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 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.

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