They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...


These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Dec 29, 2008

Today's Military Leadership...

WARNING: SEVERE BITCHING AND MOANING EMINENT. DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR ME BITCH.

So I have been all high on the holidays for the last few posts, and now that is gone because I have been brought crashing down by the leadership around me, mostly above me.

Military leaders today are nothing more than politicians who are quickly and quietly building a military that is incapable of winning wars without the assistance of their electronic toys. Today’s military is so technologically advanced that in some cases there is little to no need for actual boots on the ground soldiers to be there. So they are left with little if anything to do and because of that they invent things for soldiers to do and they invent new rules for soldiers to follow. Not to mention the tactical proficiency of some of them is so questionable that any private with half a brain could make superior tactical decisions with the same information.

Furthermore, the politics of the current military system that pervades the US Army is such that it requires leaders to eat their young in order to advance themselves. What do I mean by "eat their young"? Soldiers, for the most part are young, and impressionable, not to mention they are incapable in their idealism of understanding that they do have to protect themselves from those around them because they fail to realize that there are those who would do them harm in order to further their own agendas. Meaning that they cannot understand that some of their leadership would be more than willing to serve them up on a silver platter in order to avoid any semblance of black mark on their own record.

Today’s military rewards those who are able to check the box. That is the mentality of the system today. We care very little for tactical proficiency because if my leadership is any indication there is no emphasis on tactical proficiency in any of the military leadership academies. All that is emphasized is that you toe the line and check the box. Did you properly fill out every piece of paperwork that is required by our ultra-micromanaged military? Can you make it sound like you followed every directive given you by your higher chain of command in a debrief report? Not did you accomplish the mission set out for you with a minimum of expenditure of manpower and resources, but can you make it sound like you did.

Do you meet the uniform standard? Are you kidding me? Uniform standards in a war zone. We have more important things to worry about other than our uniforms. We have weapons to maintain, vehicles to fix, and missions to plan in order to minimize casualties and resource depletion. The last thing that anyone should give a shit about is whether or not some 18-year-old kid forgot to put his nametape on his bear jacket.

Certain things I can understand. Cleanliness is one. If you do not maintain a clean workspace then that leads to disease and the presence of rodents and the snakes and predators that come with them, so cleanliness is important. But taking it to a point where everyone has to have all of their things placed in their rooms in a military manner. Where everything has to be in absolute order, at all times is ridiculous and it goes to ridiculous lengths. I was told today that I needed to vacuum my crumbling cement floor!

My senior leadership questions the fashion in which I keep my living quarters and asks why I cannot make my place look as neat and orderly as theirs? Well maybe its because I have just as much shit as you do, but I have a third of the amount of space that you have. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have to live my life on the mission schedule that you dictate and you get to sleep soundly in your bed every night, while I sleep curled up in a humvee built with midgets in mind. You question why my uniform isn't clean? It's because I have been out in the Afghani desert or mountains recovering a truck that was sent out by you into terrain that every soldier here knows it could not negotiate but you sent it anyway because your boss had told you to. And God forbid you ever tell the boss you cannot or will not do something, regardless of the pointless danger into which it puts your soldiers. After all they are just the tools in the machine that you are going to use to get your next promotion. You question why my weapons aren't clean? Well first of all, the desert is not kind to weapons here. Secondly, it might have something to do with the assholes out there that I have to fight with on a regular basis, while you sit here in the comfort and security of the FOB and do your little reports and paperwork and fill out your forms, and leisurely wipe down your weapons because they do not need a full cleaning because they haven't been used!

Well, with all due respect, go fist yourselves. You have me between a rock and a hard place given the fact that I am far enough into my military career that there is little point if any in quitting now. So I have to soldier on, and I will, just as I have always done. I will adjust the way that I do things to meet your expectations. Not because I want to but because I have to. For this you will never have my respect. Not a single one of you. I will give you the faux respect demanded by military customs and courtesies but you will never have the man-to-man respect. Which is the only kind that actually means anything. A salute is demanded by the military. But real respect can only be earned.

So with that I will tell you that you have earned nothing but the contempt of your soldiers and I hope someday that you realize you were nothing more than a hanger holding up the leaders uniform.

I am done now.

I love you mom...

THAT'S WHAT I WROTE THIS AFTERNOON...NOW THIS IS WHAT I REALLY THINK...

Fuck these guys! Pure and simple. I am what I am and will always be so. I don't give a damn what any of these pricks think. I have worked my whole life to make of myself what I have become, and regardless of my current rank it pales in comparison to what I am inside. I have been a soldier for over a damn decade now and I have worked my way through that (which was a royal bitch) I worked my way through college (with a 3.76 GPA, and for my dumb ass that is pretty good) not to mention the mountain of shit that I waded my way through for the better part of my life. So these guys can kiss my fat Irish ass.

Now that I am done bragging let's get down to it. Today the leaders here showed me their true colors and showed us exactly what they thought of us. They think we are nothing more than pieces of shit that are to be used as stepping stones up to their next rank. Now any man that would take credit for the work of others and any man who would use the blood, sweat and tears of another to grease the wheels of their own career is quite frankly, not a fucking man.

But in today's Army there is no one in any real position of power who is willing to stand up and say that we have become an organization that rewards politicians! Now if you ask me, soldier and politician are two completely different career paths and there is no room in the ranks of either for the other.

Once again, due to military rules I cannot tell you what these assholes did but I can tell you that they took full and complete credit for something we did and are well on their way to their next promotion. Fucking dickbags!

Unfortunately for me, I cannot get a passage from General Norman Schwarzkopf's autobiography out of my head. The story went something like this.

When the General was a lowly Lieutenant he turned in his letter of resignation from the military. He figured he could make more money in the civilian world anyways. Now his Colonel called him in to see why he was resigning. The future General went into a tirade about how the leaders of the military were incompetent and that they were nothing more than narrow minded politicians who were only out for themselves and they were basically a collection of assholes. (The book puts it a lot better than that) But it came down to incompetent, political leadership. The future General then said that there was no way that he could stomach serving in a military that promotes such lowly creatures, who would place their own welfare before that of their men.

Then the Colonel said to General Schwarzkopf, "Well if you don't stay and rise through the ranks, then the assholes will always run things."

Maybe there is something to that sentiment. Maybe it's time I got off my ass. Maybe it's time to start making a little noise. Not so much for my sake, but for the sake of all these young soldiers coming up now.

Maybe...

Now I am really done.

And thanks for listening to me bitch.

Later,

I love you mom...

Dec 25, 2008

Thank You Ray Charles...

So anyways, I felt the need to put pen to paper, or at least digits to keys after what just went on...

Not only for my sake but for the sake's of all you folks out there who are thinking of us, or missing your own soldier, or just patriotic and worried about us while we are here and you are there.

We just had our Christmas Dinner. And let me say this, Christmas here is wonderful just in a little bit different way than it is at home. Now as I sit here listening to Ray Charles's song, "That Spirit of Christmas" This is what comes to mind.

There is a lyric in that song that goes, "All the kinfolk gathered 'round the loving Christmas tree". Which is exactly what we did here today. As soldiers we are all brothers and sisters in arms. We may not be blood, but it has been said a thousand times, we share a bond deeper than anything most people could ever imagine.

Now while there is no way that my brothers and sisters could ever replace my family, however they definitely made a suitable surrogate. And I would not trade this Christmas for anything in the world. I mean I got to see my First Sergeant in an elf hat that gyrated from left to right and had a whole bunch of flashing red and green lights around the brim. That by itself was worth the price of admission. (Not to mention, I got to see the Commander spooning out generous helpings of corn and green beans. That's right Sir! Get to work)

Another line in that song goes, "Christmas is the time of year, for being with the ones we love", now I am not with the ALL the ones I love, but I am most certainly with some of them. My brothers and sisters in arms who are all going through the same thing, as I am this holiday season. I do love each and every one of you, even if I don't like some of you all that much.

Still another line in that song, "It's truly amazing, that spirit of Christmas” It most certainly is. We got stockings full of candy, fatty cakes and gloves and shit from someone back home I have never met, and we all got a box filled with everything you could think of, to include of all things, peanut butter and jelly! Where's the bread man? All the bread here is stale. But even that doesn't change the fact that some nice people back home, namely Barbara and Earl from...somewhere, took the time to buy all this stuff, box it up, and send it to us. I don't know whom they are and probably never will but they still managed to brighten up Christmas day for this soldier so far from home. Thanks, I'll never forget it.

I love days like this just because they show you the resiliency of the human spirit and the generosity that can come when people are backed up against it. So with that I leave you to enjoy your families and friends, all of us may not be home this Christmas, but we found a family with which to celebrate. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

And thank you Ray Charles for giving me the words that I probably never would've come up with on my own.

And now I'm done.

I love you mom...


P.S. The following is called “A Soldier’s Silent Night” This shit happens all the time, someone always says it better than I ever could so here it is…

Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone.
In a one-bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give.
And to see whom, in this dwelling did live.
I looked all around a strange sight to see.
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings on the mantle, just boots filled with sand.
On the walls hung pictures of far distant lands.
Medals, and badges, awards of every kind.
A sobering thought came alive in my mind.
This house was different, it was dark, it was dreary.
I’d found the home of a soldier; I could see that most clearly.
The solider lay sleeping, silent, alone.
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
His face was so gentle, the room in such disorder.
Not at all how I’d pictured a United States soldier.
Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed.
Then I realized the other families that I saw this night.
Owed their lives to soldiers, so willing to fight.
In the morning around the world, children would play.
Grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
But they all enjoy freedom each month of the year.
Because of soldiers, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help but wonder how many lay alone.
On a cold Christmas Eve in lands far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye.
And I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.
The soldier awakened, I heard his rough voice.
Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice.
I fight for freedom I don’t ask for more.
My life is my God, My country my corps.
The soldier rolled over and he drifted to sleep.
But I couldn’t control it and I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still.
As both of us shivered from the cold night’s chill.
I didn’t want to leave him on that cold, dark night.
This guardian of honor, so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over with a voice soft and pure.
He whispered, “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas day, all is secure.
One look at my watch and I knew he was right.
Merry Christmas my friend, May God bless you this night.

Dec 24, 2008

Well I Guess There Is No Way Around This...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 1031 hrs.

So it's Christmas Eve, tomorrow will be Christmas. So let me begin by saying Merry Christmas to all and to all...ah I can't finish that sentence. Not because of any particular animosity toward Christmas, I actually love Christmas, but just because it is so damn cliché that I can't finish the sentence.

I guess I should recognize a few people who have been particularly supportive of me while I have been here.

1. Airman Mom: you are quickly becoming like a virtual mother to me, and your care packages are most definitely something that I look forward to always. Not to mention the bandana is great, I love it.

2. Missy: I already consider you a true friend and between the hot sauce and the chocolate covered sunflower seeds I am going to have a very Merry Christmas. I wish you and your family all the joy possible this Christmas.

3. Professor: I can't even tell you how shocking it was for me to learn that you had taken my bullshit into a college classroom and the students actually got something out of it. That was almost the best Christmas present I could've gotten. I truly appreciate it.

4. Kathy & Tasha: I will never forget working with you guys and you should've seen the looks on the kids faces when I gave them all the stuff you guys had sent to me. (Don't worry; I picked out all the good stuff first.) You are my friends and will always be so.

5. Jeanne: Holy shit, I know you are going broke sending me stuff. I counted at least two paychecks worth of stuff lying around my room. I will never be able to tell you how much your love and support means while I am here. It makes every day that much easier. Thanks babe.

6. Kenny: Hard drives are good for holding "morale building" material. That damn thing is the single most important thing I have received while I am here. Thanks pal, and have a drink at the post for me. Merry Christmas.

7. Anyone else that comments on my B.S.: Please understand that if I could I would answer each and every comment. However, we only get 30 minutes at a pop on the computer so I have to write my shit on my personal computer and then thumb drive it over to the lab. I appreciate and read every comment I get. They make this whole writing thing worthwhile for me. Merry Christmas to all of you.

8. Post 1205 (All of you) Merry Christmas you drunken loons. I miss all of you dearly. I could go on and on, but that is reserved for the mom. So do me a favor, lift your glasses tomorrow and toast me a "Merry Christmas" then make sure Last Call Paul gives me an E.A.D. That would make my day. (Make sure the Rolling Rock is cold when I get home.)

9. The Whole Family: Most of you are entirely out of your minds which makes you fun. So Auntie, Auntie Buddie, Sandy, Michael, Jared, Joshua, Aaron, Beth, Julie, Scotty 2 Hotty, all your damn animals, Stevie, Eve, Matt, Eric, and whoever else...if I forgot you, well get over it, I love you all and wish you all a Merry Christmas.

10. T.J. (Last numbered person) Little brother, I miss you, and I love you. Ahh, that actually made my skin crawl, enough of the mushy shit. Keep on being just like you are, you wouldn't be much fun any other way. I found out that I could bring you back a "piece" from here in Afghanistan. It just has to be dated 1898 or earlier. So I'll work on that one later on in January when I go on pass. And finally, I can say in no uncertain terms, that you are now the fattest of the brothers. What do you think of that one "Chunk style"?

And last but certainly not least, Mom. I know that this is going to be the hardest Christmas you have had in a long time. Between the usual Christmas shit you have to put up with, now you have the added stress of me not being there. But you'll be fine.

I know you will, you always are. Remember what you told me, either get up and do it or lie down and die. Well I am going to get up and do it. And I know you are too. I know that through the years between T.J. and I the Christmas's were tough but it is going to be all right. I will be gone for this one, but I've been gone before, however I am going to be right there with you in my mind. And I know you'll be right here with me in yours. While I am disappointed that I have to be away from you during this season, you know that there is a part of me that is so very happy to be doing what I am doing. While it sucks, my being away is just part of what I have to do, and I think you have made your peace with that, and if you haven't well get it done.

Everything that is happening and will happen will be for a reason. God brought me here for a reason. I don't really know exactly what it is yet but there is something. And don't worry, given the environment I am in my faith has been renewed several times. But regardless, I have been saying my prayers daily and if I could get to church around here I would. But I think God will cut me some slack on this one.

I wish that I could be there on Christmas morning to watch the little ones, (some not so little anymore) open them presents. I wish I could've been there to hear you and T.J. argue about putting up the lights. I wish I could be there when the football games come on, and get to listen to Julie bitch about watching them. I wish I could eat the turkey and ham and potatoes and corn and all the other stuff. I wish I could drink the beer. (Enough about food) I wish I could take you for a ride to go and look at all the homes with the 8 zillion lights on them. I even wish I could've shoveled some snow.

So Mom, Merry Christmas, I think of you everyday and I cannot wait to get home. I'll bring some good stuff home. This whole thing is just another test. One which we will pass with flying colors, just like all the rest. And while I can't promise that I will not miss anymore Christmas's, I can promise that no matter where I am you will always be in my heart and I already know that I am in yours. So be happy this Christmas Mom, don't be bummed because I am not there. Your happiness is the best gift that I could ever get.

No "Blue Christmas" this year. Might I suggest, "That Spirit of Christmas" by Ray Charles?

And to the rest of you...MERRY F@#$%^G CHRISTMAS TO ALL.

And now I am done.

Later,

I love you mom...

Dec 23, 2008

Where Is This Going...

There is no date on this because for the most part it has been a work in progress. I started it when I got here and have just recently finished it up and am presenting it here for your examination. I am looking for as much feedback as possible, especially from my military readers, especially those who have been either deployed to Afghanistan or who are in any way familiar with an insurgency. So here goes.

I asked myself these questions many times over my few months here. Where is this going? What is the end goal here? What will constitute a victory for the United States in Afghanistan?

Thus far I have come up with absolutely shit! The first question is an interesting one to me anyways. You hear over and over again from the politicos that we have to stay the course and we have to achieve victory here and we have to defeat the insurgents and the Taliban and what not. But what the hell does that mean? I mean they are pretty nice sentiments because you would have to be an absolute imbecile or a dirty hippy not to believe that the insurgents and the Taliban are evil beings that have corrupted an otherwise honorable religion and turned it into an instrument of oppression. Not to mention these people need to be defeated.

However, the question remains. What the fuck does victory here mean? Is it a stable Afghanistan? I would hope not, due to the fact that for the most part in the areas they controlled, the Taliban brought a certain measure of stability to Afghanistan. Is a democratically elected government a victory in Afghanistan? Well I would have to say that this country might not quite be ready for something like that just yet. The majority of this country is still illiterate, not to mention for the most part regardless of what administration is in control in Kabul the local elders are the real power in the majority of this land.

In my humble opinion the illiterate part is a more pressing issue than anything else really. Don't worry I am not going to romanticize the education thing again but I am going to say that unless this country is pulled, pushed or beaten forcibly out of the dark ages then there will never be any chance of a real victory here. The fact is that so long as we are here we can prop up any government we choose and they can pass any laws or constitutions or whatever that they can come up with. But in the end they are not going to mean a thing when the illiterate and ignorant masses are co-opted by the next bunch of religious nut jobs who comes along to throw this country into another civil war. It's been the same thing throughout Afghanistan's history. A powerful nation comes along and invades. They tolerate the rule of that nation for a while until for whatever reason, whether it is economic, cultural or otherwise they decide to start fighting. They fight the invading nation until they wear down their resolve, and then they watch as said nation crawls back home to lick its wounds while they celebrate in the mountains. Then after the jubilation wears off, they proceed to start battling each other for control of the country. The British, Soviets, and others can all testify to this fact.

So hopefully that is a cycle we can break, but how? Like I said previously you have to pull, push, prod or outright beat these people from their current state in the dark ages and begin them along the road to civilization. Yeah, I would say that these people are uncivilized. Not through any fault of their own but because of the decades of oppression they have endured at the hands of internal and external forces. I mean nothing can grow with a cinder block on its head.

Next thing that needs to get done. Someone needs to bring the Pakistani's in line. This conflict between the Pakistani and the Indian's is something else. It brings fighters from all over the Islamic world who have no business being here. The influx of fighters such as these can't help but have a destabilizing effect on Afghanistan if for no other reason than the fact that they use the nation as a route into the fray, or the pricks just stay here and shoot at me. Afghanistan's further development will depend on the stability of this region as a whole. Everyone should know or hopefully remember that Afghanistan is not in the Middle East, it is in Asia. There can be no sustained development here when a continuing conflict is going on between the Pakistani's and the Indians. The problem being that Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim nation and India is a Hindu one. So once again the religious thing rears its head, but pragmatically speaking the fact is that Muslim's place loyalty to their religion above all else and so long as the India/Pakistan thing can be viewed as a holy war there will always be trouble.

Now this next one is going to be fun, and some of you will get pissed and some will cheer but it's got to be said and debated, and hopefully someday resolved. The Palestinian/Israeli conflict is what gave birth to all of this. The support given Israel by the U.S. is what brought about the hatred that spurred international terrorism and that led to 9/11 and that led us into Afghanistan. Israel, in my eyes, must withdraw to its United Nations sanctioned borders right now. The world as a whole, to including much of the Arab world could and would support Israel's right to exist but not to push ever further into what the United Nations has determined to be Palestinian lands. Not to mention if Israel did withdraw to its UN borders then all these Muslim terror mongers would lose the main source of antagonism within the Arab world. They would fade into obscurity and isolation as the civilized world figured out how to get along with one another. They would become the equivalent of the guy on the corner with the butcher board and the bible preaching about the end of the world.

Finally, this country is strategically placed in the middle of everything. With a little investment and help from the richer nations of this world Afghanistan would turn out like every other nation that has been brought into the fold of modern civilization. They would prosper and learn, and build infrastructure and move toward a culture commensurate with the rest of the modern world. Like all other nations this would take a while, and there would be hiccups along the way. But given Afghanistan's potential as such a strategically placed country the progress would probably be exponential, if we could stabilize this place long enough for that to happen.

I don't really know whether all that would happen or not. But it sounded possible, and it sure as shit hasn't been tried yet. Maybe somebody who makes more money than me will see this and bring it up somewhere where people make decisions that actually matter. But probably not.

Anyways, let me know what you think, I would really like to hear some constructive criticism of my opinions. Around here all I get is the usual, "Kill them all" responses.

Later,

I love you mom...


P.S. I just came in here today to the computer lab and read all the comments from my previous posts and I couldn't be happier with, A. that people are actually reading this. And B. that all of you are so supportive.


Well I have to admit that this was a therapeutic outlet for me to bitch and moan about the Army and its shit but now it has grown into something more. That is because of all of you reading and commenting. So now I actually have to think things through before I post them. (Thanks a lot)(Sarcasm intended)

Anyways, now I am done. Merry Christmas.

I still love you mom...

The Circle Of Suck...

First let's define the circle of suck, so imagine the next four things in a circle with some lines pointing around in a circle.

1. Bad morale>>>>>>>>>>>>

2. Bitching>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

3. Angry Leadership>>>>>>

4. New Rules>>>>>>>>>>>>>

That is how it goes. Bad morale amongst the troops leads to said troops bitching which leads to the leadership being angry all the damn time because they have inferiority complexes and can't do anything about it so they get pissed and make new rules that plunge the troops further into their state of low or non-existent morale.

And the circle continues...on and on and on and on, for fucking ever.

This is the state of affairs here at my beautiful FOB right now. I mean am I the only one who has ever noticed this before? Well I know that I am not because someone wrote that up on our platoon board sometime today and guess what happened.... The leadership got mad...

And what did they do...

They made a new rule that only the squad leaders or their designee could write on the platoon board!

I mean really, these guys who are supposed to be mature, intelligent and pragmatic individuals (that's why the Army chose them as leaders) went and in response to the "circle of suck" actually decided that they would follow the circle to a T and make a new rule.

Now am I the only leader around here (unfortunately a low level leader) who thinks that when soldiers do something like this, they are not only expecting a reaction, but also trying to goad one out of you. They even went so far as to spell out the reaction that they didn't want to see. I mean they LITERALLY spelled it out. And the leadership was still unable to take the hint and possibly do something that would've positively affected morale here. Nope, they decided that they would just make another rule.

Fucking dickbags. (My apologies for the language) Now, I love the Army, I just hate the people that run it and I am really beginning to question the vetting process used to determine and choose leaders in said Army. I mean where do they find these people? Do they actually hold recruiting sessions at "Grade school bully survivors" meetings? I could actually see the recruiting slogan. "Hey, he bullied you in school, now you can bully him” And pick up every small minded, ego maniacal, Napoleon complex having, piece of monkey spunk they can find and make them into officers. But now I am done about that, I do believe that that was enough vitriol for today. Some of them are really good. Most are nothing more than average, and some of them are just really bad. Unfortunately, their badness is amplified by the power of their position. A bad soldier can be lead, motivated and educated. A bad leader just causes trouble than they are worth. (Oxygen thieves, the lot of them)

So what else is going on? Well we have been making steady contact with Mr. Taliban Man, and he is really starting to get on my damn nerves. I wish he would just come out and fight, but given the numerical, technological, and training superiority he is facing I guess there is no real alternative for him. But it still pisses me off. However, I did just finish reading a military history of Afghanistan and I'll tell you what, these are some bad mama jama's out here in these mountains. I mean they waited out the armies of Alexander, they were able to withstand the onslaught of the Mongols, they kicked the British out (a couple of times), they forced the Soviets back to Russia with their tail between their legs and they survived a few decades of civil war and tribal unrest sprinkled throughout their history. I mean militarily speaking that is quite a resume. Especially since the only weapons you have are the ones that you plunder or are given to you by some rival superpower when you are fighting their chief adversary. (Read...the US when the Afghans were fighting Russia)

I guess all that I am trying to say is that someone, somewhere dreadfully underestimated these people when it comes to their resolve to not be dominated by any foreign power. The guys that live in the mountains could give a shit less about he government; all they care about is the Koran and their tribal elders. The government means little if anything to them. The only place that the government really means anything is in the cities. Out in the mountains, these people are on their own, and I'll tell you that is just they way that they want it. Which I have to say is admirable. I cannot help but have a small tinge of envy for the way that they live their lives.

I have always said that I was born in the wrong epoch of history. I would've been better suited to medieval times, or maybe the days of the pirates, or maybe back during the western frontier days of the United States. And that is the best analogy I can use to describe this place. THE WILD WEST. First of all it looks like Arizona with snow, and this place is about as lawless as the Wild West. The borderlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan have for hundreds if not thousands of years been the most lawless in the world. Tribal elders and the strongmen of any particular region mete Justice out here. Mountain passes are still taxed by whatever asshole has enough guns to control it. The people are still terrorized by bandits and what not roaming the countryside.

I guess this is what we are here to remedy. However, there is still part of me that wishes that there were someplace that I could go and live the romantic version of that kind of life. Surviving by your wits and living and dying by the gun. Don't get me wrong; I love all the little creature comforts that we have back home. Even more so now that I have had the majority of them taken away from me. But I can't help wondering if I could hack it in the life that these people have to live everyday. Pulling a life out of the desert with their own two hands and bearing their children along the way. (Last of the Mohicans reference)

But I guess I should be at least a little thankful that before I die, I was able to spend some time in the last untamed land in the world. Maybe I am romanticizing it a bit too much, probably so, but it doesn't change what this place is and it doesn't change the fact that I hope that there is always at least one place on earth that refuses to bow. That idea makes me happy.

All right, enough of that shit. What's next? The Army is scaling back reenlistment bonuses. It was a front-page article in the propaganda pages (Stars & Stripes) the other day. Why are they doing this? Well the economy has gone to shit, and we all know that there is no real problem finding meat for the grinder when the economy is in the toilet. So they scale back the bonuses because with no one able to find a job, people are going to be doing one of two things. One, flooding colleges and universities. Thinking that education, which has traditionally been insulation against unemployment, will save them. Or if they can't pull that off a bunch of them will sign up for the wonderful adventure that is military service. So given that the recruits are going to be a lot easier to get now, the Army cuts bonuses. It's the only logical thing to do. The thing that struck me as funny was that some officer said in an interview that the state of the economy has nothing to do with the bonus situation. HOLY O' SHIT, DID HE ACTUALLY JUST SAY THAT! Anyone besides me want to call bullshit?

Well I guess just about all of this stuff could be added into the circle of suck at one point or another. Anyone who would like to add their own or make up their own circle is more than welcome. I haven't copyrighted it yet.

So with that I will leave you today with a question for all the military men & women out there to determine whether or not you know your military acronyms.

What does this mean?

B.O.H.I.C.A.

The first person to answer will receive a personally autographed "Embrace The Suck" poster...(kidding)

All right, I am done for now.

Later,

I love you mom...

Dec 21, 2008

I Caught The Ghost...

Awhile back I wrote this...

Why I Do This

I just wanted to tell everyone that I caught the ghost...

I love you mom...

Dec 17, 2008

Oops It's Not Gatorade, And Don't You Just Hate It When You Are Getting Shot At And Your Car Won't Start...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1822 hrs.

So it’s been awhile since I last wrote anything. Probably a good thing, because if the books I have been getting from my dear mother are any indication my use of the English language is offensive in the extreme. So bearing that in mind why don't we just continue on butchering it. C'mon it'll be fun.

First let me tell you the stories behind the title of this post. Number one is "Oops, its not Gatorade” Which could be a very disturbing story if you have ever been on a long road trip where you haven't stopped for any "constitutionals" for a long time. But that isn't what happened. Here is what happened.

We got this vehicle called an ASV. Don't ask me what the hell it stands for because I don't care. The Army and its acronyms really get on my damn nerves. But basically it’s a huge steel brick that is incredibly hard to get in and out of. So the soldiers operating this thing, once they are inside don't usually get out until the mission is over. So they have to cram everything they need for however long we are going to be gone into the damn thing. The inside is roughly the size of a sardine can anyways, so suffice it to say I always pull up a front row seat for them getting into this thing everyday.

So one of our soldiers who rides in this thing is...how can I put this gently...dumber than a football bat. We call him "Special Ed" due to his amazing lack of measurable intelligence. I still wonder how natural selection hasn't been able to weed him out yet. (We have made this world entirely too safe) But anyways he was sitting in the back of this thing. The place where the only real job you have is to hand drinks and snacks to the guys driving and shooting the guns.

So the driver, a friend of mine, we'll call him "Stretch" due to the fact that he is the only guy around here who is taller than me. He asks Special Ed for a drink. He wanted some Gatorade. And unfortunately for him, not only do we use Gatorade bottles for drinking and relieving ourselves, but since the Army doesn't see fit to supply us with containers for our vehicle fluids, we also use them to house all the oil, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid that we need to keep this hunk of shit vehicles running. Well guess which one he gave him...if you guessed transmission fluid then get yourself a cookie. Stretch proceeded to take a big ole' swig of tranny fluid and promptly began to vomit all over the inside of the vehicle while it was in motion. So there I am, in the truck right behind Stretch, completely ignorant of all of these goings on, and all I see is the truck violently turn to the right and sail off the road and right into a ditch. Luckily the tires on this thing are the size of Ted Kennedy's ass, so it was able to negotiate its way out fairly easily.

As soon as we got back and found out about this, we changed Stretch's name to "Tranny” He hates that, which makes it all the more fun for me.

Moving on, "Don't you just hate it when you're getting shot at and your car won't start”?

Well it finally happened, we got shot at. Nothing big, just Mr. Taliban Man reminding us that he was still here. Opened up on us with some machine guns and small arms and sent a few of those exploding rocks our way. Not exactly fun, but at least it livened up the day. The only real problem was that the lead vehicle started doing this stop and go thing.

It would run for about 35-40 seconds, and then it would die, and be dead for about 5 minutes, and we would sit there looking at it and then move along again. Not a big deal. Its not like I have a real full social calendar here. But when those little death pellets start flying around I would really like to be able to leave as soon as possible. However, now we had to sit there and just wait for the rain. If you know what I mean.

Then the fire came. Fun for us. I wish I could tell you more but once again the mighty mean green machine would be pissed at me because they really hate it when people tell the public that there really is a war going on here. But we managed to limp out of there 35 seconds at a time until we were safe. Then the fucking thing died. And stayed dead.

So we sat there for about 4 hours waiting for the recovery team to come and get us. Actually, I came closer to death from them than I did from the bad guys. In their haste to get out to us, they were driving incredibly fast in vehicles that weigh about 30,000 lbs. apiece. And we were around a bend in the road. So they flew around the bend, and missed the front of my truck by about 30 feet. I wish I would've shoved a lump of coal up my ass because with how hard I tightened up I would have myself a nice diamond right now.

But so it goes.

Now I have been informed that a friend of mine back home used one of my previous posts as the basis for his lecture at an actual university. One that I graduated from. (Excuse me while I pat myself on the back) Yep that was me shamelessly bragging. So now I actually have to come up with poignant and hard-hitting posts every time. Ahh, this is going to suck. But I'll embrace it. But John, if you or any of your students want to ask any questions, bring em on. I need inspiration.

Now, for everyone who has been sending me stuff. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I have never seen so much shit in my life. Mail has come twice in the past two weeks and I have gotten at least 10 boxes each time. I have a lifetime supply of pop tarts, baby wipes, hand warmers and sunflower seeds. Not to mention, to the boys at 1205. The Illinois School Board Journal was indeed some very interesting reading! (How did you guys know I was a connoisseur of education journals?)...(Do you know how hard it is to spell connoisseur)

Thank you notes are on the way to all of you. I appreciate everything you are doing for us, more than I will ever be able to tell you.

Now what is going on now. There is an election coming up here. So we have to run all over the place trying to get people to vote and keep the routes open so they can register to vote and what not. Anyone who thinks soldiers aren't instruments of politics is fucking stupid.

So I will leave you with this. I am compiling a list. One hundred ways to know you are in AssCrackIstan. Here are the first 8.

1. You smoke to improve the quality of your dust.
2. Your hummer’s heat works in the summertime and the air conditioner works in the winter. But never the other way around.
3. You put 25 miles on your humvee within 1 click (1000 meters) of the FOB.
4. You have had an 8-year-old bum a cigarette.
5. Roads on your maps are really creeks.
6. If you have ever had a donkey bring your vehicle to a screeching halt.
7. You ever met a kid who wanted your pens more than he wanted your candy.
8. You have ever seen a man with no pants chasing a donkey with a leash on.
9. You have ever seen a grown man punch a goat.


I'll give you the rest when I come up with them.

Later, I am done now.

I love you mom...

Dec 8, 2008

Mole Funerals, MRE Bombs, And Queens For A Year...

Monday, December 8, 2008 1950 hrs.

So where to begin? How much douche baggery can one company produce in one deployment? I don't know, but I do think that this company is going to take a shot at the title.

Well, we buried a mole yesterday. Yes, that's right we buried a mole. Not the digging under the ground animal type. We buried the type that grows on people's faces.

Why did we do this? Well part of it is the fact that you have all these GI's around who are incredibly bored, but the other half of it, is in this case, the mole was an integral part of the human being from whom it was removed.

We have this guy here; we'll call him Scribbler. And he had this huge mole on his chin. I mean a mole so big there was an entire patch of his chin that he could not shave because if he did he would have cut a divot in his face the likes of which have never been seen before. I mean this thing made the mole from "Austin Powers" look like a tic-tac. Monstorous is the only word worthy of describing this thing. I do believe that it had its own weather system. It looked like he had a small child growing out of his chin. Disturbing, to say the least.

Well finally, one of the medics around here offered to cut the thing off for him. You know, so he could stop eating for two. (I still think that he had to feed this thing, it was that big!) So anyways, he got it cut off...and he saved the thing. He saved it, put it in a little coffin, and held a funeral yesterday.

It was a beautiful ceremony. We set up about 20 chairs and dug a little grave for this thing. We had a eulogy given by our version of a preacher. (You qualify for this job by being the most religious member of the platoon) We had a couple of guest speakers who described what Scribbler's mole meant to them during its short life, and then we had a farewell address from Scribbler himself, and the whole thing was MC'd by the Godfather of the E-4 mafia himself. (Someone remind me to explain to all non-military personnel what the E-4 mafia is).

Like I said a beautiful ceremony and a fitting send off for a small piece of Scribbler that had meant so much to all of us. Mostly in that it provided us with infinite entertainment by allowing us to mercilessly make fun of Scribbler for having that huge fucking thing growing out of his face.

Moving on, something I found funny. So I was sitting around our Hummers today. We were on stand by for a mission that never came. But after sitting out there a while I got hungry. I searched my truck and myself but turned up nothing worth eating, but I did find some stuff that was worthwhile in other ways but we'll get to that next. Now I was pissed, normally I can pull skittles, and snickers bars out of a million different places. So I asked Pigpen for something to eat, he immediately went into one of his ammo pouches and pulled out a Three Musketeers bar and gave it to me. Now while I was enjoying this wholesome, chocolaty treat I started to think about this.

I was angry with myself for not having a bunch of junk food stuffed into every pocket that I've got. Bearing in mind that when I put all the shit that the Army makes us wear on I have about 56 pockets all of which are for a specific purpose. Some are for ammunition, some are for grenades, some are for knives, some are for tools, and others are for medical shit, and on and on. Now do I, or anyone else use these pouches for what they are meant for? HELL NO. I put the shit that I want in these pouches. About the only one that gets used for what is supposed to be in there is the ammo pouches. The grenade pouches, (which are ridiculous because they only give grenades to the bosses), are perfect for lugging around several packs of cigarettes. You always have to bring as many cigarettes as you can because you never know how long you will be out there. The tool pouches are perfect for candy bars, and the medical pouches are good for stuffing a Mountain Dew or two into.

So basically, soldiers turn themselves into a walking vending machine. Sooner or later someone is going to ask me, "Do you have enough ammo? To which I could only reply, "No, but I've got a shit ton of kit Kat’s! Would you like one?" So it goes.

Moving on, MRE bombs. Yes that is what's next. What is an MRE bomb? Well allow me to explain. MRE stands for "meal ready to eat", its the modern Army's answer to C-rats or T-rats or whatever the hell the old timers called them. Now don't get me wrong the food isn't half bad as far as Army food goes. I mean if you eat it chances are pretty good you won't die, so I guess we should count ourselves lucky. Only difference is the old timers got cigarettes in their meals. So I would rate theirs above ours just on that one point, but I could be wrong.

But these MRE's come with a water activated heater. All you have to do is drop the package of food you want heated into a pouch with this heater and fill it with water and the expanding gases give off heat and warm up your chicken fajitas. (Yes, chicken fajitas is one of the better meals) Now the operative word in that last sentence is expanding.

These gases expand and fill up the pouch, and if you close the pouch too tightly and the gases can't escape then sooner or later the pouch explodes and the gases are released. The more of the heater's or the more water you add to the heater the quicker and more powerful the reaction is. Now is there anyone out there who thinks that bored out of their mind soldiers wouldn't come up with a new and interesting use for something such as this?

Well what we do is fill Gatorade bottles about a quarter of the way full with these heater's and then we fill them about half way up with water, then we screw the cap on really tight and wait for the "BOOM". Which usually takes about a minute or so to come. These can be great fun when employed to awaken a sound sleeping soldier.

So we made one of these bombs right after we watched one of our platoon mates climb into his truck for a mid morning nap. We waited for him to start snoring and then moved in.

We were lucky in that the door directly behind him was open because there is no way you can open a Hummer door without waking everyone inside. We slowly opened the door and placed said, MRE bomb on the floor behind him, gave it one last shake and closed the door...and waited. About a minute after we had placed the bomb and he had begun to drool on himself. The expanding gases finally became too much for the fragile walls of the Gatorade bottle and then came the BOOM.

To which he responded by jumping up, banging his head on the ceiling of the hummer, and to top it all off he started yelling, "Incoming" mistakenly thinking that we were under mortar attack. Finally, he looked around and saw that his entire squad was standing there, laughing hysterically and snapping pictures and taking video as he made a fool of himself.

He jumped out of the truck and hurled a seemingly endless stream of profanity at us, and I couldn't help but ask him, "How are your drawers? Are they still clean?" Suffice it to say, he was not amused. But I was, so it's all-good.

Remember people; this is what soldiers do with your hard earned tax dollars. We make homemade bombs in order to scare each other shitless.

Now on to the Queens for a Year. What is a queen for a year? It is a woman who back home in the states would be considered moderately attractive at best and usually would be considered homely. But here, given the fact that guys outnumber women about 15-1, they become very popular. For no other reason than the fact that they lack a penis. Since these girls are not used to the avalanche of attention thrown at them while they are here they usually do not respond well to it. Unfortunately, there are always a few who try to set a new worlds record for number of men slept with in the least amount of time.

And then the fights start.

Guys fighting with each other over women that they would not even give a second glance to if we were home. Luckily for me, I have been able to steer clear of all this shit so far. However, I just got one of these girls (yep, girls, can't call them women just yet) stuck into my team. So now I have to try and get her to curtail her promiscuity. How the hell do you tell a 20 year old girl who is surrounded by a bunch of 20 year old guys who are all sniffing around ALL the time to stop screwing?

I'll let you know how this one turns out. But the sexual culture in the military is so horrible that on previous trips of mine overseas I have always found at least one bathroom or barracks room or stairwell that had something scrawled on the wall to the effect of, "Hey girls, What are you going to do when you get home and you are ugly again?" I don't particularly care one way or the other about women in the military, but this is one unfortunate by-product of sexual integration that has kicked us all in the nuts.

Well I need a nap.

Later,

I love you mom...

Dec 5, 2008

R.I.P. Cheena, And Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?

Friday, December 5, 2008 2330 hrs.

Yeah, Cheena got shot the other day. Unfortunately for her it was probably entirely too easy for the bastard that did it because of the fact that she had no fear of man. She probably walked with the fucker while he took her out to do it.

I can't say anything about it either because Army regulations state some shit about we can't have any kind of mascots or animals on military installations in a combat zone. Kind of funny how a little bit of ink on a piece of paper can hurt so badly.

What is really unfortunate is the fact that I cannot really voice my true opinions on the subject because if the wrong person reads this I could get myself into some hot water with good ole' Uncle Sam because we aren't allowed to say what we actually think of those appointed over us. Disrespect and all that shit. Well at least when this is over I'll be able to write everything that I really wanted to say to, and about these people.

So don't send any stuff for Cheena because she doesn't need it anymore.

It never ceases to amaze me just how attached you can become to an animal, and it never ceases to amaze me just how little time it takes to get that way.

Well if we're all lucky she is somewhere better...

Shit, she's not here and anything is better than this.

Suffice it to say I have been, and will be pissed off for quite a while about this one.

And my mood has definitely colored my views on this place and this war. Well so be it, I have always been a moody person. Just ask my ex-wife.

Looking out over this whole thing, and what we are doing here it just seems like it has degenerated into a big game of "hold what you got". I mean there is always shit going on here where some General looks at his maps and intel reports and gets all the briefings and all the other shit and decides that he thinks he knows where these guys are and there is some operation, or offensive or whatever you want to call it, and it goes off and there are a lot of explosions and bullets flying this way and that, and in the end nothing really changed. Nothing has really been accomplished.

I don't know what would make this place better but something has got to give sooner or later.

Let me ask you a question, as a westerner, could you imagine your life without school?

Could you even fathom a life lived without the benefit of words and literacy? I sure as shit can't imagine, nor would I want to live a life devoid of learning.

I wonder why the U.S. hasn't placed a school at every base we have in this country. Put one in, get the teachers in here and guard the schools with American soldiers. Make sure that these assholes can't roll up on their motorcycles and throw acid on the girl’s faces.

Offer a free public education to all the people of Afghanistan. If they want to come in and learn they can, and we will make sure that no one hurts you as you learn.

Q: Hey, how you going to pay for it?
A: Pull every dollar of foreign aid from Pakistan and tell them to kiss our ass the Afghani's need to learn to read.

Now you couldn't force an education onto these people. They don't respond well to being told what to do. But make it available to anyone that wants an education.

Why should we pay to educate these people? Simple, the guns and the bombs and the helicopters and the soldiers and all of the other shit will never be able to break their will to fight. And who says that we do want to break their will. These people have proven over and over again throughout history that they don't give a fuck how big you are, or how many guns you've got or how many planes, and helicopters you can throw at them.

However, you give them an education, and you start to change their minds. We always hear that bullshit about winning hearts and minds, and then they put a sign up that says soldiers shouldn't give things to the locals. Well fuck you. If I got a bag of skittles and some 10-year-old kid wants it I am going to give it to him. Court martial me, it'll be fun.

But how about winning the minds by altering the minds. I am not talking about brain washing. Respect their religion and their culture but show them what is out there. My education is easily the most important thing I have ever done (for myself) in my life. It has opened doors that I wouldn't have ever known were there without it. It showed me the depth of the human condition. My education taught me tolerance of others. It taught me to always fight for the underdog. (I take that back, that was my mom) It showed me the beauty that the world has to offer. It opened my eyes to such a myriad of things I couldn't even begin to list them all. It is one of the most valuable things that I have.

And it filled my life from the ages of 4 or 5 until I was 28 and managed to finally graduate from college. I couldn't even begin to imagine my life without it.

These people don't even have the opportunity to go. I mean it isn't even an option. They have no choice. They don't even know any better.

But think of what could happen if you educated a few thousand Afghanis’. You would have people who could think for themselves and decide how they want to live. Decide how they want to worship, how they want to think, and how they want to act. Right now all they have is what is dictated to them by archaic religious notions from 2000 years ago.

Open up the world to them. Right now all they see or know of the world is an endless succession of powerful foreigners who show up in their country and build bases and blow shit up and shoot people. If I were them I wouldn't want much of anything to do with us either. I would actually want to kick a little ass.

Instead of doing all of that, show them what the world really has to offer. Teach them to read and open up the world of literature. Teach them to write and they can spread ideas, debate and improve those ideas and therefore improve themselves and their nation. Teach them arithmetic and they will be able to set up a real monetary system that has some substance to it. Teach them history and they will be able to learn from the mistakes and successes of previous generations. Teach them, so that they can discern between a good idea and a bad one. Teach them, so that they can discern between a benevolent leader and a malevolent one. Teach them, so that they can build a life for themselves, their families and all the future generations of this country.

Would this take a while? Hell yeah, it would probably take a couple generations. A good 40 years or so. But it would be a real change here, from the inside out. Instead of the forced change brought by military force. I mean what was the mission here? To find and destroy all those who would support or perpetuate terrorism. At least that's what I think it was. Well why not change the society so that terrorism can't take root or grow here anymore.

Of course you aren't going to get the old farts, but the children you could get them. And as those children grow and mature and have children of their own they will want all the more for their future generations and hopefully, they would leave all this shit behind. Terrorists would not only have Americans to deal with, but they would also have the children of this nation to contend with.

The greatest tool that any despot or tyrannical regime or religious zealot ideology or terrorist organization has is the ignorance of those being oppressed or co-opted. If they don't know any better why would they stand and fight?

How do you fight ignorance? Education. Simple, not an easy solution or whatever, but it is simple.

I say we give it a shot. Put a school in every one of these provinces, cities, and villages. Stock them to the brim with books. Bring the teachers in. Let KBR, or Halliburton, or Blackwater, or who the fuck ever have the contract so they can make a zillion bucks off this shit. Build the schools, guard them with American soldiers, and educate this nation. Hell, they could make the schools a mission for the soldiers. Have a patrol go out in the morning with a bus and pick up everyone who wants to go to school, maybe even give them a few bucks a month to go to school. I mean the Army bribes its soldiers with education benefits to get them to enlist and fight, why not pay people to go to school? Then have the patrol bring the people back after school is over with.

I don't know, maybe I am just letting hopefulness get the better of me. Maybe I am just naive. But what we have been doing hasn't quite had the effect we were looking for, so maybe its time for trying something new. I say we put that whole, "pen is mightier than the sword" theory to the test.

Who knows? I sure as hell don't, but it’s an idea and we all know a good idea can change the world, but a bad one can destroy it.

Ahh, now my head hurts, something funny better happen tomorrow or I am really going to be pissed. Its time for bed.

Goodbye, Cheena it was fun while it lasted.

Later,

I love you mom...and thanks for teaching me to read.

Dec 3, 2008

Another Sunset Over The Barrel Of A Gun...




Wednesday, December 3, 2008 1204 hrs.

Well its been a bit since the last time I wrote. Why? Because we have been stuck on 96 hours of guard duty for about 56 hours now. Only about 40 to go. If we aren't in the towers then we are down as the reactionary force if something happens. Loads of fun for me. I can't even take off my uniform to sleep. But whatever, its the Army.

Now lately, I have been feeding the Taliban tiger. Some of you nice folks out there were kind enough to send us some little cans of tuna. So I figured that I would make nice with the beast and see if I couldn't make a new friend. Needless to say, a little bit of tuna goes a long way...with a cat.

So anyways, what has happened that makes me laugh. Well its a bit disgusting, but it was hilarious. So be warned. We got stuck up in a tower again, and the neighborhood kids are learning that we will give them stuff so they are coming around more and more. Last night a couple of these little shits showed up outside the wire near the tower and started asking for stuff. So we launched a few muffins, bags of candy, and a couple of bottles of water out to them.

Well apparently we have been spoiling these little guys, because they took one look at the water and set it on the ground and stomped on it. We were like, "What the fuck?" To which these ankle biters responded, angrily, "Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola!" Now they are actually coming up to the towers with shopping lists. So we sent a few cans of that out there to them. Now we didn't try to hit them with the cans, I mean we tried to tell them to get the hell out of the way so that they could just pick up the cans off the ground. But they were having none of it. They all ran to catch the cans like a herd of single girls at a wedding fighting over the bouquet. And of course since there were like 10 of them all trying to catch these cans at once they couldn't do it, so yeah, a few of them got tattooed by them. But hey, we warned them.

Next, they decided to push their luck. They started talking to us in Afghani, and apparently children think that distance and volume will change the fact that I don't understand your language. So they are talking to us in Pashtu or Dari or whatever it is, and we look at them with the blank stare of a stripper trying to comprehend calculus. Well when they realized that we had no idea what they were talking about they moved right up to the wall and at the top of their lungs started yelling at us. I don't know, but it sounded an awful lot like the teacher from "Peanuts".

Finally they realized that we were not going to understand what they wanted unless they figured out another way of telling us. So they started pretending that they were washing themselves. So we, being the astute observers that we are, understood that they wanted soap. So we started yelling out to them, SOAP?. They looked at each other and then looked to the oldest amongst them, and he nodded, at which time they all started yelling in unison and jumping up and down, SOAP, SOAP, SOAP. Well who the hell carries soap with them to guard duty. I mean we had hand sanitizer but we needed that. So we told them, "tomorrow". Which royally pissed them off. And then they responded to what I can only assume they perceived as a slight. They looked to the oldest one again and he said something to them. At which time they all lined up, yelled "TOMORROW" at us, and proceeded to drop their drawers and start to wag their little tally whackers at us! Yeah, that's what they did.

So you have two heavily armed GI's in a tower staring out at 10 midgets who are now swearing at us in Pashtu, and shaking their pocket rockets at us. Suffice it to say, I didn't get off the ground for about 15 minutes from laughing so damn hard. I can only imagine what that sight would look like to a party who had no idea what was going on.

Finally, we got it across to them that they should come back tomorrow and we would give them soap. Now I was planning on giving them some liquid soap, but no more. Now they are getting the eight bars of Irish spring my buddy Paulie sent me in a care package. Projectile cleanliness you little shits. Watch yourself junior, you flash me and I am going to bean you with a bar o' soap. I think I'll bring my slingshot with tonight. I'll tell you how that works out tomorrow.

Alright, enough of the nasty stuff. After all that entertainment we settled in for what would become an exceedingly long shift. Now normally, being stuck in a tower looking out over the landscape in a country where there are people you know are trying to kill you, is a maddening job. First, its incredibly boring looking at the same thing over and over again. Second, its incredibly hard to keep your guns up for that long and do a good job of watching. But every time something moves, or you hear a sound, your awareness rises to levels I haven't felt in a long time. You tune in to everything. You hear everything, you see everything, your eyes narrow, your ears come flying wide open, your brain loses all superfluous activity and concentrates completely on everything in front of you. Your palms start to sweat, you lean forward on your haunches and your eyes start to dart from side to side and up and down. Your forehead scrunches up so hard that you start to get a headache, and then you hold that until you are satisfied that it was nothing. That is about the only way I can describe what happens to you up in those damn towers.

But then they went and made the shit worse. Who made it worse? The damn NCO's and the intel people. Someone told someone else, who told a "terp" that the Taliban were going to take a shot at us last night. So eventually the information filtered through about 900 people and the wonderful Army game of telephone began. Every person who gets a piece of information puts their own spin on it, and some of these dickbags go so far as to exaggerate, and even add a little bit of their own "intel" and then send it on. So by the time it gets to me (the guy who is actually going to have to fight with whatever it is) it has gone from something fairly minor, to something completely different. For example: Say there was reliable intel that said we were going to receive mortar fire during the night. Not that mortar fire isn't a big deal, but the Taliban can't shoot these things that well around here. They usually launch a few at us that fall harmlessly to the ground. They explode, everyone has a movement and we get on with our day. After we send a few back that because of superior technology fall right on the fucking heads.

However, when that piece of intel goes through the "telephone" by the time it gets to us. Mortar fire has become, a battalion of Afghani Arnold Schwarzenegger's are teleporting themselves into our barracks rooms with nuclear suicide bombs and will annihilate everyone and everything for 100 miles.

I mean, its not that bad, but you get the idea. So then that raises your awareness even higher. To the point where you won't even blink until your eyes feel like they are on fire.

So then I spent the rest of the night like that...and of course not a damn thing happened.

But it wasn't completely lost, I got to watch the sunset, but I had to watch it over the barrel of a gun.

First thing when I get home. I am watching the sunset without any of that shit around me.

Anyways, I am done for now.

Later,

I love you mom...

Nov 27, 2008

Spiderman Sheets, Burning Playstations, And Turkey Dinner...

Thursday, November 27, 1735 hrs.

So it is Thanksgiving here in beautiful, sunny AssCrackIstan. And it really is sunny. It was unseasonably warm today. Probably somewhere around 65 degrees and given the temperatures we have been dealing with for the past few weeks it felt like summertime around here.

We got up this morning. Our first full day as the mission platoon. Basically that means that we are the guys who have to do all the work while the other platoon housesits, err guards the FOB. I guess since it is Thanksgiving the commander decided to give us the day off. However, our platoon sergeant didn't quite see it that way. Now something that anyone who has been in the military for more than a day or two will tell you is this, when they have nothing for you to do, they have no qualms about making it up.

So he decided to have us clean out the platoon conexes. Conexes are basically nothing more than the trailers of semi-trucks that are pulled off their wheels and set on the ground. And the military tends to fill them with shit. So we headed out there at 0900 this morning and started cleaning. Now let me tell you what conexes become after a while, they become the catch all for everything that nobody knows what the hell to do with but they don't want to throw away.

We found a shit ton of office supplies, kitchen supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Yeah that's right weapons and ammunition, we even found three Sony Playstations that look like they have seen more combat than John Wayne. I could've sworn that weapons and ammunition is stuff that the military wants you to keep track of.

Then we had to get rid of all the excess shit that we can't use. How do you get rid of things in AssCrackIstan? Fire it up! Find yourself a 55-gallon drum, drop a few pieces of paper and kindling into the bottom, along with a bit of lighter fluid and you've got yourself a military issue garbage disposal. Don't worry we didn't throw the ammunition into the fire, even though we wanted to. But everything else, into the fire you go.

Playstations, markers, paper, plastic and whatever else we got that we didn't want to throw into the regular trash because we didn't want the locals giving the shit to the Taliban and them making a bomb out of it. Which is one of the things that I wonder about how I will deal with it when I get home. Its gotten to the point where before I throw anything into the trash I think to myself, "Could you make a bomb out of this?" And if I think someone could, I burn it as opposed to throwing it away. I do this automatically, kind of like breathing. I'll probably get a burn pit going in my back yard when I get home. Good God I hope not.

Moving on, I got a couple of more care packages from home. Comfort items really. I got a couple cartons of cigarettes and candy but then the mom dropped the mother load on me. She sent two pillows, you know the fluffy kind that kind of envelop your head when you lay on them, which is fantastic, and she sent sheets for my bed. What kind of sheets did she send me? SPIDERMAN SHEETS! yeah that's right. I am 30 years old and the mom sent me Spiderman sheets for my bed. Needless to say I had an absolute blast showing them to everyone. I haven't had bad feedback on them yet. I don't know, maybe I should give some thought to raising my maturity level just a tad...

Nah, that's no fun. Now after all of that it was 1400 and dinnertime baby. We got it all. Turkey, Ham, corn, stuffing, green beans, biscuits, bread, gravy, and spice cake. It was beautiful. I am looking at my watch right now which is set to local time, its 1755, and my computer's clock is set to the time back home and it is 0725. So in about 7 hours or so the whole family back home is going to gather at my cousin's house and eat all this same stuff. Only real difference is the TLC that goes into the food at home. I can see my mom running around the kitchen arguing with my aunt. I see my brother making fun of everyone there for being old. I see my cousin sitting contentedly in his chair with his skullet. (Bald guy w/ a mullet) I see everyone falling asleep watching football while my mom and my aunt clean everything up. (I should probably help them next time) I see turkey sandwiches with miracle whip and cheese. I see my brother and I drinking entirely too much beer and putting on a performance for the whole family until everyone's cheeks hurt. Then I see my mother yelling at us for drinking too much, but all the while laughing her ass off as we make fun of her for talking to a trashcan. (I'll tell you that story later) Ahh, Its only on the holidays that the homesickness sets in.

It's real simple folks; you never know just how much you've got to be thankful for until you haven't got it. I've got a whole lot to be thankful for.

Later,

I love you mom...

Nov 24, 2008

Herding Ferrets, And I Have Underwear Now...

Monday, November 24, 2008 1453 hrs.

Two things happened today. First thing in the morning we had another airdrop of water and supplies. Fun for me given the fact that I just got off the towers and had to move directly into gunning for this mission. Always good to be behind a fully automatic weapon with no sleep. So it goes.

Luckily for us, this airdrop was actually on time. I have a feeling that the Air Force takes its cues from O'Hare and really doesn't concern itself that much with time and deadlines and little inconveniences like that. Miraculously, they were not only on time today, they were early.

Which threw everyone off. So we ran out there and cordoned off the area and waited for the boxes to begin falling from the sky. And it did. Only real problem was it also seemed like Afghani children were falling from the sky as well. Hundreds of them. It was amazing. I didn't know that there were that many kids in the area. I sure as hell have not seen that many people in one place around here. So trying to keep all these little ankle biters outside the perimeter was a chore to say the least. They all wanted something. Some wanted candy, some wanted water, some wanted the cardboard, some wanted the wood, but they all were after something. I think a few of them just wanted to see what these new soldiers were all about. Bikes, motorcycles, of foot, in trucks, on camelback, on horseback, pulled by carriages, any means of conveyance you could think of they used it to get out there.

You would yell at one, or one group, "Wa Za, Wa Za" which apparently means "go away" or something like that. And as soon as you turned to look and yell at them a group on the other side would try to sneak by you. The best part was is that after a few times of doing that, like all children, these little shits started to think it was a game. I am not exaggerating when I say that it was like herding ferrets.

Needless to say our commander who was watching this whole debacle was not pleased. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when we got back and he grabbed the LT's and senior NCO's and dragged them into a room and gave them a rather stern talking to. But really what the hell did he want us to do. Everyone knew that we weren't going to hurt these kids. They knew it, their parents knew it, and we knew it. So really how the hell could we have kept them back. I did think it was pretty funny when one of these kids started actually fucking with my team leader. Every time he would say in Afghani "Get back", the kid would parrot him. Then the boss man started yelling at him in English, and the kid would listen intently and whatever he said the kid would repeat it right back to him. Then the kid started to mirror everything "Wheelchair 2" did. Which if you have ever seen a kid about 8 or so, doing this to an adult and the adult trying to trip them up, its absolutely hilarious.

(Explanation: My team leader is one of the older gentlemen in my platoon. He is the second oldest guy in the platoon. So we refer to the 3 oldest guys by the call sign of Wheelchairs 1 thru 3)

I got a hell of a belly laugh out of the whole deal. Finally the ANP's started to help us get all these people into some semblance of order. How did they do that? Well they chased all these kids around the desert with their trucks. Not really trying to hit anyone, just trying to get them back away from where we were working.

The only real worry I have is that because the people know that we will not hurt these kids and what not, I just hope the Taliban pricks don't try and use that to their advantage. We'll just have to do a better job next time.

Made my day though when we were pulling security and one of these little Afghan kids goes skipping by and I tossed Wheelchair 2 a bag of cookies to give to the kid. He gave them to him and the little man started looking at them like he didn't know what they were. So I kind of made the motion of raising the bag to your mouth, biting it and ripping it open. The kid did it. Then he looked back at me for what he should do now, so I pretended to reach into a bag and pull a cookie out and eat it, so he did the same. He bit into the cookie and his face light up like Christmas tree. I couldn't help but feel bad for the kid, but I did get a warm and fuzzy inside. What a world we live in, when some have so much and others are happy as hell to get a bag of cookies. But I am not going down that depressing ass road again today.

Moving on, we brought all this stuff back and unloaded it. Yet while were unloading it we saw about 5 incoming helicopters. What could they be carrying? That’s right ladies and gentlemen they were carrying all of our bags that got left behind when we came down here. OH HAPPY DAY! I am going to get all cleaned up tonight, and yes I am going to put on clean clothes for the first time in two weeks. Socks, underwear, and uniform the whole bit.

Not to mention, now I have 5 cartons of cigarettes. So at least I can keep the nicotine fits at bay for a while. Unfortunately, not only did the birds bring all of our stuff with them, but they also brought our platoon sergeant with them as well. So now we are going to have to deal with him putting his two cents into everything we are doing. Even though we had it running smoothly for the past two weeks without him. But whatever, its the Army.

Well between the kid and his cookies, and the fact that I am staring right at about 5 pairs of clean underwear right now deciding which ones I am going to put on after my inordinately long shower, today was and continues to be a pretty damn good day. I got the day off tomorrow, unless that changes which would definitely suck the most so that is probably what is going to happen. So be it. But I got a new project in mind, and a bunch of us here are working on it.

We want to get a collection going for the kids in the area. There are like 5 villages just outside of our FOB and apparently from what we saw today there are more than a few ankle biters amongst the villagers. We are trying to get a hold of the following stuff.

1. Toys
2. Crayons
3. Coloring books
4. Sweaters
5. Socks
6. Shoes
7. Stuffed animals
8. Candy, and little food items
9. Anything you can think of that a kid would want or need.

So anyone that would like to help out with this just let me know and I'll email you the details and where to take it, and where to have it sent so that we can get these kids some of the stuff they need and some of the stuff they should have just because they are kids.

Anyways, I am done for now.

Later,

I love you mom...

Nov 23, 2008

The Taliban Tiger...

Saturday, November 22, 2008 1800 hrs.

I thought I might begin this post with a funny story about something that happened on my guard shift last night.

So there I was, in the middle of the Afghan mountains with nothing but my trusty S.A.W. and 9 mm by my side and my keen senses and wits to get me through the night. I was on a guard tower. Making sure that all my fellow soldiers could sleep peaceably in their beds because nothing was going to get by me, on my watch.

It was a cold night, the kind of cold that forces your balls to take up residence just beneath your sternum. So as I sat there looking out over the Afghan landscape and shivering, I heard it. The rocks beneath the tower moved. At first I thought that it might be one of my brothers in arms attempting to sneak up on, and scare me. You know, just to make his night go by quicker. So over the edge of the tower I looked. To my chagrin I saw nothing, but I did hear the rocks just beneath me move once more. I again attempted to ascertain what was making the strange noises beneath my tower and scanned the area thoroughly and methodically. I couldn't see anything that could've made that noise.

Satisfied that I wasn't in any danger, I returned to scanning my sector. Mere moments later I heard a new and more disturbing noise. A "tip, tap" rose through the night air and met my ears. Over and over again, tip, tap, tip, tap, tip, tap. Now I was nervous. I couldn't believe that any person had managed to avoid my gaze as I searched for the source of the sound, but you never know. I drew my 9 mm, you know, just in case, and asked my partner in the tower to come and help me find the entity responsible for this maddening noise. And just like when you take your car to the mechanic, as soon as he came out the noise promptly stopped. After listening intently for what seemed like an eternity, he exclaimed, "You're nuts, kiss my ass, I am going back to sleep." And with that he slammed the door behind him and without missing a beat after the door slammed the tip, tap, tip, tap began again.

Now I have looked for the source of this noise through my night vision apparatus, I have looked with the naked eye, I even went so far as to turn the lights on and look under a white light. And yet the culprit avoids my prying eye.

I have begun to wonder whether the cold, and the sleep deprivation are beginning to manifest themselves in the form of eerie noises in the middle of the night.

I return to my post, and begin to scan my sector once again. Like clockwork the steady tip, tap, tip, tap begins again. This time I try to block it out. "You aren't hearing that, you haven't slept in two days your mind is playing tricks on you." No matter what I tell myself the noise grows steadily closer until I can damn near feel the tip, tap rattling my bones.

As I stand there trying to block this noise out and scan my sector at the same time I feel something rub against my leg and before I could even look down to see what it was I heard a soft and sweet, "meeeeeooooowwwww". To which I responded, in an ever so girly voice, with, "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH", and I do believe I jumped at least 3 feet in the air and ran to the other side of the tower. I turned in time to see the face of a cute little kitty cat, which due to my screaming like a little girl was terrified and ran off into the night. Ridiculous as it may sound, I almost took my first "battle shit" due to a 2-pound kitty cat.

And that is the story of the Taliban Tiger, a cute little kitty cat sent by our enemies to scare the shit out of our brave soldiers.

Moving on, what else is going on? Well our stuff isn't here yet. Its supposed to be here on the 24th but needless to say no one is holding their breath.

Now the latest running around the PNN is that someone called a radio station back home and told them that we are short a lot of cold weather gear and so that radio station began a clothing drive for us. A great thing if you ask me. However, another one going around the PNN is that there is an investigation into whether or not the person who called the radio station broke OPSEC.

You see I get OPSEC. It is a good thing. You know the enemy doesn't need to know how many guys you've got, how many guns, how many trucks, how much fuel, food, water and what not. Because all of that is stuff that they could use to determine where and when they are going to attack us. And in this case maybe the enemy doesn't need to know that in a few short weeks we are going to be freezing to death. But sometimes it seems like the military uses OPSEC as justification for silencing those of us who tend to question the authority of our superiors. I don't really question their authority; I just question their intelligence. I mean when a private with 7 months in the Army can figure something out that an Officer can't then maybe there is a problem.

Nothing will probably come of it but just the fact that they would investigate makes me laugh. Someone calls home and makes someone in the chain of command look like a tool, and all of a sudden there has to be an investigation into OPSEC violations. I'll bet that if they wanted to they could dig up some violations in this here blog. But I haven't made it to their radar just yet, but I have only been here a month and we got a long way to go. We'll see.

Other than that it was a good day. I am finishing up with this post and I am off of duty tonight and everyone else in my room has to work, so needless to say I am going to give myself a little TLC and hit the rack. Well it’s about that time.

Later,

I love you mom...

Nov 21, 2008

Just A Little Footnote...

Hello all, I know that a lot of you are pissed about the last post. I wish to make a few things clear. This blog is meant to be therapeutic for me. Being able to vent about things that happen here is my goal. I do NOT want anyone to actually do anything or call anyone regarding anything that I write.

I understand that there are a million things that are going on in the military that I know nothing about that affect whether or not things happen. We are getting our winter gear sooner or later, whenever the military is able to get it for us.

I like my pay grade and would like to keep it. So please don't pursue any actions regarding my posts. I mean them as information for you and therapy for me. The best thing you can do is read and comment and let me know you care. The military would probably let me have it pretty good if someone called their congressman about all of this.

Thanks and keep on reading...

My apologies for the somber tone. I usually like to spice it up with sarcasm but here I guess I can't.

Later,

I love you mom...

It's A Pretty Country Once You Get Past The Smell & The Fact That People Are Trying To Kill You...

November 21, 2008 1507 hrs.

Truer words have never been spoken. Pigpen is a sage for this age.

So here I sit, within spitting distance of the Pakistani border feeling every bit of the cold as the winter descends on us. Why do I feel every bit of the cold? Because these dick-bags who are commonly referred to as our command cannot seem to get a company's worth of rucksacks across a country that isn't even all that big. None of us have our winter gear. We are sitting here beginning to freeze and what is this bunch of shitbags doing? Making lists. That is how they respond to this. Make a list of what you are missing and the command will take care of it. Really? We have a hard enough time getting water out here and they are going to get us all this shit that we are missing before the winter hits? Well just to be clear, it gets down to like 25 degrees at night here right now and I don't know if it has made it past 55 during the day and 90% of us don't have jackets. Well thank you very much Uncle Sam, always nice to see you taking such good care of those that fight for you. Please excuse me, but the guy is a fucking asshole.

Normally, I wouldn't place all the blame square on any one person's shoulders but this time its just so outrageously incompetent that an entire company of soldiers could occupy an outlying, forward FOB and not be properly equipped to make it through the winter. Which are rumored to be absolutely horrendous here. Now we only move shit through the air around here. Why? Because there are bombs on all the roads. The roads around us are labeled as some of the worst roads in this country, so much so that we don't even use them. We leave this place we either walk or we drive right through the sand. No one has the balls or the ridiculous stupidity required to drive on the roads here. Well you would figure that if everything moves through the air they could throw all our shit onto a plane and drop it from the sky. They do it with our water and food and all of that. Why can't they do it with our clothes. I would have to say that our clothes would fare better than bottles of water when falling from the sky. Not to mention the fact that helicopters flown by contractors and locals are flying everyday. They bring the mail, they bring this they bring that. But no one seems to be able to bring our shit. Someone will have to explain to me why a helicopter that has no guns, no armor and some local yokel flying it can get out here, but the vaunted American military aviation corps, or the Air Force can't seem to move a company's worth of shit from one place to another.

Now we are making this list, which can mean only one thing. They are going to field-loss all of our shit and try to get us reissued all this stuff. Which when you are talking about military bureaucracy this could take months. So operating off the whatever sucks the most principle, we will be issued all of our cold weather gear right around the time we are going to be sweating our balls off in an Afghani summer.

Alright, sorry about that. Just had to get it off my chest. Now I feel better. Don't worry about us, if there is one thing that American GI's can do its improvise. We'll get through this one way or the other. I personally think that if it gets too cold we should be burning the commanders cold weather gear for warmth. But I digress.

So what else is going on? Not a whole lot. I got stuck on the guard platoon for the next two weeks. Mission platoon the two weeks after that. So the stories should get a little better when I start that.

But a few things I would like to point out. I was reading in Stars & Stripes the other day and I read an article pointing out just why we are here trying to help these people and change this country's direction. Apparently, a coordinated attack took place in Kandahar where 15 schoolgirls at a bunch of different schools were attacked by masked men on bicycles, motorcycles and on foot where the men came up to the girls as they left their schools and threw acid on their faces.

Yeah, let me say that again. They threw acid of the faces of little girls who wanted to go to school. Let that one sink in real deep. I think I may have to start living by a new phrase, as opposed to "embrace the suck", I might have to start going with "embrace the hate". I have never felt such a burning desire to hurt someone in my life. I don't really need a winter coat anymore, because I think that article will keep me very warm for the duration of this deployment. Warm with the hate that is now burning inside of me.

How could you even think to do that? Defenseless little girls going to school, get acid thrown on their faces by these backwards, fanatic, religious zealot cocksuckers. You know there are American soldiers everywhere here. Do they come out and fight with us? No, they attack the weakest members of the society here. Chickenshit cowards, the lot of them. I hope Islam says something about what Allah will do to those who would hurt the weak. I can barely even type this, my hands are shaking with anger.

I wonder what can make a person so low, so degenerate, so violent, so insane that they could actually hurt little girls. You know what, I don't even care. The simple fact is that someone should find all of these pricks and send one 5.56mm message right through their skull. End of story.

Then I hear other stories from the terps and other GI's. The following is one of those stories, whether it is true or not I don't know, but the story illustrates one of the more disturbing aspects of the culture here that definitely needs to be addressed by a whole lot of people who better be a lot smarter than I.

Apparently, there was a young girl in the village outside of our FOB and she had a broken leg. The father brought here to us for medical attention. He said she had fallen, but everyone knew she had been beaten. They told him they couldn't do anything for her here, but they would fly her to Bagram so she could get better care. They put her into one of the buildings outside the FOB for her to stay the night and then get on the bird the next day. Sometime during the night the father took her out of the building and drove her out into the desert and left her there to die. They found her dead a few days later. They never did locate the father again...

Women are regarded as nothing more than talking cattle here. Its a funny thing that there is a cliche that the GI's use to mock the Afghani's and their culture but it goes something like this..."Boys are for pleasure, women are for breeding". Brood mares, that is all that women are here. Girls, they are worth even less, because the men don't even want to "play" with them.

You know, I will never claim to be the most enlightened person as far as women's lib and what not are concerned. But I do know this, I can't walk through a door before a woman, and my dear old mother would bash my skull if I ever even dreamed of hitting a woman. Here abusing women is a common part of everyday life. Yeah, this is a culture worth helping.

Yet, I can't help thinking that there is no way that all these people are like this. There has to be some good here. There have to be good people here. There has to be hope. There has to be a future for all these little kids that I see everyday. There has to be a way to pull this country out of the state its currently in. There has to be a reason that all this blood was shed. It cannot all be in vain.

Looking out of my guard tower and seeing the vast stretch of desert leading to the mountain ranges that surround us on all sides, and looking up into the sky and seeing the millions of stars that I could never see at home. Seeing the sun come up over the mountains and turning the sky blood red. Watching as the moon rises against the mountains and brings the night light to the desert that illuminates the vast expanse so brightly that you can see for miles in the middle of the night. Watching as the shooting stars dance across the sky and wishing that maybe I can make some small difference here.

Then I look down and see a small boy, about 10, walking toward my tower. I give him a sort of half hearted grin, to which he responds with a big old smile. He waves at me, I wave back, he says in perfect english, "Candy!!" So from my guard tower, I move the huge machine gun out of my way, I cock my arm and launch a bag of skittles over two sets of razor wire, and 10 foot barriers. They land on the ground, he picks them up, and shouts back at me. "Manana" Afghani for "Thanks", he turns and walks back toward the village and disappears into the darkness.

Well at least for now the little man has got some skittles. But it is a pretty country once you...

Later,

I love you mom...