Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not Your Confidante

One of the guys I work with put a CD in today while we were working...as the song started, I couldn't help thinking of Ryan. I asked him to play it again so I could listen to it more closely...once I heard the first couple of lines, I realized it was the song that Ryan had set as the background music to one of the videos he made, "Yakistan"...

Audioslave - I Am The Highway Lyrics
Pearls and swine bereft of me
Long and weary my road has been
I was lost in the cities
Alone in the hills
No sorrow or pity for leaving I feel

[CHORUS]
I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

Friends and liars don't wait for me
I'll get on all by myself
I put millions of miles
Under my heels
And still too close to you
I feel

[CHORUS]
I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky
I am not your blowing wind
I am the lightning
I am not your autumn moon
I am the night

I hear a song and I like it, but it's the lyrics that make me love a song. This one to me, makes me think of Ryan.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Memories

I remember us going somewhere, probably to Hasting's or Blockbuster, and me trying to get into your abominable Citation. That car was a death trap...but it was fun to ride in nonetheless, even if you did have to get in and out of the passenger side door to get to the driver side door. I think you sold it to Chance, and whenever I see a crappy old white Citation drive by, I naturally can't help glancing to see if it's you driving down 10th. Just like I can't help but look at The Worx to see if you're there. I remember when you took me there, and showed me all those stupid websites. They were hilarious, but stupid. I still don't get this one http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/banana.php :)

Maybe it was my junior year, maybe it was senior year, but I remember coming home way past curfew and realizing I had forgotten my keys. You were always there to bail me out :) Then I remember that time I was downstairs, Dad was yelling at me for my latest offense, and you were upstairs, talking to me through my hearing aides with that microphone thingy, trying to make me laugh, not knowing I was in trouble. I tried so hard not to laugh at what you were saying, knowing it would piss Dad off even more, but finally I couldn't hold back the smile. Ha ha...once he realized what was going on he wasn't quite so mad at me anymore.

I think about Grandma Norma a lot. Whenever I see "The Young and the Restless" I think of us, sitting in her lap, asking her when we could have our morning snack. You loved Popeye...and she would give you spinach to make you strong. :)

Remember when we took that IQ test online, and I got so mad at you because you scored higher than me? Ha ha...

I didn't realize this before, but I took having you right there for granted. Now I spend time with Cory and Chad, and I enjoy it...I told Cory he should write something to you, but you know him..."I'll tell him what I want to say to his face." We watched "Yakistan" and laughed so hard...he was able to explain the parts I didn't understand. We're still waiting for the sequel!!!

In a way, I'm a little envious of you. I know it has to suck at times being away from home, but you're out there, doing something. Fighting forest fires is making a difference. Gotta save the critters, you know? :)

Anyway, I'm bored, so I'm gonna go bother Dad and Cory while I wait for Chris to get his lazy bum home from work. :D

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Military Wives

I was bored, channel surfing the other night when I found ER: Afghanistan on the Discovery-Health Channel. I love medical shows, and this one looked especially interesting. It was a video documentary on soldiers in Afghanistan who've gotten hurt, and how they're treated. Most of the injuries were from IED's (I think that means improvised explosive device, but I'm not sure, so correct me if I'm wrong!!) The hardest part was watching when the Army personnel called their wives and families to tell them something had happened. I have so much respect for not only soldiers, but their families back home. I can't even fathom how hard that must be to always be wondering if everything is okay, and especially to get a phone call that something's happened...But on a lighter note, a friend of mine said more people were killed in Detroit than overseas. I don't know why, but that was a little reassuring...

Anyway, thank you not only soldiers, but wives too... :)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Return of the King

Ryan, you're going to make fun of me for making this "gay" little countdown thing, but I like it, and you know my opinion supercedes yours...always ;)



I heard Ryan might be able to come home for a couple days after he's done with this fire operation...I would love to see him, but then I know how the military can change their plans, so I'm not getting my hopes up. I looked at a few websites about Operation Task Force Blaze and the fire itself, http://www.northcom.mil/wildfires/wildfire_page.htm and www.inciweb.org/incident/341/...looks like so far the fire's 45% contained.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

PFC Butters

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


From Cory: "So there's my older brother, PFC Ryan aka 'Butters' doing what he does best, being a total bad a*s and showing the world that I'm the shi* and he misses me."

I had no idea what was written on Ryan's hard hat, so I asked him when he called. I guess it's "Butters". I don't watch South Park, so Cory had to explain to me that Butters is a character on South Park. Ryan...what can I say. You're special.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Answering the Call...

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Every generation is called upon to protect our liberty."
--Thomas Jefferson

Ryan joining the Army really pulled me out of this sheltered bubble I didn't even realize I lived in. Yeah, I watched the devastating news from my chemistry class when 9/11 happened, and my heart broke for all those who lost loved ones. Yeah, I knew we would respond to the terrorism, but the soldiers who were going to fight weren't people I knew. I didn't know their favorite hobbies, their favorite band, etc. It made the war seem so far away.

So when Ryan first told me he was thinking of joining the Army, I didn't know what to think. The Army was the last place I envisioned Ryan. Maybe behind a computer programming software, or designing a comic, or especially crafting a video to share with his friends for some laughs, but the Army? A part of me, the selfish part, sincerely hoped he would change his mind and remain close by. But as the days turned into weeks, he didn't falter in his decision...he just became more determined.

I hated the idea of him leaving, of something bad happening to him. I wanted him home where I could see him, there when I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to know he was safe. I found the aforementioned quote a long time ago. Once I thought about what Jefferson was saying, I realized he had a valid point. From the American Revolution to the Civil War, to World War I and II, the Cold War (I know it wasn't really a war, but you know what I mean...), Vietnam and Korea, to now, it's true. The reason they're fighting is still the same...to protect our freedom.

It's so hard to say good-bye to him at the airport, not knowing when I'll get to see him again, that he won't be five minutes away when I want to go goof off with him, that I can't call him when I need someone to talk to because he'll be out in the field, it's so easy to lose sight of the big picture...of what's really happening, and what it is he and so many others are really accomplishing.

Because previous generations answered when they were called to protect our freedom, I can post this blog and not be afraid of the ramifications for speaking my mind, I can go to church without fear of reprisal and so on. He's following in our predecessors' footsteps, standing up to our generation's threat against our freedom. Even if he doesn't quite see it that way...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Spokeswoman

For some unknown reason, Ryan gave me access to this blog of his...for some other unknown reason, this makes me nervous. Maybe it's because I see people who've read his previous posts and posted comments, and the fact that people have somehow stumbled across it and choose to read his blog on a regular basis is a little intimidating. I don't want to ruin it, because I think what he's written so far is actually pretty good. Just don't tell him I said that. ;)

I was reading the Sunday comics while I was on break today...I came across this comic strip that I feel couldn't be more fitting. No, for once it wasn't 'Zits' (Ryan was the epitome of Jeremy in high school...), but believe it or not, 'Luann'. Here it is...


While I wouldn't be caught dead in Luann's outfit :), I couldn't help notice the symbolism with the fire truck and the way Luann is looking at her brother in a completely different light. It made me think...

He's no longer my annoying little brother who ripped up my beloved California Raisin cards when I was five, or told on me when I said a bad word. I never realized how close we were until he left. Somewhere he turned into a guy that I'm pretty proud of, even if I do wish he would've joined the 'Chair Force' so I wouldn't worry about him as much. Infantry just sounds scary. But that's his decision, and honestly, I'm kind of in awe that he's willing to do what he feels is right when a lot of people his age are choosing the easy way out.

Anyway, so here's my first post. Hopefully Ryan will be able to send his posts for me to publish while he's gone.

Take care Doughboy...

Into The Fire

Last night here at the rear. Doing last minute laundry and repacking. Items have been taken off the packing list, namely the impractical ones I was talking about. Tying up loose ends.

We woke up butt-ass early today and went to some field, where we waited for too long. I had stood there in formation for maybe twenty minutes before I went, "Oh, hey, we're waiting again, aren't we? Heh, I hardly even notice anymore."

The purpose of this was to unite the deploying units as well as the civilian counterparts. They called it a "wedding". I laughed about that. The wedding ends when the flame is gone. Poetic justice at its most twistedly ironic beauty. After that, we ate breakfast at some chow hall I'd never been to. I think we were in the 3rd Brigade area, because the barracks looked really nice from the outside, and the chow hall was amazing. Civilians ran it, and it just looked really good. Like a hotel restaurant almost...or a hospital cafeteria. Anyway, it looked a lot better than the latrine we eat in.

The whole purpose of today was to get some classroom instruction and a little hands on training, as well as issue of more things we'd need. Death by Powerpoint. Everyone was nodding off. The only way I can ever stay awake in classrooms is if I intentionally get a Slipknot song stuck in my head and silently drum my fingers and fidget a lot. Not many other guys have learned this trick apparently.

It wasn't an interesting day at all, and I'm swamped with preparation and I'm tired. So let's get to the point here.

Now is about the time I need to be psyching myself up for this. Going to be gone for a month, living in tents, third world country style. The hours are going to be long from what we've been told. Odds are, we'll be down for the count at the end of the workday. Lots of walking involved. There's that selfish side that I mentioned before that nags. For now, I need to remind myself of good things. Why we're going, how its not bad, etc.

This is a real deployment. The orders came from Donald Rumsfeld's desk. The people fighting the fires are tapped, and they need some help. That's where we come in, step up like we swore we would, get in there, get the job done and done right. There are houses up there, there may be lumberyards or anything else that is someone's livelihood. This is humanitarian work. This is where societies earn their bread and butter. When you get off your ass and help someone else out who needs it. When you put your goddamn rat race on hold and get your hands dirty.

We're representatives of the army, and of the United States. As soldiers do, we complain a lot, gripe a lot, turn it all into jokes, but dammit, we get it done.

This may be long and tedious, but keeping it all in perspective is important. We answered the call, we have a mission to do. And its for a good cause. No one can debate that. No one. There is no disputing the fact that what we're doing is absolutely the right thing to do. And that's worth the shitty conditions.

See you in a month.

Friday, August 11, 2006

No Rest For The Wicked

Today's actually been a pretty easy day to be honest. We had our layout, inspected by a Specialist (E4), and he was pretty cool about it. I wasn't missing too many items, and its a bit lax because the packing list is ancient. I don't know why we didn't devise a new one, but eh...ok.

Things on the list that make little to no sense:

-Rubber overshoes (NBC): Keyword here is rubber. Rubber melts.

-Polypro: It isn't too cold, and I can see having them with us for nights or something when we're back at the FOB, but as far as work goes, I know someone whose polypros fused to his fleece jacket. That was without fire.

-Pistol belt: these aren't even part of basic issue anymore since we have new MOLLE II gear, which we aren't bringing. Kevlar helmet is also not a part. We'll be issued specialized gear I assume.

-Poncho: also can melt.

-Wet weather gear: MELTS.

But hey, its on the list. Doesn't mean I have to actually use it. Also, our desert boots can't be worn to fight fires, so we were issued new all leather black boots. They look immensely stupid with ACUs. That, and ACUs get dirty easy, and they pretty much suck all around. I'm just going to wear my old BDUs the whole time. For those of you who don't know, BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) are the green woodland camo uniforms that we've nearly phased out, thanks to our fruity new Logic Defying Uniforms.

We also spray painted the bottoms of our duffel bags a sand color and then stenciled in black our unit, last initial and last four digits of our social security numbers. Now we're about to go get a bunch of briefings, so peace, I'm out.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Shoot Me

I'll try to keep this rant short. I'm more or less free now, was able to go to the shopette to buy some supplies and Gatorade. Staying in tonight, because we have to work up until we leave, no days off or anything as far as I know.

Since I got off, I've been lazily working on packing everything, because we've got a layout tomorrow morning. A layout is when you bring everything on the packing list outside or in the hallway or wherever the inspection is to be, and items are called off one by one, and you hold them up to prove you packed it. Pain in the ass, but Joe is stupid and forgets things, so its a necessary evil. I've got my menial task to keep me busy.

A knock on my door. They tried to call me in for extra duty. Sorry, dick, I'm done. Go away. Return to packing. Another knock.

"Hey man, you gotta have atleast one with us," says a jovial fellow.

"How about you eat my ass? There's no way I can settle for just one. Not doing it dude."

"Come on man."

"No."

Once again, slowly packing, like an elderly man going on a vacation he doesn't care for much. I step into the latrine to dump the remaining water out of my camelbak. Three guys, one can of shaving cream.

"Hey man, what are you on extra duty for?" asks one.

"I'm not. I'm done."

"Well what WERE you on extra duty for?"

"...Underage drinking."

"Oh. Wanna underage drink with us?"

"No. I'm still on probation. I fuck up again, I get busted down to E1."

Packing. Some more. Then my roommate and I decide to go outside and have a smoke. Exit the hallowed sanctuary of the room into the jungle that is the hallway.

One guy, bottle of Hpnotiq swinging in his hand. He's already killed a fifth of Hennesy. Along with him is a crowd of guys coagulated in one end of the hallway. Yelling, shit talking. Apparently one of the new guys was getting hazed and didn't dig it too much and kept bitching even after they untied him. Drunk soldier has wings and now everyone's a tough guy. More yelling. No action. Go figure.

Aforementioned jovial fellow comes out of his room. His roommate is yelling, "You suck. You're a bitch. He said you won't hit him." Instigating. Who doesn't want to see a fight, right? I mean look at it logically. They're fucking morons. There is no logic, I lied.

Jovial fellow: "What the fuck..." etc. Loud blah blah blah.

How this next part comes about, I don't know. Drunk Hpnotiq guy wants Loud Guy Formerly Known As Jovial Fellow to slap him. Jovial Guy scoffs. Hpnotiq insists. Jovial slaps.

"Again!"

Smack.

"Again!"

This fool wants a few good bitchslaps, because apparently that makes him tough or something? I don't know. I just work here. Let's take a look at the drink desire scale real quick.

The Usual Suspect's Desire to Drink: 0

Glad these guys make it so easy for me. It was annoying at first, now its a joke. I got two months to go til I'm 21. One month (at most) will be spent on this detail. Two weeks later, Yakima, or so the rumor mill claims. After that, my time comes around. Yeah, I'll drink. Not like that though. Oh, did I mention that we work in the morning? I'm gonna order a pizza and finish packing.

Don't let forest fires happen to you. Kick its ass. Til next time.

Its More Of An Itching Than A Burning

The roof the roof the roof is on fire
We don't need no water let the motherfucker burn
Burn motherfucker burn

No longer bound by the chains that hold me on restriction to the battalion area, my freedom is mocked by our deployment status. Slept like a death row short timer last night, with no particular help from the Black Hawks flying overhead. Read some old posts, contemplated how bad my writing sucks, and was glad. Eventually passed out sometime around 1 AM or so. When my alarm went off at 5:30, it took an act of God to pry my eyes open. Pinkeye can't hold eyes shut this well. We formed up according to the teams we're assigned in, me being in good ol' Team 8, and by that, I mean Ladder 8.

The chow hall was the usual oddyssey of mediocrity. If elementary school cafeterias can get it half right, why can't the army? Because that wouldn't suck enough. Soldiers can't live like rock stars, it ruins the discipline we fake when needed. Want proof? A guy in my mortar section inherited five million bucks, and is now on his way to getting out of the army. Change of lifestyle. Honorable discharge. The rich can't fight wars. Fuck you, I'm a millionaire. Good for him, yeah, but the concept is assbackwards. Funny thing how the dudes who seem like their family could really use/deserve money like that...never get it. I'm not jealous actually: the only way I want to get out of the army is an ETS (estimated time of seperation, or some other string of words that fits the acrononym and more or less suggests fulfilment of contract). I want to do my time and take a bow, exit stage right. There's my four, Uncle Sam, don't ever call me again. Give me my cabin in the woods or some equally cliche romantic ending. I'll be Obi Wan Kenobi living in the hills, hunting the freaks from The Hills Have Eyes. That's an excellent retirement plan.

As for now, I'm waiting. Go figure. Early call, wait. Hahaha. In another hour and a half (an hour has already passed since morning formation), my team goes to do SRP (soldier readiness program, or some shit, which is the deployment preparation, probably at or near Waller Hall) where we'll stand like cattle in a slaughter house, moving single file, mooing and bleating, chewing our cud, minds already numbed to the experience, docile and stupid, as we go from station to station to see all the paperwork on us that's been fucked up.

Oh, and the hell with sleep, I think I'm going to my buddy's place tonight. Got to meet these air force girls. And to assure my dear mother, I won't use the "pickup line" I mentioned the other day.

"Excuse me, miss. Does this smell like chloroform to you?"

No wonder they're sending a little sinner like me to the flames. I love the poetic justice. Consider it purgatory.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Mother of All Details

This week so far has been relatively easy. Six mile roadmarch to a rifle range, burn off some rounds, roadmarch back the whole mile or two back to the barracks (odd route taken on the way there). Later that afternoon we were called back to go zero and qualify with our M4s, and came back again at dusk to wait for nightfall to do the night qualification. Pretty simple stuff, but roadmarches always suck, I don't care what anyone says. I can think of more fun ways to spend my time. The idea is to build us back up for an upcoming 25 mile roadmarch....CANCELED.

"Well Mr. UsualSuspect, why is it canceled?"

I'd be happy to answer that. We've just been alerted that we're being deployed to fight forest fires somewhere. We're already working on the whole preparation thing, and the next few days are going to be crazy, and altogether lame, a wonderful blend of nearly every flavor of suck.

-2 Hour break for Formation etc-

Tonight is my last night of extra duty, and in theory, I'm done now. We'll see. Passed up the opportunity to go chill at a friend's house off post (and possibly meet some air force girls that live next door) because I'd rather not screw up on my last night of restriction.

As far as the Captain Planet mission goes, I don't even know how much I should divulge (of my vastly limited "knowledge", to use the term boldly), seeing as an OPSEC violation would look great on my record. Apparently some talk about this was on Good Morning America this morning, or some equally mind numbing TV show whose sole purpose is to more or less take black paint and slop it over the collective "third eye" of the American people, spoonfeeding us more idiocy, junk food advertisements, and commercials of depression/anxiety/obesity/STD/and-or aging cures featuring unknown actors displaying their fresh and happy new outlook on life while they swing on a tire from a tree on some magic hilltop of impeccably green grass and brilliant flowers, while someone taps away on a piano or accoustic guitar. In fact, rumor has it that our orders are sitting on Mr. Rumsfeld's desk, waiting to be signed. In any case, its potentially high profile, and the possibility of camera crews was mentioned. Don't worry, you won't see me. This skinny would-be soldier will be more apt to hang out of official sight while not working, talking shit with friends and joking about the prospect of re-enlistment.

But still, the location won't be mentioned by me. Covering my ass atleast that far. Probably wouldn't matter anyway, seeing as this page isn't too popular. A blessing actually.

We've got to do paperwork naturally. All the Hurry Up and Wait you hear about any time you google the word "army". Next of Kin information. Not to mention new equipment issue. Training. God knows what else. They asked who all was airborne qualified, probably for smoke jumping operations or something. I remember friends of mine back home, during the elusive golden years of high school, who mentioned the prospect of being a (civilian) smoke jumper, because they make great money, etc etc etc. And then they passed the bong. Last I checked, the dudes still aren't jumping into any infernos, but it sounds like a shitty job to me anyway. Hell, I didn't make it to airborne school, so its not on my plate.

I'm not sure what to expect either. Seems every time I write about what I'm expecting something to be like, its either completely wrong, or a vast understatement. Not to mention pitifully corny. But when has that stopped me before?

I figure, we won't be receiving hazard pay or anything like that. In fact, I'm expecting NORMAL pay. I have no idea what the living conditions are going to be like. So I'll expect third world camps, M.A.S.H. type set-up. I'm expecting my e-tool (cute little fold out army shovel) to be on the packing list. I'm quite sure I'm not wrong on that front. All in all, who knows, we'll see when we get there. I doubt I'll be able to post. Maybe I'll try writing letters and sending them to Jen to let her post them. Or maybe I won't be able to. We'll see.

"Ok dude, enough rambling. Give us your feelings on this so we can go back to watching American Idol."

Of course I won't leave this precious gem out of my rant. I guess I have mixed feelings. Selfish Suspect says the hell with this. I paid an asston of money for tickets and parking to go see Tool at the end of this month, a band I've never had the chance to see live, and values said experience equally to female interaction. The tickets'll be going to ebay. Oh, not to mention the fact that my family, who I wasn't able to see during block leave, is coming through this area and was planning a stop to visit me for a couple days. NOT ANYMORE. Oh, and no I haven't told them yet. What about those air force ladies I was supposed to meet? Who are allegedly quite attractive? Nay, Navalton. What about closing my ASAP case? WRONG! What about hanging out with my cousin for once before she moves? HAHA, NO! Oh, and I'm not the only dude who's getting screwed in a big way over this. Another guy spent a large amount of money for Dave Matthews tickets and was flying a friend over as well. So solly, Cholly. I could go on all night.

"All right, you blubbering bitch. Now give us your forced optimism. My eyes hurt."

This'll be an experience I guess. You know, that whole feel-good humanitarian thing. Imagine how self-righteous I can feel afterwards. Some of you may remember the shitfit I threw when I wasn't able to splash around in Louisianna when the hurricane came through and messed that place up. Well now I can be Mr. Big Helper elsewhere. Smokey the Bear's little assistant.

One of the core army values or whatever that they cram down your throat in basic training is Selfless Service. This is an example. Ignore the fact that I'm making money doing this, and I don't have to live at home and work at Blockbuster, and get free food, and all the other fringe benefits of being another misfit in the biggest and baddest gang on the planet. Help is needed somewhere, and shockingly enough, we get to supply it. I can feel like my enlistment means more than half a shit. Until a branch falls and hits me in the head, inspiring a sequel to "Regarding Henry."

The new recruiting slogan is "A generation of heroes" or something like that. In our case, that may be an exaggeration, but whatever, milk that cash cow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Introspection?

Some Sundays'll do this. Give you plenty of time to think. I did my mopping and trash picking bullshit for another day, this being done during the day on weekends. Got to watch a handful of new guys run around most likely drinking underage. Damn near everyone I know either gone out of the barracks or drinking or both. Fuck it, I've got two months to go. It hasn't been as hard to say no as people would suspect, or the way people make it sound. I've seen guys leave while on restriction only to get caught and end up with more extra duty.

In fact, I think that night I was the only extra duty guy that stayed back in the rear. I slept. Same thing I did this weekend, worked and slept. Missed out on some action last night apparently. Or was it Friday? Who knows, its all the same these days. These dudes were drunk, that dude wanted to fight that dude, this dude was running his mouth to that group of guys, this dude hooked up with that random ugly girl.

Why the fuck did I enlist? And why would I be no better off had I not enlisted? Hell, I don't know where I'd be. Would I have even attempted college by now? Or would I still be procrastinating, minimum wage jobs here and there, living in limbo? Who knows. I imagine it wouldn't be anything special. This gig isn't so bad. Its just.....hell I don't know how to describe it.

Its a workplace. Its a fraternity. Its a distraction. Its Peter Pan and his boys in Neverland. The hell with fast food or data processing. We don't have to grow up. Its like a neverending summer camp or something. In the infantry, its just the guys. Yeah, you've got your senior enlisted, the guys who've been in for a good minute, but then there's all of us joes. Some of us still 17, 18 years old. Some in mid to late twenties. We don't pay rent (those of us in the barracks). Our meals are provided for us. We pay cable and cell phone bills. Maybe the whole car thing if you went that route as well. We only have bills that we choose to have. Our livelihood is handed to us. Plus the meager pay we bitch about.

This life isn't that hard. As long as you can tolerate living a fixed schedule and listening to superiors, you're pretty much good to go. Wake up in the morning for first formation and PT. Later on, BDU/ACU uniform. There's all kinds of things they can have you do. Go to some bullshit class, go to the rifle range, you could get tasked out on some cleaning detail, you could just be cleaning the barracks, they could have you square your Class A uniform away, or you could be going to the field for some real training. Thats rare, as you can tell by my posts, but it all adds up.

People ask me what we do from day to day and I seriously can't even answer. I mean hell, I don't know where the time goes. That's one benefit of the army. The days become weeks. Even Yakima. The one thing that never seems to leave though, is the uncertainty. I have no clue what's going on hardly ever. That's partially my fault for not following the (tentative) training schedule, and also for not really caring.

When I was younger, I'd work toward the weekend. Go to your bullshit classes, do your thing, and after five days you get yourself a break. These days I don't really work towards anything. I guess I've grown indifferent or complacent. I find myself saying, "God I can't wait to ETS (Estimated Time of Seperation, its when your contract with the army is more or less up and you're released)", but how the hell can you just walk away from something like this? This is a year and a half of my life already. Three more to go. For a young moron like myself, that's a decent chunk. Everyone else is off doing the college thing or in some way getting their life together, and I'm on vacation in a way. Don't get me wrong, I'll almost definitely NOT re-enlist, but its weird thinking about not being in the army anymore. Ever quit a job, then drive by a few months later and sort of want to go back in? Or want to go behind the counter of a place you used to work? I don't suppose this'll be any different. I'll see soldiers on TV and I'll try to relate and feel like I'm still one of them, but it'll be like it is now, the way I look at veterans. I don't get it, you'd say. They were in the "Old Army" and this is the "New Army". I'll get out, and I'll be from the Old Army. Then again, once a soldier, always a soldier, that's another sentiment of mine, but its just those little differences that I anticipate when I daydream about shit like this. I don't mean to say that vets don't matter or anything like that, far from it. I'm just trying to imagine how I'll feel when I get out. Instead of "I'm in the Army," it'll be "I was in the Army." Does it seem worlds different to anyone else?

A phrase to describe this temporary existence of mine: Someday the dream will end. Its the title of some song from a video game I had on my computer, and the phrase just stuck with me. What the hell am I going to write about when I get out? I'll be damned if I 'blog' about a normal life.

Its thoughts like this that I have from time to time that permeate my mindset and really make me wonder. What's next? Where do I go from here? What happens when this is over? What am I going to be doing five years from now when the wars are in my living room and not on my itinerary?

It blows my mind every time I think about it, and its like the realization never fully hits you. I'm in the army. Sounds surreal. "Nah, hahaha, quit messing around man. This isn't the army. This is like some replication, a poor one at best. You're just away for a while."

And in the back of your mind is that logical voice you never listen to. Your pal denial keeps him backed in a corner where he can't do much damage. But the voice still chimes in. "Dude....you ARE aware that you put your entire life on hold for four years, right?"

Damn. Feel the gravity of that one. Here's my little adventure that no one is going to care about in fall 2009. And then I'll disappear into the crowd of Americans just trying to make their way doing whatever the hell they're doing. iPods won't even be a big deal. Holy shit. These thoughts never really get me down, but its just crazy to think about. There's just so much waiting and downtime and uncertainty that you can't help but wonder.

Being in the army is like a Tom Clancy book. Its overcomplicated in some ways when it isn't necessary, and tends to drag along, then out of nowhere the action picks up and its over before you know it, and it drags again until the next adrenaline rush. But all in all, we're just Peter Pan's Lost Boys.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Leschi Town Part Two

The hail of gunfire that had been coming from all different directions finally ceased. The three of us stood in the one room office building, dim against the bright sunlight outside. Where the light shone in, the dust in the air was highlighted in rectangular spotlights beaming at angles through the room. We'd already knocked a few things over to give us more room to shoot through the windows, and now one of the squad leaders was entering the room. It was time for me to search for weapons, explosives, or intelligence. The body of our downed enemy was already searched, so while everyone else was doing their thing, it came to me to search the rest of the room. I started tearing open lockers, kicking trash out of the way. Garbage from MREs. Tearing open drawers, the metal loudly bending and popping as only cheap thin metal appliances can, the sounds echoing off the concrete floor and walls. One desk was on its side, and its drawers were stuck shut, so I went around to the other side of them and kicked their back end to jar them loose. I rifle my hand through the first drawer, nothing. I repeat with the other, grabbing and tossing at objects in it. Suddenly it dawns on me. These are mousetraps. I yanked my hand out of there, envisioning that piece of metal snapping shut on my knuckles. No thanks.

Nothing of importance turns up in this building. The platoon sergeant makes a decision as he looks at me. "You. You're hit, you've got a sunken chest wound."

Great. I get to play casualty AGAIN. With that, I drop to the floor and go completely limp and stare off into the nothingness that hides just before the ceiling. Guys come over to give me buddy aid and I don't bother to look at them or assist in any way. I remember seeing the MRE trash and the unused beverage bag sitting on the floor, now on the far side of the room away from me. I absently wonder if anyone will think to use that as a flutter valve, which you SHOULD do for such a chest wound. They tear my body armor off (which apparently wasn't effective according to this simulation in which I was magically wounded after we had eradicated all enemy forces) one of them holding my upper body up, while I sag, another putting a field dressing on my chest.

A field dressing? Might as well use a damn bandaid. Now they need to get me onto a litter (stretcher) but there isn't one within immediate proximity, no medic. They rip up part of a cubicle and lay it down. Two guys lift me while another slides it underneath. One of the guys is a member of the team I'm attached to. I'm not even sure who the other dudes are even though I know all of them. I'm badly injured, so I'm not looking around. Hell, I decide that I feel like being in shock. They lift me up and attempt to get me out the door, but this ghetto litter is too wide. So what do they do? They use their furniture moving instincts and turn it at an angle, one dude trying to hold me on as I'm sliding, and they walk me out the door.

The view of the ceiling is cut away by aggressively bright blue omnipresent sky and a few tree tops, a corner of a building here, rubble and a ruined car there, a face under a kevlar helmet, its all just peripheral details. They slide me into the back of a stryker, then slide me onto the bench and do away with the litter. This is all distant, all minor details. Really, the viciously bright calm blue sky turned into the white ceiling and shade of the stryker, panels of ancient looking equipment and the engine noise. It takes off and I shift with the vehicle, making no attempt to stay on the bench. I'm a casualty, I'm in shock.

The vehicle stops, they transfer me onto an actual litter, and put me in the back of a 5-Ton truck, where other casualties are eventually collected.

At the After Action Report, I was noted as being "the best casualty ever". Really not that hard. Its like being a heavily sedated cat. Lay there motionless and expect everyone else to do everything for you, and make no effort to correct their mistakes, instead lay there, indulging in how great you are, above the pitiful means of physical exertion.

A later mission we did at night was also pretty cool, but quite uneventful. I was on the ground outside the stryker pulling security, facing the woodline. The strobelight of machine gun fire lit up the area in front of me slightly. It was cool. THIS is the army, not the other 99% of it. Fuckin awesome.

Behind me, one of my buddies are injured in some way and placed on a litter. Two guys are carrying him to the stryker when the one in the back starts to drop him but doesn't let go and ends up skinning the bejesus out of his hand. I laugh quietly to myself. TWO guys are cas-evac'ed, one for real. Hahahaha. That's the only highlight of that mission.

Leschi Town

I'm healthy. Hurray.

Leschi Town is the most elaborate MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) site I've ever seen. It looks like a normal town. The buildings are painted, have real doors and not flimsy pieces of plywood, there's actually bits of furniture in buildings, LIGHTS, I could go on forever. It seriously looks like a small town, streets with NAMES and SIGNS, etc etc etc.

I don't have much time, because right now we're working on getting everything taken care of, the post mission details, dealing with extra ammo and empty shell casings, cleaning everything, and so on. Here's a brief narrative.

The entire company is out in force. Some had bedded down in a building well before the mission even kicked off. Each platoon had their own job, and the specifics I'm not going into, because we all know how paranoid I am of catching hell for some OPSEC violation or another. In fact, I'll limit this STRICTLY to my own first person experience. To be honest, I wish I knew more of what went on, to see the bigger picture, but we can't have it that way, so oh well.

I climb into the stryker with the team I'm temporarily assigned to. A few guys have been shuffled around, and I'm one of them. With the addition of me, we're a three man fire team, which isn't ideal, at all. We wait until the time to roll out comes around. The stryker grinds into motion and we all sit in silence, rocking around with the turns, shifts, and bumps of the vehicle.

You can see the tips of trees passing overhead through the open hatches, but visibility is never that great in a stryker. Pretty soon, the tops of buildings are passing by as well. I take the caps off of my optic and turn the little red dot on. I chamber a round in my M4. We take a couple more turns. Now I can hear automatic fire, and lots of it. 240Bravos rocking the way God intended, and our Kiowa helicopter is overhead, also doing their part to make the enemy's life hell.

We reach our spot and the ramp drops. We rush out. The world is very bright compared to the dimmer interior of the stryker, and your eyes attempt to adjust as brightly lit gravel passes you, crunching underfoot. We jump a gate and keep running to our target building. I'm looking at the windows for any silhouette of someone who isn't our friend, with the intention of giving him some 5.56 mm love. We reach the door and burst into the room. A SAW and two M4s all lighting up at the same time, all of them oriented on one enemy in the center of the room. I was the third guy to enter, and I had put four shots on him, god knows how many times the other two had fired at him. With things going that fast, its not like you could count, or process that, or even care for that matter.

The building, an office, is now secure. Wall lockers and overturned desks block the windows that overlook the buildings we need to get aggressive with. We kick and throw the obstacles out of our way, making all sorts of noise in the chaos that's engulfing the entire block. The whole area was alive with organized pandemonium. Now we're unloading rounds out the windows at the next buildings, all the while other members of the company are completing their objectives like clockwork. When the shooting finally stops, its time to search the building for intelligence or munitions.

To be continued...