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

Jul 30, 2008

Am I Ready For This?

I just was poking around the internet after my tirade bitching session that I just got done with and I was looking at a site, not going to tell you which one, but it got me to thinking...

I am heading into one of the most dangerous places on earth with little more than US Army training which is designed with a 6th grade education in mind. I am heading into a place that does not value what I value, they do not worship how I worship, they live in mud huts, I live in a house. They don't have paved roads, I piss and moan when they close one lane of the 290. They have lived in a land torn apart by war for God only knows how long. They live in a world that subjugates women. That gives all reverence to God and has no regard for the sanctity of human life (so long as you are a non-muslim)

I would not characterize what I am feeling as fear. Certainly that is part of it, I would be completely insane not to feel at least a little bit of fear. I am feeling apprehension about whether or not mentally and intellectually I can meaningfully deal with my time over there. Not to mention am I ready mentally for the challenges of dealing with these people?

I am not one of the blood-lusting soldiers that seem to fill the ranks. I think that if I am going to be a soldier and be placed in harms way, it better be for a good reason and we damn sure better be doing it for some attainable purpose.

Am I ready? Will I be able to navigate the foreign culture into which I am about to be thrown? Will I be able to keep myself from letting my own personal prejudices get in the way of accomplishing the goals that are set for me? Will my personal prejudices get in the way of my dealings with the Afghani people? Will I be able to overcome their prejudices toward me? Will I be able to control the ignorance of some of my fellow soldiers?

So many fucking questions...and I haven't even left the states yet.

What Every Soldier Should Know.

[I didn't write any of this but it deserves to be reprinted] 

To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will;

  it is at best an act of prudence.
  —Jean-Jacques Rousseau

If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
it could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.

Always enter a home with your right foot;
the left is for cemeteries and unclean places.

O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop! Or I’ll shoot.

Sabah el khair is effective.
It means Good Morning.

Inshallah means Allah be willing.
Listen well when it is spoken.

You will hear the RPG coming for you.
Not so the roadside bomb.

There are bombs under the overpasses,
in trashpiles, in bricks, in cars.

There are shopping carts with clothes soaked
in foogas, a sticky gel of homemade napalm.

Parachute bombs and artillery shells
sewn into the carcasses of dead farm animals.

Graffiti sprayed onto the overpasses:
I will kell you, American.

Men wearing vests rigged with explosives
walk up, raise their arms and say Inshallah.

There are men who earn eighty dollars
to attack you, five thousand to kill.

Small children who will play with you,
old men with their talk, women who offer chai—

and any one of them 

may dance over your body tomorrow. 

“What Every Soldier Should Know” from Here, Bullet; By Brian Turner


Jul 29, 2008

Now This Thing Is Getting Real.

Holy jumping fucking shit balls. I apologize for the language but that is how I am feeling right about now. This deployment of mine is only like less than a month away. I am going to be out of the flipping country again. It has been a while I am not going to lie. I have been living a nice quiet, very suburban life for quite some time now and I have to admit that it is very exciting to think that at least for a year, that bullshit is coming to an end. Now of course there is always the concern that something might happen to me but that is what I would refer to as a minor concern. All I really ask is this, if something does happen to me, please lord let it be fatal. Don't leave me bumming around with no arms and legs or anything like that. Just off me and call it a day. I can deal with that.

So most everything that needs to be done, is done. I am going on vacation from work in about a week, so I won't have to worry about the wonderful inmates anymore and I am still getting paid (Oh, how I love working for the government)

I have some last minute loose ends to tie up, ya know, paperwork, powers of attorney and all that sort of shit. I have a few things that I want to get prior to leaving, a gps, a nice big box to haul all my army shit in. An indestructible case for my laptop because there is no other conduit for pornography in Afghanistan. And if I lose that I would be forced to use my imagination...gasp!!!

Pretty much all that remains is to do a little bit of working out, which I should have been doing for months now, but I am friggin lazy. But I digress on that one. Then get sloppy drunk every day for the remainder of my time here. Thats pretty much all I have left to do.

Oh yeah, and I have to deal with the insanity that will certainly be flowing from at least one, maybe two or three family members as the day of my departure draws nearer. But I have to admit, I am used to insanity, its normalcy that really unnerves me. I can deal with psychos, convicts, criminals, and sociopaths. Its the Beaver Cleaver's that really throw me for a loop. So I guess that I am well prepared for what is coming my way.

I just cannot help but feel absolutely excited about what is coming up. I mean the vast majority of the population lives these nice, quiet lives where nothing really ever happens and they get up every day, go to work, come home, eat dinner, kiss the wife and go to bed, only to repeat the entire process the next day for 40 years until they keel over dead from a heart attack, and then their kid starts the same vicious cycle all over again.

And I am no different, granted my job is a little more eventful than your average gig, but for the most part it is the same 9 to 5 bullshit as everyone else. Except I have this to throw a little spice on the meat every now and then. Which I have to say is nice. I won't lie, I am kind of digging the idea that I'll be gone for a year. Thats a long fucking time. I could get a lot done.

I could be a completely different person when I come home, then again that could backfire and I could come back an even bigger asshole. But the fact remains, I don't have to live the way everyone else does, and that appeals to me.

Yet don't think for one second I didn't notice the contradiction in a soldier saying that he "doesn't have to live like everyone else." Last time I checked the whole purpose of the army was to make sure that you were just like everyone else. But at least I don't have to be a bloodless, lifeless drone floating through this great big, coast to coast American consumer cesspool. No sir, not me, Me I get to be cannon fodder for the upper 1%. Alright, now I may be getting just a tad preachy. But whatever, I can say whatever the hell I want.

Don't worry though, this kind of contradiction is nothing new. I have been doing this since birth. I was born the son of a cop, but I have never really liked or respected the police, but then again I became one in the US Army. I have always despised authority in all its forms and yet I became a prison guard for the US government. (The ultimate authority figure) I have always been real good at sports and had a beer gut to go with it. I have always been very smart but incredibly lazy. I am a ball of contradictions. Its more fun that way, keeps people on their toes and prevents them from figuring you out...

Jul 27, 2008

Maybe I Am Actually Losing My Mind...

Well I got back from SRP yesterday and I am happy to report that as far as the United States Army is concerned I am fully deployable and ready to go to beautiful sunny Afghanistan.

We found out some stuff, we found out where we are going to be while we are there, if you want to know just email me and I'll tell you but I am not going to put it on the internet due to security concerns.

We got our insurance filled out and I found out that I am worth quite a bit of cash if I get killed, which I guess is nice. Kinda funny how dying would be the highest paying job I ever had...alright that is kind of sick, but whatever.

I am also starting to figure out that this isn't going to be that horrible, soldiers always seem to make the best of any situation, regardless of how fucked up it is.

Funny thing is this, I am not worried about going there, I am not worried about being away from my family for all that time, I am not worried about anything really. You want to know what I am worried about? The fucking World Series.

As of right now the Chicago White Sox are leading their division and the Chicago Cubs are currently tied for 1st place in their division. So theoretically, this is the first year in a long, long time that there is actually a fairly decent chance that there is going to be a crosstown World Series. Needless to say, I am a White Sox fan. Cubs suck.

"What did Jesus say to the Cubs right before he left?, Don't do anything until I get back."

Now whether or not this actually happens, who knows, there is still a lot of baseball left but the chance is there. And I am going to be in fucking Afghanistan when the World Series is played. I could deal with the Cubs going to the World Series and not seeing it, I could deal with the White Sox going to the World Series and not seeing it. I COULD NOT DEAL WITH NOT SEEING A CROSSTOWN WORLD SERIES.

I'd go AWOL.

Alright, changing gears. Yesterday when we left the armory after this week of bullshit we got our pep speeches from the 1st Sergeant and the acting commander, some Lieutenant filling in for the "old man" while he was off doing officer things. Now these made me laugh.

First up was the 1st Sergeant and his speech about how we did so well at SRP and how he was getting comments from people saying how great we did at SRP and how professional we were and how they wished that every unit was like us. Now that is all well and good, but I would like to see those letters or hear the messages, or see the emails because all SRP really is, is a bunch of soldiers standing in line waiting to turn in some paperwork and answer a few questions and then move on to the next station. I don't really see any way that anyone could be any better or any worse at this than anybody else. But I digress.

Then we got the safety lecture. You know don't drink, don't screw, don't do this, don't do that...blah blah blah. "No problem, first sergeant, I got it"

Next up, we got a speech from the "acting commander" Now this one was laced with some of the stupidest shit I have ever heard come out of a person's mouth.

I would love to tell you every single word he said, but I didn't have a recorder or a pen and paper to write this shit down, but the basics of what he said broke down to this.

"We are not citizens of the world, we are American citizens, we need to train and get ready to kill everyone, and we are going to kill everyone, and we are all going to come back alive, and accomplish all our missions, and we are the best MP company in the Army"

I don't have any problems with anything he said, I believe (to one degree or another) everything that he said, except for one thing. The best MP company thing. That is one bold statement. I have no idea how may MP companies are in the Army but I know there are a lot. I have been in a bunch of them, I have been in ones better than this one, and I have been in ones that are worse than this one. But that seems to be a common theme amongst the people who are in control of this unit. Their absolute, almost pathological certainty of their own superiority. I wonder how much they have to compare it against?

Just curious...

Jul 25, 2008

Your Tax Dollars For Dodge Ball...

Alright, so here is what happened today. We spent your tax dollars playing dodge ball, and then we made sure that we all had our issued gear (TA-50) and then we went to the hotel , which is where I am right now writing this and I am going to get drunk in a few minutes. What a day.

Jul 23, 2008

Chess With An Officer...

July 23, 2008

So we went through this goofy SRP thing today. Basically all that was, was us going through to this station and that station getting our nice little paper filled out from medical, dental, personel, and insurance and legal, and this and that and I think we had a kitchen sink thrown in there too. But I have to admit that as far as military operations go, it wasn’t all that bad. I mean it went pretty fast, and there weren’t a lot of hang ups as far as this paper not matching that one and what not. We didn’t or at least I didn’t have any of the fuckups that are commonly associated with military processing.

Just an endless stream of paperwork that we have to do in order to be deployed, and believe it or not I don’t have any problem with shit like this. Its got to be done so lets get it done. Which is exactly what we did, and we only lost 4 people to non-deployable status for this thing or that thing. Mostly medical issues, but hey you got to be healthy in order to die for your country.

Now we did manage to do something that presented me with some semblance of amusement. In the army the officers are the ones who have to go to college and be the smart ones who are able to lead us into battle and make the proper decisions in a combat environment, under a world of stress they have to be able to think and consider a million different variables and come up with the appropriate decision for that situation. They are the military’s strategizers (to borrow a term from G.W.) What is the ultimate intellectual test of strategy? Chess, of course.

Now I love to play chess and I especially love to play against someone that I know or at least think is better or smarter than me. That is where the challenge lies, not in playing the dumbest guy you can find. You know the type, “so uhh, how do you move the horsey one again?” Who the fuck wants to play with those guys. I want to play against the smartest person that I can find, regardless of rank. So I challenged one of our lieutenants to a chess match. He accepted.

Now immediately from the beginning he started to play the mind games. “Back in college, when I was on the chess team, and you know I haven’t really played in a long time and blah blah blah. Fairly simple mind tricks that would’ve worked on me if I were say 18 and completely retarded. But I digress, everyone has their way of doing things and this was his.

So the match went pretty well for about the first 15 moves or so… then he left himself open to a very simple checkmate. I’ll tell you this anyone who is mated in under 20 moves with losses of only 3 pieces is definitely a sub-par player, some would go so far as to call them a bit stupid. But he isn’t stupid, as a matter of fact I have a world of respect for the man, he is in point of fact an excellent leader.

The thing that made me laugh was the fact that while we were playing several of my fellow lower enlisted soldiers came by to watch and upon my defeating him we started talking about point values for chess pieces and strategies in chess and openings and end games and a myriad of other things that the lieutenant did not even begin to understand. But he started to get it as we explained things with a little more detail. Then after he had left we started playing amongst ourselves, about 4 of us altogether. Then I noticed something, all these guys were fairly solid chess players, with a good grasp of the game and the imagination to see the game play out in their heads and make appropriate moves given the information presented to them. No grandmasters, to be sure, but formidable opponents nonetheless. All E-4 and below, I might add, and I cant help but remember something my team leader told me while I was on active duty and that is that the higher you go in the military rank stucture, the more brain matter they remove from your head. This made me laugh, that the men who are paid to be cannon fodder (lower enlisted) and the men who are paid to lead the fodder to the cannons (the officer) are on such diametrically opposed ends of the spectrum as it applies to a game built purely on strategy and thoughtfulness. You would think that these are qualities, or actually, you would hope that these are qualities that officers would have plenty of.

So we spent parts of the next few hours playing match after match of chess, and I managed to win all but one of my matches. Problem being that the one that I lost was a match began by another soldier but finished by me because he had to go to some class and wasn’t available to finish the game. So I had to deal with a shitty position from the beginning and it just got worse from there, but I still lost the game so I cant take that away from my opponent.

Then he came along, SSG D. This guy sat in the back watching us play for a while and throwing his two cents around every so often. I didn’t really think that much of it, but I knew that I wanted to play against him, because he seemed to know at least a little bit more about chess than your average guy, and he outranks me and it is always fun to beat their asses. And let me say this, Sergeant D is a great guy, a White Sox fan, so he is OK with me. But the fact remains that he is a E-6 and its fun to make them look silly from time to time.

So, first he plays another guy we got here who plays incredibly aggressively. He is fairly easy to beat so long as you stay calm and patient. Sooner or later he will make a mistake and then you can knock him down. So I watch as they play and sergeant D plays just as aggressively with him and manages to not only beat him but get him to concede. Which in my book is an even stronger victory, any chess player will tell you that if there is no winning the match you should play for the draw, but he got him to concede. A product of this young man’s aggressiveness and intolerance for the patience needed to play a good game of chess. And he did it like 3 times straight in the span of about 45 minutes.

Then I got up to the plate. I figured that since sergeant D was an aggressive player I could sit back on defense and wait for him to make the mistake, bring the queen out too early or whatever and I could pounce. However, just as quickly as my buddy had gotten up and I had sat down, sergeant D changed his style of play and switched over to defensive tactics. He was basically showing both of us that he could beat us at our own games. The game ended when I conceded defeat as he chased me around the board with two queens, a rook, a knight, a bishop and a pawn against my king and 4 pawns. It was a slaughter. I really do wonder what kind of intelligence level it takes to be able to switch so easily between chess strategies. I mean we aren’t talking like any of us are Bobby Fisher or Josh Waitzkin or anything like that, but you still have to be pretty smart to be able to do something like that so effortlessly. Not to mention, he beat me! That takes a pretty smart guy right there.

So I digress, in a game of strategy the cannon fodder came out on top of the bosses. I, like so many things I have seen in the army, found this to be quite amusing. Maybe someday I’ll get to play the commander and see what he is all about. They say you can tell a lot about a man by the way he plays chess, I wonder?

Jul 22, 2008

Voluntary AT...


Alright so today was our second day of a week long SRP, I don’t know what the hell that stands for but basically this is the process by which we get all the goofy paperwork ready for this deployment we have so graciously been given by the US Army.

So I’ll tell you more about what goes on here later, because basically we haven’t done anything yet. We just got here about an hour ago and all we are doing tonight is getting some briefings, eating and going to sleep. But something happened yesterday that is worth telling you all about.

Now when we were down at Fort Chaffee, we qualified on all of our weapons. Rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, Oh my. Now this is not an easy process, I take that back, it is easy but the Army makes it infinitely difficult with its endless stream of paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense. So the ranges are all being run by some other company, normally a company runs its own ranges but for whatever reason the First Army (who were our trainers) were running them. I guess that this is not that uncommon but for the duration of my military career the company I was in always ran its own ranges. But I digress.

A range is basically a bunch of guys on a line firing whatever weapon at the targets placed downrange at increments ranging anywhere from 50 to 800 meters or whatever. These ranges usually take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete depending on what weapon is being fired and what the qualification table entails. Most weapons have to be fired not only during the day but they also have to be fired at night and in NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) gear. So they can take a while…Needless to say most soldiers really don’t like going to ranges. I would be more than happy to fire my weapons all day and night, but I don’t want to have to do all the shit that comes with it. You know, like cleaning weapons and cleaning up brass, and setting up and tearing down a range and dealing with all of that stuff. Just let me fire the damn thing and I’ll be a happy guy. But that is not the case.

So now not only were we going through these ranges but so were a couple of other companies. The amount of soldiers that they were sending through these things was crazy. And I’ll give you three guesses what happened during all the craziness. If you guessed that a lot of our scores got lost you need to get up and get yourself a cookie.

Now they lost some of our scores while we were there and those guys had to go back to the ranges while we were at Fort Chaffee. Which all things considered wasn’t that bad. At least they got to go right away and they didn’t take up anymore of the soldier’s time that wasn’t already being taken by the Army. Basically, that was a case of “no harm, no foul”

But we were about to be harmed by the Army’s foul up. So we get back from Chaffee and we are notified that there is a (get this) “voluntary AT” (AT means annual training, the two weeks in the summer for national guardsmen) Voluntary meaning that you didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to but they did say that they wanted as many of us to go as possible. The bosses usually do so that they can brag to their other boss buddies about how many of their guys went to the “voluntary AT”. I would’ve been curious to see just how many E-7 and above and officers went to this thing had what happened not occurred. So just about everyone said “fuck no” We are getting ready to deploy for at least a year, and if the situation remains as it has been we, like so many other units, will get extended and have to stay for a little longer because the Army cannot find enough people for this bullshit. But that is a whole other argument, so back to the topic at hand.

Yesterday, while we were sitting at the armory we were getting ready for final formation so we could all go out and get sloppy drunk and stay up too late and come to drill in the morning in absolutely no condition to actually function in any meaningful way. So it goes.

However, this time we got told to get into the classroom because the commander needed to talk to us. All right, no problem. The boss has got something he needs to put out. I can deal with that. But then the waiting begins. We sat in that classroom, which was probably made for at most 80 people, with our entire company of over 100 motherfuckers for what became an hour. An entire fucking hour sitting there staring at the wall waiting for the commander to talk to us. Wow, so nice to see that our commander has a lot of respect for our time. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the fact that he left us sit in there for an hour. After being in the army for a while you just get used to sitting around waiting. Everyone has this picture in their mind of the soldiers of the United States Army working hard all the time and getting things done at lightning speed. Well let me tell you, I would estimate that in my 10+ years of military service I have spent about 2-3 years waiting for one thing or another. What I have a problem with is the fact that he didn’t even bother to send someone to tell us “Hey, I am trying to sort something out so I can brief you on it, I’ll get there as soon as I can, I’m sorry about this, but it can’t be helped.” Simple, easy thing to do that would show that you actually care about your men. But we got nothing. Typical.

So anyways, after becoming seriously pissed off by being forced to sit there with my thumb up my ass for an hour, he finally comes in. Then he proceeds to tell us that a whole bunch of scores from all the ranges at Fort Chaffee have been lost and there are a bunch of us who are being “ordered” to the “voluntary AT” so that we can qualify on the weapons systems that we have already qualified on again. Now he postures a little bit about how he is trying to get this thing fixed so we don’t have to go and blah blah blah. Then he says that we shouldn’t feel bad because he has to go also. Like we determine how to feel about things based solely on whether or not he has to go. Narcissism anyone? He goes on for about 15 minutes about how this is all bullshit and he is fighting the battle but this is coming down from higher and he is losing.

Now bear in mind we are deploying at the end of next month. First down to Fort Bragg for 45 days then on to Afghanistan until sometime next August and then home for a week of out-processing before we actually get to go to our real homes and see our families. So if you ask me, every fucking day counts. EVERY SINGLE MOTHERFUCKING DAY IS PRECIOUS FROM NOW UNTIL THE DAY WE LEAVE. We are not going to see anyone we love for a goddamn, motherfucking year and now they continue to squeeze us for every day that they can get, and then they take another week when they fuck up. Needless to say I am angry because of course, I am on the list of the lucky ones that have to go to this bullshit. I have already made up my mind that they can pretty much kiss my fat, Irish ass. I am not going. I’ll take whatever punishment the army deems appropriate but I am not going to spend one more day away from my family in order to do something that I have already done. I’ll be there for the mobilization but I am not giving you another fucking day, not one.

Now later that night, I learned that I am no longer on the list of people who have to go because they rechecked the spreadsheet and it said that I was a “go” on all of the weapons systems that we needed to qualify on. So I should never have been told that I had to go to this shit. But more military bullshit and I have to spend my time ranting and raving and making myself crazy over a situation that actually doesn’t exist. For me anyway.

I am still insanely angry on behalf of all the soldiers in my unit that have to spend another week away from their families because certain sections of the army are too stupid to keep track of paperwork.

You see what people in the military chain of command seems to be completely ignorant of is the simple fact that all of us have lives outside the army. Understand that there is a world of difference between the active duty army and the National Guard. Most active duty guys will tell you that we are a bunch of weekend warrior shitbags. Which is fine with me, in many cases (myself included) they are probably right. But all those active duty guys should try to imagine how long and hard and frequent their deployments would be without us national guardsmen to pick up at least some of the slack.

The fact of the matter is that we have lives. We have jobs, wives, girlfriends, friends, volunteer occupations, and families, and houses, and apartments, and leases and rent, and bills, and cars, and boats, and sick mothers, and pain in the ass kids, and on and on and on. Our lives do not rotate around the military although the military expects that we rotate our lives around it. Whereas the active duty guys are employed by, and taken care of by the military, we are on our own as far as getting our lives together and ready for this deployment, and the fact is this. Not only do we have to live up to all that the military expects from us, we also have to administer our lives while we are gone. Not to say that active duty military doesn’t have the same considerations to deal with but its just a bit harder when you are leaving your life to be deployed, for the active guys this army shit is their life. Personally speaking, I just do this shit on the weekend. I know its hard all over, but if I were in the active army still, I would be always ready for this because the army actually is my job and by default, my life. But I digress.

Yes, I am bitching, and fuck you if you think I should shut my trap and take it. I am going to take whatever the military can dish out. In my time I have already taken a load of shit from the army roughly the size of Mount Everest. So I have earned the right to piss and moan when I feel like it, and I am going to utilize that right. You don’t like it or you think I am wrong, that’s fine, but FUCK YOU.

Lastly, I want to ask a question, does anyone out there who has ever dealt with military officers and the bureaucracy think that had the commander not been required to go to the “voluntary AT” himself, do you think he would have fought as hard as he did to get us all out of it?

Maybe someday I’ll ask him.

Jul 20, 2008

Recommended Reading List

Alright, so I have been thinking, I have been talking a bit too much about books I've read without giving all you wonderful people a sampling of the things that I like to read. This sampling will probably give you a bit of an idea as to what sort of person I am. I figure that you can tell a lot about a person from the things he/she reads. I am not going to explain any of them to you nor will I tell you why I liked them, you have to read them and figure it out for yourself. These books are in no particular order. Just wrote them down as I thought of them.

  1. Sissy Nation by John Strausbaugh
  2. Murphy's Laws of Combat by Marion F. Sturkey
  3. My War. by Colby Buzzell
  4. Blood Makes the grass grow green. By Johnny Rico
  5. Hard City By Clark Howard
  6. Hey Rube By Hunter S. Thompson
  7. Any book, essay or string of words put together by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. The Moon is a harsh mistress by Robert Heinlein
  9. The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad
  10. All 3 books by Robert Greene
  11. I am America (and so can you) by Stephen Colbert
  12. Me of Little Faith, by Lewis Black
  13. All of the "Outlaw Bibles"
  14. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  15. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  16. On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  17. Junky by William S. Burroughs
  18. I Hope they serve beer in hell by Tucker Max
  19. America's Victories by Larry Schweikart
  20. The 10 things you can't say in America by Larry Elder
  21. The Punishment of Virtue by Sarah Chayes
  22. Our Dumb World, courtesy of the Onion.
This list will be continuously updated as I read more stuff. So like I try to tell everyone, read something, before you get stupid. Now put all that material together and try to figure out just how insanely convoluted my pea sized brain really is.

Fragile, Handle with care, Do Not Drop

So I thought I might share with you a random thought that I had a little while back. I told you about how we were issued a whole bunch of shit at the armory prior to leaving out for Fort Chaffee and the wonderful 3 weeks we spent there. So one of the things we were issued was IBA's and SAPI plates.

IBA= Interceptor Ballistic Armor
SAPI= Small Arms Protective Insert

Basically, by itself the IBA is just a funky look vest that has some hooks on it so we can carry more crap. When you put the SAPI plates into it then and only then does it become a second rate bullet proof vest. (Dragon skin is much better but the Army won't buy it for us)


But I digress on that one.

Now here's the funny part. The SAPI plates and IBA vests were all new. So they gave us the IBA's and then they gave us a box containing the SAPI plates. The box containing the plates whose soul purpose is to stop bullets and shrapnel and to serve us in battle had a very cryptic sentence scrawled on it... "Fragile, Handle with care, Do Not Drop"


Jul 18, 2008

Fort Chaffee, Arknasas...3

So now we have made it to the airport and are sitting in our very comfortable buses and we pull up to a gate somewhere in the back of the airport. Far, far away from all the people who are going off on their family vacations, business trips, illicit affairs in other states trips and what not. I always wonder about that. Why the military takes great pains to make sure that soldiers on their way to wherever, are not placed squarely in the public eye. I would imagine that the "party line" answer would be something relating to security concerns, but I believe that the real answer would have something to do with the fact that the military does not want an endless parade of soldiers going off to war filing right past all the business travelers and soccer moms reminding them right before what are supposed to be happy vacations that there are two wars going on.

Anyways, we are sitting there in this sardine cans on wheels and we watch intently as our first sergeant and commander who actually seem to be negotiating with the security guards for our safe passage into the airport and hoping that they get this done quickly because I haven't felt the left side of my ass for the last 3 hours. No matter how much shifting and squirming I did I just could not get off the one vein that was carrying blood into that butt cheek. But anyone who has ever been involved in anything like this knows that nothing in the US Army moves quickly. Hurry up and wait.

After about 20 minutes we make it past the gate into the airport. We drive around for another 5 minutes or so and come to a plane sitting off by itself and looking incredibly small given the number of soldiers and baggage we are about to put onto it. You even hear a few dissapointed groans from soldiers, "What the hell is that a plane for smurfs?" "You thought it was tough cramming our asses into this bus, at least we only had 1 platoon per bus, the whole fucking company has got to go on that plane....oh yeah, and we have to jam all of our shit in there too."

But that is to be expected, it is every soldier's God given and constitutionally protected right to bitch and moan.

So then some sergeant, I forget who, jumps up in front of the bus and starts yelling. I remember thinking to myself, "You know what asshole, its like 4 in the morning, we are all half asleep, and you got to get up there and show everyone how big your nuts are by yelling. Just give it a rest pal." But I digress on that one. He told us that we should not wear any headgear (army term meaning: hat) because our hats could be sucked into the turbines and damage the plane. (Always thinking of the equipment before the soldiers, well not always) Then he told us to jump out the bus and start loading all of our shit onto the conveyor belt running into the belly of the plane. So we do. This takes about 25 minutes. Lightning speed in military terms.

Then we start to load onto to the plane. There is a first class and business class section, then there is the coach section. Moving to the rear of the plane I can't help but wonder if this is what black people felt like back in the day when they got onto buses. As I walked by and saw the plush leather seats that are wide enough to accommodate even the fattest of asses, with the seat backs that actually lean back more than 3 inches, and the leg room that could quite possibly comfortably seat a 6'2" grown man. But I am an E-4, only 3 rungs up from the bottom of the barrel. So I walk to the back of the bus, err plane.

-----Side note-----

Anyone in the military who thinks that the ranks of Specialist, Private First Class, Private (E-2) and Private are different in any substantial way is completely full of shit and should be immediately beaten severely with a rolled up newspaper. If you think that just because you are a specialist that you are in fact "special" and you can boss around the privates, well please let me run into you one of these days. I would love to introduce my foot to your ass. We are all the same, we are the ones who do the work. They (you know who I mean) give the orders and we do the work. So take it down a peg there Napoleon, and get back down here with the rest of us and get to work.

-----Side note complete-----

Another adventure is the seating arrangements. This plane has 3 seats on either side of the aisle. Now just like civilian air travel, you have a certain group of people who do not understand the idea of a carry on bag. It is a bag that should be of sufficiently small dimensions that it will fit easily into the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front of you. Well fuck me running, we got people getting on this plane with bags that could be used to smuggle Chinese people. So trying to find a place to put my bag is fun, and I end up cramming it into a spot large enough to fit a kitten, and wondering if I had taken out the store insurance on my iPod. Then I flopped my ass into the seat by the window.

Oh, I forgot to tell you. We also had picked up a new bit of baggage at the armory that we were carrying with us. In army speak these are the infamous, "SENSITIVE ITEMS" in other words weapons, and anything else the army deems too expensive to allow you to lose. Or items without which you would be of no use to them. And these items have to be accounted for at all times. If someone comes up and asks to see your sensitive items you have to show them. Not a big deal normally, but on a plane this becomes quite a cluster fuck. So I put my sensitive shit down on the seat beside me and settle in for the plane ride.

Now its been about 30 minutes and everyone is managing to get seated and ready. Senior NCO's are walking up and down the aisle counting people and making sure they have all their stuff. Now this little situation is truly hysterical if looked at the right way. Picture it: 100 and something soldiers all sitting in a plane. Several platoon sergeants, 3 of them to be exact, walking up and down the aisle trying to get an accurate count of their platoons and make sure everyone is there. Now no one is sitting with their platoon, they are all sitting by their friends, so they have to walk around and pick out who belongs to them, count them, dodge the next platoon sergeant coming down the aisle and keep track of all this shit. Now throw in the fact that we had just been on a bus for like 3 hours and people are moving back and forth to the bathroom and moving seats in order to give themselves the best view, or let them sit by their better friends or whatever. Figure in also that several people have now fallen asleep and are leaning against the seat in front of them and are not visible from the front, not to mention those of us who are bent over jamming bags under the seats in front of us while our platoon sergeants walk by and don't see us. Needless to say this situation is something that Laurel & Hardy could've done wonderful things with.

So it takes a while, but we get that done and the plane takes off. We got the safety lecture from the stewardess, and then we got the speech from the captain about how long we are going to be in the air and cruising altitude and "thank you for your service" and all of that. Then the airline brought us our breakfast. Remember we have been going for about 6 hours already and we are now having breakfast. Midflight they brought us this little silver bag, that when I got it, the damn bag burned my hand. Why you may ask, well it seems that McDonald's is now handling the catering for the airlines. Inside this bag was a little mcmuffin looking thing, which I have to admit was quite tasty. I gobbled that up in about 4 bites, and was infinitely disappointed to find out later that there was ketchup in bag. Oh, that would've made the sandwhich so much better. But I digress.

We fly for about 2 hours and land in Arkansas. Its still dark. I am pissed because as soon as we get off the plane the first thing they tell us is that there is no smoking at all on the tarmac. I also realize that the army does not move this many soldiers anywhere quickly. So its going to be quite a while till I have a cigarette. Oh, don't worry, its only been like 5 hours or so, I am not irritable or anything.

We grab all of our shit and line up in an area under a tent and wait for instructions. We sit there for about another hour. We finally get picked up by more fucking buses. Except these are the school bus type buses, not the cross country greyhound style ones. Surprisingly, these buses are a lot easier to negotiate than the other ones. We get on those and drive for a while, then we come across our home for the next three weeks. Beautiful Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.


Just A Little Something I Wanted To Share.

So its like 2:30 in the morning and I have to get up at 9:00 am and my brain is not working particularly well, but I just thought of something that I felt was worth getting down before I lost all recollection of it. Its an epiphany of sorts.

You see I work in a prison for my day job. I am in the national guard and a hard charging US Army Military Police soldier on the weekends. The parallels between the two are such that they bear repeating. First and foremost, an enlisted contract and a prison sentence are eerily similar in that they both are for a prescribed amount of time where you will be under the complete control of the United States government, in my case I have done two bids, and am currently serving my third. My first was for 5 years, 6 months and 19 days. My second was for 2 years, 5 months and 11 days, and this one is for 6 years. Of which I have served just under 3 years. Parallel number two is the slang used by those subject to these government mandated service terms. First and foremost is the slang used for completion of said service. Both prisoners, and soldiers ask each other, "When you getting out?" In reference, obviously, to when they are allowed to leave out from under the government's watchful eye. In addition, like prison, the military's food is notoriously bad, and both are known for giving people who were abused as children power over others. Not to mention the simple fact that the military and prison are both places viewed with apprehension and fear by a large portion of the thinking population.

I find this incredibly funny. Last but certainly not least, is the mentality of both prisoners and lower enlisted soldiers. These two groups have stunningly similar ideas about how to conduct themselves. Each group will do anything in order to maintain some semblance of dignity and will do just about anything to circumvent the authority of those appointed over them by the United States government. Case in point.

While on that little exercise down in Arkansas we were given a bit of direction by the Sergeant Major (the highest ranking enlisted man) as to what was acceptable as far as smoking was concerned. There were designated smoking areas around the base, but he never actually verbally stated that these were the only places that we could smoke, all he said was that we could not "WALK AND SMOKE". Literally, those were his words, do not walk and smoke. Well we found this to be infinitely inconvenient. I mean, we have got things to do, we can't be stopping for 5 minutes here and there to smoke. Soldiers are busy people. So we had to find a way around it. So here is what we came up with.

Since he plainly stated that we could not walk and smoke, but he had not said anything about carrying a lit cigarette we took to doing something that is completely ridiculous, childish, immature and just flat out fucking stupid. However, thinking back I find it tremendously funny. We would light our cigarettes and take a drag while standing stationary with both feet firmly planted on the ground. No legal argument could be made that we were walking. Then we would palm the offending cigarette and move out smartly to our intended destination. When we wanted another drag we would stop dead in our tracks, plant our feet firmly on the ground, ensure that we were making no movements of any kind that could be construed by a rationale person as walking, and we would take another drag off of our cigarette. This process would be repeated until one of two conditions existed.

1. The cigarette was gone.
2. We arrived at our intended destination.

So technically we obeyed the orders that were given to us. We just put our own little bit of flavor on it. Is that or is that not the biggest pile of bullshit you have ever heard. I mean I am 30 years old and I am still doing things like this. The military definitely has a regressive effect on my maturity level. I sit here and am thinking, if this kind of thing is going on after 3 weeks, I cannot wait to see what incredible shit we come up with after a year of this...

To Be Opened In The Event of My Death.

Guess what I have to do? I have to make out a will. God does this suck. I am not going to say this is the hardest thing in the world, but it definitely ranks pretty high up there. Dealing with my own mortality is not an easy thing to do. Try wrapping your brain around the idea that tomorrow you may no longer exist.

Its a mind-fuck isn't it? Well I have been told that I have to have a Last Will and Testament filled out by this week to turn in to the US Army so that they have it on file in the event of my premature demise. The Army is such an incredible pain in the ass. If there is one thing you don't want to think about as you head off to a war zone is death. Especially your own death.

So I figured along with the will, which is kind of humorous to me because it basically divides up all your worldly goods between your family and friends. So basically, its like an after death popularity contest. I can just see it, my mom laughing at my brother and yelling, "See he loved me more, I got 60% of his life insurance policy and you only got 40%. " (I'm kidding, my mother would never do something like that.) In addition it makes me laugh because the way that most of these things are worded make it sound like you actually had a pot to piss in. Which I, obviously, do not. And even more ironic than that is the fact that in death I would be worth somewhere around a half a million bucks to one or two lucky winners. I have never in my life had more than $6,000 in the bank, and that was the day that my student loan check was deposited and before I had paid the school for the semester. Interesting. They say you can't put a price on a human life. I beg to differ, the Army has clearly stated that if I pay X amount of dollars every month my life is worth $400,000.

So anyways, what do I want to happen after my death? Does anyone really believe that I care? I'm dead. I am going to use a worn out cliche here, but the only thing that would really mean anything to me is that the people that I love be happy. That is why I am asking that a party be held in my honor after they put my dead ass in the ground. No mourning, no crying, no heartfelt sentiments on what a wonderful person I was (complete bullshit), Nothing but Naked women and beer. (Invoking Hank Williams Jr.) The only thing that I do want is a traditional and proper military funeral with the playing of taps and the flag and the 21 gun salute and all that shit. Somebody find a horse, a pair of boots and a guy in uniform and let's start burying people. However, after I am buried don't cover me up. Just wait until everyone leaves to go to the party and have some Mexican pull my ass out of the ground and throw me onto a bonfire and fire me up. Turn me into ashes man. I mean even the bible said, "Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust" All I want is for the process to be sped up a little bit.

Besides, I think that cemeteries are bullshit. I mean really, we are wasting God only knows how much land planting dead people in the ground. I mean they are great fertilizer and the grass in them places usually looks phenomenal, but for Christ sake they're dead. They don't care about being put in some hole with a nice little stone on it so that their loved ones, who never come around anyways can have someplace to put a bunch of flowers a couple of times a year. That's just me, maybe I am wrong. I just find it hard to believe that having a burial plot in a cemetery contributes to your memory lasting for eternity. Hell, one generation after your planted nobody really knows you're there anyways.

A lot of soldiers write death letters. You know letters they hand off to someone to hold for them that are to be mailed to the mothers, or wives or whoever in the event of their death. Letters that have "Open In The Event Of My Death" scrawled on the front of them. Jesus Mary and Joseph and all the saints, has that got to be a hard letter to write. What the hell do you say?

"Hi Mom, Sorry but if you're reading this I am dead, that has got to suck for you. But don't worry about it, I could care less... I'm dead. Love & Kisses."

Alright, I'll admit that I am being just a bit cavalier about something as profound as death, but how the hell am I supposed to think about it. I mean, I have been conditioned to deal with the deaths of other people. That's easy, you just show up keep your head bowed, and your eyes toward the ground, wear black, and if you liked them enough maybe you can conjure up some tears. Then tell their family what a wonderful person they are, and that they will be missed and then go home and rub one out. If I were going to write a death letter I guess I would have to go with something like this...


Hi Everyone, I hope you are all fine. As for me, if you are reading this, I am not fine. In all actuality, I am doing quite well. No more bills, no more work, no more taxes, and no more war. But there is also the small little issue of no more me. I would tell you to not feel bad, but that just seems like such a cliche that I would want to kill myself, but I can't do that either because I am already dead. I am sorry for all the shit I pulled during my lifetime, some of it anyways. I wish I could be there with you and comfort you, but if I was there you wouldn't need comforting so...well whatever.

Please, remember me. That is all I could really ask for. Remember the smiles, remember the good times. Forget all the bullshit (that part will be hard). Tell all the stories about the funny things that I did, like dancing on a bar to a Tom Jones tune after drinking too much rum, or singing "Purple Rain" in the basement of the VFW, or humping a blow up doll on the hood of Kenny's truck, or...well you get the idea. I want all of you, even the children, to get drunk (and use the money from my insurance so that the bar is open) and drink until the sun comes up. Then sleep it off and get on with your life. I don't need monuments or grave stones, or any tangible evidence that I was ever here in the first place. Just every so often when a little bit of quiet time hits you, think of me, and when you think of me...I hope you smile.


The dead guy.

Jul 16, 2008

What is a hero? Or Am I Sick?

Alright, so today has easily been my most prolific writing day thus far.  I hope that I have the time and motivation to keep it up.  I got to admit getting my thoughts out on these pages (or whatever) is quite therapeutic.  

Every time I think about heroism, and what it means I think of one Bible verse.  

Isaiah 6:8  Which reads, "I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Who will I send?  Who will go for us?  And I said, Here I am Lord, Send me!"

When I think of this verse there are two sides of me that are locked in an epic conflict for control of my brain and by default my soul.  There is the side of me that knows the dangers of war and the futility of it all.  Then there is the side of me that cannot help but yearn for the test that is war.  I am enthralled with the idea of proving myself.  Not to anyone in particular, just to myself.  I think that at least one side of me is crazy, and to any normal thinking person which side is nuts is fairly obvious.  To me the answer as to which side is loco is a bit more convoluted.

So I pose the question, what is a hero?  Why am I thinking about such goofy questions?  Well I just went to see Hancock this evening.  In the movie (everyone probably already knows this) Will Smith plays a homeless drunk with superpowers.  The movie follows him as he grows from a drunk who does more harm than good into a real superhero that saves the day over and over.  I actually wouldn't recommend the movie.  The director could have done a whole lot more with the story and characters, but it seemed like he knew the movie would be a hit since Will Smith was in it, so he didn't feel the need to put a whole lot of work into it.

But back to the question, What the hell is a hero?  Is it someone who can do things no one else can do?  Or is it someone who is willing to do the things that no one else is willing to do?  Now these questions are coming to me as I sit in my bedroom typing away and thinking about my impending deployment to Afghanistan which currently is heating up to the point that some soldiers out there are wishing they were there instead of in Iraq. (Soldiers are a very strange lot)  But click HERE if you want to read about it.  

I have been a soldier in one capacity or another since I was 19 years old, I am 30 now.  The Army and I are the longest continuous relationship I've ever had, and ever since I was a kid I have dreamed, fantasized really, about achieving glory in battle.  Proving myself in a way that most men will never be able to prove themselves.  Showing myself that when it comes right down to it and the shit has hit the fan and the chips are down and....insert random cliche here, I was able to cowboy up, grab my balls and do what I had to do.  Many of you won't understand this next line but it is more for my benefit than yours.


Is it wrong?  Am I sick in the head for having such foolish dreams?  I know that my ideas on this are childish and immature and are ignoring the basic reality of the situation that I am about to find myself in.  However, no matter how hard I try, and how diligently I try to talk myself out of thinking this way, I just can't shake the idea.  I have an ever changing movie running in my head.  A movie where I am the hero and I keep getting myself into one amazing situation after another, and always through my own cunning, bravery and heroic actions I keep coming through.  Unfortunately, this is the real world, where the good guy doesn't always win, and the hero doesn't always get the girl and live happily ever after.

In this world heros die.  In this world heros lose limbs.  In this world heros are forgotten by their governments.  In this world heros are expendable.

I know all of this.  I see it everyday in the news on how the VA sucks, and soldiers and marines and airmen, and sailors are getting completely fucked up by the war whether it be in the body or in the mind.  Then when they get home they find their medical care to be, and this is putting it mildly, just a little bit below par.  I see the pictures of all those young men and women who died.  I see all the movies and pictures about the ones who came back minus an arm or a leg.  I read all the stories about the ones who came back all fucked up in the head, and ended up dining on a bullet just to make the pain stop.  Regardless of all of that, these thoughts still run in my head.  

I sincerely don't know whether I should want them to go away or not.  Is it pure naivete, or is it my noble heart (doubt it), or is it just a piece of me that wants to be able to quietly look down on those who weren't there with me, who weren't willing to stand up and fight as I had?  Could it be my own vanity that is causing me these thoughts?  That is the most logical argument so far.  

Now I am headed to Afghanistan on August 28, 2008 and will be there for almost a year.  I think that at one point or another the time will come where I will go from being a naive dreamer to an experienced warrior and then I will be able to use that experience to sort this little conundrum out.  I just hope and pray that finding the answers to these questions does not cost me a limb, my sanity, or my life...

Of course that might all be complete bullshit.  Maybe one of these days I'll tell you why I think I may have been chasing a ghost for the last 27 years.

Fort Chaffee, Arkansas...II

So now we are outside and loading onto these 3 buses to take a nice long ride from our armory to the Airport and its still dark because it is ass crack early in the morning. (What do ass cracks have to do with early, nothing really)  And I have to say this, regardless of how big you are when you are weighed down by a ton of military gear, when you have all this stuff on you are going to have one hell of a time getting onto a bus through the staircase next to the drivers seat, not to mention the walkway made for an anorexic broom handle of a person.  Then you tack onto that the fact that I am in fact a BIG boy, and I am in for a little bit of trouble in the coming moments.

So I look around and realize that everyone who had weighed in prior to me was already out here and on the buses and half asleep if not completely snoring and dreaming about Pamela Anderson by now.  So I light up a cigarette, throw as much of my shit as I can into the cargo hold of this bus and then I settle in, off to the side where the NCO's and Officers tend not to look for people.  People they will see and give what are known in the Army as "Hey You's"  Now a hey you, is nothing more than a senior ranking person realizing that there is something that needs to be done and since he/she certainly doesn't want to do it themselves, (I mean what is the point of gaining rank if you can't use it to your advantage) so they raise their heads and look around and when they eyes come across a person they yell in their command voice, "Hey You".  Then they proceed to give the rather unfortunate chap the lowdown on what they have to do, while the senior person "seeks further instructions from higher".  This always seemed to me to be code for, "I am going away from here so that anyone passing by does not wonder why I am not doing anything.  If by some freak accident I run into anyone higher ranking than me, I will ask them if there is anything else they need done, and if so, I will promptly come back here and extend this little job of yours until I have pleased my superiors."

DISCLAIMER: I sometimes become melodramatic in my descriptions of people and events, this is not what I would characterize as lying.  Embellishment for the sake of entertainment is a better way of putting it.  All the stories are true and the people, while renamed, are real.  The dialogue is real, but the editorial is purely my own.  I don't want everyone to think that the Army is populated by a bunch of narrow minded idiots, because that is not true.  Some of the greatest conversations I have had were in the Army and some of the most intellectually challenging people I ever met were in the Army.  Conversely, some of the dumbest mother fuckers you are ever going to meet are also in the Army so I guess everything evens out.

))) Continuing the story....

So I manage to suck down about 3 cigarettes while the last remnants of our company pile their way into the buses which is fun to watch.  The command group is desperately trying to get all of their gear that they personally own (laptops, cell phones, gps and the like) into the passenger compartment of the bus.  You see, the Army in many cases, does not give you what you need to effectively accomplish your mission.  Now anyone in a position of leadership in the Army is expected to know their soldiers and pretty much anything else that anyone might ever ask about them.   I mean they have to know your blood type, boot size, pant size, shirt size, address, 2 phone numbers, next of kin, years of service, education level, sperm count, whether or not you're an Elvis fan, and how old you were when deflowered.  So given the massive amount of data the Army collects (Army databases would be an advertisers wet dream) and also given the fact that the leaders are the ones who are expected to keep track of all this bullshit the majority of them make extensive use of laptops.  So watching them drag this stuff onto the buses, that are already packed to the brim with soldiers who already have their laptops on board (however, the soldiers are bringing theirs purely for entertainment purposes) is slightly amusing to me to say the least. 

Even funnier, is watching them set up shop on the bus.  These exercises afford the leadership so little time to accomplish their missions that they have to utilize every moment they can to work.  So seeing some of these men, in all their gear, sitting in a bus seat made just large enough for a garden gnome, and then they are hunched over their laptops.  Their faces illuminated by the glow emanating from their computer screens, making their skin look greenish blue, like some strange creature from Episode #36 of Star Trek, furiously typing away, finishing up op orders, class outlines, training schedules and all the other useless paperwork that the Army never seems to tire of creating.

So finally, I get on the bus.  I move to a seat and since I waited so long I am guaranteed to sit next to someone that nobody likes.  In addition, I am sure to get an aisle seat which is depressing because I have what some might call a "fat ass" and since someone is already sitting in the window seat and with all their gear taking up half the aisle seat I am reduced to sitting with one butt cheek on the seat and one hovering over the aisle.  Not to mention that every time someone has to take a leak, I have to smash myself up against the person sitting next to me in order for them to get by, essentially spooning with them so that this prick who should have gone before we left can get to the painfully small bathroom and relieve himself.  Oh yeah, and I have to do the same thing when they come back.  Unfortunately for me the rest of the ride is fairly boring.  I put some Elvis Presley on my iPod and slowly drift away to sleep, until someone has to piss.  Then I let them by and slowly drift back to sleep, until they come back.  And so it goes. (Yes I am invoking Kurt Vonnegut)

Then we arrive at the airport, which is about 30 minutes from my home which struck me as kind of funny given the fact that I drove 2 hours to get to the armory and then 3 hours back to go to the airport but I digress on that.  

Tomorrow, I'll tell you all about airport security, boarding a plane, and landing in Arkansas.

Legalized insanity

I just got an email with a guy I served on active duty with.  He is currently married with two children and is putting his life together after the military got finished with him.  Just thought that the sentiment he shared was worth repeating.  The context of the email is that I sent him a book that I thought he would really enjoy reading, and I emailed him saying that the book was on its way and he should read it because its always good to exercise your mind.

HE REPLIED:  "If you are going to be in the Active Army for the next year or two I suggest you stop exercising your brain right now!!!!!!!!!! You could become one of those unfortunate souls who go crazy from all the legalized insanity.  You know that is my personal definition of the Army.  Think about it, if you want to put yourself in a position to die or to kill others in the civilian world, you would be institutionalized.  If you do it in the Army you are given a medal and promoted!!  Airborne Brother."

The dichotomy there is astonishing. (A wonderful word that I picked up watching "Word Girl" in the doctor's office) Short and sweet, but there it is.  

Oh by the way, the book I sent him was, "Blood makes the grass grow green" By Johnny Rico.

Jul 15, 2008

Fort Chaffee, Arkansas...

I can't help but think of the scene in the movie "Stripes" when I think about the training that we conducted last month down at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  You know the part where the commanding officer asks the Bill Murray character, "What kind of training son?" And Bill Murray in his own inimitable way states, "Aaaaaarrrrrrrmmmmmmmyyyyyyyy training, sir"  Thats what we did, Army training at its finest.  A whole lot of hot days, followed by bouts of torrential rain, even a tornado or two, sprinkle in a generous helping of ticks, spiders, snakes, and mosquitos, followed by a little bit of sleep deprivation and you have the three glorious weeks that I got to spend in Arkansas.  Now there were some bright spots, for example, I got to get my hair cut in the same chair that Elvis Presley got his cut in so many years ago.  You know prior to the whole fat, drunken, drugged out episodes that permeated his later life.

We started out by heading out from Anytown, Illinois to O'Hare airport via buses.  Now sounds simple enough doesn't it.  A whole gang of soldiers get on a few buses and are driven to the airport.  Well if you believe that you obviously know nothing of being in the US Army.  We started the day bright and early and got all of our shit together.  Now many of us had actually sent one of our bags carrying our less important gear ahead of time.  So that those people only had to carry about 200 lbs of shit to the armory and onto the buses.  Well I was not one of those fortunate souls who had the foresight to do that (as instructed by our leadership) (one of their few glowing moments).  

So as it turned out I had about 300 pounds of military issue shit to drag with me.  One ruck sack packed to the point that it looked like it was about to burst at the seams, one assault pack (the Army's name for a regular sized backpack) and one duffel bag completely packed with shit that I would not use for the entirety of my time in Arkansas all packed neatly on top of the one thing that I was going to desperately need after a few days in the Arkansas sun.  An extra pair of boots.  Now that was my own dumbass fault, things you know you will need go on top genius.

Now on to getting all this crap into order so we can get on these buses.  First we all had to be weighed. (In order to tell the bus company and the plane company or whoever, just how much useless shit we are going to load onto their respective transportation vehicles)  Haha, over a hundred of us, with all of our stuff, on two scales!  Sure this went real fast.  So at first we got into line in alphabetical order, which is funny in and of itself.  I am not saying there are no smart people in the army, there are plenty.  But the army is a cross section of society (as long as you leave out the upper 25%, I don't think we have any of those)  and with that cross section comes a hearty helping of our more retarded citizens.  The kind of people I had to quietly sit and wonder why natural selection had not weeded them out yet, and and even scarier question, "These people are going to receive lethal firearms?"  Anyways, watching them as they read the names of the guy or gal in front or behind them and quietly mouth the alphabet to themselves trying to determine if their name starts with an earlier or later letter than their name.  It was especially amusing when they got to the people whose names began with the same letter as theirs and they had to go to the second letter to figure it out.  I have to admit that I almost fell over laughing when two guys whose name began with the same three letters came together, that exchange was priceless.

I, always looking for the easiest, least strenuous way of doing things, noticed that this long, snaking line moved right in front of me.  Now the piece of the line containing my name was on the other side of the armory.  However, with what I would soon find out was 300 pounds of shit I was in no mood to carry this stuff all over the place just to stand in a line that every minute or so would move roughly 3 feet forward and then stop.  No thank you, so I planted my ass right on top of one of the bags and watched intently as the line moved pass me waiting ever so patiently for the S's to come by.  

This is where I first came into contact with what I like to refer to as the "Regulation Robots" (maybe I'll think of a more clever name later)  These are the guys who cannot move without being told to do so, they completely lack the ability to think for themselves and alter their way of doing things to make their life easier.  If the sky began to fall, they would be pissed off because the asteroids weren't dress right dress.  So this Sergeant comes up to me and the following exchange took place.

Sergeant:  What are you doing, Specialist?
Me:  (Looking around somewhat bewildered) Sitting here, Sergeant
Sergeant: Why aren't you in the line to get weighed?
Me: Because I figured that I would just sit here and wait for my section of the line to come by.
Sergeant:  Weren't you told to get into the line to be weighed?
Me:  Yes, Sergeant
Sergeant:  But you were told to get into the line? (You could visibly see in his face that he had a hard time comprehending the fact that I would have the audacity to do this)
Me:  Yeah, but I have like a ton of shit here, Sergeant.  And my name starts with one of the later letters in the alphabet so I know I am going to have to wait till the end of the line anyways.  So why not just sit here and wait for the line to come around instead of carrying all this shit all over the place for no reason. Sergeant. (They like it when you call them "Sergeant" a lot.  Makes them feel special and maybe just a bit superior)
Sergeant:  Well why should you be able to just sit here when everyone else has to carry all their stuff around?
Me:  (and I should've thought this next comment through a bit better)  Because I am smarter than they are and had the brains to figure out how to negotiate this task in the easiest manner. Sergeant.
Sergeant:  Well regardless of what you think you need to get your ass in this line with everyone else, Specialist.
Me:  Sergeant, before giving me any orders you need to consult with my NCO support channel, my squad leader is right there. (I say pointing to the E-6 SSG, standing off to my left who was listening to the entire thing)

SSG:  Leave him alone Sergeant, I'll worry about what my guys are doing.
Sergeant:  Yes, Sergeant. (In the army everyone from E-5 through E-8 is referred to as Sergeant, except for First Sergeants, which are called First Sergeant or in informal circumstances "Top")

With that the Sergeant leaves the area and the SSG, who is my boss, walks over to me and crouches down to eye level with me.

SSG:  Hey, could you do me a favor from now on?
Me:  What do you need. Sergeant?
SSG:  Please try not to aggravate every NCO that you come into contact with.
Me:  Alright, Sergeant, I'll keep it down to a reasonable rate of aggravation.
SSG:  Thank you and here is an actual order, Do not aggravate anyone that I cannot tell to "fuck off" (meaning don't piss anyone off who outranks him)
Me:  Apologies Sergeant, but I can't promise you anything, but I will try.
SSG:  I can't ask anymore than that.

Now, he just endeared himself to me forever.  He stood up for me when I needed a little bit of help and he made sure that I knew it.  He did not insult or belittle anyone while doing it and he managed to see what I was doing and the intelligence of it (later he told our entire squad to sit down with me and wait for their place in line) and acted accordingly.  So he showed me that he is loyal and will stand with his troops, he showed me that he is a kind person, and he showed me that he is thoughtful.  All traits that you definately hope to find in your leaders.

After sitting there for roughly 2 hours and weighing ourselves and all of our crap, we proceeded outside to squeeze in the last second cigarettes and shove all this stuff into the bellies of 3 buses.  But that, along with the ride to the airport is a story we shall tell tomorrow.

Jul 14, 2008

Colby Buzzell is going back.

I just found out that Colby Buzzell, the guy who wrote "My War, Killing Time In Iraq" just got recalled by the US Army for his second all expenses paid trip to the middle east in order to protect American freedom and security.  I think its bullshit and so does most everyone else, I would sit here and write a long diatribe about the evils of the IRR, but he does it much better than I do so here is the link to an Op Ed piece he wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Albuquerque Strip Club Story

So I went and put it down in my last post so I have got to tell you this story now.  First let's begin by letting you know that 2 of my friends and I, while stationed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico went from Las Cruces, to Albuquerque to see a porn star/stripper who was performing there.  Her stage name was (for your enjoyment are a couple of pictures of her, showing her ummm, qualifications).

We went up to Albuquerque and saw her perform and spent some obscene amounts of cash getting her out of her clothes as quickly as possible.  It never ceases to amaze me that where women are involved we as men can be so quickly reduced to sniveling idiots completely incapable of controlling ourselves.  But hey, any guy spends four hours staring at boobs and there is no doubt that he is dumber than a box of shit.  (Thank you, Rodney Carrington)

The parts of the story that to this day makes me laugh are two fold.  First, the elaborate lie that we constructed so as to not alert the wives of my two pals to what was going on.  We had to tell them that we had some military mandated color guard mission up in Albuquerque because we all knew that their wives would never let them go.  Why are women like that?  Who really cares? Thats probably why I am not married anymore.  Now in order to pass this color guard thing off as legit, we forged a set of orders to go up there from our commander. (I am not sure if this is really illegal in that we used it to lie to these guys spouses, not any official entity)  But that was a thing of beauty but as I was thinking at the time, "a whole lot of effort over some tits"  

But we did it, now we had to get our uniforms together.  Now anyone who has ever been in the Army knows what a truly annoying and difficult task it is to get your Class A uniform put together.  There has never been a more poorly designed, completely ridiculous, hard to maintain, and harder to deal with garment than the class A pants and jacket.  Polyester crap, that has to have ten thousand little ribbons, badges, crests, buttons, rank placards, and decorative sashes and a myriad of other little things that all have to be a quarter inch from this and a half inch from that centered over the pocket and blah blah blah.  That and they never lay flat against the front of the damn coat so we all would cut cardboard out and put it behind the things to be attached to our jackets and pin that in with our ribbons and what not to make sure that they lay flat.  So rest assured if you have seen a soldier lately who looks squared away in his uniform and all his shit is laying flat on his coat, well that man is wearing more cardboard than a new refrigerator.  The process of putting together a uniform, especially one that has to go to the tailor, which my buddies uniforms did, can be a task that takes literally hours on end and the efforts of several soldiers all trying to remember what goes where and how far and what its centered on and shit.  So now we have already committed a large amount of effort and a little bit of money to this little tit seeing adventure.  So just keep in mind, this is the caliber of intellect you are dealing with here.  I am a man who would spend hours working on things that I hate (uniforms), and construct an elaborate lie to tell the most important persons in my friends lives for the pleasure of driving 3 hours to Albuquerque to see a woman undress.  You know when I say it like that it sounds bad.

So then we go up and see her do her thing.  I mean what can I say about that.  We got drunk and spent too much money and we saw her dance and get naked.  I mean its the same thing all over.  So the next day we got to get our butts home because we have to work that night.  Thank the good, good Lord that we were working together so we could take turns sleeping, or all fall asleep at once, no one could see what we were doing anyways.  Now on the way home, it was snowing.  Unfortunately every so often in New Mexico it does snow, however there is not a person in that state that knows how to deal with it.  So as we are going home driving down the 25 and just chuggin along when a guy in a white bronco, (no OJ references please) swerves in front of me.  Coming dangerously close to my front end, in reaction to which I swerve the opposite way and am now sliding across the road at roughly 75 miles per hour.  New Mexico had one of those speed limits that is a bit high.  So as we start into our slide and our impending doom, both occupants and the driver are starting to scream in a psycho shower scene manner.  Now there is something else you have to realize about New Mexico the freeways are not encased in retaining walls or guardrails, there is a shoulder with those "wake the fuck up" bumps cut into it, but after that you literally will go sailing off into the New Mexico wilderness which awaits you about 50 meters below.  

Now I am a northerner by birth and had some experience in driving in the snow and luckily through my abject terror I was able to steer the car into the skid which steadied the car out, but it steadied it in a sideways direction.  Meaning that on a road designed for traffic to go north and south, we were in fact going north and south, however the problem was that our car, (in fact, my car) was facing east and west.  How depressing.  The funniest part of this whole thing to me is that during this whole thing I calm down for a moment and marvel at the beauty just to the side of the freeway in the form of the New Mexico desert landscape.  Then I look calmly out the driver side window and notice that several cars and trucks are sliding from the north bound lanes into the south bound side and are in my way and if I do not right this vehicle shortly there is going to be a rather unfortunate collision, and then we would have to explain the strip club tshirts, the strip club drink cups, the rather large breasted woman who signed our 8 x 10 photographs, and the $20 polaroid pictures of me with a porn star in my lap.  All of which are things none of us really want to deal with.  

So I bring myself back from wherever it was that I had drifted off to and somehow managed to steer the car back into a southerly direction and proceeded to dodge all the sliding cars and made it another 30 minutes south and by this time all the snow was gone and driving was back to being easy.  We all got home and were safe and sound and miraculous as it may sound, no one ever discovered our little ruse.  Which is amazing because the three of us are easily the most unintelligent and non-devious people I have ever known.  But we got away with it.  Thankfully, because these guys had some scary wives.

The moral is this, why can't women be easier to deal with.  Why do they have to be such battle axes that we have to construct elaborate lies in order to go and see another woman take off her clothes for money?  Ladies, relax....

Jul 13, 2008

Copenhagen Jerk!

This next post is a test, and just a little bit of a preview of what is to come.  We all already know that anytime you put a bunch of soldiers in one place together for long periods of time, and cut them off from the rest of the world, and all those influences in our lives, (mothers, girlfriends, booze, drugs, and what-not) that keep us on an even keel, some very strange things are going to happen.  I mean we have already determined beyond a shadow of a doubt that this year long deployment to Afghanistan is going to turn into nothing more than one, very long, very protracted, very bad gay joke.

Anyway, I am going to tell you a story.  A story about one of my nearest and dearest friends, a man I have the unfortunate pleasure of having shook hands with. (An unfortunate thing for reasons that will become clear after you hear the story.)  Anyway, this man is the kind of guy that you would trust your wife with.  The kind of guy that I would choose to godfather my kids.  (DUI's, solicitation arrests and all)  I love this man as much as a straight man could possibly love another man.

So here is the story...He enjoys masturbation, A LOT.  I would go so far as to say he is addicted to masturbation, or at least he was at the time.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, if you have ever been in the service you know that masturbating is a daily event.  (If not more often than that.)  So like any addiction, in order to achieve the same exhilaration from the event you have to get more and more.  Now since there is really no way to get more from the event, I mean you could do it 10 times a day, but we all know that sooner or later you would pull the damn cap off the thing and that is no good.  So my buddy turned to other means to increase his enjoyment.  He turned to Copenhagen snuff and baby oil, along with a nice private room and his favorite pornography.  And he would commence what I like to call the ritual.  The ritual follows the following steps.
  1. Place pornography into VCR, DVD player or whatever other conduit of electronic entertainment you are using.
  2. Remove all clothing.
  3. Place seat no further than 6 feet and no closer that 3 feet from viewing device.
  4. Sit in seat.
  5. Remove 1/2 of Copenhagen from container tin, and place between bottom lip and gums.
  6. Begin chew. (Wait for tobacco to take effect, hopefully a somewhat light headed feeling is most desireable.)
  7. Completely and disturbingly coat right hand and area to be manipulated with baby oil.
  8. Place baby oil in an easily accessible place, as more may be needed depending on length of event.
  9. Press play on remote control of electronic viewing device WITH LEFT HAND.
  10. Watch for at least 3-5 minutes to achieve maximum arousal, and to allow more time for tobacco to take effect.
  11. Begin manipulating area in a slow and controlled manner in order to assist in achieving maximum arousal.
  12. When maximum arousal, and tobacco are both in effect, increase manipulation speed.
  13. Keep increasing manipulation speed until climax.
  14. Kick yourself for forgetting the damn towel to clean this shit up with.
  15. Run to the bathroom butt ass naked and get a towel.
  16. Clean up your mess and pray to god your wife does not return while you are treating your body like an amusement park.
  17. Return yourself to normal operational posture by reversing all the steps listed here.
  18. Smile, and have yourself a brew...
This is what he did, no bullshit, I never actually saw it, but I saw his barracks room after one of these had been performed and prior to him cleaning up.  So be warned, these are the kind of crazy mothers that populate the Army, and these are the kind of people that I like to hang out with. do you see why it is unfortunate that I shook this man's hand?


Jul 11, 2008

Gonna Miss All of You.

I just wanted to throw this up there real quick so everyone knows. I am going to miss all of you, I am going to miss getting hammered, I am going to miss sleeping in a real bed and I am going to miss...blah, blah, blah.

I hope we all stay in touch and I hope we all have a good year, so now if I can go there, and make it home while maintaining my ability to breathe and my ability to #$%^ then everything should be fine. (Sorry, Mom).

Keep in touch and you can always reach me through this blog or my email address. Thanks and God Bless Us All.

Jul 10, 2008

On Wolves, Sheep and Sheepdogs.

Taken from "On Combat" by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. 

Its a great essay about how most people are sheep, you know the type that would do just about anything to avoid any sort of violent confrontation or any kind of situation where they would be forced to act.

Then there are the wolves, those among us who are predators.  Those who eat the sheep and treat them with utter disgust and will show them no mercy as they devour them for their own selfish ends.  (Perhaps that was a bit dramatic, then again in this world its probably not.)

Then finally there are the sheepdogs.  People who are willing to stand watch over the sheep.  Allowing them to go about their (in my opinion, bloodless and meaningless) lives and making sure that when the wolf comes calling he is met by a creature just as ferocious, just as violent, just as destructive, except for one simple difference.  

The sheepdog uses his power to protect whereas the wolf uses his power to destroy.  When the wolf comes for his prey he will be met by a sheepdog and when he meets that dog he will learn what true power really is.  

From this essay we took our platoon's name of "Sheepdogs".  Now over the course of the next year we are going to see if we live up to that name or are we going to find out that some of us are not quite the sheepdogs that we thought we were.  Or is the US government going to send us out into the world and have us guard some fucking ammo dump in the middle of nowhere and take from us what little dignity we have managed to wrestle away from the belted earls that run this fading republic.  Well hopefully, we will see...

My First Entry

I am writing this blog as a way of keeping in contact with my family and friends while I am away in Afghanistan for the better part of the next two years.  And wouldn't you know it, just when I am getting ready to go it is the month that Afghanistan overtakes Iraq as having the most per month casualties in the War on Terror, well isn't that just peachy.  So it goes.

The title is a little something ripped from one of my recent platoon formations.  Embrace the Suck is a little thing that our platoon daddy came up with for us to sound off with after a particularly trying 3 weeks of training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.  (A place that I am quite certain God created as a practice run for when he had to conjure up HELL.)  Anyways, at our final formation, or at least the pre-final formation formation.  (No the double formations was not an error) We decided to sound off with that and let our command group know exactly how we felt about the caliber of the exercise we had just been on.  Promptly we were informed that we would no longer sound off with that and were instructed to come up with something a little less racy and raucous.  We ended up sounding off with "Sheepdogs" which I will explain later, but am I the only one who finds it humorous that an organization, such as the Army whose soul purpose is to bring death and destruction to the enemies of the United States would have a problem with the word "suck".  Just a thought.

Anyways, the sheepdog thing, I know it sounds a little pansy and just a tad bit wussy, for lack of a better term, however when you hear the story behind the name it is actually a good one, a story that after hearing even I shed my misgivings about the name.  CLICK THIS TO READ ALL ABOUT THE SHEEPDOGS.