13 September 2008

More fun

than should probably be legal. Yep - we recently had NBC day! Of course, it's not "NBC" (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) anymore - now it's CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear - pronounced Sea-Bern).

Anyway, it's the same old routine. Mask on, mask off. Suit on, suit off. Suit on, help your buddy change suits.

The buddy part, of course, was a hoot.

That's me, of course, having my trousers removed in the Army-approved manner. This was not as amusing as when I had to remove my buddy's. See, practice suits are just handed out without regard to size. I had a giant one. My partner, who is a little more sturdy than I am, got a smaller one. And did I mention there's an elastic strap on the back of the jacket that one pulls up through one's legs and fastens at the bottom of the front zipper? Yeah. My partner's was pulled tight as a fiddle string.

Dude, brace yourself. I'm going to try to unhook this gently so it doesn't fly loose and snap you in the balls, but...

It's one of those things that's funny as can be in rehearsal, and yet you hope you never, ever have to do in real life. Because if my buddy's worn out one chemical suit, and we have to do team suit changes because the environment's still poison, well...that's pretty much the definition of really bad day.

11 September 2008

The reasons why we're here

We had a formation at 0700 today. Not much to look at - around 15 of us standing in the dirt with our rifles, getting ready to start the day's classes. 
The company commander took charge of the formation, put us at ease, and started to talk.  He reminded us of the date which, I'm ashamed to say, had slipped some of our minds.
That day, that attack, all our dead countrymen, he reminded us.  That moment, that morning, was why we were standing in a formation, preparing, saddling up again.  Ours not to wonder at the method, but to apply ourselved to our appointed tasks in response to that day.
Then the mood lifted, and we promoted a PV2 to Private First Class.  E-2 to E-3.  The PFC is 19.  He was 12 when those buildings came down.
The difference between sixth grade and a soldier.  That makes it seem like a long time.  It doesn't feel that way to me.

10 September 2008


In the wilds!  OK - so the tents have wood floors, bunkbeds and wall lockers.  And electricity.  And there's a PX (trailer).  And internet connectivity.  But the connectivity is spotty, and the tents are tents, so it's the field and we're roughing it.
We aren't going to be out here for very long, but I suppose it's a box that must be checked.  And we all know that those boxes will be checked.  Boxes get checked, or Soldiers die.
Sorry - I let the mob' bitterness win for a second there.  I woke up with a case of the chapped heinie this morning, and never really got my false motivation level where it belongs.
One interesting thing they've done with the "FOB" (forward operating base) concept here is play a recorded "call to prayer" over loudspeakers at the appropriate times.  One of those occurred as we were dragging bags into our tents.  One of our specialists, another recovering jarhead for whom this will be the second Big Trip, looked and me and shared his opinion.
"I really didn't miss that at all."
Sometimes, when I was in Iraq, the sun would be going down.  Dust would hang in the air, and it would be a thousand degrees.  The whole country seemed to smell of burning trash, human shit and rage.  And then the mosques would start up with the prayer call.
I don't speak Arabic, but I know what it always sounded like to me - You're about as far from home as you can get.  This place might as well be Mars, for all you understand about it.  Learn fast. 

09 September 2008

Thinking Martha Stewart thoughts

So there we were, sitting around bullshitting. I know - Soldiers sitting around bullshitting - who'd'a thunk it? It may even have been raining.

We were talking about that coolest of military toys, the real reason we all stay in - the chemlight.

(Seriously - there's the next generation of Army recruiting right there, even with a war on. Heck, especially with a war on. Join the Army, go to Iraq, and get armloads of chemlights for free! All the chemlights you could want! Even the special high-intensity bright ones!)

Somehow the conversation drifted to kitchen applications for the mini-chemlights. The ones that are like two inches long.

It first occurred to us that one could use them in Jell-o. Like fruit, only better. One doesn't want to eat chemlights, so it would be more of a centerpiece sort of thing, but still unique and eye-catching. We thought it would be a particularly groovy look with grape Jello and a Halloween theme.

But then we realized that although glowing Jell-o would be cool, we could do better. Chemlights in a festively-theme hunk of ice (probably formed in that same Jell-o mold) bobbing in a bowl of punch. At night. For a party.

Because let's be honest - Jell-o and punch are both already cool, but they'd be waaay more cool if they glowed.

It was enough to make me wish I had access to my kitchen.

[pauses, thinks]

Hold on - they are sending us home on pass in a few weeks...

08 September 2008


It was one of those 0415-wakeup mornings, and last night was a sleep-after-midnight thing.  So I set my alarm carefully, knowing that oversleeping was not an option.
In the hours so dark they really aren't even "pre-dawn," I lurched out of the rack, stripped off the shirt I sleep in, got halfway into my uniform T-shirt, and realized I couldn't hear any of the guys hurtling around in the hall.  So I glanced at my watch.  0315.
I did enjoy that "extra" hour.
It was a long day of IED lanes, and frogging around with vehicles.  The whole thing culminated with a stirring hour on "Sexual Assault Prevention."  At 1900.  The poor instructor must have thought we were ruder-than-average students, since even the guys standing in the back of the room were falling asleep.
I just topped off the day when I went in to move laundry from the washer to the dryer.  Only to realize that it washes much faster if you turn the washer on.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen.  Your tax dollars pay me to be at the pointy end, and I had my ass kicked by a washing machine.  Be afraid.  Be very, very afraid.