You've all waited long enough, here's your update, the harrowing tale of my deployment to Yakistan, more commonly referred to as Yakima Training Center. The first couple days I scrawled some notes down on paper, but that became mundane as well.
When I first arrived and dropped my gear off in our open barracks, a 1st LT was offering to take soldiers into town to go to Walmart, so I hopped in the van. Once we were at the store, it was sort of odd, because the locals acted like they'd never seen soldiers in person before. I guess most of the time no one goes into town. Back at Ft Lewis and the surrounding cities, Joe is everywhere, so being in the army is nothing special at all. Here, they were all eyes.
All today really was, was getting here and somewhat settled in. A small group of guys, mainly NCOs, are playing spades while everyone else showers and gets ready for bed. These guys have been there, done that a good many times. They rolled in with coffee machines and coolers and bottled water, and plenty of junk food. I couldn't find a Maxim or Stuff magazine anywhere in WalMart or Target (that was the only time anyone went into the city).
When we woke up this morning back at Ft Lewis, preparing to leave, it was a complete circus. Everyone running around trying to get things done. Without fail, I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting tasked out for every little detail that had to be done. We finally boarded our buses at 10:00 and rolled out. On the aforementioned buses, everyone was either reading, listening to music, BSing, sleeping, or some combination.
We stopped in some town after an hour and a half of driving. Like the locals of Yakima (this particular instance I'm talking about was before we had arrived in the Yakima area), these Washingtonians don't see soldiers regularly, so we had a little more attention from them.
Back on the bus, the typical Washington green slowly melted into the dead grass desert we were headed for. When we arrived, we were immediately tasked out to help everyone else unload. We also ended up doing pushups and flutter kicks within our first five minutes there, because the weapons of two people who didn't even travel with us were unaccounted for. Someone else had grabbed them, so no big deal. After that, we sat around. A lot.
We still haven't done a damn thing. Been here two full days, not counting the day we got here. Yesterday, in the afternoon, we were told to break out our mortar tubes and show the line platoon guys the ropes. They pretended to watch for about five minutes, then flocked around my friend's sniper rifle. Glad to have done that for nothing. Part of what we call "Looking Busy To Please Superiors". While grumbling about this, I managed to drop the white stake from the aiming poles directly on my foot, where the laces are, and there is no leather, just a thin layer of GoreTex. The point hit the bone perfectly, and I did what any rationale, ascended life form would do. I stomped around spouting expletives, viciously feeling sorry for myself. Bruised the bone on my foot. I hope the line bunnies learned a lot about mortars.
I've already finished two books. The hours crawl by, and there is nothing here, at all. The heat makes you tired and I'm probably not hydrating enough. The funny thing about Yakima is that it royally sucks, and isn't bad, at the same time. How that paradox works, I have no idea.
I was tasked out to go with our 1st Sergeant and shadow 1st platoon with my ever present camcorder. They had a mission in a village, and guys from another company were dressed as Arabs, acting as the villagers. It was actually pretty intense. They were all really into character. They'd walk up and try to touch the soldier's weapons, and they'd try to sell them worthless shit, and babble in what sounded like me to a half decent attempt at being Arabic. Two officers dressed as reporters would follow the designated Press Release guy around, I thought that was cool.
One villager was chased down for stealing from a vendor and imprisoned by the local police. A sniper from the mosque at the far end of the village wounded one of the policemen and everyone took cover. The villagers spazzed out and shouted to the Americans to aid the wounded, but for the moment, they had to stay out of sight and orchestrate a way to neutralize the sniper and help the wounded policeman. The villagers grew impatient and soon began to riot, shouting something that sounded like, "La la lumbrika."
The soldiers searched houses and found a woman with explosive materials in her hand, and brought her outside, and rather than searching her (seeing as she was a woman and with respect to Muslim culture, we don't touch the women), one soldier visually instructer her to pull on her sleeves and garments to show she wasn't conceiling anything else.
The sniper was taken out by automatic fire from the Stryker vehicles, and the rest of the village was secured, though local support wasn't as high as it was before. The soldiers later moved on to a house out in the boonies, where the 'insurgents' were holed up, and cleared that house, but took a couple wounded in the process. Its pretty cool watching these guys in the process. Anytime I'm doing this, all I get is my own view, but when I was allowed to roam freely, I was able to get the bigger picture. Dealing with the villagers looked very stressful. Hell, I was stressed out, and I was nothing but a spectator.
After that, we, the mortar section had a grueling week. We would roll out with one platoon for a 30 hour mission, where they would raid a 'terrorist training camp' and we would provide mortar support. We spent a lot of time in the back of a five ton truck, waiting and screwing around. We'd ride with the convoy and split when we neared the hilltop we needed to set up on. So much dust, I can't even begin to describe it. Those dirt roads would kick up layers and layers of grime that would settle all over our weapons, our gear, US, it was ridiculous. I'll never forget the taste.
We'd set up, do our thing, sending rounds down range and blowing things up the way Uncle Sam likes to see it. We'd do that for the day fire. Then wait. Then do it for the night fire. The day fire would consist of a dry run (no shooting, just simulating), then a blank run (using blank ammo of course), then the live fire. The night fire would be run the same way.
We did that for three different platoons.
Each mission, 30 hours or so. Then we'd head back to the rear for the rest of the new day off, then we'd start the next mission. It was like being stuck in deja vu.
All in all, Yakima was a really mellow purgatory, that's about the best I can do to sum it up. Other than that, it was a few moments of gung ho Hollywood action amidst hours and hours of nothing. Hurry up and wait. Only those who have been in the service truly understand that concept.