Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Day We Almost Died

Oh yes, title got you interested? This is an anecdote from one of the last days of our firefighting detail.

It was supposed to be our last workday. We were covering up bulldozer lines where the dozers had stripped everything off of the ground, leaving only dirt, so that dickhead fire couldn't cross. That's right, after we finished annihilating portions of the woods to keep the fire from spreading, we had to go back and UNDO what we'd been doing. Sounds like the army, right?

So we cover the lines up with fallen trees and brush and pretty much anything we can get our hands on so that no one uses the lines for dirt bikes or whatever. Yeah, I didn't understand that one either. Soon enough, we get a change of mission. There's some spotfire that we need to lay the smack down upon. Once we get there, we realize its nothing. Let me tell ya, there is nothing more terrifying than two inch flames and tiny whisps of smoldering dirt. After that patronizing bit of work, we all rested on the hill while one of the chainsaw operators from our team cut a tree stump into a toilet. We took photos, laughed, the usual bit. And then one dude actually used it. Number two. I'm telling you, there are some weird fucking people in the army.

Because of these charades, and since it was nearing the end of the day and our spirits were high, I expended all the exposures I had for my crappy disposable camera that I still havent developed. Moving on, we walked down the hill and to a road to take a "shortcut" back to the buses. Does anyone else smell bullshit here?

By some magical coincidence, we come across ANOTHER line that needs to be covered up. One of the worst parts about working on these hills is the grapefruit sized rocks that roll down and clip you in the ankle. After you shriek in agony, someone from up the hill will yell, "ROCK!" because apparently that's supposed to be funny.

We covered this line up as well and were finally ready to get the hell out. Our path (or lack of it) happened to be a steep downhill trek, which was something we had become accustomed to. But this time, it was so far down and so steep, it was just killing our knees. I'm a young buck and I'm bitching about my knees? Yeah.

We slid and stumbled down, using our tools for balance. And like I said, this damn route we were taking went on forever. I was really starting to get impatient, when our path took a turn around some trees and rocks and then up a short hill. I followed my cohorts only to find a cliff. A large one. Right in our path. Way the hell below, you could see the road. I can't even begin to describe my frustration. Everyone was bitching, I hardly said a word. Wait, no, I'm sure I was bitching up a storm. Come on, its me.

The LT that was with us felt it was necessary to take a different avenue. We walked off for a bit until we came to a spot where it wasn't so much a cliff as it was an INCREDIBLY STEEP ROCK BED, WITH JAGGED EDGES AND NO STABILITY. IT WAS DEATH IN A LANDSCAPE. We're all standing there going, "Ah HELL no..." and eventually the first guy starts moving down and a few follow, and they initiate a slight rockslide. We make the decision to keep a healthy distance between all of us. One of my buddies even played Traffic Cop, directing our order of movement. It was cute. Almost as cute as navigating a rock quarry.

The first seven or eight guys slowly begin to navigate the Face of Demise when my turn comes up. I start my slow, deliberate descent, just wanting it to be over. And that's when I hear the rockslide.

A wall of dust is kicked up between me and the guys ahead of me (at this point, they were actually to my left, as we were snaking down the hill). I couldn't see anyone, and these bowling ball+ sized rocks are tumbling over each other. It was loud, like river rapids. And it just kept going on....and on...and on. It must have gone on for twenty or thirty seconds.

There I am with my mouth open with that dumbfounded I-Just-Saw-A-Guy-Get-Hit-By-A-Car frozen trance. And I remember thinking [....I'm pretty sure someone just died. Holy shit...]. I stood there, watching and waiting, craning my neck to one side as if I'll somehow be able to see around the veil of dust, waiting for shouting or some kind of acknowledgement to come from the guys ahead of me. Finally the dust clears enough and everyone is still slowly moving along. Shaken, not stirred.

I turn to my friend who's about ten feet behind me and give him that wide eyed frat boy shit eating grin, "Dude!!! Did you SEE that shit?!"

He nods and says, "If anything happens out here...I just want you to know...I always thought you were cool."

I laughed, and then we told another guy that we always thought that he was an idiot. He announces that that is thoroughly fucked up. Then my friend makes a reference to a running joke I have.

"Hey, what are you gonna do when you get home?"

In war movies, you do NOT talk about what you're going to do when you're done. Because its always THAT guy, right when he's giving his sentimental monologue, that gets WAXED because filmmakers love irony and tragedy. I respond.

"Fuck you."

We continue to descend, taking each step carefully. At pretty much all times, I'd have a foot, a hand, and my tool in contact with the rocks, since there really was no ground. I'd test each rock for stability before I stepped on it. Pissed off and deliberate.

How many rants about blaming my recruiter have I gone on now? I've kicked that dead horse til my boots wore out. No, this time, I went straight back to the source. I cursed my parents for conceiving me and bringing me into this world where such colossal challenges lurk to torment me. And then I hit my shin on a jagged rock. This initiates a string of bizarre and random expletives. As I attempt to navigate this hill, my mind is constantly filled with images of me and my friends slipping and rolling with the rocks down the hill. Yellow helmet flying, heads striking the edges of rocks, painting them in splatter-patterns. Twisted and contorted limbs and crushed bones.

Yeah, so I decided that I was going to let my arrogance mingle with my meticulous care for safety. Call it a compromise. It beat the "We're all gonna die" mentality, atleast until it became more funny. We stopped for a break after a few million miles, and I offered a friend of mine, a non-smoker, his Last Cigarette. He took it. It was awesome, everyone had this "We're So Fucked" mentality. Most of us were joking about it, a few others were just straight up pissed off.

We finished resting our weary bruised and scraped knees and rolled ankles and decided to meet Death head on by continuing our mission. Around this part of the bend, we had a better view of the road, only now, the bus was there waiting for us. But GOD was it still far away. And behind the bus was our commanding officers pickup. And outside the pickup, standing with his arms crossed, very pissed off, was our commander. Apparently he wasn't pleased with our improvised route. The Sergeant Major apparently had already driven by and seen us. Rumor has it he laughed.

We finished our death march and all snatched powerades out of the back of the bus and guzzled them down, feeling like we had just slew an army of giants. Then we took a few team photos and headed back to camp. Once we were there, it was kind of funny, we all quickly learned not to even bother telling anyone about it. You'd start to explain how RIDICULOUS it was, especially without hazard pay, and then some dumbass would go, "Yeah, we had to walk X number of miles uphill and downhill today too, its sucked so bad (etc)" and that was about the point where I laughed and walked off to clean myself up. Any time any of us from our team would run into each other, we'd just kind of look at each other and shake our heads, letting out a kind of exhausted chuckle. A quote from one friend, in his southern drawl.

"Man, I've seen some crazy and stupid shit since I've been here at Fort Lewis, but this is by far the dumbest, most out there, unreal shit, bar none. That shit was crazy."

So yeah, we didn't REALLY almost die, but I'll be damned if you weren't curious when you saw the title. The best part though, is that I can do what we did with the members of all the other teams and say, "You couldn't understand unless you were there."

Yes, I am an ass.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Night Driving

In the back of the unlit five ton, the dirt road was determined to spit us out and onto the gravel, bouncing like rag dolls. Inside, we were jostled (such a word sounds so jovial) around with an intensity that was more than inhumane. My innards were rearranged in a somewhat painful manner, my gall bladder and spleen have traded places and my kidneys are hiding in my stomach for safety. My intestines are in knots, but I think they're still in the same place they were this morning.

Driving with nightvision is an exercise in futility. Visibility? Hah, no. No humorous details, it was just a big mess and nothing bad happened. I was pretty certain I was going to end up rearing-ending a Stryker, but luckily, nay.

See you all in a few days.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On The Road Again

I've effectively gotten myself out of Stryker driving school. Instead, I was redirected to learn to drive a 5 ton, those trucks we're always riding in the back of. If its one thing you don't want, its a 5 Ton license. That's worse than having a humvee license (which they're trying to push for me to get next).

"Whoa, hold on! Military vehicles are sweet! Why wouldn't you want to be licensed to drive them?"

Well my friends, the answer is very simple once you lace up your desert boots and dive into the world of the line company lifestyle. You see, when you can lawfully operate such "cool" machinery, that means that your name pops up anytime the bosses need a vehicle for whatever mission or errand. If a vehicle needs to be ready bright and early at some ridiculous hour, YOU are a volunteer.

"Ah. Well atleast you still get your weekends guaranteed off."

WRONG! The more vehicles you can drive, the more you are everyone's bitch. But that's the army lifestyle. What's worse, when we next go into the field, there's talk of me driving one of the strykers. That's cute and all, but I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be a SAW gunner for the time being. So I'm employing confusion and disinformation, as well as conspiring with others to somehow get a different driver OKed for our squad, so that I can stick out of one of the hatches on the Stryker and spit lead.

In other news, Liberals and Conservatives continue to argue and slander each other, effectively leaving me with large amounts of doubt and no real source for guidance. Information is twisted, sometimes even falsified. Thinking for yourself has never been more difficult.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Three Elements of Suck

Once again, its being pushed that I get my Stryker license. Which makes sense, because I don't want to be a driver. Just like I didn't want to be 11C. But since bitching doesn't help, I'll go ahead and squash that for the next few paragraphs.

Some of you may recall the post from about a year ago where my platoon went to some pool and did a humvee rollover simulater. Well guess what? That's right, this time, it was the Stryker sim. Last time was no picnic, and this one really wasn't one for the Top 10 Most Enjoyed Moments of My Army Career either.

I am not afraid of water, I like swimming, even though I can't swim fast at all. I'm not claustrophobic. I don't mind being inside the cramped driver's Hell Hole in a Stryker. Being blindfolded doesn't worry me too much...when I'm not doing anything. But when these three elements are combined, I'm afraid I nearly lose my shit each time.

Allow me to break it down for your reading pleasure.

Hop in the seat (this sim is just a frame, not an actual stryker. If needed, you can swim through the open frame when you get completely disoriented and are about to die of Pussyitis), strap yourself in to the seatbelt/harness, and cross your arms over your chest. Now pause for just a moment to hate EVERYONE within your vicinity. Hate the person(s) responsible for sending you here. With nervous apprehension turning your veins and muscles and nerves into cold goo, hate the world in general.

You knew it was going to happen, but its a damn shock anyway. The water piledrives into your face with a slap that's cut off early by the sounds of rapid submergement. Open your eyes and yank on the harness release, spilling out of the seat in a discombobulated mess devoid of confidence. Grasp the poorly simulated latch and push the flimsy wannabe door open and swim through. Feel sorry for yourself because the body armor, uniform, and helmet all weigh you down when soaked. Feel sorry for yourself, because next time, you have to do it blindfolded, swimming all the way out the back.

I watched the others go through the second phase with contempt and loathing. I defiantly ask the lifeguard girl if she takes bribes. My turn comes around, and with the air of impending doom, a death sentence, I climb into the abominable contraption and wish for a swarm of locusts to attack my peers. I tie my blindfold while fantasizing about kicking my recruiter in the groin repeatedly and setting for to the MEPS compound. I fantasize about time traveling and dragging my past self into an alley and beating some sense into him, forcing a college application into his mouth. And why not, a swift kick in the jewels for him too. And while we're at it, the shins, and a Three Stooges eye poke.

This incendiary hatred filled reverie is shattered with the surprise of the water slapping the taste out of my mouth. I manage to get my harness off and twist around in an attempt to get right-side-up again. This motion lacks grace, to say the least.

[Where is the fucking handle? That's not it, that's not it, THAT's not it, and THAT IS NOT FUCKING IT!]

I'm stuck under the seat and I'm pissed off and nervous, and panicky. I am the epitome of all that is manly. And I'm a liar.

I'm not feeling any handle, and I have almost no sense of where I am. I can't stand straight up because the seat is in the way. I'm feeling around and I'm about to lose it, I can't find the goddamn door, fuck it, I need to get out, I'm stuck, I hate the army, I want out, I want out NOW, NOW DAMMIT, FUCK ME I CAN'T GET OUT, THE HELL WITH THIS!!!

I grab one of the poles and pull myself towards it and feel for a break in the panels. I flail about, in exaggerated gestures that comically defy the act of swimming, and finally stand up when I'm out. In the spirit of a pissed off nine year old Little League baseball player, I throw my blindfold across the pool, then rip my kevlar helmet off and throw it. It arcs through the air and splashes. I'm then told to take a break.

The intensity of my hatred threatens to boil the water around me. I lean against the side of the pool with my arms folded, pouting like a little baby, hoping someone breaks that fucking contraption. My turn to go again comes way too soon.

I mount the beast with the reluctance of a dog who knows a severe beating is on the way. Nervous and shaking, half shivering, half being a wuss, I take the better half of an eternity to put my blindfold on. Yes, I'm a complete pansy. I curse everyone who passed the second phase with ease, and silently hope they contract some nasty STD. I think by now you get the point that I was one pouty little bitch.

The water devours me whole and I yank my harness off with extreme contempt. I violently thrash around looking for the handle to the door, as attempting to exit the hatch is part of the exercise. I basically hit it with my hands a couple times and feigned to attempt to open it. In reality, I probably only spent a half a second on it, but I honestly could not have cared less. I spun around clumsily and began to swim/pull/thrash my way to the back. I can't see a damn thing and don't know how far I've gone or where I am or whether I'm moving at a slightly off angle and will end up exiting out of the side, nullifying my attempt. I finally hit a wall, and I push on it with murderous determination, and it slowly opens. I tore myself through the opening and stood up.

Ripping my blindfold off, as if my decision would carry any weight, I grumble, "I am NOT going through that motherfucker again. Tell me I got a No-Go, go ahead. See what happens."

One of my buddies tells me I got a No-Go, and I shrug with homicide in my eyes. He laughs and reveals that he's kidding, convincing me that he sucks at life and that I don't like him for the next five minutes. I give my name to the lifeguard lady and ensure that she writes me down. I hate those goddamn dunk tanks so much, I would prefer to be Susan Surrandon's housekeeper over that.

The rest of the day was spent viewing driver's ed videos, completely unnecessary. At Final Formation, we received neat little coins for our firefighting exploits, and may possibly receive a humanitarian ribbon for our Class A uniforms, and maybe even back pay, about three dollars a day. After that, I received my Stryker driving certificate from my section sergeant, that FINALLY came through from when I took the training several months ago.

That's right. I did the dunk tank thing again for NOTHING.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Little Afterglow

Today's been easy, just cleaning SAWs really. I decided to set up an email account specifically for this blog. And yes, I'll even ANSWER emails. How cool is that?

Oh, and I also found out that I scored the highest out of all the SAW gunners in the company. With one day of experience. Awesome. Its cool to brag, but if it weren't for the guys giving me pointers and even calling out targets, I'd still be in that concrete box trying to qualify. So there's their shout out that they'll probably never see.

Anyway, the address is the.usual_suspect@hotmail.com

SAW 2

Tonight was our night fire, the SAWs and 240Bravos. We had to wait til it was dark, but that didn't take too long thanks to the earth shifting on its rotation around the sun (that's how seasons change, Jen).

Before I get into this, let me add a little footnote about the end of the night. The rest of it was spent lazing about while everyone else burned up tax dollars, SAWs and 240s alike. Once we were completely finished and had picked up all the brass shell casings and links, we waited for the bus and cheered, beatboxing a techno rhythm while one of my friends swung chem lights (glow sticks) attached by 550 cord (super durable string) with his finely honed raver skills. Someone broke a chem light near the bleachers, and my assault pack (just think "backpack", not rucksack) glowed with splatter patterns. I somehow managed to get that crap on my hand as well.

Anyway, I had managed to get into the first firing order, eager and anxious and apprehensive to do what I came to do.

Now let me just state a few things before I allow you to laugh at my expense. It was dark. My nightvision (only covers one eye) was adjusted to see things further away, like the targets. I was very nervous. I had never used a PEQ2, a laser pointer on steroids mounted on the side of the gun. The NCO in the tower is calling out to see if everyone is ready, so I'm being rushed here. I worry that my barrel is high enough where I won't shoot the concrete ledge in front of me. I'm trying to make sure my NODs (nightvision) are set right. I'm making sure the bolt of the weapon is locked to the rear. I'm making sure its on safe. I'm trying to move the sandbags from under me so I can plant my feet effectively. I'm making sure that I can see the beam from my laser through my NODs. I'm making sure the belt of ammo is laid down so that it will constantly feed with no problems. Lots going through my head, and not enough time.

My friend is to my left and a Specialist (rank is E4) is standing on the ground to my right above my pit. Both of these guys are aggressively "helping" me to ensure that I'm good to go. It was like staring at a wasps nest inches from your face and trying to track only one wasp, just so many things going on. The tower tells us to lock and load. I lay the belt of ammo onto the tray and it falls out before I can slam the cover on it. I fumble for the end of the belt the way a running back with vegetable oil on his hands fumbles the ball. I toss the belt in and slam the cover shut.

The first target pops up, so I put the laser on that little green bastard and squeeze the trigger.

Click.

Cue the self-chastising profanity while yanking the charging handle back.

I point the laser just under that arrogant little plastic green prick and squeeze the trigger, anticipating a hail of lead to wipe the imagined smirk off his face.

Click.

More profanity, repeat step one. Repeat results.

I pull the handle back again and put the noncompliant bitch on SAFE and open the feed tray cover. The rounds fall out, and just as I see the error, the two guys flanking me announce my stupidity by informing me that the rounds were in BACKWARDS. At this point, I'm listening to ridicule in stereo. I have once again proved that I should have been a cook, or continued to work for a warranty company, answering angry phone calls all day, or shelving low quality blockbuster movies for more people to rent and hate. Anything but be behind the trigger of such a sarcastic and vindictive weapon.

At this point, there's no sense in correcting it and firing, since I hadn't let loose a single shot. I have topped my Unfastened Barrel Folly. I might as well keep the grenade and throw the pin. Waiting until the next iteration, I shake off my inconceivable level of moronic density and watch all the wonderful red tracers sail across the field. After all, it really is one hell of a spectacle, to be in the middle of all this noise and imagery. A line of SAWs, all about thirty meters apart (my best guess....not so dependable) intermittently roaring like drumrolls on dangerously tight snare drums; red lines streaking through the air, sometimes bouncing high into the sky and burning out. And that's through one eye. The other is a sea of green, where the surroundings can actually be seen, and the tracers are bright green, and glow with a halo around them.

The time for the next iteration rolls around, and I defiantly set my belt of rounds with the tips pointing away from me. When the command is given, I give every ounce of my concentrated attention, my violent and artful focus, on properly loading the ammo. I seat the first round impeccably, daring it to screw with me a second time, and slam the feed tray cover on it like the lid of a coffin. I put my SAW, which is now a part of me, an extension, a medium through which I will communicate my determination to put the green men down. We are one, and we have one singular purpose.

The first target pops up and I squeeze the trigger. A torrent of metal spews with maniacal fury towards my inanimate opponent. The little blinking light on these targets only blinks for a second or two. I don't know if I got him or not. My SAW and I decide that we'll make sure. Another burst of tenacious stopping power spits into the green night and I hear one of my comrades announce that this particular green man has cashed in his chips.

I wait. The anticipation is sweet and almost addictive. Attention span is not a factor when you are completely committed to one simple and all important task. I yearn, I need, I LIVE for another green enemy to rise to my challenge.

The next target leaps up and the light on it blinks. My laser snakes across the field onto the chest, then I dip it just below and walk a line of fire into it. For those of you who have never had the chance to operate a fully automatic weapon, I sympathize at the treasures you have been denied. But hang on a second, there's another target.

Bursts and bursts racing to meet their mark, the SAW protesting against my shoulder as I lean into her, regulating her intense desire to sling lead in every direction. I am her muse. I inspire her. The green target guy definitely does not benefit from our union.

Somewhere along the lines, I missed one. That doesn't break my heart. What almost breaks my heart is that I ran out of ammunition, and had to watch three targets pop up to taunt me. The storm I would smite them with if only I had more...

And with that, the romance that I shared with the SAW ended for the night, because I qualified.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SAW

Now first off, I've already established that there's a ridiculous amount of waiting involved with everything you do in the army, so no point in touching on that now. We've all heard it before.

By some bizarre twist of fate, your favorite writer has been assigned (temporarily?) as a SAW gunner.



That, my friends, is the SAW.

"M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon)

The M249 SAW provides crucial support for infantry units. The ergonomically shaped polymer buttstock contains a hydraulic buffer that allows gunners to maximize accuracy while maintaining high cyclic rates. In addition to the M249 standard features, it has a removable heat shield and flash suppressor."

Your typical belt-fed machine gun, using 5.56mm rounds, the same that the M4 rifle uses. Now we also know that after enlisting, I ended up as an Eleven Charlie (Indirect Fire Infantry - Mortar) and not Eleven Bravo as was planned. The mortar section is actually attached to one of the "line" (or 11B) platoons, for an indefinite period of time. Meaning I get to do more of the 11B work that I signed up for.

Rant aside, yesterday all the SAW gunners and 240Bravo gunners were to go to a weapons range to zero and qualify with our weapons. Give me a little time, and I should be able to upload a short video for you. Yes, naturally I brought the camcorder.

I hadn't fired a SAW since basic training, and had never used the optic sight mounted on this weapon. So I pretty much started from scratch, not knowing a damn thing yesterday. I took my sweet time making sure my weapon was atleast CLOSE to zeroed (there's always a rush to do that and get it out of the way, so half the time I have to use 'Kentucky Windage' with my M4 later on).

Let me pause once more to try to describe the soul of the SAW. Its best compared to a very vindictive woman. And I mean VERY. She'll take complete control of you and make you her plaything and embarass you if you aren't 'assertive' and take charge. You've got to lean into it hard, and with your non-firing hand, pull it into your shoulder from the buttstock to try to keep it stable while it rests on bipod legs. Otherwise, your rounds will jump all over the place. Learn how to work with her, and she's a very great asset. Not for the squeamish, which is why its typical that they put it in MY confused and uncapable hands.

Each firing iteration, you load a belt of ammo and slap the feed tray cover down on it, pinching the belt in place, ready to rock. At first, we would load only one round, and fire three seperate shots like this to zero. Boring. I should shoot myself for even writing about this part. However, once you start firing in bursts, the magic unfolds and a blanket of warmth and fully-automatic security falls upon you, and all is great and wonderful in the land of the SAW gunner.

We first qualified on paper targets. The sight we were using has multiple horizontal lines, like the binoculars used to estimate distance. You'll see why I'm an idiot in a minute here. Anyway, we used the 800 meter line to zero on paper targets from 10 meters away. This somehow works out apparently. But once we shifted over to the pop-up target range, a friend misunderstood my question and said, "You used the 8 line to zero right? Yeah, so use that."

This means that I was using the 800 meter line for every target, regardless of distance. Someone please do me a favor and cue Carlos Mencia's "Dur-da-durrrr" noise. And I wondered why I wasn't hitting hardly anything. I began to wonder if I hadn't zeroed properly, or if I had offended God in some way, or maybe if I just sucked at life. The positive side of this is I got to unload a LOT of ammo that day. Eventually, between firing iterations, another friend of mine and I are talking and I ask him what the hell I'm doing wrong, and luckily mentioned the sight. He pointed out that the numbers next to each line in the sight correspond to a certain distance, and that's what you use to estimate where you need to fire. Exactly as I suspected but was too afraid to try before. I should be waiting tables, while wearing a crash helmet to ensure my own safety.

At one point, we were off the lanes for a while, slacking and waiting, being lazy. We left our weapons where they were so we could start up again immediately when needed. I'm almost positive someone messed with my weapon to be a prick, because the next time we fired, I get my sights on a target and squeeze the trigger. The bolt slams forward and the weapon doesn't fire. I don't notice this next part, but I have it on video. The barrel (which is removeable) shifts forward a small amount. I charge the weapon again and fire. This time, the barrel nearly jumps off the weapon. No freaking wonder it won't fire. And in the spirit of Joe Rumors, later on someone approaches me and says, "Did you find your barrel?" At which point I inquire as to exactly what the hell this apparently hallucinating individual is talking about. He says, "I heard it wasn't on all the way and went flying when you shot." This is where I employ thinly veiled sarcasm. I tell him that yes, as a matter of fact, it did take a journey with the cow to jump over the moon, and also pulled a feat similar to one seen in the original Superman movie, where it travels so fast that it actually time traveled and took out the Twin Towers a day early. My feeble attempt at squashing that rumor.

With this new gem of wisdom bestowed upon me, I was prepared to fire once again. I fetched another delightfully long belt of ammunition and jumped back into my firing bunker....thing. Target pops up, my friend calls out a distance, I put the respective line on it and fire a burst. Miss. Burst. Miss. Dirt clouds kicked up in little plumes, which is a perfect reference point for adjusting. Another burst. Target goes down. I fire another burst. Yeah, I don't know why either. Squeezing that trigger is like eating peanuts. You can't stop. Its glorious.

More targets pop up, and I hose them down with lead. A few bursts per target and they go down. One thing: when I'm looking through the sight of a weapon, I don't think about much else. Even if I'm pissed off or depressed because I'm doing horrible that day, its all put on hold when I'm shooting. Thank god for that, or else I'd really screw myself over mentally. So with this mindset, I'm not getting overly excited. Its damn near emotionless. I feel it afterwards.

From the tower, over the loudspeaker, an NCO announces which guys qualified and which didn't. He announces me as qualifying with a perfect score, and invites everyone to congratulate me, give me a slap on the back, and a punch in the kidneys. I brag. I invite all to worship me if they feel inclined to do so, in fact, I even encourage it. I then turn water into urine. After all, I HAD declared myself the Messiah of the SAW, after one day.

Tonight, I have to qualify night-fire with the SAW, so now just watch as I totally botch it up. By the way, I have NEVER cleaned a weapon so filthy. Thick carbon like you wouldn't believe. Wet black residue just caked all over everything inside it. Its obscene. The black tar of the seventh level of hell is all over that thing. But now I must return to work.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nevermind

I've been gone for a few days, and came back to a bunch of comments emailed to me, all saying the same thing my sister and I talked about before I left. This is the way terrorism works, it instills fear and coerces others into going along with demands by using the threat of violence.

This just needs to serve as a warning, a reminder that myself and other writers have to be careful about what they put in writing, since anyone can see it. Same as always, I'll post when anything interesting happens or when I have some rant I feel I need to post. Unfortunately, I probably won't be posting pictures or any of the videos I make, or atleast not at first. Never say never, right?

An example from one voice of reason.

"It's your call of course whether or not you shut down your blog. But consider this; they'll still be using the internet as a tool to kill us. On the other hand if you shut down your blog; it's a small victory for THEM. You are a rational, intelligent, creative writer with a great sense of humour. We in the western world need people like you to voice their thoughts. You will soon be going from training to making history. People such as yourself, Tim Boggs, Buck Sargent and Colby Buzell help get the word out without endangering OPSEC.

Many people here in Canada and The USA have lost their moral compass. They can not/will not come to grips with the fact that we are at WAR. Our civilization is in danger. Think long and hard about this please. Don't hand them even the tiniest victory. Don't let them silence you." -Membrain

To let someone stop me from doing something like this would be completely unamerican. Fuck these guys, they aren't taking anything from me..

Friday, September 15, 2006

Life's too short...

This really has nothing to do with Ryan, but I feel like I've learned an extremely valuable lesson...A friend of mine, who I went through Confirmation with in 7th grade, who I snuck drinks with junior year of high school in the local bowling alley parking lot, this girl that I lost touch with and just last month got in touch with again, instant messaged me yesterday. Her husband is in the Air Force, and was TDY for a few months. They have a year and a half old daughter, and she's due the day after tomorrow with their second daughter. The Air Force arranged to have Mike come home a few days early, just in case anything happened with her pregnancy. They were 40 miles away from town when another car crossed the median and hit the end of their van, sending it into a tailspin before it went off a 40 foot cliff. The two chiefs in front were okay, thanks to the airbags, but Mike was thrown out and hit his head on a boulder. They brought him to the hospital yesterday via Mercy Flight, and I genuinely believed he would pull through, that everything would be okay and he'd wake up and they'd go on as if nothing ever happened...until Rachel told me tonight they'd pronounced him dead ten minutes to 5 this evening...

I can't even imagine...this has to be every wife/mother's worst nightmare. Suddenly getting mad at Chris for taking the Powerade I was going to use for my lunch seems so trivial...so foolish. Would I be upset about the damn juice if he was going to be gone forever, tomorrow? I just remembered this quote I read, "A husband snoring is the sweetest sound in the world. Ask any widow." It's so true. I can't imagine what good can come out of this, but I know God has a plan, even if we can't understand it yet...but I know I'll think twice before I get upset with my mom for caring a little too much, or aggravated with my husband for not folding the towels just right. Life is too short, too unpredictable...

Monday, September 11, 2006

This Page May Go Down...Permanently

9/11/2006

Now normally, I refuse to post articles by others, or even link to other sites, because this is supposed to be an account from my eyes only, but this is relevant I think.

Actually, nevermind. I WAS going to link some videos I found on YouTube, but a lot of it is shit no one needs to fucking see. I'll just get to the chase.

Anti-American Muslims are all over our neck of the internet too. I'm not talking about this because I heard some horror stories from my chain of command, I fucking stumbled across them myself. Using our own video sharing websites, speaking to each other on message boards IN ENGLISH. I mean fuck, they trying to recruit from within this country too? Example, paraphrased:

"Do not share any videos with [username]. He is pretending to be Muslim so he can report the videos and have them removed...Peace be with you."

There are also comments about a video where an M1 Abrams tank is hit with an RPG. One Marine (no shit) comments:

"I'm a M1A1 tank crewman for the Marine Corps and all I can say is that the crewmen in that tank are laughing their asses off, All it sounds like from the inside is as if someone threw a big rock at it. You can only disable a tank with an RPG by breaking the track."

Good idea, give them a strategy. This one is worse:

"he tank is fine. If you want to take an abram out with an rpg you have to hit it in the exuast where the jet engine is. That or take out the tracks."

A seasoned warfighter would probably already know this, but how stupid can you be? No wonder they shove this OPSEC shit down our throats. People are idiots.

Back to the "peace be with you" remark, I don't have anything against a Muslim wishing peace on his brother, but I find it VERY FUCKING IRONIC when he's talking about peace in messages attached to videos glorifying the death of American soldiers. I watched one of his videos, and it opens with quotes and stock footage from GW Bush. Part of it was him at some large party or some shit like that, telling a joke about how "the WMDs have got to be SOMEWHERE." Cut to a picture of maimed or killed Iraqi civilians. "Nope, not there." Another picture. "How about over here?" Another picture.

Its fucking propaganda. The same shit we churn out ourselves. For fuck's sake, this is synonymous with the way our world is. All this talk about good and evil, its all bullshit.

We're two different sides holding different views.

But that's too simple I guess. So apparently these people really don't like Bush. Ok, I can understand how that has happened. I'm not informed enough to villainize him or point the finger solely at him, nor is it my place to. For now, yes, he's my commander in chief, but that doesn't mean I have to blindly follow every word he speaks either. A president is one man, whose purpose is to represent the people and run the country.

My purpose is to be a good and decent human being, and to think for myself. To know right from wrong and to make my own decisions. And to serve this country, and the men I signed up to assist. Not for oil, not for dominance of the Arab nations, and not to spread Christianity. Part of their propaganda is stating that we are all Christian Crusaders. COME THE FUCK ON.

Let's open our underused minds for a minute and face the facts. We as Americans, are diverse. Every race, creed, religion, ethnicity, the whole potpourri, we're all here. We aren't clones. We aren't all the same. And the same goes for Iraqis and Afghanis, Iranians, Syrians, all of the Arab nations, and all of the rest of the world as well. There is no one purely evil collective of people. We all eat, breathe, love, hurt, shit, work, sleep. We all procreate and raise families and try to live our lives the best we can. Its just these major cultural differences, and people's own inability to see past the bullshit people feed us, that's a major part of the problem right there.

But there's no fixing the entire world's problems. John Lennon failed, because that's not who we are. The world is beautiful and hideous. Bad shit is always going to happen, because people, while wonderful things, are also shit. Once again, the Yin Yang, Duality, is a valid symbol.

But that's not why I'm posting this. That was a rant, not thought out, coming straight to the keyboard as fast as my mind thought it. The key issue right now is that these guys who hate us and want us dead, the guys who are our enemy for as long as they choose to fight us, can access anything we put out on the internet.

I'm all for milblogging as you can tell, I really enjoy doing this. But there's no veil between the two sides. I don't want any harm to come from writing on this site. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. Fucking bummer, too. Earlier today, I was once again throwing around the idea of talking to my First Sergeant about this site, but now I may not have to.

Title of one of their videos: "Good way to slow down humvees"

They use the fucking internet for intel. You can find their videos pretty easily. And they've always got this really peaceful sounding Islamic (sorry if I'm using the wrong title) music playing, while a US military vehicle is bombed. They honestly believe that what they're doing is the right thing. They believe it 100%. There's no reasoning with that. When I say, "they", I mean the ones fighting against us, not all Muslims. I am aware of the difference. This is all one huge clusterfuck.

I'll keep writing offline, because my memory is shitty, and maybe one day after this is all over, I can post it or something, but for now, I may have to exit stage right, for the greater good. What an ironic day to end this blog.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Deployment

Monday August 14, 2006

We woke up before the rooster even took its morning piss and brought our gear downstairs. Plenty of waiting. Load duffel bags, wait, load rucks, wait, climb onto cattle trucks. They took us to the stadium where there was supposed to be a speech or ceremony of some sort. Instead, it was even more waiting, and lots of it. I don't know what happened with all of that, but eventually, we just got on the buses.

The ride itself was uneventful. When we came through the mountains, guys would stand in the aisles, taking pictures, and generally acting like they'd never seen mountains before. I'm from Montana. I wasn't at all impressed.

When we neared our destination, a huge column of smoke could be seen over a few ridges.

After a lot of hustle and bustle bullshit, we got our camp set up. Its not bad at all. We've got a tent city type thing going on here, and we each get our own. Civilians are running the chow show, so the food is actually pretty damn good.

We were told to pretty much stay in our area, and not to mess with the women. It was actually suggested that we not even bother associating with them at all. Makes me wonder what everyone else thinks of us infantry guys. Tomorrow we go out for some training at an actual fire site, but it should be pretty mellow. We were also told to bust our asses so that we can get all the "good" missions. To the north over the ridgeline, mixed in with the black sky is dark red illumination from the fire.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I'm going to keep this short cuz I want to sleep. We woke up before the sun once again and put on our fruity uniforms and grabbed our gear. Due to some random holdup, we waited for a few hours, then took a long ride on buses. Long story short, we went out to the woods where it wasnt burning for hands-on training. All I have to say is that this is no joke. Wears you the hell out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More training, this time around an already burned out area. Skeletal charred trees like gnarled black toothpicks. Looks like a closeup of skin, where each hair is enormous. Smoldering holes blowing out smoke, radiating heat, and a campfire smell everywhere. The dirt and the ash have all mixed, and its like moon dirt. The slightest shift of a boot sends up plumes of the dust. When th eteam moves, you travel through thin walls of the stuff, breathing it in, building nasty black boogers in your nose, plus it mixes with the sweat on your face.

We took a horribly long clim up a steep hill through the ash, completely wearing us out, and we didn't even really go that far. Over the LT's radio, we hear chatter about someone in another team putting an axe through his boot. I don't know anything about who it was or how bad the injury was. We dug lines (basically a perimeter of dirt around an area so the fire can't spread).

Atop our mountain, we could see across the valley to the side of another. Seceral scattered columns of smoke were rising from the trees. Firefighters are badasses. This is hard work. This is blow-your-knee-out day in day out shit. Do this for a couple weeks and then try to complain about your job. My team has decided that our 'designated firefighter dude' is everything Chuck Norris wishes he could be.

There was one surreal moment when we were walking along a dirt road, and at the edge on our left, the trees gave way to a view of the valley. The sky was veiled in smoke, and in the middle of the huge cloud, the sun shone through, perfectly spherical and blood red. Where the smoke canopy ended, the sky was pink and orange, fading into a blue horizon that walled along the green valley. Normally that alone would be all sorts of scenic and artsy fartsy, but with the sun was completely behind that veil of smoke, bright red. Neato.

We've got a good setup here too. Trailers with showers, a new AAFES trailer, new phones (though I dont bother waiting in line) good food, an endless supply of water and powerade. When you come back from the day's work, you have a brief team meeting, then you're pretty much off to take care of little things like eating, showering, and before you know it, its 10:00.


Thursday August 17, 2006

First actual mission. Mop up. Pretty tired. Earlier today, I had all sorts of similes and other poetics means of expression sitting in my head, waiting to be used, but its all gone now. I'm tired and grouchy. We did a good job out there, extinguishing little smoldering spots with the ferocity of barbaric death squads.

-Ok, I'm going to deviate from the crap I wrote in the notebook, and just use that as a basic outline for this.

See, we thought we would be fighting these huge infernos, like the movie Backdraft or something. Then each day we'd be brought out to some little Nature's Cookout. Mop up really says it all. When we actually DID see flames, they were campfire sized, except for on a couple other occasions. Someone would spot a little whisp of smoke and shout, "We got action!" Then a few of us would approach it, and beat the hell out of it with our tools. The ultimate goal is to mix cold dirt with the burning shit and not give it anything to burn, but we usually just went nuts and beat it like a compulsive gambler. Watch the scene from Office Space when they beat the crap out of the printer. That was basically it. Anyway, back to the crap I wrote.

A fire cut off our return route and we had to take a long winding detour route from hell. Barely into it, the bus swipes a pickup, and the guy standing by it does the mandatory You-Just-Hit-My-Vehicle-So-I'm-Going-To-Throw-My-Arms-In-The-Air-And-Complain routine, and we laughed at him. He had parked his pickup too close to the turn. Just after that, around a bend, the check engine light must have come on or something. We sat there for about twenty minutes, and I was already trying to decide which of my comrades I would eat first, when other buses passed us. Back at camp, the food was mediocre, something was screwed up with the girls showers, and the lines were ridiculously long.

I really have no motivation to even type all of this up. Its not really that cool or exciting, its all really anti-climactic. Maybe I'll add more later.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Inevitable Return of the Great White Dope

I am back. Its been a while, and thankfully not the full amount of time like we figured it would. I did plenty of writing in a notebook, and I'll post all of that in heaps later on. Still settling in, wading through emails and reading Jen's posts. It was a head trip to come back and find that she posted the lyrics to "I Am The Highway". That's easily the song I listened to the most out there. Apparently I've got a theme song now. Anyway, I'm going to be lazy for now, and I'll have my adventures put on here shortly.

Short But Semi-Sweet

So Ryan, you're supposed to come home today...finally! Way to prove my countdown wrong, but I'm not complaining. I am complaining that Chris hasn't picked me up yet for church and now I don't get my caramel machiatto because "we don't have enough time". Grr my life is so hard. Right. I wish I had your life...so easy! I mean, sleeping out in the great outdoors, the wonderful smell of smoke (I actually do like the smell of smoke...and gasoline. I don't think that's good). Anyway, all sarcasm aside, you need to get home and tell me to quit being such a baby. I'm expecting at LEAST 5 lengthy blog posts all about your adventures into the great outdoors and your heroic fight with Mama Nature.
♥~♥~♥

Friday, September 01, 2006

Koda says Hi

Ryan called tonight. Second time I've missed his call cuz I'd forgotten to take my phone off silent after work...but he called Dad's and I got to talk to him anyway. He said he's most likely going back to base this upcoming Sunday, if nothing unexpected happens. And most likely will get a four-day weekend to come home-home. You know what I mean...So you'll no longer have to endure my mindless blogs... :) Should be interesting to hear what Ryan has to say when he reads what I've written...probably something to effect of "And this is why I call you Jentard..." but I'm not complaining.