapon fire. I do this over and over. Tighten, push, tighten, push, tighten, push until it clicks when I push the rod. The I tighted the nut two more clicks and put the backpiece on again. I take the skinny gauge out, charge the weapon, and then put the fat gauge in the same spot and attempt to fire it. It doesn't fire, and I'm a Go at this station.

This is true except for one thing. I had forgotten to wedge the skinny gauge in the barrel and had taken the backpiece off and had already been working on adjusting the nut. Thankfully I caught myself, put the backpiece back on, wedged the gauge, charged the beast and brought the bolt forward (so that the spring inside didnt shoot out when I took the backpiece off and impale me) and continued on. Thankfully my grader wasn't a dick and didn't No-Go me, but instead waited to see if I went back and corrected the problem.

Congratulations! You've completed one task out of a lot. I think there's thirty some tasks total. I grabbed my gear and moved over to the next .50 cal station: load, fire, correct malfunction, and clear a .50 cal machine gun.

"Time starts when you touch the weapon."

I'm holding five linked rounds in my hands. I use my forearm to slam the feed tray cover down, and attempt to shove the first round in. This is the official way to load the beast, and no one uses it, because its stupid. Easier to load it like a SAW or a 240Bravo, with the cover up, place them in, and shut the cover on it. For this, we have to cram them in there.

My hands are freezing and I'm nervous as hell. I'm thinking about all the uptraining, and how there are a couple different ways to shove the rounds in, and I'm second guessing myself, pushing on the bastards and having no luck. For this part of the task, you have ten seconds to get the rounds in, then move around to the rear of the weapon, charge it twice, lock the bolt catch down, and fire. That ten seconds is over quick.

"At this time, you are a No-Go at this station. You have one hour to retest."

"I have to wait an hour before retesting? Or I have to retest within an hour, sergeant?"

"You have to retest within this hour."

Dude, weak. I went to the end of the line, thinking about how this time, I was just going to shove those fucking rounds in there and show them who's boss. Soon enough, I'm in front of that goddamn machine gun again. Time starts, I stuff those fucking abominable brass bastards into the beast's mouth, and jump behind the gun and grab the charging handle and yank it back. I forgot to hold the bolt release button down. The bolt doesn't slam forward, and now I'm fumbling to get back on track. Time runs out.

So I'm done with EIB for this year. And now someone is yelling for everyone who is here at the barracks to go to the day room. Time for a shitty detail. Lame.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Almost Over

All this training at the EIB site, reminds me of an episode of South Park. The kids are playing little league baseball, and are trying to lose so the season will end and they won't have to play anymore. All the other little league teams are doing the same thing, trying to lose, which becomes its own competition. Here, a lot of us just want to get to testing and hurry up and get our No-Go so we don't have to do this shit anymore.

This is great and all for the gung ho, high speed guys, but for the rest of us, its pretty much a suckfest. When you have to keep on training for something you know you aren't going to get, it tends to dampen your mood a little. Testing starts tomorrow, and probably won't last long.

I've never been this excited to fail something.

Friday, May 05, 2006

EIB Uptraining Continued

Another long day at the EIB site. I got out of a few of those last week, seeing as I got sick, and was lucky enough to be put on quarters, which means you sit in your room and don't do anything. Take medicine, sleep, watch TV, sell nuclear secrets to China, things like that. Now we're out there again, fifteen hour days, and will be going out tomorrow and Sunday as well, but hopefully not as long.

Monday is the beginning of the testing. We'll see how it goes, but please, no comments wishing me luck or wishing me well or anything like that. 95% odds that this is a learning experience, and I'll have to give it another shot next time around.

We got our bi-monthly motivational speech, which is always well delivered. Always mentioned are the words "not if but WHEN we deploy" (I'll be sure to bring sunscreen). I'm convinced that one requirement to be a 1st Sergeant is a very strange personality. Some very bizarre and really funny things come out of that man's mouth, and the sad thing is that its usually so abstract and original that I can never remember what his impromptu sayings are, only that they were completely out of left field. He's also an awesome 1SGT and is pretty good at getting us pumped, and usually offers a lot of good advice (earning a Ranger tab opens lots of doors of opportunity for those staying in the army, investing is smart, blah blah)

And if this thing ever blows up and finds familiar eyes, maybe he'll see my honest and humble musings and not completely destroy me.