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 24, 2009

Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead...

Well in the continuing saga that is my deployment to Afghanistan I’ve decided here towards the end to start including the soundtrack. Or more accurately the song I was either listening to at the time or the one that most suits the situation.

This particular event took place while I was listening to, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead” by Warren Zevon.

Anyway, so we went out to the police station yesterday. The day was pretty standard. We went out there trained with the cops on clearing rooms, then taught them how to use CLP on their weapons, even showed them a few tricks involving diesel fuel and weapons cleaning.

Then we took a walk down through the market near the police station. This was fun. We got to see an Afghani butcher. Which is basically just a guy with a shack that has slabs of meat hanging from the ceiling, a tree stump sitting out front and an axe. When somebody wanted a piece of meat he just took it down off the ceiling and started wailing away at it with that axe. Not very sanitary but fun to watch.

We got to see an Afghani hotel. Which encompassed a room with wrestling mats down either side of the room covered with a red cloth on which the guests slept. Then there were wooden tables (the kind you would see in an Indiana Jones movie) down the middle. Everywhere you looked there was a hotel guest getting stoned on a hookah full of hashish.

I still cannot quite reconcile how a culture that is willing to kill someone for getting drunk can so wholeheartedly embrace hash!

We ended up rolling out of there around 1300.

This is where my day took a decided turn for the...weird.

So I am in one of those ASV’s that I told you about. You remember, the baby tank. Now remember that this thing is enclosed completely. There are no openings on this thing at all when you shut all the hatches. Its a big, rolling brick.

Now to get out of this place we have to drive down a hill into a river valley, and then back up another hill and onto the road.

So we drive down into the valley and coming down off the road on the other side are about 20 trucks. So we’ve got to wait on these guys.

As we’re sitting there I grab my iPod, splice it’s output into the vehicle’s radio system so that we can all enjoy some tunes for the road. Its my iPod so the first tune is always my choice.

And I put on the aforementioned Warren Zevon tune.

Now right about the time I’m hearing Warren lamenting the weird ideas in his head, I hear a thump. You know a thump like something hit the window.

I look up and to my right and at just about eye level with me there is a star shaped crack in my window. With a nice, circular center that makes me immediately nervous.

I call out to my gunner, “Are there any T.I.T’s around?” (T.I.T.=Taliban in training, our nickname for kids) Figuring that these little bastards are throwing rocks at the truck.

“Nope, I don’t see any.”

Why would he? “Hey, take a look around will you, I think somebody may have just shot the truck.”

“Are you serious? Okay, hey there’s a guy in a house about 100 meters to our 5 o’clock. He’s got something in his hand. I can’t tell what it is.”

“What’s he doing?”

“Staring at us”

Well, as unfortunate as it may be, we can’t shoot him for that.

“Alright, keep scanning I don’t know what the hell happened but rock or bullet somebody is fucking with us and I want to know who.”

“Okay but there are no kids around, they all took off when we rolled down into the valley.”

“Alright, just keep your eyes open.”

Now let me explain a few things first. This vehicle is enclosed, we are wearing radio headsets that are blasting Warren Zevon at the time. If someone did shoot us we wouldn’t have heard it. We usually rely on seeing it, they always come at us with a lot of guns that fire really fast or they fire really big, sometimes exploding rounds. So we concentrate more on seeing them than hearing them. Not to mention, we have to see them to be able to shoot them.

Secondly, its not unheard of for one shot to be fired at a convoy just to fuck with them.

So the question becomes was it a rock or a bullet.

The simple fact is that rocks can crack bullet proof glass if thrown hard enough. But they crack it, they don’t star it. So my money is on a bullet. And it was either a helluva shot, or a helluva lucky shot.

Either way, that thing hit dead even with my eyes and to my right side. Basically, save for the glass this thing would’ve crashed right through my skull about an inch in front of my ear, maybe bounced around in my brain for a bit and then came sailing out of my head. Ending my life and repainting the inside of my ASV a rather lovely shade of brain matter gray.

This is a mind fuck for me. Regardless of whether it was a rock or a bullet (I don’t see how it could’ve been a rock) at the time I thought it was a bullet. And I sat there and stared at the star in the window that I thought was made by the bullet that had my name on it. And I stared at it all the way back.

I wish I knew what else to say about yesterday. But my mind is still having trouble processing it. Ah, I’ll forget about it soon enough. We’re out of here soon.

I still can’t escape the thought that maybe, just maybe, God was trying to tell me something.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 22, 2009

Everyone Thinks War is Exciting, In Truth It Is...

Probably about the most boring thing I have ever done. I’ve said it before, and someone else said it before me. War is about 99% sheer boredom, coupled with 1% unadulterated terror. We are definitely in boredom mode right now. But I guess boredom is good...if there is one thing I know for sure its that if I am bored then there is no one trying to kill me. Which is certainly a good thing.

So what’s been going on? You already know that we finally made it to our new place and our running missions every other day out of here. We go out to a local district center and help train the police and get the district ready for the upcoming elections. Which I am still hoping to God we are out of this country for because when that shit rolls around there are definitely going to be some bullets, bombs and what not flying around. It would suck to get all the way to now just to have somebody...

The best thing about this new mission is the fact that we get to interact with the police and teach them what we know. I gotta admit when you teach these guys something you can at least fool yourself into believing that they’ll remember it and apply it on the street. Maybe we’ll actually make a difference here after all.

We got to eat a traditional Afghani meal the other day with the police chief, the police commander and a few of their lackeys. Which was fun, and surprisingly the food was fantastic. They gave us some rice, beef and meat sauce, and some bread. The bread kinda looks like pita bread and the meat was from a cow that was offed that morning. So it was fresh. And the rice was good.

But the way that they eat is something that threw me off a little bit. So there’s about 10 people eating lunch in this room with us. 5 GI’s and 5 Afghani’s. So we all sit indian style around a blanket on the floor. They laid about 5 bowls of rice, 5 bowls of beef and meat sauce, and 20 pieces of bread on the blanket. Then they gave us each a coffee cup. They poured us some 7-UP and we got to eating.

Here’s where it threw me off a little bit, but when in Rome am I right? Everyone eats out of the same bowls. You just pick up the bread, tear a piece off, then stick it in the rice, push as much rice as you can onto the bread with your fingers and then shove that in your trap. If you wanted the meat you could either tear off a separate piece of bread for that or you could dump some of the meat and sauce on top of the rice and roll it up that way. Regardless of how you had to eat there is no way around the fact that this was some good shit. I am going to have to get the recipe and get the mom or somebody to make this stuff when I get home. Its still a little disconcerting that everyone had their fingers in the same bowls, but whatever.

So we sat around and ate, went through a couple of bottles of 7-UP (not actually 7-UP, just some haji shit that tasted like it.) and bullshitted.

It was funny though. Don’t know if I ever told you this story but its becoming a fairly common thing for me whenever I come into contact with Afghani’s. I told you all that I am a BIG boy. That being said, every time we interact with the Afghans they always think that I am in charge. Apparently, in Afghanistan (like so many poor countries) if you are BIG then you must either be rich or important.

There was the time that all the jingle trucks came into Waza Khwa to drop off some stuff and we had to deal with about 100 drivers and all the shit that they needed. So I am there with about 10 other soldiers, and 2 NCO’s. The Afghani’s wouldn’t believe that the NCO’s were in charge. They thought I was the damn General. One of them actually said to the terp, “Look at the size of him, he’s gotta be the boss!”

So finally, the NCO’s got sick of dicking around and just told me to give the Afghanis all their instructions so that they didn’t have to explain to them who was in charge.

I guess they just figured that I must be in charge, I know where the food is! We told the chief this story and he thought it was hilarious.

Then we went around taking pictures with the Afghani cops. We even got some of our females in on the act. Which is really something to see. Afghanis aren’t used to females that do anything other than breed, so they are fascinated with our females. They are especially intrigued by not only by how they are, but also by what we make them do. Now since I got bumped up from gunner to truck commander I got a female gunner. So as a gunner she has a load of shit to carry around. Its not like I’m being a dick, its just thats what gunners have to carry. She’s gotta haul around a big machine gun (20 lbs or so.), all the ammunition for it, (another 30 or so pounds), armor (50-60 pounds) and on and on...

So they couldn’t believe it when she got out of the truck with all this shit on, and started walking to the police station and then when we got there I told her to climb her ass up on the roof and take an overwatch position up there, with all her shit. They even asked if I was going to make her carry all that stuff up there. Hell yes I am, this is the Army, she’s a soldier, she is going to pull her own weight, and the weight of all the rest of that shit too. I had to do it, every other gunner has to do it, why shouldn’t she?

But as soon as I turned around they raced to help her with all her stuff up to the top. Whatever, no biggie. At least I didn’t have to do it!

However, as soon as they lugged all her shit up to the roof they started pestering her for pictures. Which they took with their cell phones. Yes, cell phones. They don’t have running water here but dammit they’ve got cell phones.

So I went up there to check on her and that’s where I met...



Raju.

Another dog for me! Now this little guy doesn’t know it yet but he is about to become the most spoiled dog in all of Afghanistan. He lives on the roof of the police station. Kind of an unofficial mascot. I already found a bunch of shit I am going to take out there for him. I still figure that at least the dogs won’t grow up to be Taliban so giving them stuff won’t hurt.

But that definitely made my day!

Alright, now I’m done. We’re going back out there tomorrow so maybe I’ll have another story or two.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 21, 2009

Operation Where's Waldo...

So I’m sure everyone has already heard about this kid who went missing, and then was captured and is now doing video appearances from Pakistan or wherever the fuck he is for the Taliban.

The search for this kid has been affectionately code named: Operation Where's Waldo (By the soldiers, not the official name)

I’ve been asked a few times by people back home what I think about this kid and this whole situation. So I guess I’ll share a few of my thoughts with you.

There are two stories floating around, with a few wrinkles thrown in that make this story into a gigantic clusterfuck.

First story: This kid walked off his FOB with no gear, no weapon, and no explanation. He just wandered out into the Afghani countryside and started to walk around. Then he came to a village asked if there was anyone who spoke english and then the Taliban nabbed him.

Second story: This kid was kidnapped by the Taliban while he lagged behind on a patrol.

The first story is the one that came out first. The first story came from his chain of command. This story also has the wrinkle (unconfirmed) that he left a note saying he was going into the mountains to find himself.

The second story came from his 28 minute video that the Taliban posted on a website and I saw excerpts of on ABC news.

Few things I would like to say first. Could a GI just wander off his FOB with no one noticing? Yeah, I guess so. I don’t really see why not. He knows where the towers are, he knows who is in the towers, and he knows the surrounding area. So I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t just wander off the FOB with no one noticing.

About the whole gear thing. And most people who aren’t in the military may not understand this. Weapons and gear are sensitive items. This is stuff that we constantly have to account for. So for the first story to hold up, this kid’s chain of command would have to produce all his gear, all his weapons and all his ammunition. Otherwise the Army would not have let that story slip out.

Now the story about this kid getting kidnapped on patrol. This one came from the horse’s mouth on the Taliban video that he was in. Well, this one is either complete bullshit or this kid was in on the whole thing. There is no way that someone was kidnapped on a patrol. How did he not get a shot off, or call out to his buddies for help?

Not to mention if this kid was kidnapped on a patrol how is it that he is in such good health in the video. Was there no struggle? Did he try to fight them off? Or did he just roll over and let them take him?

You watch that video of this kid, and just from the little bit that I saw this kid is either really fucking stupid or he is nothing more than a deserter. He is in perfect health, he has no wounds, no marks, a freshly shaved head, and he is sitting there calmly eating his food like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

I don’t mean to be a dick, and I certainly don’t want to disrespect this kid’s family or the pain they are going through right now but there is entirely too much about this whole situation that just doesn’t fit.

Why did he leave? Did his chain of command know anything about this? Did he give any indication that he was going to do something like this?

Another round of questions with no answers. I would like to be able to say that we’ll have to wait for this thing to play out before we pass judgment on this kid. But that isn’t the case. His entire chain of command is going down for this one. Company commander all the way on down to team leader. Probably already been relieved of duty and are awaiting the end of their careers. Not to mention the huge manhunt that is going on all over this country trying to find this kid.

Air assets are being pulled from everywhere to look for him. Entire platoons are being sent down to Paktika to find this mutt. Everyone and their brother is out looking for him. God only knows how many UAV’s we’ve got scouring the country trying to locate this kid.

But this is not going to end well. About the only thing that could happen that could have this thing turning out well is that someone just manages to stumble across this kid and rescue him. But chances of that are slim and none, given that he’s probably in Pakistan.

So what do I think of all this? (Warning: If you are a bleeding heart you will not enjoy what I have to say about this) And I am writing this from the point of view that this kid walked off his FOB. I just can’t believe that he was kidnapped on patrol and things have played out like this.

Fuck this kid. He has put the lives of countless soldiers in danger. And why? I don’t know, but apparently he was having a little trouble dealing with this war. He deserted, plain and simple. I haven’t an ounce of sympathy for anyone who does such a thing.

If you’re suicidal or whatever, there are ways of doing it that doesn’t put anyone else in danger. You’re nothing more than a piece of shit deserter. So enjoy your time with the Taliban because pretty soon they are going to run out of uses for you, and when they do...

I don’t even know for sure yet but I would imagine that at least a few soldiers have been either killed or wounded looking for this guy. And that being the case I hope you make it through all of this so that you can be brought home and court martialed.

I truly hope that I am wrong about this guy. Probably not. But soon, the Taliban will be done with this kid and when they are finished with him. It will be over. I don’t think there will be any big events surrounding this kid unless he converts to Islam and joins the jihad. I figure the Taliban have learned that cutting people’s heads off isn’t winning them any popularity contests, so when they’re done with him, he’ll just disappear. And his family will have to live the rest of their days wondering...

Just like everything else in this war, this kid is just creating more questions than answers.

I hate this fucking war.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 18, 2009

So How's This For A Sick Sense Of Humor...

First off, let me say that after reading this some of you are going to laugh hysterically. While others are going to think that I and my fellow soldiers are complete douche bags. Either way, I think that this is funny so I am going to write about it.

So let me tell you a few things that are important to this story. First, the main focus of this story is a soldier we have here. We'll call him Blart. You know, after the main character in "Mall Cop" (A failed wanna be police officer, working in the mall as a security guard.) Why do I call him that? Because this loon wants to be a cop so bad he can taste it. its all he ever talks about. He actually collects little model police cars that he has custom painted with the colors of all the different towns and cities that he has applied to.

So he has a quirk there, but in addition to that he sleeps right next to me, and this wack job talks to himself. He says that he is thinking out loud. I say bullshit, you are talking to yourself.

On top of all of this he has a mild case of obsessive compulsive disorder which leads him to be annoyingly neat. I mean if you have the gall to sit on his bed he immediately busts out a baby wipe and cleans off the spot where you dared to place your ass.

He even looks like a nerd from high school, coke bottle glasses and the whole bit. So he is made fun of pretty much mercilessly and non-stop. But hey, if we didn't like you we wouldn't pay any attention to you. Besides fucking with people is just another way of passing the time for most of us.

All of that aside, I must say something about GI's. For the most part we can tolerate damn near anything. We can deal with the spartan living conditions, we can deal with assholes, we can deal with quirky people, we can deal with stupid people, we can deal with almost any kind of person with any kind of strange and/or debilitating phobia or affliction.

However, there is one characteristic that we cannot tolerate. Cowardice. That is the only thing about this guy that I hate. He is a mother fucking coward.

He pushes and shoves to get to the middle of the bunker when there is a mortar attack (instead of allowing the lower enlisted and civilians and females to go in there) He wears a plethora of protective gear that is not needed. (He wears goggles over his ballistic sunglasses). He even wears a mouthguard when riding in a vehicle. I mean, mother fucker you might need to talk while you are in there. And to cap the whole thing off...he wears a piece of equipment that just makes him look like a B movie all star. This douche actually carries a machete! What the fuck could you possibly need a machete for there Rambo? Are you serious?

Now where did this guy come from? When we were down south he bitched and complained and called congressmen or whatever the hell he did but he got a nice cushy job on the FOB being the Sergeant of the Guard for day shift. Meaning that he never once went outside the wire. The closest he ever got was unlocking the gate, watching us drive by, and the locking the gate behind us. Now though, since we needed extra people in the platoon to complete this mission up here we had to take all the people from headquarters and stick them in to slots in the line. And oh happy day, we got this schmuck.

He has been terrified from day one. You can just see it in his eyes.

So here's the next thing that happened that led to this guy's unfortunate day. The other squad went out today to their district and when they got there they found an IED. Correction, they were shown an IED that the Afghan police had found on the bridge that we drive over every day. The police, in all their brilliance, decided to cut the wires and pick up the bomb and bring it back to their police station. (You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that this was a grand idea!) The fucking thing weighed like 100 pounds. I don't even want to think what would've happened had this thing gone off when we were on that bridge. And I am going to have a wonderful time driving over that tomorrow.

Moving on, so we see the pictures they took of this IED. And knowing full well that this piece of shit is scared half to death already we start in on him.

-Hey Blart, come look at the size of this thing. (I made it look bigger by blowing up the picture on my computer)
-How big you think that thing is?
-That's the biggest damn IED I ever saw!
-I wonder how many times we drove over that without it going off?

And on and on like that.

Then even our squad leader got in on the act.

-Hey Blart, we are going to have to have someone check that bridge before we go over tomorrow. You and (two other guys) are going to be the ones checking the bridge.

Now he is damn near in tears.

Then a chorus of protests came from all of us.

-Come on, Sarge, If we stop to check that bridge we are going to be sitting ducks.
-that shit will take forever.
-Fuck it, if it blows it blows, no big deal our trucks can take 100 pounds.
-Screw that, these haji's can't make a bomb that works anyway!

Then the squad leader caught on to what we were doing.

-You're right, it will take to long. We are just going to roll on over the bridge and take our chances. If it blows, so be it. Besides, you only got a 25% chance of it hitting your truck.

Then I chime in.

-No Sarge, 100 pounds will get two and level the bridge. I think its about 130-140 feet drop too.

-Well, we still can't waste the time.

Okay, so as soon as this exchange is done, Blart makes a B-line for our squad leader. He pleads with him for about 20 minutes to stop to check the bridge. All the while saying that he'd be willing to do it but "someone with more experience in the field should probably handle that operation." (Cowards way of saying, Oh please not me.)

But our squad leader won't budge. We are going to drive straight over that bridge tomorrow.

So now its bedtime and I am laying here in my bed watching Blart as he lays in his bed. He's talking to himself. I don't know about what, but I am pretty sure it has to do with a bridge and an IED, because every so often I can hear his voice crack, and he has been wringing his hands for about an hour now.

Probably won't be too much sleep for him tonight. I can barely keep my eyes open to finish writing this. But I can't help but smile. Sleep well, coward. There is nothing in this world lower than a coward. I would wish you a long, hard and unhappy life, but you're just not worth the time.

However, if you can provide us with a little bit of entertainment to help pass the time for these last couple weeks, so be it.

We'll see just how you handle yourself tomorrow. I already talked to the Sarge and you and I are going to check that bridge for IED's. But don't worry, I'm bringing a few guys with me. Not a one of which is what you are. They'll back me and each other up till the very end, not pull out all the stops to make sure they never leave the wire.

The tests can filter out the stupid, the infirm, the broken, the sickly, and whatever else. Too bad that there isn't a test for cowardice. Maybe we do have a sick sense of humor. Maybe I am a horrible person. But then again, maybe you deserve every bit of it. You are a coward, you should've known that and never joined.

But we're going out tomorrow. You've been in country for almost a year now and this will be your third time outside the wire. We'll see how you handle yourself. We'll probably get to see a few funny things you do because you're scared. And don't worry, I'll probably play a joke or two on you while we're checking that bridge.

But make no mistake, regardless of any of that. Attention from us does not equal respect. You do not belong here.

Alright, now I'm getting weird.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 15, 2009

Dog Shit, Male Menopause and Mr. Potato Head...

So this post is about what has gone on for the last three or so days.

First let’s begin with the Dog shit. Actually, we have to start the night before.

We got notified that we were going on a mission that would take us back to Salerno. Oh joy, I just spent the last month trying to get the fuck out of there and now I have to go back. Why do I have to go back? Because we have to get some equipment updated and the other company that is here with us has to do their laundry.

I still think its funny that we drove right through the middle of a combat zone so that these schmucks can have clean panties. And why the hell do I have to drive their banana hammocks all over this country. Am I the only one who thinks that they should do this shit.

So I have to drive around all day tomorrow with a trailer full of skid marked underwear and socks that some sweaty GI wore for three days and could probably walk to the laundry room by themselves...but I digress.

Whatever, either way this mission was leaving out at 0600. Which made me laugh that I had to leave that early in the morning to drive to a place that is about an hour away. What is the Army’s fetish with getting up before the sun does?

Well, I gotta do it so I need to get some sleep. So I manage to climb my ass into bed at 2200. Which is early for me. I try to make my phone calls at that time and write all of this bullshit around then too.

I lay down, rest my weary head on the pillow, and slowly drift off to sleep. But, I don’t quite get there. I make it all the way to that point where you are pretty much dead to the world, but you can still hear things going on around you. And what do I hear?

Boom. But not a really big boom, just a little itty bitty baby boom. My mind starts to pull itself out of its sleepy dreamland because I know that in a few moments the “get your lazy ass out of bed someone is trying to kill you” alarm is about to go off.

And off it went.

Alright, everybody up. Get your shit on. Get your asses in the bunker. Grab your weapons. (Okay, so that’s all the stuff that the bosses make you bring with you. Then I grabbed a pack of smokes and my iPod. Sure bunkers suck, but why not make them a little more pleasant?)

So we got in the bunker and sat in there for about an hour. Which is always fun. Gotta love sitting in a steel box encased in sand bags waiting for a mortar round or rocket to fall on your head! Not to mention, I am pretty sure that every fly in this province has heard by now that we have some of the dirtiest mother fuckers in the Army in my platoon. And as such, they have all congregated here at my camp. More specifically, they have decided to all assume our bunker as their new mailing address.

Here I am, waiting out the attack with a pack of cigarettes, an iPod, a bag full of pistachios and a hundred fly’s using me as a landing pad. Fun all around. At least it was dark so it wasn’t a 150°, so that was good.

Nothing of note really went on in the bunker so we got out about an hour later, but they had yet to give us the all clear. So we went back inside the barracks and laid down. After, we had removed all of our armor and gear.

Then our wonderful platoon sergeant decided that since we hadn’t been given the all clear that we would have to wear our gear while inside the barracks. Now these vests that we’ve got are all encompassing. They cover your entire body from your neck to your nuts. So they are a bit cumbersome and in no small way a huge pain in the ass. The look of utter disbelief on my face when he said that shit had to be priceless.

Well fuck this. I need some sleep. Rockets or no rockets we are getting up at 0430 and rolling out at 0600. Now its after 2300. Only 5 1⁄2 hours till wake up. And if I don’t get my beauty sleep I get cranky. So I park my ass in the bed with this thing on. Which was probably hilarious just in the fact that the way it fits kind of props you up when you lay down so that my neck is at a 45° angle from my ass, yet my head is leaning back as far as it can go without rolling off.

I would’ve gone to sleep just like that. But our platoon daddy figured that this would be a good time to haul us all out of bed and inform us that one of our own was getting promoted.

(Slight aside: I was just sitting here writing this and a rather large storm just hit. Rain was coming down in buckets and apparently God decided that he wanted to throw each and every one of those buckets through my window. So there is a small lake forming as I write underneath my bed. Its pouring in through everyone’s windows. Well, thank whatever powers that be, that they hired KBR to build our dwellings here. These mother fuckers can’t even figure out how to build a structure that can keep rain out. Come to think of it, they can’t even build a structure that can keep half the rain out. As I look around the barracks I can only think that the ground outside must be bone dry because all the fucking water is in here.)

Moving right along, so now this promotion thing took us another hour. So now its midnight and I have to get up in 4 1⁄2 hours. Fun for me. So we finally got the all clear and took our shit off and laid down for our naps. Couldn’t quite call it sleep. So I calmed down, chilled out and went to sleep.

Then, after what seemed like about 20 minutes I was awoken. Looked at the clock and saw the dreaded, 4:30. Fuck, time to get your ass out of bed. So I do. But I am none too happy about it. We get all of our shit into the trucks, get the radios loaded, get all the guns loaded, grab all the miscellaneous bombs, grenades, GPS, food, water, candy, cigarettes, musical devices and what not, and we roll out the gate.

We get about 10 feet out the gate and we get the order to stop. Alright, what the hell is going on? Someone asks that very question over the radio. And the following exchange occurred. (One thing you need to know. The company that is here with us that we go out with is called “Dog Company”)

Dog 2-1 this is Dog 2-6, what’s going on?
Dog 2-6, one of our dismounts had an accident.
(At this time the truck two positions in front of me swings open its back door and a soldier comes running out, turns to the side of the vehicle, grabs the tire and pukes right then and there.)
Dog 2-1 this is 2-6, what do you mean an “accident”?
Dog 2-6 this is 2-1, what do you think I mean?
Dog 2-1 this is 2-6, Roger. Why don’t you take him back to get cleaned up and we’ll just take another guy from 3rd squad.
Roger that 2-6, that’s a real good idea.

How big of a fobbit is this friggin guy? He’s outside the wire for a grand total of 3 minutes and he shits in his pants! I mean really! What is the army coming to?

So that was the first, and only fun thing that went on during this mission. The rest of the day was filled with meaningless busywork at Salerno coupled with the ridiculous amount of dirty laundry which had a smell that could’ve knocked a buzzard off a shit wagon, made this day a rather large ball of suck.

Then we made it back. We went to bed. We got up in the morning and we were introduced to male menopause on an epic scale. We’ve got a platoon daddy who is about as moody as a pregnant woman. Except a pregnant woman can be reasoned with.

So we got up this morning and onto the war path he went. Ripped all our asses out of bed. And put us right to work. Oh boy, the E-7 is pissed, so he went on and on all damn day. Clean this, pick that up, do push ups, don’t lay down, don’t sit down, don’t smoke, don’t go to the MWR, and on and on he went.

It was about 1900 when I had finally had enough of his shit. So here’s what happened.

Now remember that I definitely have a problem with that filter between my brain and my mouth. So he sees a toolbox laying by my bed. He apparently doesn’t like the toolbox being there, so he asks, “Hey what are you going to do with that toolbox?”

To which I replied, “Bend over and I’ll show you!”

No sooner had the “you” left my lips when I felt that sense of dread as I contemplated all the different ways that this guy could make my life truly suck balls.

So I sat there and looked at him while I awaited the inevitable tirade of profanity and push ups that was to follow.

He looked back at me, stone faced. He drew in a large breath, heaving his chest out in front of him. Obviously drawing the breath in to supply him with the requisite oxygen that he will need to end my miserable life.

And...

Started to laugh hysterically!

See a little bit of humor can fix anything, even menopause. Even when its in a 40 year old dude!

Lastly, we need to talk about the box that I got yesterday.

As we all know, recently it was my birthday. I got a shit ton of cards, and candy and a mass of other shit. Which was awesome. All my boys back home sent me a huge card that they all signed and I loved it. I was going to take a picture of me holding it in front of a white sox flag on one of our trucks but the damn barracks flooded and ruined the damn thing. Can’t have nothing nice in AssCrackIstan.

But I got something else that was fucking phenomenal. Now there are a few White Sox fans here and a few more Cub fans. Its not their fault, they just don’t know any better. But apparently, you guys have been paying attention. Because I got a box from one of you, (You know who you are!) that had a Mr. Potato head in it.

Now there is no way around the fact that I have the maturity level of a flippin 3rd grader and I would’ve loved a Mr. Potato head no matter what, this one was different.

How was it different?

THIS MR. POTATO HEAD WAS WEARING A WHITE SOX UNIFORM!!!

How perfect is that? I’ll tell you how, that is absolutely perfect. I ripped him out of the box like a 2 year old who got the toy that he begged for, for Christmas. I put him together, then I went around and showed everybody, and now he occupies a place of honor watching over me while I sleep.

I couldn’t think of a better place to put him. But I do think that I am going to bring him along for all my missions from here on out. A little White Sox luck sitting on the dashboard of my 20 ton war machine! It’ll be perfect.

And I can’t thank you all enough for thinking of, remembering, and paying attention on my birthday. Especially you, the person who gave me the south side Mr. Potato Head. You’d be surprised just how much the most insignificant things can mean. So...thanks.

Alright, now I’m done.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 8, 2009

Of Human Bondo...

So I cut my finger.

How did I cut my finger?

Well let me tell you. Like a dumb ass I needed to fix the arm of my fold away lawn chair thing. I needed to punch a hole in the arm so that I could use some 550 cord to tie the arm of this chair to the leg. So I decided that it would be a good idea to use my extremely sharp, OEF approved, fold away knife to punch these holes into the arm.

I grabbed said arm with my free hand and started to jam this ridiculously sharp knife through it. Slowly my knife began to cut through this chair. I reached a point where the knife seemed to come to a screeching halt. Well folks, this will never do. And being a bit of a moron I figured that I wouldn’t try anything different. I would just push harder. So that is exactly what I did.

Incredibly, under the force of my hand the knife slipped through the arm of this chair like it was butter. On the other side of this arm was my free hand and my index finger. As the knife sailed through the arm of the chair it slid right into the meat of my finger. Digging down all the way to the fucking bone. And that was just the smooth, sharp part of the knife.

Then we got on to the serrated edge of the knife. But that is a whole other level of suck that I will not bother sharing with all of you. Mostly because it hurts to even think about.

The funny part of this came when I went to the aid station to get this ridiculous cut tended to.

So I get over to the aid station. First the physician’s assistant takes a look at this cut. He says that it doesn’t need stitches but it could take a few stitches if the medic’s wanted to practice. Well, I am not going to be the pin cushion for an inexperienced medic, so I say, “Hell no!” and he says that we could just hit me with some dermabond. Or some such shit.

Now what is dermabond? It is basically super glue for humans. Or bondo, if you please. You know that stuff you fill in dents in your car with. Except its for people. So they proceeded to glue my finger back together. Which I thought was absolutely fucking fabulous.

Moving on, we finally got back outside the wire today. Thank merciful God. I was beginning to understand what it meant to be a fobbit. And I sure as shit didn’t like it.

We went out to start this new mission we’ve got of assessing these district centers to get them ready for this upcoming election. Well, all I can really say about this is...holy shit!

We were sitting in a meeting with the chief of police when he said something that sums up the entire situation better than any amount of my bull shit could ever do.

“They give me a tremendous amount of responsibility, but no resources.”

Well, if that ain’t hitting the nail right on the head I don’t know what is.

Weapons that don’t work. Radios that are non-existent. Vehicles that are broken down. I mean this place is the police station for our district and they don’t even have lights.

I mean for fucks sake, we gave them twenty bucks to go out and buy a few pots and pans and glasses so that they could eat!

But at least we got outside the wire. Which is good.

Then we got back.

And then the rockets came.

Which, as per usual, was funny.

So we hear the first one come in. Nobody wants to move. I mean we have movies to watch. Fucking Taliban, do we really have to do this now?

Then the alarm went off. Universal notification, that I don’t give a shit what you’re doing its time to get your ass in the bunker. Ugh, I hate my life!

So we get in the bunker. But not all the way in. The majority of us got all the way in, but a few of us, mostly smokers, milled around just outside the entrance to the bunker. All you could really see was a group of about 7 cigarette cherries intermittently glowing and fading as we all sucked down our coffin nails.

BOOM!

Then we heard the sound of rocks and shrapnel hitting and rolling down the roof of our building. Well, that was just a bit too close for comfort. So we went from calmly smoking our cigarettes to manically pushing and shoving to get inside the bunker.

“Oh baby, that was close. Get in, get in, get in, GET THE FUCK IN!!!”

Okay, now we’re in. Oh shit, now this really sucks. Why does it suck? Well we just jammed 30 people into a bunker built for 20. Nut to butt, asshole to elbow...I don’t know anymore playful metaphors for “really fucking close to the next guy.” But whatever.

So we all started talking. We were talking about what we would do about these mortar and rocket attacks if we were the big boss in charge of all this shit.

Most everyone said something half way intelligent, needless to say there were a few Darwin award winners who said something stupid, but what I came up with would be fun.

I think that if I was in charge I would put up signs. All around the wall. Big, humongous neon signs. I wouldn’t have them lit all the time. Just have them flipped on when the bombs hit.

NICE SHOT!
HOLY SHIT, THAT WAS CLOSE!
HEY, THAT ONE RATTLED MY BALLS!
AWW, COME ON YOU CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!
HEY ASSHOLE, I’M TRYING TO WATCH BJ AND THE BEAR!
DON’T YOU GUYS HAVE A GOAT TO FUCK OR SOMETHING?

You know, shit like that. Every time one of these rockets or mortars hit, another one of these signs would light up. I know that its kind of twisted, but you can’t tell me that it wouldn’t be fun.

We keep talking about this. I keep telling everyone. The IED’s aren’t going to give me PTSD. All they are is big boom and then that’s usually it. I can deal with that. Besides, you can look for them, you can drive bomb proof trucks like the ones we’ve got, you can drive off the road. All of these things are an active way to deal with IED’s. What I’m saying is, you can do something about them.

Then there are the bullets. Bullets don’t necessarily bother me that much either. I wear armor over all my major organs. I even get a nice little kevlar nut protector. I mean as far as major organs are concerned that is about the majorest. (Is that even a word?, apparently Mac Pages doesn’t think so.) But that notwithstanding, when someone shoots at me, I can shoot back. Fairly simple concept. You try to kill me, and I am going to try to kill you back. And I’ll bet that I have a bigger gun with more bullets. Once again, what I’m saying is that I can do something about being shot at.

But these fucking rockets and mortars. These things are going to make me psycho. I hate them with a passion normally reserved for people who believe in UFO’s and make quote marks in the air with their fingers.

You’ll be sitting there, watching a movie, playing cards, eating, working out, taking a shit, rubbing one out, whatever it might be. And all of a sudden, without warning...BOOM. Then the alarms come (I can’t believe this, another one just hit). Okay, now I’m back. Then you have to get into the bunker and sit there and wait. Sometimes a few more hit. Sometimes there’s just one or two. Sometimes they wait until you come back out of the bunkers and lob a few more at you just to keep you on your toes. Some are close, some are far, all of them in some deep dark place, scare the shit out of you.

And its gotta be some deep, dark place because most of us are pretty much immune to the outward manifestations of this experience anymore. I know for a fact that you have to get within about 50-75 meters of me with one of these damn things just to even have a chance of making me jump. Even then its not a guarantee.

I just hate these things so much. I hate them because you can’t fight them. You just have to hope that this next one isn’t the one that has your name on it. Then again rockets are a pain in the ass, because not only is the one that has your name on it going to get you, but random ones addressed to “occupant” or “to whom it may concern” will get your ass too. Not fun.

Anyway, probably should’ve kept all of that to myself. Don’t worry Mom, its not all that bad. You know what a drama queen I can be.

I’m done.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 7, 2009

Welcome To Rocket City, The Greatest FOB In All The Land...

So we finally moved our asses out of Salerno and on to Camp Clark. So any of you who were wondering, you can mail stuff to me here now. I’m actually here. In paradise!

You would not believe this place. I still haven’t quite processed all of it. They have it all here. I actually sat down the other day and watched Terminator Salvation on a projection screen in a room with bean bag chairs and leather couches. This is the best war zone ever!

So let’s start with the title. I call this place Rocket City, because well this place takes indirect fire so much that it managed to make the front page of the Stars & Stripes because of that, and the amazing shit that this place has here.

I’ve been here going on 9 months now and I have never seen shit like this before. We got a chow hall run by a chef who used to work as the head chef at one of the cruise lines. I mean that alone would make this place the best ever, but there’s more...

Movies, video games, phones, gym, rocks you can actually walk on without breaking an ankle, and that’s the rest of the joint. You should see where we live.

This place has a floor. I mean a real fucking floor. Its made of some rubber shit, but it is guaranteed not to crumble on us. So its better than Wazi on that fact alone. Then there are cement walls that keep the heat out and the cool in, and we are sleeping on real bunk beds. God damnit for the first time in a long damn time I am sleeping in a real bed. Sure the mattress is lumpy as hell and there is a spring that pokes me in the ass all night but you’d be amazed at just what you appreciate when you have spent a few nights outside the wire.

Then there are the shitters. Which, I can’t even explain the opulence of these things. Well, opulence as far as I’m concerned. First of all, the toilets actually flush! There is always running water in them, and I’ll tell you the best part. I’ve taken a few showers here, and the water has always been...

A. Always there and running.
B. Hot!

Some people think that heaven can’t be on earth. Well, I beg to differ. After the last 9 months or so this place is about as close to heaven as I’m going to get.

Then there is the bad part of this place. It tends to get little flying presents of death delivered by the Taliban on a fairly regular basis.

We couldn’t come here as early as we had wanted because our building wasn’t ready. Why? Because a rocket had flown through the wall, landed, and exploded. Damaging the building, making it uninhabitable. The part that really sucks is that you can see the spot on the floor where the rocket landed. And its about 5 feet from my bed. Why wouldn’t it be?

Ah, what the hell. I’ll be more than happy to trade a few rockets for being here as opposed to the other places I’ve been. Fuck em’ Its just a rocket.

So we are finally winding this whole thing down. We are starting the process of packing up to go on home. Which is a little weird all things considered. I mean, we left home about 11 months ago. Yet it feels like a million years. We traveled half way across the world, but I still wonder sometimes if I am still on the same planet.

I am sitting here listening to Rancid’s “Civilian Ways”. (I’m going to be able to set this entire deployment to music.)

And I’m wondering...

There’s a line in the lyrics of that song that goes, “I feel the cold steel of my rifle as I dream of foreign lands, and I promised myself I will cherish every moment I can.” “When I say goodbye, I try to be strong, now I’m goin’ back to the US where I belong, I ain’t never alone, the war seems to follow me home.”

Well, how many times have I written the words, “Someone always said it better than I did” And in this case its a punk band. Ain’t that some shit?

I already know that I am going to cherish home in ways that some of you will never be able to understand. Suffice it to say that I am fascinated by flushing toilets, so think of how wonderful all the rest of it is going to be.

When I say goodbye to all those that I came here with, that’s going to be a bitch. Made a few friends here that I’ll probably have for the rest of my life. (Where the hell is Pigpen?) But regardless of whether or not I ever see them after we leave this place, I’ll never forget them. And that’s enough about that, Forrest.

The last line is the one that bugs me. If this war follows me home, I’m gonna be pissed. But somehow I figure it will. There’s no way around it. And that truly sucks, but like everything else...I’ll embrace it!

So we got about six weeks left. I can actually say now that I should be home NEXT month. Can’t start thinking about that. Too much left to do.

Too many rockets left to dodge.

Too many IED’s left to drive over.

Too many bullets left in the guns.

Too much time left in the suck.

Stop thinking boy. You’re gonna make yourself crazy...

...Too late.

Anyway,

Later,

I love you Mom...

Jul 2, 2009

Sucks To Be Right...

US: American soldier captured in Afghanistan

KABUL (AP) — Insurgents have captured an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the soldier went missing Tuesday.

"We are using all of our resources to find him and provide for his safe return," Mathias said.

Mathias did not provide details on the soldier, the location where he was captured or the circumstances.

"We are not providing further details to protect the soldier's well-being," she said.

An Afghan police official said the soldier went missing during the day Tuesday in the Mullakheil area of eastern Paktika province. Gen. Nabi Mullakheil said there is an American base in the area.

The news broke as thousands of U.S. Marines launched a major anti-Taliban offensive in southern Afghanistan. The missing soldier was not part of that operation.

Zabiullah Mujaheed, a spokesman for the Taliban, could not confirm that the soldier was with any of their forces. A myriad of insurgent groups operate in eastern Afghanistan, and the Taliban is only one of them.

Jul 1, 2009

The War Within...

The following begins with a letter to the editor written by 1st Lieutenant Ryan Donaldson, a transportation officer in Taji, Iraq. And shortly thereafter is the response to his letter by none other than our very own "spray on".

I reprint this because it illustrates perfectly what I like to call the "War Within" or the rivalry and disrespect that occurs between the Active Duty Army and the Reserves and National Guard. But more on that later. Either way here we go.


'FIX' RESERVE, GUARD TROOPS.

This is in regard to "army standards being ignored" (letter, June 24). You are on a forward operating base that is overrun by Army reserve and National Guard units. They have no idea what the standards are. I'm not saying they don't do their jobs, but these units don't have the discipline instilled in them like active duty soldiers do. To see these soldiers walk around way out of regulation in regard to Army regulation 600-9 ("The Army Weight control program") is absolutely disgraceful, and makes the ones who are doing the right thing look bad, but these soldiers don't know any better. They go to training once a month and they think they are soldiers.

Well, part of being a soldier is always doing the right thing. The leaders of these units need to take a look at themselves and see that they need to fix these soldiers.

First Lieutenant Ryan Donaldson
Taji, Iraq



That letter appeared in the June 26, 2009 Stars & Stripes.

And this is what our boy "Spray On" had to say about that...

Lt. Donaldson,

You have a lot of nerve to write what you did about the National Guard and reserves in Stars and Stripes. Sure, you witness a few Soldiers out of 600-9. I see Active Duty Soldiers here in Afghanistan as well who do not make weight or tape. That is life, and they are dealt with. Are you in their chain of command? Did you sign these Soldiers counseling statements? Do you know if they have a bar to reenlist or not? No. Stay in your lane. For you to say that “they train once a month and they think they are Soldiers” is by far the most ludicrous thing that I have ever heard. Not only do Soldiers of the National Guard have lives and back home that they are uprooted from to deploy, but they are the only branch with a dual mission: Homeland Security and National Defense. I hope you never have to experience a flood or some other natural disaster,
but if you do, we will be there to help. So, I must not be a Soldier because I am in the National Guard. I suppose the Active Duty schools that I have been to, the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, my years in service, the medals that I have been awarded, my equipment and my weapons, GEN McKinley, the NGB, my leadership, the training that I have been through, the firefights and IEDs that I have been struck with, the comrades that I have lost, and everything else that I have done while wearing this uniform must be a sham because you say we are not Soldiers. Right. The way that you grouped 2 whole branches of the Service (which I would like to point out that the National Guard is the oldest branch of the US Military) because of a few is beyond ignorant. I would like to see you have the balls to go up to a grieving family of a loved one who lost their lives in combat who was a member of the Reserves or National Guard, see if you make it out of there in one piece. I hope that you never need the services of the Soldiers of the National Guard or Reserves while you are deployed. I know I would have second thoughts about helping you.

Get your facts straight, and worry about your Soldiers instead of slapping the face of every one in the Guard and Reserve. You are a 1st Lieutenant. Want to think what the enlisted man thinks of you? Didn’t think so. You pretty much summed up yourself in the article.

Fake SSG "Spray On"


Finally this is the email that Spray on got back from this douche bag!

I did spout off at the mouth and lumped a few bad apples into one group. I am thankful for the job the RC does, and should have had the facts straight before i opend my mouth. I meant no disrespect to those Soldiers that lost loved ones from this conflict. I am sorry for any disrespect to you, your Soldiers, and the Reserve Components that serve this nation.


Of fuck yeah. That's my boy! And you'll all be hearing from me on this issue shortly. Stay tuned.

Later,

I love you Mom...