Friday, November 24, 2006

Glorious Shit of The Week

On the night of August 4, 2004 I hugged my family, said goodbye and left them behind at a hotel in Dallas. Sleep came surprisingly early that night, and I awoke at 4 AM to a breakfast of eggs and bacon that a homeless man would think twice about eating. I was surrounded by about a hundred other nervous people, all strangers to each other but with one thing in common: they were all joining the military that day. Recruits for the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, active and reserve, we all piled onto buses bound for MEPS, the last step in processing before you board a plane to the location of your initial training. Hours later I was on my way to Atlanta, where I boarded another bus headed to Ft. Benning.

When you sign a contract for the Army, you do it by year. I joined for three years, but you can go for four, five or six. But that time doesn’t start when you begin training. It begins when you’ve completed it. My training was 16 weeks long beginning on August 5, so day one of my contract started when I graduated on November 24, two years ago today.

I don’t know when I started to count the days I had left, but it began in the low 1000s. In the 500s I put a running count on my MSN Messenger title, and if you talked to me on there (Candice), then you celebrated each passing day. You can even find a number here and there on this fine rag. Today, that number has reached 365.

I was never big on the thanks part of Thanksgiving. Before August 5, 2004 it seemed turkey, happy families and warm houses were simply how life went. I didn’t know how to be thankful for the things I had. Now for the first time, I’m thankful for something: the future. In one year (or 8760 hours and counting!), I’ll be in control of my own life for the first time in my 21 year history. I won’t be government property. I won’t be in a country where people rub their hands together in anticipation of killing another American. I won’t be in a place where speaking your mind is taboo, where suggesting alternative ideas to superiors is met with vehement reprise. One year from today, I won’t be in Iraq, I won’t be at Ft. Lewis, I’ll be exactly where I want to be, and all the good and bad things that go with it. And that is what I’m thankful for.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Baghdad Musings

Faithful readers, this week I come to you from Baghdad, the capital of Iraq and center of a very conspicuous insurgency movement that seems to know no end. The much talked about 172nd Stryker Brigade is operating here after we replaced them in July. I arrived here on Saturday afternoon to take a week long course on a piece of equipment that probably should remain unsaid in the interests of national security etc etc. Along with me are two fellow soldiers from my unit who were painstakingly selected from a special pool of talent (meaning a dartboard was somehow involved in the process). Much to our surprise, we were told by the dude in charge that class begins on Tuesday morning, giving us two and a half days to spend exploring. In Mosul, there's a very straightforward and basic setup for us. A few chow halls, a PX, some little shops and a place to play foosball and ping pong. The base in Baghdad, however, must be three times larger or more. They have paved sidewalks! And traffic circles! They take showers in clean, potable water! In Mosul there are signs posted in the bathroom advising you not to ingest any of the water that comes out of the faucets, which has a strange odor to it. We took a bus to the main section of the base, which contains the big PX (like a shopping center), a Burger King, Taco Bell, Popeye's and Cinabon. No, seriously.

I can't give any credence to the people who come home from this country and tell how awful and cruel it is. This is the easiest, most polite war that was ever fought. Once we were called in to secure a site where a dude attempted to detonate a car bomb next one of our vehicles. It killed only him and left a smoking pile of wreckage. I briefly caught a glimpse of his lower body; a pair of bloated, bloody legs severed right at the hip. His upper torso, not his better half I assure you, was an unrecognizable pile of entrails some yards away. After seeing a dead body for the first time in my life, I went to lunch. And then had some ice cream. Some people are shaken by viewing such grotesqueries and are driven into combat stress meetings. I'd like to know what they're doing in the Army if they are shocked, shocked I say!, by what they see in war. But even a good deal of people here dwell 24/7 within the safety of 'the wire,' the perimeter of walls and fences around the base, rarely venturing out in the dangerous city, if at all. I was waiting for a bus back to our tent yesterday after a souvenir binge, and I overheard a conversation a lady was having on her cellphone (which is outlawed where I'm from, but I digress). She was explaining to her friend back home how she felt about Iraq. Her words were "This place is hell on earth. We walk with the devil." I couldn't help but notice her M-16 was in flawless, pristine condition and her uniform, clean as the day it was made. I can only imagine her idea of hell was discovering the Baskin Robbins here serves only six ice cream flavors instead of the expected 31.

You encounter all sorts of characters in Baghdad, being the epicenter of the war. I've sat next to plenty of Aussies and Brits in the chow hall. But one thing that's different is seeing a lot more Navy folk. I was walking with a buddy to get a flight out of here when a Navy officer was walking with an Army enlisted dude. The procedure for an enlisted dude such as myself is to first salute her and then she returns it to me. But her rank was covered by her sling and I couldn't make it out, so I walked right on by. We must have gotten thirty feet past them when the Army dude called out "Uh oh, you missed your chance" with her replying "You don't have to salute, I'm not an officer or anything" with an incredibly sarcastic tone. I'm all for saluting...when I see the rank. But her attitude smacked of an antiquated notion of knee jerk respect that seems out of place over here. In the deadliest month since January '05, she is most concerned with old traditions. I'm sure at some point she told the story of the lowly enlisted Army scum to her officer buddies, scoffing at his lack of respect. After a few laughs, I imagine she went to bed that night, in relative peace, far from the mortars and explosions, cursing the cracks of gunfire keeping her awake.


Friday, September 22, 2006

It All Changes Today

To those wondering when the next post would come about, sorry. I haven't updated this in a long while because I felt like I had nothing to tell. We've been a lucky bunch, and nothing interesting or exciting has gone on for weeks. That was put to rest this morning. We were the auxiliary force when we got word that a house simply exploded. At first, everyone had guessed it was an IED maker who detonated a bomb prematurely. We set out and in a few minutes pulled up to the house, the ramp facing away from the site, and we piled into the house next to it, a three story. In the corner of my eye I caught a bunch of rubble and wires all in the street but I didn't have time to look. As soon as I stepped past the threshold, I began stepping on broken glass, which was scattered about the whole house. We cleared every room to make sure it was safe, finding two little girls and their mother. They appeared to be unhurt but very scared. I walked deeper into the house to find the last room almost completely covered in shards of glass. The explosion was so great it broke every delicate thing in the house. I tried to explain to the little girls to watch out for shards sticking out of window sills. I was then called up to the roof to help with security, and to make sure no bad guys took positions on other rooftops. When I got to the edge of the roof and looked down at the carnage, I was taken aback at the scale of the explosion. On the street where I had been earlier, there was nothing but huge chunks of concrete, wires and metal strewn about. A chunk of a wall across the street was decimated. I still had not seen the house itself, or what was left of it. I trotted over to the other side of the roof to glimpse down. I really cannot describe what I had felt when I saw nothing but bricks and a flattened car where a house was supposed to be. I was simply apalled by the scale of destruction, the flames that licked the walls of a house across the way, the rooftops of nearby houses covered in dust and rocks, cars crushed by the biggest fragments. When I noticed a man in the middle of everything just standing there, I had to take a picture. I could have gotten in a lot of trouble by whoever saw me, and it wasn't the right thing to do at all, but this was monumental. We later learned that some insurgents found out that the house was owned by an Iraqi policeman, seemingly high up, and decided to toss a bomb over the gate to send a message. I saw a dead body for the first time last week. A guy tried to blow up a Stryker with a car bomb but only ended his own life. A pile of guts and a pair of legs were all that was left. After today, the destroyed house is the most striking image in my mind, one that will be difficult to get over. This is who we're dealing with, people.


Friday, August 04, 2006

A Different Point of View

For those who were wondering if the Army of Dude was dead or dying, fear not! It has only been in hibernation since I've made my way to northern Iraq. I'm up in Mosul, the third largest city where the insurgency is in full swing. A lot of people are coming in from Syria to take us on.

We've been gradually setting in as our replacements leave for Baghdad. They were hours from leaving to go home when suddenly Uncle Sam's caring hand whisked them away to the most volatile city in Iraq at the moment, to quell the rising tide of violence. Ain't that a kick in the head? We've done the standard patrolling and car searching, nothing out of the ordinary. Yesterday was a bit different.

The city of Mosul is a little bit of everything; there are soccer fields, highways, ghettos and ritzy neighborhoods (for a third world country, anyway). The one thing the whole city shares is trash; there is trash everywhere, in every open field and in between every building. Most of us don't mind throwing bottles or cans on the side of the road; it'll happen to fall in another pile. Everywhere kids are yelling 'mister, mister!' as we drive by. Some wave, all stare. When we stop we give them food and water, which unleashes other kids from the dark buildings. In an insurgency, everything is suspect. Little kids playing with bright orange balls, a dude standing by the trunk of his car in the median. All could be signals or warnings. Paranoia becomes second nature.

We were parked yesterday in the middle of the street while squads maneuvered inside the nearby buildings. I was designated air guard, the guy in the back of the vehicle that makes sure no one sneaks up or takes a pot shot at our drivers. After awhile my mind wandered on this and that when a crack rang out, to my rear. I must have jumped ten feet into the air. My first reaction was 'it was just a warning shot' but the hissing noise was distinct. It went right over my head; this sniper was a poor shot. It was fired at the vehicle directly behind us. Several more shots rang out, this time from a cemetery. My squad came out of the building and we loaded up. We drove a few blocks and decided to take a tall building to get on the roof. We opened the door and began going through all the rooms, leapfrogging from one to the other, ushering the small boy, his mother and sister into a room. Everyone was set on the rooftop. Across the alley we yelled at some bricklayers if they knew where the fire was coming from; they shrugged and continued working, oblivious to our dilemma. After a while I'm sent to the bottom floor to watch the family, which is a nice break. I offered a broken hello in Arabic and give the kid my packet of Gatorade, explaining how you just put it in water. He wasn't too afraid of me then. I then hear several shots go off on the roof, this time from us. The family gives me a look but they can't see me through my sunglasses. After it ceased I was called up to the roof to replace a guy who's been up there a while; it's hot and no one had water. I set up, facing the cemetery and am told the guy is still there. After much anticipation we are called down to load up and leave. We sit on a road because more elements show up to help; we all think to ourselves, how many people does it take to eliminate one guy with an AK? We bitch about it taking forever and missing lunch; the guys we relieved said they never missed food for anything. As we're sitting there sweating and cursing, I wonder if the sniper had a video camera with him; I'm curious to know if there are outtakes where they completely miss again and again. All in all, a two hour patrol took five hours to complete and we wonder if dinner is a reality.

I'm not sure how long it'll take until someone gets shot in the face because we sit in the middle of the road in hour intervals. We're supposed to be quick and efficient, not unwieldy and slow. One thought is common; how the hell do we win wars doing this shit?


Friday, June 30, 2006

We Take It Day By Day

Dear readers, it has been a little over a day since I landed in Kuwait City. The flight was long but not as bad as it was hyped to be. We had a stop in Bangor, Maine where we were greeted by handshaking, bonafide patriots that thanked us for what we were doing. I don't get their frame of mind, really. But whatever helps them sleep at night. Our next stop was outside Frankfurt, Germany for a short while. I exchanged our pitiful dollars for some Euros for a souvenier, which I hope I don't lose. Upon taking the steps down to Kuwaiti soil, I found the weather fairly shitty but not as bad as it was hyped. The way I can describe it is a car's AC on a hot day when it's still blowing hot air. The wind doesn't bring a cool draft, just more heat. It's hotter in Kuwait than Iraq, so getting used to it here is advantageous.
When we arrived we were force fed a lot of tripe about how dangerous blogs are to security, and how Osama is twiddling his fingers, laughing manically because he found out ultra sensitive information like how mad I get when we have to move a lot of boxes. They prattled on that information from blogs could be used against us or our family. They might find my blog and tell me to delete it and send it to hell before someone destroys the world with the knowledge I gave them. But in the meantime, I'll keep on truckin.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

I dreadfully trotted to a range early this morning, the quick and dirty kind that superiors hurry along, sharing the same discontent with us common underlings. We arrived fairly early and there was another group already standing by, waiting to use the same range. The paper pushers at brigade had decided to come down for trigger time. It was there I spotted Lt. Watada, Ft. Lewis superstar of the media. For all those that were questioning where he is and what he's up to, he's doing the daily grind of whatever a cushy brigade job entails. I take my camera everywhere if my earlier posts were any indication, and today was no different. I wanted to snag a few pictures of him but could find no tact way of going about it, so I did the only sensible thing: pretend to pose for unrelated photos.

You big meanies!
Center: Figure of Our Times.
Right: Some spaz.

He must've noticed the commotion we were making and turned his back to a few shots. As we were standing however, I noticed he was reclusive and isolated from his group. I can't imagine the media-fed elephant in the room they have to deal with. I did manage to snag this winner, though:

Don't mind me, just emo'in

Above: Moments before Lt. Watada is devoured by a twenty foot tall emo kid.

I was glad to end this phase of writing on a humorous note for a change. I hope to have a positive tone in the future for those who think my writing is too negative and cynical. Everyone else, I thank you for your support and kind words that you bless me with in my comments section. You can reach me at hortonhearsit at to get my address sometime in early July. I don't know when I'll be able to communicate or update this blog but it should be within the next few weeks.

Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Compassionate(?) Shit of The Week

For the first time in my two year career, a week went by where not one certain thing dominated the week with a strangle hold on the practical and efficient. We had half days Tuesday and Thursday, which means nothing was going on and we were cut loose at 1:00 or so. Last Thursday the dreaded weight room detail was started in the morning instead of in the middle of the day. And these tired eyes couldn't believe that there was a sufficient amount of people to carry out the task. Bravo, Army. You managed to not be so gutless and cruel for a three day work week. Don't go and strain yourselves to be reasonable all next week, though. I can't imagine the military running on well greased wheels. It's never been done before, who knows what to expect?


Friday, June 09, 2006

Two Week Special Edition of SSOTW™

It was not my original intention to skip a week without an entry, but it turned out that way out of sheer neglect and procrastination. We are busy tying up all the loose ends that go with a deployment, like shots, wills and so forth. I still cannot say when we leave, but it is no secret if you watch the local news or listen to what Rumsfeld announced months ago. We can't say where we're going to our families but it's in the public domain anyway. Also, they say don't post pictures of Strykers that can easily be accessed on Google Image Search. Who is being satisfied by this hoop jumping? I'd like to know.

And now to the Stupid Shit. The nominees are:

Mandatory Fun
Lt. Watada Media Circus
Stricken Three Day Weekends

And the winner is:

Lt. Watada Media Circus!


If you've been current on the news, you might have heard about an officer from Ft. Lewis refusing his order to go to Iraq. But unlike some armchair patriots around the web calling him a coward and a leftist tool, I know Lt. Watada. He was in my company for over a year as our Fire Support Officer. I didn't talk to him much, seeing how he is an officer and I'm a lowly junior enlisted, but he was all about his soldiers and his job. There is much brouhaha about how he objects to what he calls an 'illegal, immoral' war since he received his commission months after the Iraq war started. But what these kneejerk reactionaries don't consider is the thought process every soldier goes through. Watada is not your average grunt; his job is to coordinate close air support and artillery barrages, which means he has the ability to drop precision guided bombs when given the order. Like any soldier, I am worried that I could accidently harm or kill a civilian when I'm in Iraq, but his job would most certainly include collateral damage. He would have that on his conscious until the day he died; was that purported training camp he dropped a 500 pound bomb on really a hospital or a school?
I sincerely don't think he's a coward, fame hound or pussy. I think he should still be punished because of his refusal of an order however. Someone is going in his place because of his actions, and his training could have saved lives in a close air support situation.
What is maddening is all these pundits speak of mega-patriotism and support of troops from one side of their mouth, then damn Watada out of the other, calling for his jailing and execution. He's done more for this country than your blogs have, give it a rest.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Stupid Shit of The Week™

Dear readers, it has been far too long since my last entry. It's the same old same old, rushing around at the last minute to squeeze two months worth of work into a few weeks. I would have liked another entry before another edition of SSOTW, but this simply cannot wait. The winner of the award this week is the undisputed champion and there is no need for nominees. Loading connexes with thousands of pounds of worthless equipment pales in comparison to what was handed down to us early last week. The bar has been sunk readers, sunk to an unrecoverable level and I want the world to hear about this before any of you consider a career in the military or know someone who is thinking about it. The only candidate and winner of SSOTW:

Personal Armor Restriction

I touched on this subject on my first post, how the Army has restricted soldiers from wearing armor superior to the ceramic weights we currently haul around.

"We're very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn't provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they're, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff," said Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army.

This is exactly what happens when you let an ultra bureaucratic committee of blowhards decide the fate of soldiers who actually do, gasp!, dangerous things with the terrible equipment they've been given. I am willing to bet anything that this colonel doesn't leave his air conditioned office at the Pentagon, where his most intense moments are posing for photo ops and keeping his uniform neat. I can say with all confidence, Colonel Spoehr, that I could look online for five minutes and find plates that will better protect me from rifle rounds and shrapnel than the Army issue plates. I'd even say that they'd be lighter than the roughly 15 pound ceramics we lug around. Embarassment of the Army's shortcomings in the armor sector apparently is worth more than blood and lives.

Our issue vests come in three pieces, thin kevlar inserts that protect from nothing more than a 9mm round, the ceramic plates and the outer shell that holds them together. The outcome is as follows:

These vests will stop anything!

These vests are put on like any other. You slip them on like a jacket, and the vest closes with two velcro flaps on the front. In many cases the flap's velcro will be worn and come undone from the added density of the plates. You can buy clips that hold it shut, but why should you?
There is a place near Ft. Lewis where you can buy an alternative vest, and my team leader was kind enough to have his dad's company sponsor a purchase of nine vests for my squad, at $400 each. This vest doesn't fold in front but rather fits over your head like you've seen in countless cop shows. The sides are held together with velcro and are buckled for a more secure fit.


In simulated and real combat, the vest needs to be taken off to assess and treat a casualty. With the first vest, it's extremely difficult and dangerous to remove the vest given the nature of wear. If the casualty has a neck or spinal injury, movement of the casualty could further harm him. With the new vests, it's a matter of unclipping and ripping off one of the two panels, gaining instant access to the injury with minimal movement and maximum efficiency. So when you get shot in the chest because your inadequate armor failed to stop a rifle round, the amount of time it takes a medic to treat your wound means life or death. Thus, the vest you wear means life or death. I've worn the old vest for a year and a half and the new one for a month, and without reserve I can tell you the new one is better in every way. If you're a dedicated reader of this fine blog, you know it can only get better from this point.
Under the new banned armor directive, we cannot wear the vests I have praised because it qualifies as third party armor, though it is merely a shell and still holds the actual armor we'd be wearing anyway. We were told if we were killed wearing the new vests, our families wouldn't get the $400,000 life insurance policy because we weren't wearing Army issue equipment. A most subtle blackmail I'd say. And people like Colonel Spoehr sit back in comfort, far removed from the patrols in the streets of Ramadi, Mosul and Baghdad, and decide I am too irresponsible to choose how to protect my own life, that it's out of my hands. This is where the bar has been set, to a new level of shame and reckless abandon.
549 days.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bastions of professionalism

I read an interesting article on MSNBC about soldiers suffering from post-tramatic stress syndrome serving additional tours in Iraq.

The Hartford Courant, citing records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews of families and military personnel, reported numerous cases in which the military failed to follow its own regulations in screening, treating and evacuating mentally unfit troops from Iraq.

The military stresses cohesion to an almost insane degree, yet they show their true colors with this sort of thing. A lack of bodies forces soldiers with serious issues to be put into situations that will further destroy their mental well being. Oh well, it's about the bottom line right?

Commanders, not medical professionals, have final say over whether a troubled soldier is retained in the war zone.

That's like giving your dissertation to a twelve year old for approval. What does a twelve year old know about astrophysics, anyway? Remember readers, these people are responsible for the lives of your sons and daughters.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Stupid Shit of The Week™

Sadly, it has been a full week since my last entry, also another SSOTW summary. As we draw closer to deployment, the workload increases exponentially. Ranges have filled the schedule for the past two weeks, day after day and in many cases at night. We just finished another round of ranges and it is suspect that we are done with them. But one of the few things I've learned is to not trust superiors. Which brings me to this week's nominees for Stupid Shit of The Week™ :

  • Bold faced lies to subordinates
  • Moving a huge gym mat into a connex
  • Sending weights to Iraq with us

And the winner is:

Bold faced lies to subordinates!

As we finished a range at 4:30 in the morning this Wednesday, we were given a late call of 10:00 after almost twenty straight hours of work. After doing quite literally nothing all day, we were finally released sometime around 5PM Thursday evening. Not an hour went by when we found out that our platoon was relieving another platoon for ammo guard at midnight, and that everyone is going. As usual, the story changed three times over the course of an hour, but what was final was that six guys were going out, and they would receive Friday off as a consolation for volunteering for the shaft. Figuring it came from an influential person, I thought it sounded like a legit deal and jumped on it. As we get there, we decide to clean up the range to get a start on what the whole platoon would be doing the next morning. At about 2AM we decided to call it quits. As everyone began arriving from their full nights sleep in warm beds, they bitched about us not finishing the job with little time and inadequate manpower. It was then when we found out the truth we secretly held in our hearts: no day off for us. Thanks for the help and for volunteering to hose away your night though, suckers. We each learned the bitter lesson of walking into lucrative promises. I can't think of a better morale booster than an old fashioned bait and switch.

The gym mat, now there is another black hole of common sense and reason. We have this rubber sparring mat that is maybe 30 feet by 25 feet. It's so thick and long that it couldn't fit up the stairwell to get to the second floor. Some genius thought of erecting an elaborate system of pulleys on the second floor balcony to get it up, using a Bronco for leverage. It made it up after almost crushing several people to death and almost ripping off both the handrails on the balcony and the frame of the truck. But Friday it was decided to throw the mat off the roof and load it into a connex, bound for Iraq. Now, before you ask if there are facilities at bases in Iraq that have mats and matlike surfaces like the one we're loading, the answer is yes. I couldn't give you a straight answer as to why we're taking it, but you know how it goes by now dear reader, if you've been current with my updates. I am supremely interested in what civilians think when reading about these parades of nonsense I march to every day, so feel free to leave comments or questions.


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Stupid Shit of The Week™

This is part two of a weekly series, Stupid Shit of The Week™ and as usual, I nominate the most frustrating, backwards and pointless events of the past five days. The nominees:

Zeroing rifles for the fifth time

KD Range Support

Packing for cancelled layouts

And the winner is:


A known distance range is a range with lines 200 meters and 300 meters away from targets, so you know exactly how far you are from them. In today's superiorly modern army, we have ranges with computer regulated pop up targets that can give feedback on where the target is shot. If you happen to miss and the round is close enough, it can even show where the round passed by the target. Now, this is where army trademark inefficiency sets in. While that technology is available, we have something World War II-ish for KD ranges. The targets are on a chain pulley system under a dropoff, and you have to pull the bar up and down to raise and lower the paper targets. When an iteration is complete, you lower the target and put a white cardboard circle the size of a coaster into where they're shooting, so they know if they're doing well or not. It gets better, really. You then put little pieces of black tape over the holes so you can differentiate between iterations.

So stupid

Now, this lunacy is compounded by people shouting constantly to hurry up, and people firing taking forever to actually shoot. I can tell you with no reservations that this kind of training is a waste of a clean gun and a sunny day. Not to mention the slave driving in the pit. We worked from 9am-5pm with no food and little water. When we were approaching the end of the day, it took a turn for the surreal. We got word we were doing a nightfire, which means using nightvision sights with infrared lasers on our guns to shoot the targets. To my knowledge this is the first time a nightfire was attempted on a KD range, given the feedback is a WHITE CIRCLE A FEW INCHES IN DIAMETER. How do you see a white circle at night 200-300 meters away with night vision, you ask? I joked about pouring glowstick juice on the circle so they can see it, but to my astonishment, someone else higher up had the same idea and told us to do it. At this point, everyone in the pit gave up on accurate feedback and stuck the circle any damn place. We made it off the range past midnight, so 15 hours straight of pulling up and down, up and down, down and up. But we did get small breaks in between groups of firers.


Above: Brave vanguards of freedom
sleep on each other. I'm on the right.

Tune in next week for another edition of SSOTW. I have a distinct feeling there are going to be many nominees.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hell Week

Faithful readers, I've been away at ranges for the past three days and haven't found time to sling ink at this sorrowful rag and the sordid details it is inspired by. Every night of this week we have been released past midnight at the earliest, 3 AM the latest. What is most puzzling is that the past two weeks were filled with idle time; we literally did nothing all day. But this whole month is plagued with ranges, day and night. It's not only draining physically but emotionally, and they chose to dump it all on us as we prepare to leave for Iraq in June. I lost the ability to be baffled, shocked, bewildered or surprised a long time ago by the reckless inefficiency that the Army holds as its highest dishonor. I feel bad for the guys that have a family here, kids or a wife, that will be seperated from them for a year come this June and they spend this week sleeping on my couch, because going home is too far and will take too long in the morning. Instead we spend the days and nights on bullshit needless ranges that serve no purpose except unabridged tension and stress. I will go into detail about one of the ranges on Friday or Saturday, as it surely qualifies as Stupid Shit of The Week™. I'd say it is the clear cut winner of the (prestigious?) weekly award, but it's only early Thursday morning. There's still two more ranges this week! But for a taste of something, anything, here's an SUV that plowed into a Stryker:

Ahahaha, aaaah

Seven hours from now, I begin the process over. A range from 9 AM to whenever. The only difference is that I moved one day closer to the light. 569 days until I get there.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stupid Shit of The Week™

Every week, I'm going to pick out something that happened in the past five days that was the most assinine, redundant or worthless waste of time and effort. I've been carrying my camera everywhere in hopes to chronicle potential winners. The nominees this week:

  • Military ball
  • MILES Detail
  • Range support
  • Doing nothing all day but getting released at 5PM

And the winner is:

MILES Detail!

For the uninitiated, MILES is a laser tag of sorts we use. Transmitters are attached to guns that fire when you pull the trigger with blanks in the weapon. Receivers are worn on your person or on vehicles, and you 'die' if it beeps. It sounds like good training can come out of this, right? The problem is it never works. Ever. They always malfunction or plain don't work. There are even officials that watch over a mock battle and 'kill off' people who have been shot at. The Army spends untolds millions for this equipment and even has civilians to maintain it in warehouses. This past week was all about unloading them from connexes to make sure everything is there before we turn it into the warehouse. Now there are two things wrong with what happened: they waited until 3PM to start, and the contents have already been checked and confirmed. Twice. It took awhile because the cases are massive and many need to be carried by 2-4 people, and of course higher ranking guys are standing around with their hands in their pockets telling us to hurry up while they tell yo momma jokes. I understand privileges come with rank, but they want to get home quick yet refuse to help speed it along. A very obvious Catch 22.


Above: Soldiers find out what isn't on
recruiting posters.

It doesn't end there. While we're waiting for two hours for the checklist of contents, we're told to clean the equipment on the inside, which had been done after we got back from NTC. After that is completed, we receive word to clean the boxes themselves. The outsides even, though later it's going to be transported in a dirty truck on its way to a dirty warehouse to be stored on the dirty ground. That moment right there sealed the detail for Stupid Shit of The Week™.


Above: Futile efforts.

Get to work!

Foreground: Soldier hard at work.
Background: Superiors fucking off.

It was only a four day work week, mind you.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"What do you do in the Army?"

It's hard to describe what I do to people who have little or no knowledge of the workings of the Army. Now I have a new way of illustrating what I do every day.

Reenlist today!

If you were expecting a picture of elaborate training missions or a range or finding a cure for cancer, sorry.


First and foremost

Army of Dude:
1. The state of the Army when overtaken by Generation Y kids. Long hair prevails, little or no kneejerk respect shown to superiors and a relaxed work environment that is a fast acting poison in an archaic bureaucracy.
2. The term replacing the advertising slogan "Army of One," which isn't a very slick campaign. There would be more recruits with "Dude, the Army will totally pay for college." They're selling a product, not a career.

After much ushering from a friend to relate my experiences in this man's Army, I decided to create this here blog for e-posterity. I graduated from high school in May of 2003 and had already decided that the Army was what I wanted to experience. I grew up reading books about Audie Murphy and Patton and devouring volumes of war history. I felt it was a needed shot to the arm to my fading motivation and direction in life. I enlisted for three years on August 5, 2004 as an infantryman. I completed training on Nov 24, 2004 and was sent to Ft. Lewis, WA as part of the Stryker Brigade, the new medium weight vehicles recently adopted by the Army. They had just recently returned from Iraq when I got to my unit in December. After two trips to Yakima Training Center and National Training Center and more than a year of training, the unit is going back to Iraq this summer.
But this is not a blog to sing the high praises of my chosen profession, but rather a tool of expression for my disdain for the day in and day out mountains of bullshit and mundanity that I climb every day of the week dear reader, and it is a shame I didn't begin this along with my career. There is an endless amount of moments that could have been recorded that would make the average Joe Taxpayer shake his head in shocked disbelief. But to catch you up:
Today we were issued the last of the equipment that we need before going overseas. This includes superfluous ballistic paneling along the neck and groin that would offer no realistic protection from shrapnel. Armor plates were also issued that are heavier than previous incarnations. Millions in R&D really paid off I'm sure. They're still inferior to civilian alternatives if you were wondering. The plates given to us will crack if dropped right. A Dragon Skin plate will stop an AK-47 round at 20 feet. I figured that issuing everyone Dragon Skin plates would cost more than the life insurance payouts the Army is paying to dead solider's families who would otherwise have lived with better plates. Cold equations. Also included: Uniforms with velcro patches and nametapes, for fast ripping action. Pressumbly during a capture, you can shed any proof you are in the American military, including your flag, unit patch, name and 'US Army' tape. This will leave the enemy clueless about your affiliation. Forget about how the nameless uniforms promote theft, or how it fails to blend into any environment that doesn't look like a blue Atari game.


More to come.