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

Aug 22, 2009

Who The Hell Wants To Go To Wisconsin...

I never thought I'd say it, "But dammit, I want to go to Wisconsin!!!!"

Which is exactly where I am headed in about 2 hours or so.

Actually, I gotta do the bag drag across post. Which will be loads of fun. Then I have to drop my stuff off so that it can be sniffed by the drug dog. Apparently some GI's are bringing hashish back from Afghanistan. Can you believe it?

Then I have to get my carry on bag searched by a customs agent to make sure I don't have any knives or sharp objects. There are two problems with this.

1. Does anyone actually think that returning soldiers would be a hijack risk? We're going home. And even if one did try, he would promptly be killed by all his fellow soldiers.
2. I am bringing one 9mm pistol and one 5.56mm M4 military grade assault rifle on the plane. So basically, they are saying that a knife is no good, but a gun is fine. Whoever made that rule needs to be placed in a rubber room for the remainder of their life.

Anyway, we are leaving Kyrgyzstan today. Should be back in the states today. International date line is a funny thing. I'll actually fly back in time.

Then we clear Fort McCoy for a few days. Then we take a bus home.

Just wanted to update everyone on what I'm doing. I'll be home by next weekend.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 19, 2009

Charlie Foxtrotting Our Way Home From Afghanistan...

Its 1930, Saturday August 15th. I am sitting on a cot in a tent on FOB Salerno in eastern Afghanistan. I had to reach way back for the title to this one. I went all the way back to the beginning of our trip over here. I wrote a post called “Charlie Foxtrotting Our Way To Afghanistan.” So I thought it only fitting that I entitle this one the way that I did.

Anyway, today we hauled our asses out of bed at 0530. Or at least they woke us all up at 0530. However, given the fact that the new unit is in charge of all the trucks now and I had packed all my shit last night. All I had to do was get up, throw some clothes on, brush my chicklets, and get my shit and my self in the truck. I looked at the board and saw that we were leaving at 0800. Now why on earth would I get up at 0530 if we don’t have to leave until 0800 and the amount of things I have to do will take a grand total of 20 minutes and that’s only if I’m really dragging ass.

After falling back to sleep until 0620, I was rudely awakened by a rather pissy NCO. Was he mad that I was sleeping? Nope, he was mad that I was sleeping and he wasn’t.

“Why are you sleeping?” He asks.

“We don’t have to leave for like an hour and a half, and I don’t have shit to do.” I reply.

“We have to get the trucks ready!”

“Bullshit, that’s their job now. My only job is to ride.”

“True, but...” (he’s thinking about it)

He doesn’t even finish his sentence when he lays down on the bunk next to me.

Then we both end up sleeping for another hour. Which was nice.

Then we got up, threw our shit in a trailer, got in the truck and sat there. Waiting and waiting while these guys were trying to get all the radios filled, and the computers working, and the weapons mounted and all this other shit that would most likely have taken us a grand total of 20 minutes to do. But they’re new so let’s cut them some slack. We were only an hour late.

It wasn’t so much the being late that pissed me off. It was the fact that I could’ve slept another hour!

Now we finally got moving. Good for us, and good for these guys. Good for us, because we’re going home and good for them because this is their first time out the wire when they’re running the show.

And as luck would have it, the driver of the truck I was in had a sense of humor. Now I’ve told you what kind of ride these vehicles have. If you don’t remember just think of a dump truck with brick shocks. That’s the kind of ride this is.

So he decides that in order to give us a proper send off he is going to nail every single bump, pot hole, IED hole, and speed bump on the ride from Clark to Salerno. This guy hit one bump so hard that I literally flew into the air off my seat and came down sitting on my nuts! That’ll wake you up in the morning.

So after recovering my ability to speak with any bass at all in my voice, we made it to Salerno. We said our goodbyes to the new guys, grabbed our shit, and settled down for the night in the transient tents.

To the 2-151 Infantry, Indiana National Guard...y’all be good!

So now here I sit, typing away and thinking about a good long shower. We find out in a few hours when or if we are going to fly out of this hole tomorrow. We’ll still be in Afghanistan, but we’ll be one step closer to home. At least now, I can count this shit in days as opposed to months.

Finally before I wrap today up, let me tell you about something that we have to do tomorrow. We just got notified that we have to stand for the TOA formation. (TOA=transfer of authority) Meaning that we were responsible for all this, and now Indiana is.

Really? Like any of us want to stand in this thing. Just throw them the keys to the house and let’s roll out! But the Army is a slave to pomp and pageantry, and they certainly love a good dog and pony show. Which is why they are going around asking people if they have a nice uniform to wear for the formation.

Are you fucking kidding me? I have been in Afghanistan for a year and you know, sleeping outside, running through the mountains, sweating my balls off, fighting with the Taliban, blowing up, getting mortared, and basically living like a damn haji. None of these things are very good for the condition and/or presentability of your clothes. So NO! I don’t have a nice uniform. And this is one place where I got a little pissed at them. I don’t give a rat shit what the Sergeant Major, or the Captain, or whoever the hell else says about my uniform. I’ve been a bit busy for the past year and the last thing I cared about was making sure that my uniform was crisp and clean. They don’t like it, then tell them to ask the Taliban to confine their bullshit to business hours so that I have time to properly care for my uniforms. Other than that, you can blow your little formation and TOA directly out your asses!

I swear the shit the Army comes up with sometimes is enough to anger a saint!

That was yesterday, now it’s August 16, 2009. And I got to do something that I haven’t been able to do for a long time.

I GOT TO SLEEP IN!!!!

Last night before we went to bed the platoon daddy said we ain’t really got shit to do tomorrow except that transfer of authority formation which is at 1230 hrs so just sleep till whenever and make sure you’re at the formation.

So I did.

You want to know what time I ended up getting out of bed?

Fucking 0830.

That’s it, that’s all the more I was able to sleep. I couldn’t stay asleep. I tried. I woke up at 0700 and I already had this feeling of dread that I was late for something. Then I remembered that I don’t have to be anywhere until 1230. So I tried to go back to sleep. And I tried for an hour and a half before I just said, “To hell with this” and got up.

This is what a year of this can do to you. Sleeping in for me used to be 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Hell if I got drunk the night before I could sleep until dinner! Now my body won’t even let me sleep past 0700. And I can’t even force myself to go back to sleep. Fucking Army!

So I got up, smoked a few cigarettes, took a shower, ate lunch and then got ready for this TOA formation.

Just the usual. A few Colonel’s and Sergeant Majors, along with my commander, first sergeant and all of us standing in our nice little rows and columns.

Fist the Chaplain gets up and gives a prayer asking God to bless everyone and their brother and bless this, and bless that, and bless him and bless her, and yada yada yada...

Then the Colonel gets up and tells us what a great job we did this past year even though he has never even seen us before.

Then our commander gets up and tells us what a great job we did, and tells the new guys what a great job they will do.

Then the new guy’s commander gets up and tells us what a great job we did, and then tells his guys what a great job they will do.

Then our commander encases our guidon.

Then their commander uncases their guidon.

And its over.

Took about 20 minutes from start to finish.

I was glad it didn’t take very long. I mean, who the hell wants to sit there and listen to some Colonel yap about missions and winning hearts and minds and all the other talking points he has had delivered directly from the General’s office. Not to mention, its about as hot as the floor above hell here, so I didn’t want to stand out there any longer than I had to.

So I was thinking about this while we were standing in this formation and I started to imagine what I would say if I were the commander. What would I say to a company full of new guys? What would I say as I looked into the green little faces, and stared into the steely eyes of all those who were with me here over the past year.

Well, here is what I would say...

Gentlemen, we had a helluva year. We blew up...A LOT! We fought it out with enemy, we won some hearts and minds, we traveled a million miles, we worked our asses off, we dealt with a mountain of bullshit, we accomplished every mission they hit us with (even the ones we weren’t prepared for.) We got through all of this and everyone is going home breathing and with all their appendages still attached. So as far as I’m concerned it was a successful year.

And to all you new guys...

We’re going home, AND YOU’RE NOT! And I’m not going to lie, that sucks. You’re going to blow up...A LOT. Just like we did. You’re going to be introduced to Mr. Taliban Man, and those introductions will probably take place very, very soon.

So the only advice I could really give you is this, keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut, and your ass down. The only job you have here is to accomplish the mission that is set for you, and to bring all your boys back home with you. That’s it and that’s all.

Be safe, and we’ll have a beer for you when we get home!

Later...

Yeah, that’s what I would say.

I guess you could look upon the TOA formation as a kind of metaphorical period put on the end of our deployment. Its basically saying that we have no responsibilities here anymore other than getting home. And I like that. This makes me very happy. So in that respect it was nice.

Couldn’t help but laugh about something though. Sometimes something happens that just subtly reminds you that God is watching and Karma is hanging around. You’ve read all about the mountain of suck that this deployment was for us. It will most likely be the same for the new guys. There’s just no way around it. So we’re doing the TOA ceremony, and its a beautiful day, except for the searing heat its a bright sunshiny day. Then about half way through, right about the time that the commanders were encasing, and uncasing the guidon, it started to rain!

Maybe Karma was saying goodbye to us...

...and saying hello to this bunch of FNG’s.

So tomorrow we fly out of here to Bagram Air Field (BAF). We turn in the last of our ammunition, and exchange our ratty, torn, burnt, dirty, and destroyed uniforms for brand spanking new ones, and then we’ll get on another plane and fly out of this country. Then, at least for us this deployment will be over.

I’d like to say that, for us the war will be over, but I have a nagging feeling that that just will not be the case.

But that’s enough for today, tomorrow is another day and another few thousand words...

And now its the next day, Monday August 17, 2009. What was supposed to happen today? We were supposed to get up at 0530, pack up a 5 ton truck with all our gear, then move on down to the flight line at 0800 to fly out of Salerno to BAF at 1100. Well as I’m writing this its 1320 hrs, and I’m still in Salerno.

What happened? It rained.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the worlds most vaunted military machine (the US Military) can be brought to a screeching halt by a little rain. Okay, so it wasn’t a little rain. It rained pretty much all last night. And it was a downpour. But I see those Coast Guard guys flying in hurricanes, so what the hell is wrong with these Army pilots?

So we get up this morning, hoping that it wasn’t raining anymore and sure enough it wasn’t. So at the time, I figured that there wouldn’t be too much trouble with us getting out of here.

Then we get the word from the flight line that no flights will be leaving because, get this, because the runway is too wet. Oh, yeah I forgot to tell you that the runway here is gravel. Every single building on this FOB is made out of concrete. Even a few of the shitters are made of concrete, but the runway is gravel. So basically, they are saying that we got stopped from flying by mud.

(Just a fun little aside, I shit you not as I’m writing this I heard a plane, then ran outside to observe a C-130 flying overhead. You know, nose up, low flying heading away from the flight line. Its a certainty that it just took off. Apparently, only OUR C-130 has trouble with the mud.)

Oh joy. What a wonderful day. Whatever, so when the hell are we leaving? Well in their infinite wisdom they have decided to reschedule our flight for 2330 hrs, tomorrow night! So basically, the rain just bought me and extra day and a half in this hole.

But here’s the fun part. Due to our schedule, and the fact that our date to be out of country is rapidly approaching. They are going to have to hustle our asses out of BAF within about 8 hours of us landing.

Here’s how this is supposed to go. We are scheduled to land in BAF sometime around 0030, and then we are supposed to hit customs before we even leave the runway, they are bringing the customs guy out to the runway to meet us, that’s how fast we need to be out of this country. Then we have to go to the terminal to get the “don’t beat your wife, don’t beat your kids, don’t drink too much, don’t kill yourself or anyone else, don’t get arrested when you get home” briefing. We won’t even leave the terminal before we got on a plane and fly to Manas, Kyrgyzstan by 0900 the next morning.

Now why do we have to hustle like this? Well that’s pretty simple. The government/military gives deployed soldiers a lot of extra cash. Hostile fire pay, eminent danger, combat pay, family separation, not to mention the fact that we don’t pay taxes. All of this money adds up, and if you spend even a single day in a combat zone during a month they have to give you all those entitlements for the entire month. They have to get us the hell out of here before September or risk paying those goodies to 150 soldiers who weren’t supposed to get it.

I don’t think Uncle Sam can wait another month before he starts taking that big bite out of my paycheck again!

Alright, now its Tuesday August 18, 2009 and its about 1600 hrs and we’re still in Salerno. But we were supposed to still be here anyway. So what did I wake up to this morning at 1000 hrs? I awoke to find out that our flight had once again been pushed off. Now we are leaving at 0600 hrs tomorrow morning, which means we’ve gotta be in the terminal at 0300.

Which means that everything that goes along with loading up a plane is going to happen in the middle of the night. Which has its good and its bad points. Its good insomuch as we don’t have to do all this shit under the oppressive midday sun. Its bad insomuch as we have to do all this shit in the pitch dark of the middle of an Afghani night. Not to mention this is a blackout FOB which means the only light we’re going to have is the red and blue lens lights that aren’t anywhere near strong enough to make this process easy.

Definition: Blackout FOB, a FOB that as soon as it gets dark all lights are turned out and the only authorized lights are either the red or blue lens lights that are exceedingly difficult to see with, or moonlight. The purpose of this is, and I’m guessing here, to not allow the enemy to see moving lights from the mountains at night. Apparently, its really hard for them to see the FOB during the day and then decide where to fire their little rockets and mortars!

So anyway, we have been spending the entirety of this day laying around doing absolutely nothing. Which is fine with me. As of that TOA formation I have no responsibilities here whatsoever.

The latest on our little stay in BAF is that we are going to be locked in the terminal until we fly out to Manas, Kyrgyzstan sometime tomorrow afternoon. We’ll have to see how that goes. If the trip thus far has been any indication, we’ll probably be locked in the terminal for upwards of three days.

Then we got notified that we are exchanging our FRACU uniforms for brand new ACU uniforms when we get to BAF. Basically, FRACU’s and ACU’s are the exact same uniform except for the fact that the FRACU’s have a little patch sewn onto the left cargo pocket of the pants and the left cuff of the shirt so that you can tell the difference. FRACU’s are Fire Retardant ACU’s.

Now since we are coming in so damn late, we can’t do this the way that this is supposed to be done. Here’s how its supposed to go. You stand in a line with one set of FRACU’s, when you get to the front of the line they take the uniform, and you tell them what size you want to get back. They send some haji into the back room and he comes back with the size you asked for. Then you sign the little paper and on your way you go. That’s what should happen.

But since we can’t leave the terminal (customs issues) we have to take our uniforms that we are turning in and tape them together and write on the outside our names, social security numbers, and the size we want. Then when we get there three guys from the company that are already there will take all our uniforms to the supply warehouse and exchange them for the new ones.

52 soldiers have placed their uniforms into the hands of 3. Three guys will be taking these over there and getting them exchanged. Oh, I can’t see anything going wrong here. But time will tell.

So now all I have to do tomorrow is load a truck with all my shit, take the long walk to the flight line, sit there for three hours, load a plane, get on the plane, sit there while it takes off, fall asleep, and be rudely awakened by the rather rough landing that Air Force pilots are prone to, unload all my shit, and sit in the terminal until another plane comes. The rest of my day is shaping up beautifully! Everybody loves doing the ole’ Army Bag Drag!

So I’m done for now, will continue this either from the terminal in BAF, or if I’m really lucky my cot in Kyrgyzstan.

Now it's 2220 on August 19, 2009 and we made it into Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Nothing really to tell except for the fact that low and behold the entire operation today went...

EXACTLY AS FUCKING PLANNED.

I am waiting for the sky to fall right about now.

About the only thing I can tell you about Manas is we got in a little late and went to midnight chow and at this meal they had something that I haven't had in over a year. Something I didn't even know that I missed until it crossed my lips. Something that my family had better make sure there is a fridge full of when I get home!

THEY HAD REAL MILK!!!! I drank real milk for the first time in a year. And I have never tasted something so sweet.

So anyway, we are supposed to sit here for 3 days then fly back to the states. We'll see how that goes.

Alright, I'm done for now, but this one is a work in progress.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 14, 2009

Somebody Made Me Watch This...

So you have to as well...



It's at least a good primer for what is in store when I get home...

Later,

I love you Mom...

Momma, I'm Coming Home...

A special thanks goes out to Ozzy Osbourne for inspiring the title of this post.

So I’m sitting here in the barracks staring down the barrel of another sleepless night. Why will it be sleepless? Because tomorrow at 0530 I begin the 6,975 mile journey from Afghanistan, home.

I figured this would be my last post for a while. Probably about two weeks. But never fear, I’ll be writing all the way home, and I’ll post it all just as soon as I get there. I won’t have much time for the internet between catching flights and all the “hurry up and wait” the Army is going to have me doing between here and home.

So here’s what I’ve got to do. In the morning I’ll get up and ride a convoy between here and Salerno. From there I’ll catch a flight from Salerno to Bagram. I’ll sit around Bagram for a few days until they can get me a flight to Kyrgyzstan. Manas, Kyrgyzstan to be exact. From there its on to another flight to Azerbaijan. From there to Ireland, and from Ireland to Wisconsin. Then I have to sit and do my out processing in Wisconsin, then hop a bus from Wisconsin to home.

It sounds like a lot, but after all I’ve been through over this past year it won’t even register.

Fun Fact: It took Apollo 11 astronauts 3 days, 3 hours and 49 minutes to get to the fucking moon! Its going to take me about a week just to get to Wisconsin.

But pretty soon, Afghanistan will just be another memory. Another country I’ve been to. Nothing more. And this makes the lord very happy!

Since this will be my last post for a while and by the time I do start writing again in earnest my reflective skills will be retarded by a rather large amount of alcohol, I better say some things that I wanted to say for a while and haven’t.

Where to begin? Let’s start with all of you who read this. Many of you I know, many of you I don’t. But we all became friends along the way. Whether you realize it or not if you have read every word of this blog, as so many of you have told me you do. You know me a lot better than you think. You have come along with me on what has become one of the most difficult and eye-opening experiences of my life.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. This blog was my therapy. It kept me sane, it released every ounce of tension I had. And by default all of you who read my words were my therapists. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Now I’ve gotta go and mix a little sappy with the smartass. The remainder of this post is all for the mom.

You are easily the biggest pain in the ass I have ever known.

You see, my mom has always been a little on the quiet side when it comes to words of wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got some gems. But that’s not how I learned from her.

I learned to drive, by riding around a cemetery with you.

I learned music, by listening to Magic 104 with you in the car. (Elvira, anyone?)

I learned dedication by watching the mountain of obstacles you dealt with raising us.

I learned to be tough, by watching you deal with the world.

I learned to be a smart ass by making you laugh.

I learned to work, by watching you get up every morning my entire life and going to work or taking care of us.

I learned that school was important by watching you fall asleep on the kitchen table every night so that you could get through college and give us a better life.

I learned to care, by watching you care for me, for my brother and for the family.

I learned to sacrifice, by watching you go without so that we didn’t have to.

I learned to love, by feeling your hugs.

I learned just how much I am loved, when I watched the tears in your eyes as I drove away.

I could go on and on. But my hands are getting tired.

Just a few things for you to remember before I go. Not a day has passed that I haven’t thought of you and of the home you made for me. Not a day has passed that my father’s dog tag has not hung around my neck. And not one day has passed that I haven’t sent you my love.

So thanks Mom. That’s about the best I can do.

I don’t know if you remember this, but there was that night that we were watching Vegas. And Danny went to Iraq, and they played that song. And I asked you what it was...

Well,

As long as I can see the light, I’ll be coming home...

Fucking tomorrow!

Alright, sorry about the language. She hates it when I swear. But she’s tough, she’ll get over it.

So I’ve got about 8 hours before I begin the journey home. In a couple of weeks you’ll all get to read the post entitled, “I kissed my mom today...” And all will be right in the world.

Its been a helluva ride, and I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never forget any of you.

So be good, stay tuned, because Momma I’m coming home!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 13, 2009

Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke...

The title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m going to write about, its just that I promised my boy, Buckets that I would title a post after one of his many catch phrases. So here it is...

So we got up at 0 fuck thirty this morning, and I was cranky. Can you believe it, me, cranky? I know its tough but you’re just going to have to trust me. Then we got the day rolling.

What do we have to do today? Show the new unit everything we know about this place in a matter of 8 hours outside the wire. Oh, this won’t be difficult at all.

Nothing really worth talking about happened today, except for we got a little reminder of the beginning-a-deployment jitters that most sane people have.

We’re driving along and we come to a section of the road that is a really tight squeeze. Probably like a foot of clearance on either side. When we got up there the gunner noticed a crate with a wire coming out the top of it and immediately stopped the convoy and called everyone and their brother thinking that there was an IED sitting right there.

Well, its unfortunate, but I’ve learned that you are not going to see any of these IED’s before they ruin your day and the Taliban have to win hearts and minds just as much as we do so they don’t normally place large IED’s in populated areas. So I wasn’t worried.

But I hate to admit it. It was funny watching them getting out of the trucks and doing all their movements by the book, and checking out the suspected IED. They did it all perfectly, by the book. Then there’s our guys, who have gotten so used to this place that we walk around like its a stroll in the park and half the drivers if stopped in the road, IED or not, will fall asleep in under 6 minutes.

They tell you over and over again, don’t get complacent, don’t let your guard down. But we do anyway. Its been said that the most dangerous two months of deployment are the first and the last. The first because you don’t know shit. And the last because all you’re thinking about is home. But no matter, we made it through and now we have no combat missions left, just one last convoy to get us the hell out of here.

Then I just got another taste of FNG bullshit. So its about 2300 here now, and there’s a lot of young kids in this new unit. They all have computers, they all have the internet, and they all have the software you need to call home. So little Johnny over here is talking to his girlfriend and he’s doing the whole, “No you hang up first.” shit. Then when they got sick of that they started the, “No, I love you more.” spiel. Forgive me, I almost puked on my keyboard but whatever, he’s 18. He’ll bounce back quick when she cheats on him. Can you believe that a kid the military allows to carry a belt-fed weapon talks like that? Sheesh, I thought soldiers were supposed to be bad asses.

So that was yesterday, what I thought was going to be my last trip outside the wire. Well, once again, whatever sucks the most strikes. Fun all around.

There I was, laying on my bunk, watching History of The World Part I, and here they come. Alright, we gotta go out to Mandozai, and get the other squad so they can come back here. Do I have to go? Of course you have to go. Shit, and it was just starting the “Its good to be the King” part.

So we go out there.

Pick them up.

And come back.

Well that was anti-climactic. I hate to admit it, but I was kinda hoping the Taliban had a parting gift for us. You know, maybe one for the road. But no luck.

So it goes.

And here I go, but not until I’ve stayed at Clark for one more movie night. They better show something good. I would imagine that they could be showing an Ed Wood flick and it will still be good given that its the last night before I begin the journey home.

Stress, has subsided. Any tenseness has left me. Blood pressure is low. Heart beat is barely noticeable. Hindu cows aren’t this calm.

And I love it. Day after tomorrow we begin the journey home.

Don’t know what’s going to happen on this trip home, don’t really care. As long as it ends with me at home. Don’t know how much more there will be to write, seems to me the good stuff is now over. And by good stuff, I mean the stuff either funny enough, or dangerous enough to warrant actually telling people about it.

I would say that very soon I’ll be able to turn a page in my life, but that’s probably not quite accurate. Closing the book is probably a bit closer.

So stay tuned, I’ll write what I can, when I can. And I got a good one already written for the grand finale. Ladies and Gents, the suck has been embraced.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 10, 2009

They're Here...

I can’t believe it, I shan’t believe it. But yes, it’s true. Ladies and Gentlemen hold onto your hats. Our replacements are here!

Somebody fucking pinch me. Its surreal, just about 10 months ago we were getting in to Waza Khwa to begin the ball of suck that has been this past year of my life.

I look around at these guys and can’t help but laugh. They’re so excited, so filled with anticipation, so ready for war that I can’t help but feel sorry for them.


I don’t know if I’m just getting old, or if this past year has made me look at them differently. But they all look so damn young. Even the guys that ARE old look young to me. Then there are the ones that really are young and they look like they were asking their mommies for cookies about 20 minutes ago!

I walked past at least 10 of them yesterday, and quietly whispered to myself, “Does your momma know you’re out playing army son?”

Its kinda like spending the day with your little brother, asking you 5 million questions about everything under the sun.

What’s an IED like?
Is it loud?
Does it get cold here?
Do you guys take a lot of small arms fire?
Do you take a lot of incoming?
Where’s the pool?
How’s the chow?
What’s it like down south?
I heard about this guy that got shot here, do you know him?
How do you do this?
Where’s this?
Who is that?

And on, and on, and on. Don’t worry, I patiently answered all their questions as well as I could. I was as nice as I could possibly be, which for me is saying a lot.

I couldn’t help but try to steer them away from that whole, “I’m gonna get out there and slay the huns and save the world.” Due to the fact that inevitably, the questions turned to, “Where are the fucking Taliban.”

Well pal, if I knew that for sure I wouldn’t be anywhere near there. Wait, check that, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near there. I mean how do you explain to an 18 year old kid who has watched entirely too many war movies that you aren’t going to go find them. They are going to come and find you! Unfortunately, around here I do know where they are. Everyone knows where they are. Its just like a neighborhood back home that the cops won’t go into because of the crime there.

First response from them. Oh we’ll go there. I guarantee it. Our lieutenant wants to get out there and get all up in the Taliban’s shit! He was genuinely excited about this prospect.

Alright kid, listen here. First things first, know this. We are already in the Taliban’s shit. Just by being here we’re pissing them off. And don’t worry, in a day or two or a week or whenever, but sometime, they are going to let you know just how much you’re pissing them off. They’re going to drop 5 or 10 mortars on your head. Launch a rocket through the side of your building, or send an AK round crashing into your vehicle. And then they’re going to watch you for a while, learn your patterns and movements, and then they are going to hit you. So let’s take it down a peg, shall we. Don’t go looking for it, it’ll find you.

That’s about the best advice I ever got here, and its about the only thing I could pass on to these guys. Don’t go looking for it, it’ll find you soon enough.

Hey, do you think we’ll hit any IED’s? Oh, don’t worry, sooner or later you’re going to hit one. Its a certainty.

And on and on they went. Smoking a cigarette became an hour long question and answer session.

I just can’t get over it, they’re all so damned young...

But, whatever. Just the fact that they are here makes my imminent departure all the more real. As I sit here typing and look at the date, its the 10th, I realize that I will be out of this country in less than 2 weeks (barring any unforeseen complications, so we’ll be here for three)

So tomorrow we take all of our unnecessary gear to Salerno to be packed up and loaded for the flight out of here. Which means I’ll be living out of a rucksack for the next two weeks or so. Suck for me, but not that big a deal. I’m used to it. Its amazing the shit you can get used to.

Well, now the end is upon me, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. I don’t think it will until I can look out of an airplane’s window and see this God forsaken country fading into the distance.

Today we taught them how to drive and care for all these trucks and tomorrow we are taking them outside the wire for their first real combat mission. Should be fun. Think about it like this, its gonna be like taking 40 fifth graders to play laser tag!

Anyway, I’m done...but they’re just beginning. And they’re all so damn young!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 9, 2009

Flash Gordon And The Biggest Turd Ever...

So recently, as we all know my unit has begun the long trip home. It’s going to cover almost 7,000 miles. And that’s just the flight. So most of our unit is already sitting is Salerno just waiting on a flight to Bargram and then on to anywhere but here. For them, the journey has already started. For me that journey begins in about a week.

They’re gone, and I’m still here. So what does that mean? Movie night and a raffle, of course.

I already told you that this has got to be the greatest FOB in all the land. Pool, great food, and the bathrooms have hardwood floors in them. Yes, all the bathrooms in this country are converted semi-truck trailers and someone thought it would be a good idea to put hardwood floors in this one!

So every Friday night they have movie night, which is a good time. They usually play first run movies. How do we get them? Well, someone back in the States or Britain or someplace else takes a little movie camera into a theater, records the flick, then sells it to some unsavory character, who then makes about a zillion copies of the movie and sells them all over the world for about $1 a piece, then this guy Zaheed who runs one of the shops in the Bazaar gets a hold of about 100 of these copies and sells them to us for $2.00. Then Zaheed has to turn around and give 50-80% of his profits to the Taliban to keep them from cutting his head off.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Afghani’s have not embraced American style capitalism. And don’t ever think that the Taliban haven’t either.

Anyway, so then they had the raffle. I managed to get my name pulled. But mine was about the eighth name called. Not good. Why? Because there are usually like 10 prizes. 3 of which are good. The rest of which you couldn’t even get a haji to want. So coming in 8th, I walk up to the table to find a haji disk of the Andy Griffin Show, and Flash Gordon. Three episodes of the TV show. I didn’t even know there was a Flash Gordon television show.

They were playing some movie that I didn’t want to see, I don’t even remember the name of it. So I figured this was a good time to hit the latrine and drop the kids off at the pool. I walked in to the most horrendous smell I have smelt since, well yesterday. But it was bad. Anyway, gonna save the gory details, make everyone’s life easier. Biggest turd ever! Sitting in bathroom. I swear to God some of these assholes that the Army let’s in are dumber than a box of shit. I am telling you, the things that people in this Army do is argument enough for a forced sterilization program. If nothing else they should at least have to pass some sort of test before they are allowed to pollute the earth with their demon seed.

But all is not lost, Mud Puppy has had almost a full 4 days of near-Nirvana.

What has brought this wonderful state of being to my world? The absence of anyone but myself, my squad leader and another dude we call “Buckets”. We call him Buckets because I swear to you he looks just like a Keebler elf, and one day we got on the internet and looked up the names of the elf’s and found one named Buckets. So we ran with it.

They all left, all the joe’s, all the other NCO’s and especially the platoon daddy and the platoon leader are no where to be found. So basically my job for the past 2 days, and the next 2 is to sit here, totally out of uniform, doing anything and everything but what I am supposed to.

Yesterday, I slept in all the way to 0800. I have never felt so refreshed in my life. I haven’t had a real uniform on for more than an hour since they left. And get this, I took a nap yesterday, and am going to take another one today!

So unfortunately there are no real events on which to write but I think I may have found some inspiration.

Well, if not inspiration at least something to be psychotically overjoyed about.

The bulk of the new unit arrives here in about half an hour, and then tomorrow morning begins our training of them so that they can take over for us.

That means that in roughly one week we begin our long journey home.

So hopefully, there are at least a few more interesting stories to tell before this whole thing is over.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is bright enough for me to see the door! And that makes me very happy.

I’m done now.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 5, 2009

As Long As I Can See The Light...

The title is taken from a CCR song. The lyrics go...

As long as I can see the light, I'll be coming home soon.


The war almost ended for me and no one even bothered to tell me. I’m serious, they almost sent me out of this place early. I didn’t travel half way around the world, get shot at, blown up, rocketed, mortared, and generally fucked up just to leave early. To hell with that. And yes, I do understand that those are the words of a truly sick man.

Anyway, here’s what happened. So we have to make room in the barracks for our replacements. So about 29 of us have to get the flock out of dodge. And I turned up on the first list of those to leave. Can you believe it?

They want to send me from here, to Salerno, and then on to Bagram, and Manas, and Ireland, then back to the states. And they want me to start this epic journey tomorrow. While about 12 guys get to stay back and train the new unit. Take them outside the wire and show them what it is we have been doing for the last couple weeks. Show them how to find the IED’s (drive over them, wait for boom.), tell them how to tell the Taliban from the regular haji’s (you can’t), teach them how to respond to an ambush (locate loud ratatatat noise, point weapon, pull trigger.), and all of that shit.

Bullshit, I don’t want to leave early. I can’t explain it. I want to be here for every minute of every day. In the immortal words of Aerosmith, “I don’t want to miss a thing.”

So I begged, and I pleaded, and I finally got my way.

So I’m staying. Gonna help train the new unit.

So here I sit, looking at my boxing gloves with IRELAND tattooed across them and listening to Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the monkey.” And a strange sense of calm has washed over me. At least things are going to be normal for a few more weeks. Now I don’t have to leave until the 15th.

Now, I can’t believe I just used to word normal to describe what goes on and happens to, and around me in the fucking country. (Pause break, for quiet contemplation.)

Okay, maybe I have gone nuts. But let’s think about this.

Average day here. Get up early in the morning, get all your shit, get in the truck, drive out into Taliban land, spend the whole day either looking for the Taliban or training the police to do the same, then drive back, get some chow, workout, write, and go to bed then get up and do it all over again.

Sometimes somebody tries to kill you with bullets. Sometimes there are exploding presents left in the road. Sometimes a few flaming footballs (rockets) are thrown your way. Sometimes a few mortar rounds fall on your head. Then other times not a damn thing happens.

Needless to say my days are a bit more eventful here than the ones back home. I am wondering if boredom might get the better of me. Get up, eat, go to work, take a good shit, and go back to bed. Repeat for 40 years then die.

Ugh, that sounds fun!
Actually, no it sounds just a bit depressing.

Well, what are you going to do? Its not like I can stay here. If this place didn’t kill me, my mom would. So I guess that’s out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, just keeping it bottled up in that place you put things you don’t want to admit you’re thinking about.

I like it here. I like the excitement. I like the chance of it all. Things don’t always happen. Some if not most of my days are fairly routine. But it doesn’t change the fact that at least here it COULD happen. And when it does...oh what a day!

Now I know that I am really losing it. I don’t want to glorify combat or any of the results of it. Most of them are truly shitty. Its just like at home. Two gangs are fighting (US Army & Taliban.) and who ends up getting shot? Some innocent bystander sitting by the road.

So where does that leave me? With a brain that doesn’t quite work the way its supposed to? I think we already knew that. But will this affect my life at home.

Oh hell yes. This experience will probably color every aspect of my life. If for no other reason than I will spend my days wondering what everyone is bitching about. You’re in the States, you’re not in Afghanistan, shut the fuck up!

In any case, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re almost there. Tomorrow, for the most part all of my boys are going to be safe and sound and bouncing from mega-FOB to mega-FOB. And that is a source of relief. I won’t jinx it by saying any more.

The next 11 days will probably be the fastest ever. Then the two weeks after that will be the slowest ever.

Then I have to go home and see people who have known me all my life. See people who changed my diapers. See people I went to grade school with. See people I have known and loved for years.

They will all be the same.

The question is...will I?

Later,

I love you Mom...

Aug 3, 2009

The Only Difference Between This War And Masturbation...

The title of this post is a paraphrase of my all time favorite comedian. The late Mr. George Carlin. But we’ll get to that later.

So here’s what’s been going on. You all have obviously noted that I have not written for a while. Since July 24 to be exact. And that sucks. For all of us.

My mom started to freak out because she hasn’t heard from me in so long. Which made me feel like kind of a shit given that my mom checks my blog to make sure I’m doing okay. (Note to self: Call home more!)

Why was I out of the loop for so long? Because we just had the longest, suckiest, most pointless mission I have ever been on. How long was it? Five days. Ugh, five days of no shower, no place to sleep, constant artillery, M-4‘s poking you in the ass, the worst food known to man, blazing hot water, cows, goats, haji’s and little Elvis has not been spanked in almost 10 days now!!!! If this isn’t hell, you sure as shit can see it from here.

What was the mission? Blocking position.

What’s a blocking position? Well its where you set up these humungous trucks all around an objective in the hope that when the infantry goes in to clear the objective the bad guys run out and right into your “blocking” position.

Picture a bunch of of guys trying to corner a chicken and you get the idea of what it was we were doing out there.

What’s the worst part of this whole mission? We have to take like 40 people with us, and we only have 7 trucks. So there’s like 6 guys in my truck. We don’t have an ASV this time, we’ve got an MRAP which supposedly can comfortably sit 7 people. Bullshit, there isn’t a vehicle in the US Army arsenal that can comfortably sit anyone. When I say sit, I really mean just that there are six seats and one gunner’s turret. So 7 people. The only way you could be comfortable in a military truck is if you are 4’10” and weigh 89 pounds. I am pretty sure that I don’t have any ass left after this trip.

So we get to Salerno which is the jumping off point for this mission, which is huge. This is a Task Force wide mission. Everyone is in on this one. Infantry, aviation, artillery, psyops, special forces, truckers, RCP, commo, Blackwater, even the ANP, ANA and ABP...everyone is in on this one. Even us, the MP’s with about 2 weeks left in country.

Now the first night we had to stay in Salerno because the mission was jumping off at 0700 the next day. First things first. Find us a bed so we can sleep tonight. Yeah, we know we aren’t going to get to bed until after midnight, but its still nice to know you have somewhere to sleep even if its only for a few hours. Oh yeah, mission jumps off at 0700 you’re going to be up at 0500 at the latest.

So we get our beds. Cots is all, but we’re used to it. At least we don’t have to sleep on the ground. I measure my entire life by my distance from the ground while I sleep. That and the amount of padding between me and said ground.

Good, we got the beds and we get to work on the trucks. We got some new ones because the ones we had were shit and wouldn’t have made it over the first bump. We were lucky they made it from Clark to Sal without falling apart. (Think of the scene from Blues Brothers where they pull up in front of city hall and jump out the car and as soon as they slam the doors the car literally falls to pieces. That’s the condition that our trucks are normally in.) So we had to go through them, make sure the weapons were up, get them fueled, lubricated and the radios up and chirping and blah, blah, blah.

Which took us a while. Then we come back to find out that we just got kicked out of our tent and off our cots. Why? Because the mother fucking Afghan National Police needed a place to sleep.

Digest that one. The US Army threw an entire squad of its own soldiers out of their tent and off their beds so that the Afghanis had a place to sleep! The worst part of it is they didn’t give us any where else to sleep.

So I learned what it means to be homeless. I wandered around half the night trying to find a place to sleep. I laid out on top of the truck for a while, but it was too damn metal. I sat in front of the commanders tent and fell asleep until an NCO came out and told me I couldn’t sleep there. I finally fell asleep for about 10 minutes in the post movie theater. Then they came in and threw on a movie and played it at about 500 decibels. Finally, I snuck into a transient building and found a bed in the corner and curled up and slept for about 3 hours before my squad leader woke me up, its time to go.

Here we go. Oh boy, let’s get ready. Now all the lower enlisted soldiers are ready. They got all their shit, its all in the trucks, the radios are up, the weapons are working, the trucks are running. All we need to do is hit the gear, hit the gas and we’re gone. But the senior NCO’s and officers are going to dick around for an hour, and then yell at us for not being in the trucks when they get there.

However, the fact that they were an hour late led to us missing that 0700 mission jump off. Oh, I forgot to mention we needed the RCP to move through this area of the country. Either that or we would have blown up 4 times. That’s how many IED’s they either found or hit themselves on the way up there. Hey, better them than me.

So we get rolling, an hour late, but at least we’re moving again. If there’s one thing I can’t stand its sitting still.

The funniest part of the whole thing is that our platoon daddy, and our platoon leader will still planning this thing on our way out the door. Figuring out where to set up, how to set up and all that shit. Then when we got to the gate and met up with the ANP who were there to go with us we found out that they didn’t have any gas.

Oh great, nothing like a well planned military operation to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Now I am just going to hit on the high points of the next five days. There were few, but nothing good happened. No gun fights, no explosions, no nothing. Just sitting and killing time. Suffice it to say that the following paragraphs cover 5 whole damn days of extreme, almost insanity inducing boredom. Had there not been a 110 outlet for me to charge my iPod I may very well have lost my mind.

On the way out the RCP found two high trip wire IED’s. The ones designed to either decapitate the gunner and the blow the truck over onto its side. I have a sick sense of humor now, because all I could think is that I would like to see one of those go off. I’ve seen pretty much every kind of IED over the last year, but never have I seen one of these. This is new, so I was curious. Oh, is there something wrong with me?

So we got out there, and set up. Now there’s basically a line that stretches for 10 km’s in either direction from our position. This is important for later when our blocking position became an island. Its us in the middle, with 2nd platoon to our right and 3rd platoon to our left. Remember that.

Now we go through the first day and it gets dark and I crawl up on top of the MRAP to write my notes for the day. I pull out the stretcher and lay it out across the top of the truck and lay down for my night’s rest. I don’t know if its really good karma to be sleeping on the thing that we use to carry our wounded, but whatever at least its not metal. Thinking back over my time here, I couldn’t help but get a little nervous about the wind, given the fact that the top of an MRAP is about 15 feet off the ground. (Kudos to those of you who remember what I’m talking about.)

And it was hot. The kind of hot that makes it so you can’t even lean up against the truck. Everyone is hot, tired, sweaty and pissed. Wow, this is surely going to be a fun trip.

The first night comes and goes, and its the next day.

I sit around most of the day either watching my sector or reading “Knockemstiff” by Donald Ray Pollack. Which is a pretty sick collection of short stories about degenerates, lunatics, drunks and criminals. And I got homesick.

I am pretty sure this is the first time in my life I have been homesick. I told you before I have wanderlust. I love my home and my family and my friends, but it doesn’t change the fact that leaving is just part of who I am and what I do. I don’t know if its a good thing or not, but its just what I do.

Still gotta wonder when a book like Knockemstiff makes me homesick. Ha Ha!

Then I crawled up to my perch, wrote, and the night came and went and its the next day.

This day was boring until we sent a few guys up to the top of a nearby mountain for an OP. (Observation Point). About 6 hours after they had gotten up there, torrential rains started coming down. We all just piled into the truck and waited it out. But they had to sit there, on top of a mountain during a rainstorm. I couldn’t help but laugh, because right before they had gone up there we were trying to figure out who was going up there and it came down to me and another guy.

How to choose who stays and who goes? The only way that’s fair. Rock-paper-scissors. Best 2 out of 3. 1-2-3, Paper (I win) 1-2-3 Scissors (I lose) 1-2-3 Paper (I win) Oh thank Christ. This mountain was a bitch. 1500 meters damn near straight up. It took some of them almost an hour to get up there. No thanks pal, I don’t want anything to do with that. If God wanted us up there he would’ve installed an escalator.

Then the artillery started coming, and coming, and coming. I don’t know if its a good thing or not but I am pretty much immune to big booms. All hours of the day and night you would hear it. Fun all around.

Then I crawled up to my perch, wrote, the night came and went and its the next day.

Resupply day. I don’t know why we’ve still got plenty of food and water, we even got plenty of fuel.

-Tell them we don’t need it Sarge, its just more shit we have to carry back.
-Nope, they want us resupplied we’re taking it.
-Alright, helicopter or air drop?
-Air drop.

Motherfucker. That means some crazy fly boy is going to come by, buzz us and drop all this shit out the ass end of his plane.

-Alright, where’s the smoke so we can signal this prick.

So I grab the smoke. We wait. We hear it. The sound of a shitty ass little turbo prop plane buzzing around above. Then we see him. Circling around once, getting lower, twice, getting lower, thrice, getting lower. Next pass, how high is he? Probably about 100 feet. Where is he flying? He’s doing a “map of the world” with the mountain side and coming right down, right at us. Well I certainly hope this asshole turns a little bit. I would hate to have all that food and water dropped on my head.

Shit, he’s getting lower. Dude is about 50 feet off the ground and maybe 15 meters to the side of us when he jerks the nose of the plane up and four pallets of food and water come flying out the ass end of the plane. Is it wrong that the first thing that ran through my mind was, “That pilot just shit on us.”

Shortly thereafter, we got another jolt. We weren’t ready for it. I am lying on the ground under the truck taking refuge from that evil, glowing ball in the sky. When I hear a helicopter descending. After running around like crazy trying to find all of our shit so that it didn’t blow away, the helicopter landed and I became depressed.

They dropped off more fuel, and they brought us fresh fruit and gatorade. Now most people would think that this is the greatest war zone ever. I just got a delivery of fruit and gatorade. I wanted to give the guy some money and send him back for pizza but I was too depressed as to what this fruit and gatorade meant.

It means we are staying out here for a long damn time. The army won’t resupply you unless they absolutely have to, and they are actually bringing us stuff that they don’t have to bring us. Oh shit, are we going to be out here a while.

But then came the most monumental development of the entire mission. During the air drops I had to run around a lot. I didn’t want to, but I had to. Now I have to go back a bit. Earlier in the day when I woke up, I had sort of fallen off the truck and ripped a huge hole in the crotch of my pants. No big deal, I like the air conditioning. But I changed into my other pair of pants and got on with my life. During the air drop the crotch of my pants got stuck on a plant and tore a big ass hole in the crotch of those. So now I have two pairs of pants, with central air if you catch my meaning.

Well this will never do. Although I have to admit it was nice being able to piss without having to unbutton. Anyway, how do we fix this. You gotta sew it. I don’t know how to sew. Who does? This chick in the truck she knows how to do that shit. I beg. She won’t budge. Finally, I convince her, except she’ll do the first one and I can watch and do the second.

So she showed me how to thread the needle, how to get the first stitch in, how to loop this around that and yada, yada, yada. Then she showed me how to tie off the end so that it won’t come out.

I mean we don’t try to make it look pretty here, we just want the hole closed. So nothing elaborate or anything, but Jesus, Mary & Joseph and all the saints I now know how to sew.

So picture this if you will. Its hilarious.

My big ass, sitting in the back of a huge military vehicle, sweating like a whore in church, with no pants on, sewing up a hole in my crotch.

Let that one marinate for a minute.

Now moving on, then we went through another couple days of absolutely nothing. Just sitting, staring at each other, the mountain, or examining the inside of our eyelids.

Then we got some action. Not really, just something to do. The locals finally got curious about what the hell we were doing and some of the kids came out to see us. We gave them some food, water and candy and started playing with them.

They even taught us some Afghani games. First one they taught us was a game where you put your fist out in front of you, wrap your other arm around it and grab your head. Then you put your outstretched fist on the ground and spin around ten times. Kinda like putting your forehead on a bat. Then you jump up and try to pick up some object, in this case a hat, placed on the ground about 10 meters from you. Watching all these kids getting dizzy and falling down, and them laughing hysterically while we did the exact same thing was priceless. Its time like this that you can’t help thinking, if we can just get these kids away from all these adults there just might be hope for this country.

Next game they taught us. This was especially fun.

You stand facing your opponent. You grab one ankle with one hand, and pull your ankle up to your ass. Then you use your free hand, and your one legged hop to try and knock your opponent down, while staying upright yourself.

Yes, ladies and gents, Its an Afghani one legged ass kicking contest!

I almost felt normal for a few minutes. Sitting around, playing with these kids. Seemed like this could happen on any block in any city back in the states.

Later, I got a rather rude reminder of where I was.

So we spent a few hours playing games with these kids, and feeding them and throwing rocks with a slingshot and just screwing around. Then we asked if they could get us watermelon. They happily obliged because we gave them 5 American dollars. More money than any of these kids had ever seen or could hope to make.

Then a little while later a kid came back with the watermelon. But he stopped about 200 meters from our position and was looking at the mountain. We sent the interpreter over to see what was wrong.

The kid was terrified that the Taliban was watching him. So he laid the watermelon down and took off running.

Bringing us watermelon is enough to get you and your entire family decapitated here. So his worry was more than reasonable.

So from playing games with kids, to worrying that I may have inadvertently just got some kid killed. I truly hate this fucking place.

But there’s an upside. Its now August 3. We’re supposed to be leaving by the 16th.

No more war zone. No more death. No more booms. No more missions. No more sleeping under the stars. No more shitty ass MRE’s. No more IED’s. No more ambushes. No more, no more, no fucking more!

I’ll be back home before September. We hope.

So its almost over. Our replacements are here. Some of them anyway. The rest will be coming in soon. I wonder what its going to be like to be somewhere that I don’t have to worry about getting shot. What’s it going to be like when I don’t think everything in the road is a bomb. What’s it going to be like when I don’t think every fat guy is a suicide bomber. What’s it going to be like when I see an empty street and don’t have to brace for the explosion?

What’s it going to be like the first time I hear a car backfire, or a big book dropped, or any loud noise? Jesus, what’s the fourth of July gonna be like?

Who cares? All of that stuff happens at home. I don’t care if I jump out of my skin every damn time. At least I’ll be doing it at home. And that’s good enough for me.

Alright, now I’m done.

Later,

I love you Mom...

P.S. And the only difference between this war and masturbation is that when you’re done masturbating you are going to have something to show for it! R.I.P. George Carlin