12.31.2007

300

I take my benedryl sometime in the later afternoon, early evening and lay down. This is supposed to help with the whole sleep thing, and as a result, curb my anxiety.




We're out there yet again, and this time, Iraq doesn't bear any semblence to home. We're on foot, and everything has an orange tint to it, hot, moist sand and trash fires. From underneath a bridge, a crowd of people dissipates as we approach. One of them bends down and lights a cloth hanging out of a bottle of Jack Daniels.

In the back of my mind, I wonder if JD can even burn.

"Molotov cocktail!"

He throws it as we scatter and it smashes next to a rusted out car and explodes in alcohol flames. Everyone rushes to put any small fires on themselves out. The Thrower turns tail and runs under the bridge.

"Where the fuck is my M4?!"

This time, all of us don't have our weapons. Atleast we've got our gear. I see my M4 laying on the ground and I snatch it up. The center is on fire and I blow on it like an idiot, until I'm light headed and I slap the remaining embers off.

And then I run under the bridge. The Boss calls back, "Wait for First Sergeant before we do actions on the objective!"

Really, do fuck off. That would be great.

I see The Thrower and a friend with body armor sneaking along a ledge with chain link fence on it, like a downward ramp leading into a warehouse or parking garage. And I think to myself, "This is it. We've got positive identification for once, there's no jerking our dicks about this one."

So I put my little red dot on the center of The Thrower's face and squeeze the trigger. The round impacts in the side of his temple and behind his ski mask, his eyes go dark, and his body goes limp. His friend clutches him with one arm and hangs on to the fence with the other.

I put the dot on his fat curly-haired head and squeeze.

Nothing.




No hand wakes me up. It's just me, in bed at 11:00 at night, through a haze of benedryl. And now I'm up for the night. These dreams aren't even terrifying, they're just haunting in a strange sense. And then they're gone, leaving me to count down the hours, or the months.

And that neighbor of mine fucks with his plastic drawers again, and the sounds echo in the quiet of the tent and that hungover sensitivity drives me halfway insane and for a second, I offhandedly consider picking up those plastic drawers and throwing them outside, like they're the one little thing precluding me from getting some really great sleep.

But he's done and I forgive his drawers now that they've shut the hell up and now there's nothing but the sound of helicopters somewhere, and that's ambient noise as far as I'm concerned. It's the outgoing artillery that constitutes as "severe disruption".

Now, however, it's time to stop mashing the keyboard, waste some time on Al Gore's Horrible Invention and then try to sleep again. I figure it's 50/50, I either dream about Iraq or about weed. Explain THAT one to your pharmacist.

12.30.2007

One post away from 300 between the old site and the new one. Figured the machine would have ground me up by now. In any case, here's a little something to sum up the general feel of a certain group of us.




[wtf mate? i cant clik it lolz. http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/5283/1455/1600/SF-FTAbw.jpg That's where I stole it.]

American Short-Timer hasn't written in a long time. Guess this one's for you pal. We've got it covered now.

12.29.2007

I pressed the PUBLISH POST button and sat back, pleased with myself and filled with anticipation for the mixed reactions my last post would get. And I breathe a sigh of relief, because until then, I'd felt like I had written myself into a corner, and because of who reads this, I have to watch what I talk about. Like a cornered animal, I lashed out with the best I had, pushed the envelop that was pushing me. This would be interesting, I knew, and I went to bed.




My hometown has merged with Iraq. The two have been melded and usurped and twisted and raped together into a dispicable mess.

Our outpost, more of a safehouse than anything else, has been moved. It's no longer across the street from the bombed out, looted, dilapidated Blockbuster. This isn't even the same building that IS across from that sad Blockbuster. It's an Iraqi house, empty and barren like they always are.

I'm at this former safehouse with some girl, God knows who, and two of my younger brothers. Iraqis mill about in the streets. Some, in the house. We bullshit in broken languages, and then one comes in and warns us that some al Qaeda dicks caught wind that we were here, and were on the way.

I don't have body armor or any gear in this one either. And this time, I don't even have a weapon. I yell at this unknown female to grab one of the brothers and get him out and I grab the other one by the back of the neck and practically throw him through the door. He doesn't appreciate this, but I really don't care at this point. She gets both of them out of dodge, who knows where. I walk casually down the street a few blocks to the new safehouse.

This one is also Iraqi, yellow-beige in color, dead bushes growing around it, but instead of a courtyard wall it's primarily an iron fence with shit growing against the gate. Trash and mud everywhere. The color is the same monochromatic lifeless, bleak sandy hue of the most forsaken place I can ever fathom. I shoot the shit with the guy on gate guard.

"You know man, you should probably come inside or something before someone picks you off." Some of my friends are actually quite bright.

I walk inside, and this place is huge, but it's packed with soldiers. Females even. It's like someone crammed the entire FOB into this one large building. The ones I don't know, the ones in the clean uniforms, they ask me to smuggle them some DVDs next time I go out. Most of my friends are working, pulling guard. One of them decides to be an amiable wise-ass and ask when the hell I'm going to pull guard.

I leave. I don't know why I leave. The sense that I really don't belong there, that my presence itself, though appreciated by them, is obscenely pretentious.

And now it's dark out and I'm on the rooftop of that old safehouse again, with nothing but an ACU patterned GoreTex jacket. No weapon. I lay as flat as I can, there are no walls on this roof. Just rubble, and rocks. Instead of the sand color, this roof is concrete, gravelly. For once my uniform is actual camouflage.

I watch from atop while men with their faces covered come out of the woodwork and the locals bend to their will, rather than being shot on the spot. They all tote AK-47s and wear the checkered cloth headresses wrapped on their heads and over their faces. And they go to work, preparing to screw with the collective I belong to. And of course, I'm unarmed.

Except a pen. I pull out my pen and start writing on pieces of rock. I just keep writing everything I see. I observe and gather all the intel I can, and I keep on writing, to pass these on to the guys if I ever get the chance.





Someone shakes me awake. I go to work, with the people who give me shit about being "paranoid", the ones who tell me to stop cluttering the fucking net, while they proceed to talk about bullshit and make idiotic remarks. This is a privelege that I for some reason, do not have.

Each time the radio beeps I become that much more livid. The medic tolerates my bitching because he's a good-natured guy. I fume and cuss and scream a little, shake my head a lot. And then I key my mic.

"Hey, [Stryker behind my truck], when you pass this blue truck here, watch the driver. He's straight up observing our trucks like he's doing an inventory or something."

The radio beeps.

".....Ok..." comes the smartass reply.

So I'm the idiot. Everyone's complacent, because fuck it, it can't happen to THEM. And you know what, odds are, it probably won't, God willing. So why can't I get with the program, say "Fuck it" and join the discussion about college football? Why the hell won't I stop giving a shit about my job, and about learning about this place?

Because you're an idiot and an embarassment to Joes, army-wide. Your job is to pull security and be stupid and ignorant. You don't need to know anything, 'cept when they expect you to know the name is this route or that route, despite the exasperated sighs and Fuck Yous you get when you ask a question.

Nobody along the road waves, they mean-mug us as we drive by. I stare at each and every vehicle pulled over on the side of the road, and I picture what it would look like if one of them was packed with explosives. Would look like a whole lot of nothing to me, that's what it would look like.




At the large FOB we're stopped at, this supposedly GREAT PX for electronics and whatnot turns out to be another bland understocked joke. The books and magazines are all the throwbacks that anyone even pseudo-intellectual would mentally associate with cellophane-wrapped logs of dogshit.

"Stay stupid America, stay docile and stupid..." I say to no one in particular. This PX is civilized and unfulfilling at the same time. The same small generic PX everywhere you go, stocked with crap. NO-XPLODE and MESOTECH and a billion bodybuilding supplements, hemmerhoid cream, an abundancy of "nasal decongestents" (these are also stimulants. Pseudoephedrine is one of the three key ingredients to methamphetamine) though there's no conspiracy here, I'm just pissy.

"Where the fuck are the pills and supplements that keep you from fucking choking somebody?"

I settle on a bottle of B12 vitamins. Says it promotes healthy blood cells or some shit. That's got to be good for you. Better than nothing.

It isn't even that crowded and I still want to flip the fuck out. I don't want any of these assholes around me, never you mind the fact that they're pissed off homesick servicemembers just like me. My pulse quickens and blood boils and I grab Stephen King's "Danse Macabre" (I don't see a tab to underline books) and something else.

Yes, by the grace of God an idea strikes me and my epiphany affords me an opportunity for innocent vengeance that will not only blow off a little steam and make me laugh, but SHOULDN'T land me in much, if ANY trouble.

And if it does, so be it. I've said before that I'll either leave this place medicated or as a Private.

With that, it's time to prepare my dumbass stunt and whittle away the hours until it's time for more Iraqmares and another day of horseshit.

12.28.2007

Unhungover

This same fucking bed. Same cramped little cubicle I've built for myself. My head rests against the shelf "cubby" of my neighbor. He has one of those plastic sets of drawers as well, right next to my head. And he's always opening and closing it. All the fucking time. You know how when you're hung over, you're really sensitive to sound? Maybe I'm dehydrated.

Either way, I'm going to kill that motherfucker.

These shitty floors bend and balk under footsteps. So when people walk past my pitiful little area of operations, my neighbor's shitty wooden shelf "cubby" wobbles and hits the back of my head. I'm going to kill those motherfuckers too.

Mission's cancelled, and you'd think you'd be excited about that. But that wears off as soon as you look around and find that you don't have a fucking thing to do. Nothing but time. Time lets you think too much. Time lets your buddies' wives forsake their moral fortitude. It shoves ugly little bastard thoughts in your head, like what you COULD be doing instead of this, were you only in a civilized location, and not the "Cradle of Civilization."

"MISTA!!! MISTA!!! FOOTBALL!! YOU GIVE!!!!"

The kids chase the Strykers down, they're coming in droves. We made the mistake of handing a couple out. Word travels faster than bullets in this fucking place. It was like Dawn of the Dead, with the superfast sprinting zombies, except instead, they were little bastards. Loud, obnoxious, demanding little fucks, always holding their hands up as you pass by and demanding shit. Always wanting handouts.

My friend takes an A&W root beer (he hates them) and shakes it violently.

"Why you doing that?" I ask him.

"I'm saving it. For that ONE little fucker, the ONE kid that just REALLY pisses me off someday. He's gonna be like 'Mista! FOOTBALL!', and he'll be more of a little dick than the rest, and I'm just going to rear back and chuck this fucking soda at him and its going to explode. In fact, I hope it soaks his little dickface friends, too," he explains, having carefully thought this out.




We're out there again, and three dogs are feasting on one dead dog. The Boss grabs a paintball gun, and in the rear left air guard hatch, I grab the other one. We let loose a barrage. And this is the most fun I'll have until my friend gets a giant summer sausage in the mail. It's labeled "Big N Meaty".

Big N Meaty comes with me for a little walk to another friend's little section of the tent. He's playing Xbox 360 with headphones on, and he's not hurting anything. Completely innocent. So in the spirit of the way this world works, I choose him. I bounce Big N Meaty off of his forehead like I'm endowed with a cellophane-sealed donkey dick. I then flop it on the table, making a loud thud. And when the cock jokes begin to get old, I punt it across the tent and it smacks the far wall. You can take our freedom and our sanity and our spare time and ability to function with normal human beings, but dick jokes are something we'll always have.

So I ask myself, "If this is Purgatory, what am I paying for today?"

[EDIT: I'm trying to get into Heaven, thanks.]

12.27.2007

Shameless Plugs

I still haven't been smart enough to try to get myself revenue by letting people advertise on this bitchfest of a website, but there's a couple of things I'd like to promote, nay, recommend.

I just found out that one of my reader's son is in my company, and also blogs. And I was pretty shocked when he came back from leave and asked exactly when my dogtags fell in the toilet. So without further babble, please check out ToySoldier's False Motivation, conveniently found in my links. He's good people. And he also spent Christmas day vomiting more violently than most do on their 21st birthday. So in terms of feeling sorry for oneself, that punkass has me beat.

Next up, Doonesbury's "The Sandbox" (excellent collaborative milblog website) has just published the first volume of "The Sandbox" in print. David was cool enough to send me a copy, and there's a lot of good reading in there. I'm HTML retarded, so you may have to employ your google skills, but this one should be very easy to find until I manage to put actual links up.

And hey, while we're on the subject of fucking incredible books about Iraq, there's a shamefully undermarketed book written by Staff Sergeant David Bellavia called "House To House: An Epic Memoir Of War". This is all the description that should be necessary to let you know that you need to read this. You ready?

The book is about his experiences in Fallujah. You know, when Fallujah was the epicenter of chaos, insanity, and gunpowder? The only warning I can give you is that you NEED a lot of spare time with this one, because you aren't putting it down. And you'll finish it within two days, even if you're in Iraq "fighting turrism". I cannot stress enough how badly this book needs to be read. The first chapter chokeslams anything I've ever written, and the rest of the book goes on to firmly ensure that "Black Hawk Down" is left looking like a squirt gun fight.

That aside, play Call Of Duty 4, watch "Weeds", and do me a favor and recon In-N-Out burger because I hear that place is fucking phenomenal.

That's all I got, homies. Peace.

[EDIT: House To House be David Bellavia

The Sandbox!

WHOOOOO!]

12.25.2007

Happy Hollowdays

...I walk into the next room, squeezing my eyes shut for a second, trying to clear my vision. I'm not even sweating that badly. But I keep losing my balance.

I take another step and my shoulder slides against the wall and it's like I'm moving through quicksand. Have I been drugged?

I step on a weak spot and the floorboards give in (floor boards? Where am I?). I crash through the floor and land hard on an emergency escape ladder. And here I am in an inner-city mix, part American, part Iraqi. There's trash everywhere but there's air conditioners in the windows and brick buildings but all the interiors are like wooden shanties.

I can't stand back up. I'm not even hurt, but I can't even stand up. Everything is moving in super slow motion, everything is a smeared visual blur.

"Get the fuck up, man, Christ..."

So this pal of mine grabs my wrist and yanks me up. I fall back through a doorway and knock some woman's TV stand over. I'm on the ground again, and just outside the door I fell into, shit hits the fan, RIGHT OUT THERE but it's sounds washed out, a million miles away. It's like everything is underwater, without the water.

The chaos outside intensifies as my debilitation continues to creep over me. I roll onto my side and drag my rifle to the ready, and it weighs a hundred pounds.

And the charging handle is missing.





"Suspect? Time to get up! Merry Christmas! Santa came!"

My friend dives on me. Up to that point I was able to hide my waking state. Then the skinny fucker impacts on me and his knee comes dangerously close to smashing my balls.

"Gotta be ready in a half hour," he says.

Fuck it.

I rub my eyes and stare blankly at my walled off little cubicle of a living space. Don the uniform, throw on the battle gear, walk to the truck. Routine. Just another day, right?


The truck blows down the road and the wind whips our faces, those of us standing out of the hatches. I rest a hand on the 240Bravo while I watch the cars skim by. I briefly wonder what each person is thinking. I make sure no one comes too close to the end of our convoy. I take a picture.


We return from our initial stop and stand by. Christmas is to be held at our outpost. Sitting in the truck, pissing away the minutes, I listen to the radio traffic.

Bad shit, possible bad shit, and violence against civilians. Merry Christmas.



We pull into the outpost and everyone is there, and everyone is in great spirits. They're throwing footballs around and we drop off a feast and everyone digs in. I didn't bother.

Everyone is making the best of it and being positive, and I wander aimlessly around the sea of gravel wishing I didn't have to be part of it. I have no interest in making the best of it. I want to miss it and not even realize it was there. That whole plan, about not acknowledging the holidays this year? It doesn't work when it's shoved into your face.

So I bullshit with a few people, impatiently wander, trying to kill the time. I'm not even feeling sorry for myself. This isn't a pity party. It's just a sleight against a family tradition that I kept for 21 years.

No, I'm not going to eat your food.
No, I'm not going to gather in the festivities.

Don't get me wrong, they did a good job making do. It just wasn't for me.

I climbed into my truck and zoned out, thought about the people I SHOULD be with. I wasn't angry, I wasn't depressed. I was just there, and I was just waiting the festivity out. Because these guys definitely deserve it. I just chose to participate as less as possible. I'll celebrate MINE when I get home.

There's egg nog in my glass and I've probably drank a quart of it already, but who gives a shit? We're devouring turkey and everyone's talking, the TV is on for the kids in the living room, the house is completely packed with family and friends. The card games come next. It all goes on late into the night and some come and some go and finally the night ends and I stay up, and my little brother kicks my ass at Madden. Defeated, I too go to bed.

The younger ones wake everyone up at some ungodly hour ready to tear presents open. Everyone throws on sweatpants and the nearest shirt or a robe, anything, and they slowly coalesce into the living room. Our eyes are all puffy and half closed and our vocal cords still haven't stretched out enough to talk in anything more than guttural mumbles but the kids are alive and clawing through paper and spazzing out and the parents are smiling through their morning haze. Cameras flash and the carpet becomes covered with wrapping paper.

They watch me open mine, and they seem a little unsure since I never ask for anything, they never know what to get. But I open it up for the cameras and I'm completely satisfied each time.

They could wrap up empty boxes and I'd still be happy as a pig in shit because I'm at home.

12.19.2007

The Purgatorium

A routine trip to the motor pool, only supposed to last an hour or so ("Should be a quick fix, no biggie.") becomes an all day event when you find out that this truck you're driving is scheduled for full servicing.

Why not? Gotta do it sometime.

Or maybe it wasn't the truck. Maybe it was the patrol, or the police call, or the tower guard, or it was any number of menial tasks and numb moments, whatever it was, maybe you found yourself in a situation like this:

You light that cigarette, you know, the one you're going to give up when you go home, but for now there's no reason to. Take a drag, and you look at nothing. You can even turn around to do this. Drop your hand to your side and exhale. Your eyes scan your surroundings. It's all tan and barren and you've seen it a million times before. And there are the same people you see every day.

One is pissed off, likely about some task they have to do. A couple more are smoking and joking. But everyone's doing the same thing: ignoring the magnitude, the realization of exactly where we are and what we're doing.

That's right. That's you standing on a sea of gravel (keeps that moon dust down, y'know) looking at barriers and baskets filled with dirt. CONEX sheds and MILVAN containers, villages of CHUs (those little trailers MOST soldiers in Iraq live in....not your tent). A humvee rolls by and it doesn't mean anything.

That guy's bringing back a to-go plate from the chow hall. This guy's going to the gym. The phones. The internet cafe. This one's going to watch a movie. They're all going to ignore the open panorama that whispers thunderously loud "iiiiirrrraaaaaaaaq".

You choose not to see the palm trees on the side of the broken road as you roll out the gate. The kids jump up and down and demand soccer balls. The women make bread. The men stand in their gates and talk to each other. Groups congregate in front of shops. They all slide past you. You in your air guard hatch, in your multimilliondollar Stryker.

You in your $17,000 worth of equipment on you. You in your burned-out-tastebuds ether-and-xanax stupor of indifference brought on by endless repetition. You who has no idea where the world is going. You who probably never thinks about it anyway.

You who woke up for another nameless day, kneel down and jerk your bootlaces to tie them. One of them comes out right in your hand.

You who look at it with a vague feeling almost resembling confusion.

You who tucks the remaining lace in your boot anyway.

You who never uses the phones because you hate how you can never find anything worthwhile to say and neither can they. We who ALL know that the phone can never compare to being with this person. The phone that can almost never prompt the random and hilarious conversations that spring up on fishing trips. At red lights. Over the third beer and second game of pool.

You who wishes you had a better way to comfort the people you miss, other than hoping that your own absence becomes routine. You who miss graduations and 18th birthdays and anniversaries and the birth of children (possibly even your own), your kid's first step or first word or first fistfight.

You who doesn't know how The Sopranos finally ended. You who doesn't know if the Buffalo Bills even call themselves a team anymore. You who with a grudge, hopes they don't. You who will also never forgive the Dallas Cowboys.

That bored Iraq winter sun starts to set and splatters pink and orange across the clouds and everyone is milling back and forth from the chow hall. Everyone is getting through another day. Most people aren't counting. Everyone's in limbo. Everyone seems fine. Maybe everyone is a little bit numb. Maybe everyone's a LOT of bit tired.

Maybe everyone only vaguely remembers what it's like to drive a normal car. To STOP at a red light. To think that careening over the median to get through traffic is an unspeakable act. To think less of that guy dumping your french fries in a box. To smell the sweet decaying funk of commercialism in a shopping mall.

So what is it that you're doing out here? It can't technically be called "shutting down". You aren't giving up, aren't even feeling sorry for yourself most of the time. You're still keeping your eyes open and watching your corner.

Maybe you're just hibernating for a bit. And maybe you're wondering how you're going to make the transition back from Suspect to Ryan. Or what it'll be like to never tell anyone about this place.

The sun is all the way down and here and there are the fireflies of cherry tip cigarette embers doing slow arcs upward, glowing bright, fading slightly, and dropping back down again. Gravel crunches under foot and tire. For most, the day is pretty much over and it's time to embrace that sweet nothingness for as many hours as your schedule and your mind will allow you. Because tomorrow, it all happens again.

And for the most part, this isn't bad. Life in the Purgatorium is usually devoid of strong emotion. Life in the Purgatorium is a sentence of time, a test of luck and personal fortitude. It's counting down days or cigarettes or bottles of gatorade. It's wading through the echoes of a media frenzied war. It's little surprises here and there, not always good, but usually things you get accustomed to.

Life in the Purgatorium is not thinking too much. That's why the bootleg DVD sales are so high. That's why the gym is so full. That's why the MWR is always in use. Life in the Purgatorium is distracting yourself so that you can continue your dream-state trek through things that make no sense.

life in the Purgatorium is only partially asking yourself what you got yourself into, and never trying to answer that question for yourself. Life in the Purgatorium is looking forward to the things you left behind, the simple little things. It's continuing to breathe and getting yourself through the lifeless day after lifeless day.

It's doing your time.




And everyone closes their eyes and everyone lingers in that stage just before sleep, and just before they nod off, all things considered, everyone is doing just fine.

And all the while, The Purgatorium patiently and methodically feeds all of these anemic pseudo-emotions. It's only time.

12.18.2007

The New State Of The Suspect Address

I go to the shoddy movie theater to see some MP girl play her guitar and sing. And she's good, really good. But they plugged in a Christmas tree, off to the side of the stage, and it's a complete distraction.

I shift in my seat and furrow my eyebrows in slight confusion. What's the sense in this? Poor excuse for concert lights, and besides, WHAT is a Christmas Tree doing here anyway? Oh wait, it's December? Well GOLLLL-LLLLY!!! Who'da thunk it? I mean, ya coulda fooled me, bub, what with the absence of snow on the ground, with everything looking exactly the same as it always does, except not with the thermostat set to "Kenya". You shittin me, Powers That Be? You telling me that it's that Holiday Season again?

Nah, I don't buy it. There's people running around out there with suicide vests hiding weapons and planting bombs and shaking our hands and terrorizing their neighbors and threatening everyone all to create their ideal of what the country should be, and there's no snow. No one's wearing those hideous sweaters or wrapping expensive shit to give to each other.

Can't be, cuz here I am, at [X location] conducting [X mission] just last [X date] and I'm being called a Bleeding Heart for treating the locals with respect, because you see, this was the situation:

[Entry deleted, as per what may fall under OPSEC restrictions. When in doubt, cut that shit out, right?]

So yeah, it is kind of strange, I know, but the truth is that I'm actually a pretty compassionate person and I treat people the way I'd want to be treated. I just like to see a semblance of humanity now and then, and when you can cross a cultural barrier and connect with people even briefly, it's quite cool, and who knows, MAYBE these little things help us out, even if only a little. So yeah, I'll be the bleeding heart. For the common people? Yeah. I'll act the way I was raised.

But hold on, Powers That Be, you didn't completely sidetrack me here, I still wanna know: What gives? This is the month of all things Holy as well as Commercial? I'm standing out of the hatch as we drive by, and I'm waving to these kids, but they don't look like THEY'RE getting ready for Christmas.

Sorry bud, I don't buy it. I didn't acknowledge that last birthday, why would I acknowledge this poor attempt at celebrating a holiday that's all about being with your family? Sorry, but your fake plastic tree isn't going to make us feel like we're not in a war torn country a million miles away. For those who still want to acknowledge their holidays, I say go for it. But me personally? Just another day.

"What'd you do for your birthday?"

"Patrolled."

"What did you do on Thanksgiving?"

"Tower guard."

"Did you get bombed on New Years?"

"Bombed as in drunk or bombed as in shit exploded?"

Ok ok, you get it now. I'm not going to acknowledge the army's attempt at making the holidays seem....EXISTENT. So you ask yourself, "Damn man, you all right?"

The answer is a resounding yes. I'm still in this limbo and I've got my health. I've accepted everything that's happened so far and I accept that this is not the war I thought I signed up for. I've come to an understanding with The Force that's orchestrating these chicken-clusterfuck. Just slide on. You keep things simple for me, I keep things simple too, keep on trucking all Happy Go Lucky-like. Not too much to ask for.

They say violence is down XX% thanks to the Troop Surge. That's us, we're The Surge. We boarded planes and poured into all orifices of this country and impregnated it with a little more "order" and the Bad Guys don't have as much room to breathe and the "ball" is in their "court" and I'm still in limbo.

Keep it simple, and I will too: Take a knee, pull security, drink water, drive on. Scan the road, scan the rooftops, scan the windows, scan the alleys, scan it all. Bustling Third World life. And after all, why not? It's just time.

The absolute TRUTH, if you must know it, is that we're preparing for a secret operation, large scale. Our whole brigade, in fact. Very hush hush. Y'see, in a handful of months, a rather BIG handful of months, we're going to get all of our shit together, and stealthily board planes. We're invading the United States. Taking Fort Lewis first.

I've outlined a plan with my hand-picked squad. Our first objective is to secure a patrol base in the new barracks, simple. Immediately afterwards, we leave a security element in place and we mount up and drive to our next objective. Dismount at the Class 6 liquor store for a supply run. A MAJOR one.

We'll then return to said patrol base and secure it with loud music to frighten away lesser enemies, and we'll consume copious amounts of liquor to fortify our own courage, should anyone attack us. It shall be a triumphant and intoxicated last stand before we're expected to function in this strange new world.

Possible reconnassaince locations include Fox's Gentlemen's Club, depending on morale. More to follow.

12.13.2007

The Monetary Disparity

I deliver unto you exhibit D in the case of Suspect, The Deeply Disturbed And Highly Twisted Mislead Youth.

I was walking back from our GLORIOUS chow hall with a friend, you may recall him as being the one who was showered with cinderblocks in the Exploding Roof Debacle. He said that he should've gotten a job with KBR instead of the army. This opened the conversation window to our pay versus everyone else's.

Oh yes, we mentioned the journalists, the construction workers, the awesome lady at our movie theater. And then I brought up entertainers.

Y'know the type. Actors, performance artists *cough, bile dribble*, professional athletes. All paid to do things they loved and to be worshipped, and paid but GOOD. So I figure, if we aren't going to be paid as lavishly as these dicks, then perhaps things should be a little more interesting.


Channel surfing

"...catches the ball at the 20, makes his way to the 30, the 40, BOOM!!! IED and that's a fumble ladies and gentlemen!"

click.

"Jethro driving the Brawny Paper Towel car, number 57, takes the lead, this could be a great finish--BOOOOOOM! VBIED!"

Or not.

12.07.2007

The Sick Twisted Truth

I was standing in one of the air guard hatches when we got a call that there was some trouble not too far away. The driver punched the gas, followed a few twists and turns of roads, when my view down a sidestreet opens up.

Two males with AK-47s are firing on the Iraqi Army. The taller of the males takes three rounds to the chest while advancing, and still manages to stagger forward, both of them out of few.

The truck pulls forward, giving me a look down the entire street. It's crowded and these two gun nuts have their backs to me. The vehicle isn't even stopped, but for once, I've got a fucking shot and a legitimate reason to shoot.

So I start firing, not even the well aimed shots we're trained to take. Put the red dot on the guy, and squeeze squeeze squeeze, death-dealing lead ejaculations courtesy of NATO. Firing like a madman, missing half the time, shooting a little too close to civilians.

Hey, this is what we came here for right?

Wrong. It was at this point that I woke up. In my bed. Not fighting the guys we're supposed to fight.

Of course not, it isn't that kind of war anymore. You missed the boat, kid. This is the slow simmering aftermath, the dying kicks of roadkill.

On the way here to post this and check email and whatnot, thinking about all of this, I decided to be a little more honest with myself. A conversation with one of my superiors just a few minutes ago went like this:

"Morning Sir. I had a dream that we lit some people up last night."

"Lit up as in...Holiday Cheer type (I'm paraphrasing and brutally distorting what he said, but my memory and attention span is shot thanks to television)?"

"No, I mean I got to shoot the enemy for once. Y'see, it's kind of a conundrum I guess, I'm a decent, moral person, but I want to commit what you could probably call 'Legal Murder'."

"Suspect...Do you need to see combat stress?"

"No, sir, it's not like that. It's just...y'know, wanna kill the baaaaad guys, 'stead of us just getting the brunt of this, FIGHT a war a little, I don't mean like wanton slaugh--"

"You'd probably make a great case for someone [I have annihilated another paraphrase, but his sense of humor is difficult to portray through text alone]."

At this point, he went about his business, knowing better than wasting the time listening to a near-endless Suspect Tirade about the moral yin yang of loving puppies and brutally and violently destroying and annihilating our sworn invisible enemies.

But hey, I guess if I talked to the right people, I could get some crazy meds right?

Or just...never get a civilian job?

It's very simple though. Those who sign up to GO to WAR go because they WANT to kill the enemy. This is safe and socially acceptable. I've never had homicidal thoughts about normal people, not even some of these celebrities I keep hearing about. But the objective of war, in all its fucked up UNglory, is to kill each other, usually for causes and reasons that have little to do with you.

Our enemy thinks that we're completely evil etc etc etc and we....well we think that they're psychotic overzealous assholes. And well, if I'm going to be in a warzone and lose friends out here, I really don't think it's too much to ask to just kill a few of these guys. Fair is fair, right? Not like they've never tried to kill me personally.

I can even say its for my country, that's the BEAUTY of it. It's morally and socially justifiable. This type of killing is A-OK, and worthy of a slice of good ol' American Pie.

Come on, I don't bash the war, I don't bash the President, I don't bash my chain of command, I just float on with whatever I have to do. But are we really just here to be a presence? Thought in "war", you were s'posed to kill the enemy. Not shake his hand.

In other news, when I watched "Death Proof" (from the double feature "Grindhouse") I was disappointed when Rose McGowan's character was killed, because she was really sweet, witty, and cute. There's the balance.

12.04.2007

Monautomaton

The repeating cycle of day and day and indistinguishable day has resumed. We could have been here for days or for decades and we still wouldn't really be sure. Just doing our time, floating like a leaf down the sewage tributary that broke off of the River of Life. Think about this: if you were knee deep in shit long enough, would you get used to it, accept it as commonplace?

"Suspect, HORN!"

I yank the chain on the air horn to get the attention of the woman that stepped into the street as we fly towards her at 40 miles an hour. The day before, that chain was broken and I had to rig up a new one. Good thing, too. Otherwise we would probably be picking pieces of that woman out of the BirdCage. Disaster averted, and the odds of me being prescribed crazy drugs upon return are reduced a little.

"Hey, I think [lead vehicle] just hit a--"

"Yeah, we hit it too."

"Hit what?"

"Dog."

"Oh."

That's right, I'm driving again, aren't I? Simple enough, really. Keep one eye on the truck in front of you, listen for instructions, scan the road, windows and rooftops, drift this way, that way, slow down, speed up, hit the horn. Drop ramp. I'm on autopilot again.

11.28.2007

The Memorial Service Part Three

Ultimate Sacrifice. They said it. I didn't mind.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.

The Tao of Willie Nelson.

Lessons you learn in this place.

It all seems to come together and for one brief moment now and then, it puts your head halfway where it needs to be.

The speakers did a great job, I had no anger, none of that. The first volley of shots made us all jump. Just like always. Roll call was a kick to the gut. The final salute was excrutiating.

I knelt at my buddy's boot, looked at his dogtag, said, "I love you man. We'll see you when we get there."

Drive on.

The CO, the First Sergeant, platoon members and NCOs, the Sergeant Major. Handshake, hug, encouraging words. The Seargeant Major told me to keep my head up and in the game.

I told him we've got this.

It's just time, and a crazy situation, fucked up war, fucked up country, fucked up time, but that's how it is. No sense in trying to fight it. Just do your job, watch your corner, pull security, drink water, drive on.

We got this.

11.26.2007

The Wake-Up Call

It's taken me a while to write about this. Never had the time, never had the will to do so. I spent Thanksgiving in a guard tower, doing a lot of thinking.

"Suspect, what are you thankful for?"

I drew a blank. Let me back up.



We lost three guys. I'm sparing the specifics and the backgrounds and the things that make you go, "Oh man...that's so fucked...that's terrible man."

This place, this new area of operations was almost like a vacation for us. Only a few wounds now and then, nothing too major for the most part. Then the fates backhanded us, hard.

That's all I've got to say about that for now, maybe forever.

I sat in that tower, staring at the lifeless dirt and shitty brick buildings of our area of operations and let my mind run loose. There was no controlling it at this point anyway.

I thought about my friend, who was one of the three we lost. I thought about him a lot. A lot of these thoughts made me laugh. That's the kind of guy he was. I thought about how unreal it all is. I thought about how little sense it makes.

I thought about all the huge and tiny factors involved in this conflict and how illogical and base and Typical of Mankind it all is. I thought about a lot of things. Hours of nothing but time to kill, dusty space to stare at.

I wrote about a previous memorial service. I fumed, angrily, ignorantly, with reckless abandon. I wrote shit that I didn't necessarily believe, in that confused and mixed up way people get when these things happen. I thought about that phrase "Ultimate sacrifice" and how we're going to hear it again.

Well so be it. I guess I can wrap my head around what people mean when they say it. Sure, no one is raising their hand and saying, "Sir, I'm not doing anything Wednesday, I'll take the hit. Beats having to eat this chow!" [Laugh track].

But it is an 'ultimate sacrifice', even if we don't realize it.


This was a heavy hit for all of us. Some guys are seriously fucked up about it. But I guess the mentality I'm clinging to is that these things happen and it's too late to change it, and there isn't a lot we can do. Just do our jobs. It sounds almost submissive, but whatever. Drive on, it's all you really can do.

11.16.2007

The Porcelain Jaws of Thievery

Not everything that happens here is in any way related to political events, right and wrong, courage and bravery, boredom and depravity, bootleg DVDs and mp3 players. There's also those occasional bizarre experiences that you promise yourself you'll never tell another soul.

If THIS doesn't knock me off of the pedestal some put me on, then I guess I give up.

A while ago, I woke up as normal, and somewhere in the course of the morning ritual, I noticed that my dogtags were not on the chain around my neck. I figured it snapped as I rolled over in the night, something that happens way too often and results in constantly shrinking chains.

I found one tag and tossed it back on the chain and called it good. I doubt they even USE the things anymore. We went about our action packed Blockbuster movie ultra violent glory filled day where we took Hamburger Hill and whipped Jerry's ass in Normandy, and then we completed the Human Genome Project.

As I was getting ready for bed, I stopped in the latrine and visited my sacred Go-To stall. I'm a creature of habit (not OCD in the least, but I fall into idiosyncratic routines) and I tend to use the same John. I closed the door to the stall and turned around, catching a glimpse of something silver in the bottom of the toilet, almost completely out of view.

I leaned over a bit to get a better look and realized that it was a dogtag. This caused me to laugh, imagining some poor schmuck's misfortune of having their ID tag splash into the shitter with a tiny PLIP. I mean, that's GOTTA suck, right?

Curiosity kicks my ass and I have to try to find out whose it is, so that I can laugh at them and tell them how bad they suck at life.

I make out a few familiar numbers of the social security number.

[Wow, what a strange coincidence...] I think. I lean a little more, crouching down.

I see CHR-NO-DENOM.

[Isn't that what MY dogtags say? That's really weird...]

Denial is saving my sanity at this point, but my bastard brain HAS to know. I'm torn in two directions. I want to know, and I KNOW I don't want to know. This is like fighting the irresistible urge to scratch a huge mosquito bite after staring at it for ten minutes and enduring it. Or worse.

I see letters that start to spell my name.

"Oh dude, no, no fucking way...NO...WAY."

I had forgotten about the broken chain until this horrible, despicable, merciless epiphany. It dawned on me like nuclear fallout.

"GOD, NO!!! WHY?!!"

I clutch the one tag still hanging around my neck, like I was seeking comfort or something. Some kind of assurance that I was wrong, and I had all my ducks in a row.

[No way, guy. Your dogtag is in the shitter. You suck, a LOT.]

"GOD!! How the hell?!"

[How many people do you think SHIT on your dogtag?]

I want my evil side of my conscience to shut the hell up. I want to let the dogtag go and forget all about it, to write it off as a loss. I nearly finalize this decision when the Asshole In Me speaks up again.

[What, you just gonna leave it there? With your SOCIAL stamped on it?]


"FUUUUUCK!!!!"

I inspect the bowl. Do I risk identity theft, or do I reach into a fucking TOILET?

The toilet, for once, is immaculately clean. No shit streaks or anything, and this is one of those low-fill toilets. It's like God Himself gave me that one bit of leeway, just to get me to reach in there.

[Hahahaha, people take some NASTY dookers in there. Got a shoulder-length rubber glove?]

The mental tetherball is way too much for me, and like Ewan MacGregor diving for opium suppositories in the movie "Trainspotting", I say fuck it and go for it. I snatch my dogtag up, immediately filled with shame, self loathing, and bafflement as to how in the hell something like this could happen to such a good person like me.

And then I think about some of the unspeakable things I've done with complete disregard for others. I laugh about it.

Then I remember that I just had my hand in a toilet. I turn around and crash through the stall to the sink and begin scrubbing myself like a rape victim. I practically incinerate my dog tag in hot water and scrub it again. Then I wash myself yet again. I curse my recruiter, I curse everyone responsible for the Iraq war, I curse myself, I curse the cheap design of the chain we use, I curse that goddamn toilet, I curse God for not coming up with a more creative response to the human need to excrete waste.

And then I throw my dogtag into a storage box and forget completely about it. I'm ashamed of myself for reliving this story. I hope you laugh long and hard, damn you.

11.10.2007

The Voice Of God

A fierce and angry, soul snatching claw wraps around my ankle and jerks at my sleeping bag. I look over my shoulder with perma-sealed sleep eyes and my headphones fall halfway off of my head.

"Wake up, CO needs one vehicle crew to be ready to roll in 20 minutes."

I look at the clock on my computer. The math doesn't add up, because wakeup was supposed to be 0630, but it was clearly two in the morning. No, something about this doesn't add up at all.

I put my uniform on in a stupor, wondering what the hell the deal was. Today's mission was supposed to be another routine borefest, but not in the small hours of the morning. Bullshit.

Out at the trucks, we sucked down tiny cans of RipIt, the Army's outsourced energy fuel since RedBull is made by liberal Nazis or something. We waited to leave, rubbing the hibernation sickness out of our eyes.



Standing out of the air guard hatch, flying down the road in the middle of the night with my NODs (the nightvision shit, remember?) on, the whole world has this bizarre surreal feeling to it. The street lights in the distance along with all the other ambient light create strange glows, and the scenery is all hues of green passing by at 40 miles an hour.

We reach our destination and the ramp drops. I pile out and throw the sling over my shoulder, then I start scanning for that boogeyman that isn't even there. We begin our walk to our target. Nightvision in one eye, dim street lights and shadows in the other. Speakers on top of buildings crackle and begin to play.

It's a man alone singing in Arabic. The singing comes in starts and stops, in bursts. The pause...then the next line or verse. It's that haunting Middle Eastern style, the blatantly religious one man choir. Call to Prayer? Or Call to Arms?

My shadow follows me along the walls of courtyards, from the corner of my eye I can see my reflection, all that gear, the rifle, the helmet, and the nightvision optic jutting out. I'm carrying a loadout worth more than my entire enlistment bonus.

The voice starts and stops and we go about our friendly American-style wakeup procedures. Five Star Hotel in nature.




They have some interesting music that creates an odd mood. But then again, so do we.

It was mid afternoon and I was slouching in the back of one of our trucks. We had rigged up speakers and a subwoofer, and I brought my laptop to plug in so we could have some music on another long and boring day. Until a surprise command of "Dismount" slaps me out of my stupor.

"The Mark Has Been Made" by Nine Inch Nails (the most commonly repeated song in the film "Man On Fire") is playing as the ramp lowers. Just as the song gets cold and ugly and the drums kick in to deliver that ragged badass moment, we step off of the truck. An old man with the headdress and all is sitting twenty feet away from us, staring. Kids were running around in the field, and now all their eyes were fixed on us. Wonder what kind of moment they had.

11.06.2007

The Rollover

Once again, I found myself behind the wheel of one of the big green monsters, larger mission, plenty of US flags running around. I wasn't even remotely tired the night before, so I didn't bother to go to sleep. Figured I'd get plenty of sleep in during the mission. How's that for American work ethic?

We puttered along for two solid hours before we finally stopped. I reclined and slept as was planned, except for when I had to move the truck or drop the ramp or cure cancer. Before long (quite a few more hours), it was time for us to leave. Feeling rested, I put the truck in gear and prepared to follow our convoy out of the area.

The thing is, to EXIT this particular area, we had to drive over a narrow strip of land with a deep ditch on both sides of it. No problem, right? Handled it just fine coming in. Truck after truck crossed it without incident. Then comes my turn, the last vehicle to cross. We get about halfway across when the ground on the right side starts giving out. The truck leans to the right. Thing is, you get used to Strykers leaning this way and that, so for that first second or so, it seemed normal. You know, until it kept on leaning. This is my thought process versus what came out of my mouth.

Thought: We are clearly about to roll over, and this is going to be bad. My vehicle commander is probably going to be ejected from his hatch and crushed to death and it will be all my fault for being an idiot and a shitty driver. This is really bad.

Spoken: FUCK!!! FUCK!!! FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK!!!! FU---Oompf!........fuck...fuck. Ow, god......fuck.

The Stryker was on its right side, wedged in the canal, so that it didn't roll completely over. Instead it was suspended in this bizarre angle. But enough about that, let's talk about ME.

All my weight was on my right side (see also: Arm) pinned against the wall, which was at that point more or less the new floor. My head was stuffed up against the roof of the hatch, also trying out a new floor position. I couldn't reach the lever to recline my seat to climb out through the back (see also: really old post about the underwater rollover training we did. Then read: OBSOLETE). I couldn't get my hatch open for the life of me. I triple checked to make sure it wasn't locked.

"SUSPECT!! ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!"

"FUCK!"

"Are you hurt?"

"Nah, I think I'm fine. FUCK!!!"

"Can you get out?"

"TRYING THAT IDEA OUT RIGHT NOW, SERGEANT! LOOKED BETTER ON PAPER."

Well, my vehicle commander seems to be doing just fine.

All right, douchebag, calm down. Breathe. Good thing you aren't claustrophobic huh? HAHAHAHA. Dumbass. Now get yourself out and meet your shame like a good little idiot.

I clawed around, tried to shift weight, tried to place my feet somewhere besides IN THE AIR. No such luck. I didn't think to press the button to lower the seat platform (technically RAISE it at this point), and it probably wouldn't have worked anyway since pretty much every system we had went down. Through my periscopes, I could see people coming down into the ditch to gawk and/or help. No luck getting the hatch open.

And now people are yelling random things to me. Fuck them, I need to focus on getting out. What a shitty day.

I finally managed to recline the seat a slight amount. The funny thing about trying to get out was that I still had my body armor on, and you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but it's actually a BITCH to move around in an enclosed space with all that shit on. But take my word for it.

I immediately gave up trying to climb out in the state I was in. So I ripped my helmet off (it was rotated sideways over my face anyway) and threw it to the mangled wreckage that was the back of the truck. From that one glance backwards that I took, it became apparent to me that Shiva the Destroyer stopped by the completely fuck this vehicle's world up. Nothing was in place. It had a very doomed feeling about it.

As a result, I elected to tear my body armor off and throw it, too.

I crawled through the obscenely narrow space and fell on my ass against one wall, tangling up in cords and hoses and gear and fuck-knows-what. Grabbed my M4, tossed it out the vehicle commander's hatch to whoever the hell was out there. My shotgun received the same treatment. Neither were loaded. Next came the body armor. I strapped the helmet back on, tossed out my knee pads and any other gear of mine (or anyone else's) that I could find, and then I half climbed/half fell out of the hatch, dusted myself off, and put my gear back on. Slapped a magazine into the battered, run over M4 (that's right, I still got it) and climbed up the ditch where I learned to say, "Yeah, I'm fine" as a new "hello, good to see you too."

I pulled security while we tried to decide on the best approach to get the truck out of the ditch. [God, we should be halfway to the FOB by now...]

One Stryker hooks up it's winch and pulls for dear life. Nothing. The sun starts to set. I pull out my night vision and set it up, very pissed off at myself and more or less feeling like the most incapable, bumbling idiot ever passed along by Uncle Sam's nonchalant number-crunching ass.

Eventually, it took a wrecker and two Strykers to pull the monster out. And one of the Strykers that was pulling was damaged in the process. Messed up a differential or something.

[We would have been already fueled up, and done with....EVERYTHING...by now. Great.]

We gathered up all the spilled debris and all other manner of assorted bullshit and eventually made it the hell out of there.

I spent the next two days in the motor pool repairing that fucking truck.

Other than that, I'm doing pretty good.

10.16.2007

Ryan, I hope you don't mind me posting this...I read it and thought of you. Like we talked about before, I don't care if you think it's dumb when people tell you thanks because after all, you're "just doing your job"...you guys still put up with a lot. While I know this particular unit is from Maryland, it still reminded me of you. It's from http://www.democratherald.com/dhblogs/patrick_lair/?p=4.

Hats Off to the Infantry
by Patrick Lair

As our unit is only made up of about 20 members, we are usually thrown in with larger units for training purposes.

We recently had the opportunity to train with an infantry battalion from Maryland for a couple days. The experience just reinforced my respect for our riflemen.

This battalion is made up of several hundred guys from all walks of life, ranging from teenagers to men in their mid 50’s. Some are fresh recruits and some have been to Iraq or Afghanistan multiple times. One even served as a machine gunner in Vietnam.

Anyone unfamiliar with infantrymen is likely to find them gruff and rude at first blush.

When gathered in a training environment, they are not polite in most regards. They are often loud, aggressive, proud and vulgar.

This is forgivable, though, once you understand the nature of their job.

Infantrymen are treated like dirt most of the time, with the understanding that grinding labor under austere conditions makes a person lean and mean.

However, they are the backbone of the Army, keeping up skills which every other soldier aspires to replicate. And at the end of the day, they are good-humored, good-natured people, the kind you want to accompany you on a convoy.

These Maryland guys have spent the hot summer in tents, waking early in the morning and training till late at night most days. They are expected to carry heavy loads on their backs, fire the heck out of their weapons all day and then scrub them clean that night.

They are required to maintain their own vehicles, mount and dismount heavy crew-serve weapons each day, master emergency first-aid techniques and a host of other combat-related skills.

On the battlefield, they are the first ones to take a blast from the enemy. Instead of dropping into the fetal position, as human nature inclines us to do, their job is to grab their weapons and regain fire superiority.

As public affairs, I’ve become accustomed to scribbling notes and staring into camera monitors all day. So I always felt a few steps behind these guys during our training.

At one point, as we convoyed in humvees through a rubble strewn range, our trainers announced that the guy in front of me had just been hit with an IED (for training purposes).

We sped another 500 meters into a safe area, aligned the vehicles into a protective “wagon wheel” formation and prepared to call for an air evacuation.

Before I could get to the guy in front of me, the medic from another vehicle had already rushed to our position and taken charge of the situation.

Taking orders from the medic, we fanned out our weapons to secure the area, treated the soldier for fictional wounds, placed him on a litter and carried him to a waiting helicopter.

It was all done to textbook standards, according to our trainers. And it was accomplished at combat speed in the sweltering heat, thanks to the hard-driving mentality of these guys.

Not all of them, however, live just to soldier.

One specialist said he was in the middle of his final semester of college, with plans to leave the Guard and marry his fiance this summer, when he learned he would be taking a slight detour to the Middle East.

He was mobilized one month before graduation and whisked away from his bride-to-be for more than a year.

Just another example of American service members sucking it up and completing the mission.

At the end of the exercise, my unit climbed into air-conditioned vans headed for an office where we could throw together a DVD of all the video and photos we’d captured to give to the unit.

The infantry guys gathered their carbon-crusted weapons, loaded into steaming humvees and headed back to tent city to conduct a little weapons maintenance before returning for a night fire operation.

Although my job has a lot more cushion, and some of them probably envied the heck out of me, I couldn’t help envying them a little, too.

Part of me wants to drop the camera and all the politics to just focus on running and gunning, like these guys.

I’m glad somebody does it, and I’m comforted to know that there are people like them who’ll step up and carry the heavy load at times for the rest of us.

-------------------------------------------------


"they are not polite in most regards. They are often loud, aggressive, proud and vulgar...[but] at the end of the day, they are good-humored, good-natured people, the kind you want to accompany you on a convoy."

That's you in a nutshell Doughboy... :)

10.12.2007

Mob Scene

There are few situations as fragile, volatile, and nerve-wracking as being an enforcer of sorts at a food drop. Hordes of hungry people can get ugly fast.

At first, they lined up, the way they were supposed to, and everything went just fine. We'd help them carry the massive bags of flour out of the gate to where they had been waiting. These bags are ginormous. It was emasculating for me to be struggling with them, and watching frail old women pack them onto their shoulders and shuffle away. The fact that I also wear 75 pounds of gear might help offset this.

I felt good about the mission. We're bringing FOOD to HUNGRY people? But it makes so much SENSE! Wow, so I'm NOT here for nothing? Who'da thunkit.

Before, I didn't have any idea that these people were so hungry. We just never heard about it, not at the low level I operate on (which is absolutely minimal knowledge. On any given day, I will have absolutely no clue what the mission entails, partially because I'm oblivious and should be tested for ADD). The situation in some places here is so sensitive and difficult, it's just mindblowing. I mean FUCK, this is NOT the United States, let me put it that way. It's Everything Gone Wrong. It's the scenario you pray and plead and beg never manifests itself in your home.

Because you know there isn't enough food for everyone out there, and the crowd is growing.

The lines got longer and longer, and people stopped using them. They'd all seem to think that they could be exceptions and wouldn't have to wait like everyone else. They'd come up to you in droves and start talking to you and motioning with their hands, trying to reason with you despite the fact that you know only three phrases. Your shoulders already hurt, by the way.

This is the part where you look around and yell over the crowd for the interpreter, who is busy listening to everyone else's sob stories and trying to help.

"Dude! Come on man, get over here!"

He listens and then shouts over the mob to me, "She say, 'Please, I am poor, we need everything. My husband, he killed by insurgents'..." Et cetera. We were hearing the same story from everyone. I didn't like it, but you have to be firm with these people.

"Look at those lines! Every one of them is hungry and poor, just like you! And every one of them has lost someone! You're all in this together! The only way you're getting food is if you wait in line like everyone else!"

An Iraqi soldier drops his weapon and it discharges. People move away, and like the dumbass I am, I run toward it, thumb on my safety, til I realize what the deal is.

At one point, we had to close the gates and wait inside until they finally agreed to wait in lines and you know...follow basic order. Kindergarten stuff. Except in Kindergarten, you usually aren't starving.

Before long, they're getting unruly again. The same sob story from everyone. And it's not like they're making it up either. Stories like that are very plausible in this country. So how the hell do you balance being The Good Guy with Not Getting Swallowed In A Crowd Of Zombies? You can't win them all, can't be the sweetheart all the time. The crowd of women keep pushing forward, disregarding the simple rules we set out. My skinny ass storms to the front of their group.

"WE AREN'T FUCKING SAYING IT FOR OUR GODDAMN HEALTH!!! BACK THE FUCK UP, SIT THE FUCK DOWN!!! RIGHT NOW!!!!" I raise my hand and force my open palm down, motioning for them to sit. And then I scream at them with as much Feigned Manliness as I can muster.

I'd feel like a badass for setting them straight with my thunderous voice and whatnot, but the truth is that I was armed. That was really the only negotiating tool I had that mattered. But for the purposes of this harrowing story, I'll make myself out to be the man's man. So yes, my sheer masculine roars sent the crowd into timid obedience (and not the presence of .50 cal machine guns or anything).

I was constantly moving back and forth our lines. It felt like the beginning of the Boston Massacre. My interpreter kept getting swarmed by pleading, demanding people, and he's more of a bleeding heart sucker than I am, so he was solidly swamped.

"Tell them all the same thing: We WANT to help them, we care a LOT, but the only way we can do this is if they wait in line."

"They say same thing, all of them. 'I am poor, I am hungry, I have nothing, my brother or my father or my husband, he killed before one year...'"

I shook my head, what else could we do? "I know man. You're doing just fine. Just keep telling them to get in line."

And then the food ran out.

They wouldn't seem to believe us. We'd tell them, "Maku" (it means "nothing" or "no more" or something like that) and they'd just start pleading with us. Like we were going to hold our hands out and materialize bags of food for them. There wasn't shit we could do. Except get aggressive.

We busted our asses trying to disperse the crowds, making sure to stay close together, and get back to our trucks to get the hell out of there. It was probably the most intense mission I've done, mainly because the tension is always there, right in front of you. Not like one of those sudden situations, this one was obviously delicate and could go sour with frightening ease.

On the other hand, it WAS kinda cool to take charge and scream at people. Even though you speak completely different languages. It doesn't matter what you say. One dude started screaming something like, "I LISTEN TO COUNTRY MUSIC AND BUDWEISER IS THE BEST FUCKING BEER EVER BREWED! NOW GET BACK!!!"

The worst part was that we all knew that there was enough food to go around if they all helped each other out. You know, if the people who had gotten the bags and whatnot had gotten together with the people of their community and just had a massive pot luck, it could have been so much easier. But it's like they have no communal bonds.

I'm an insufferable idealist, but fuck... Look out for your brother. We're in this together.

10.08.2007

Munchkin Land

Oh yes, the same old repetitive song and dance, how I love it. Drive one day, walk around with the radio the next. I swear I'm just along for the ride, truth be told.

The kids today all swarmed me. It's pretty much the only somewhat interesting thing about going out anymore, and even that gets old quick. Hordes of kids poking and prodding me, yanking on my gear, competing for my attention, all wanting to high five and handshake and facemake and babble to me in Arabic. I use this time to practice my Japanese.

"Mista! Shismeck! (What's your name?)"

"Batman."

They repeat it to themselves like they're trying to word out, getting a taste for it. Like feeling a new car or something. That's right, I'm Batman.

They'd crowd around me, asking for candy or soccer balls, overwhelming me with little-kid-chaos, and I was for the most part cool with it. "That's right, little children, swarm! Swarm around me as I take a knee here. Hopefully no one will shoot me now."

To me, it's all the same faces, the same streets, same everything. Meet new people but they're still the same. See new houses but still, you've already been there. Post the same post I did last time because it's all one huge deja vu, repetitive and surreal.

Someday the dream will end.

Yes, I'll wake up in my bed in Montana someday and just lay there. I'll lay there and ponder, until I start to question whether I was ever in the army or not. Because one day, I'll leave this place, and it'll be almost like I was never here. That alternate life discontinued, the original life taken off hold, off the back burner, put back in the driver's seat with a new perspective. Enjoy it. The clean country, advanced civilization, taking things for granted, the good life, a house on Easy Street. Complaining about little shit. Why not?






Perspective is easy to lose out here, I gotta tell ya. All them fancy ideals and beliefs and all that delicious horseshit we swallowed by the shovelfull just doesn't cut the mustard some days, and all the wasted time, the countless hours spent waiting at an outpost or sitting in a truck or walking around a neighborhood that'll be completely quiet and peaceful and bad-guy free until you leave and someone gets murdered, it all just seems like a big messy nothing. A paradox of bullshit.

That's why you have to have something, ANYTHING to keep you into it. The politics of it don't make sense? You said it pal. So what then? Your recruiter lied? Hahaha, you too huh? Failed operation, repeat of Vietnam? You really think that? You being a liberal, boy? So you lost the taste for all of this, and that's the bottom line?

Well fuckin A, Suspect, that just isn't good enough. You're still here [YOU SIGNED A CONTRACT, JOE, NOW EAT IT!], so you should make the best of your time and try to do something. Well what then?

"Cover the story." Simple enough, right? Let them mad little piss and vinegar keystrokes of yours flurry until yet another barely comprehensible rant is slapped onto the web, because there isn't really anything else constructive to do. You're here to survive and forget about it all right? Well people are reading, for who knows how many reasons. So cover the story, pal.

Yeah, I can do that. Seems simple enough. But there's just one problem. It's so boring and monotonous most of the time? Guess I have to make things interesting however I can huh?



Sidenote [obligatory action scene]

"Hey, any of your guys wanna blow this?" an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) guy asks. My team leader from firefighting looks to me.

"Butters? Wanna set it off?"

I took off for the EOD truck quick fast and in a hurry. Like hell am I going to waste another day. I've got to do SOMETHING, right? Well this'll do it. I haven't blown anything up in two months now.

"All right, ya take this wire and plug it into that yellow deal, press that button to charge it, then this button to blow it," explains an EOD guy of obvious Southern origin.

Little yellow detonator rests in my hand and I rip my gloves off, hang the Oakley eye protection on my vest, and crawl to the back of the truck to watch out the window. They call up the countdown on the radio and I hold the little button to charge it. A light slowly illuminates.

"Fire in the hole, fire in the hole, fire in the hole."

I press the tiny little button. A minute amount of pressure, and explosives in the house 70 meters away explode. I can visibly see the shock wave travel across the sand in wild ripples. In movies, there are awesome fireballs. In reality, every speck of dust you never knew was there is kicked up and it swells and dissipates in the wind, but not in any quick fashion. BOOM! and then dust obscuring everything. Makes for some confusing aftermath.

"...Cool. Thanks guys," I say.

"No problem. Now, they're calling up for you. They want you on the truck behind us."

And so I walk a few dozen feet down the road to one of our Strykers. Groups of people stand in their gates from every direction, staring at the spectacle, and at me. For a moment, I wonder if they think or know that I set off those charges. Then the ramp drops and I pile in. Who cares, right? It was kind of cool.

[Resume monotony.]

10.01.2007

Stryker Sandwich

It was yet another boring horrible mind numbing monotonous nauseating suckfest of a day, repetitive and relentless with more than a dash of dull. I was sitting in the back of the Stryker, looking at my assault pack holding my radio with a complete and absolute disdain that would melt the face off of any average Hot Topic goth wannabe. Being that we were undermanned, I was the only one actually sitting down. I contemplated standing in the unoccupied air guard hatch, my friend was in the other. After a careful bout of deliberation (a solid three seconds), I decided that no, I would not follow that course of action. I was going to be walking around with that radio on my back all day long, and to be honest, I'm a whiney little baby.



So I slouched on the bench while my ass went steadily numb, and I hooked my hand through one of the straps hanging from the ceiling. It held my wrist like an untightened noose. We slowed or stopped or something, and all this dust started pouring through the hatches.



"Wow, that's a lot of dust," I thought, and I was immediately thrown in the direction of the front of the truck.



I stopped, pondered. Felt like I had ALMOST maybe been close to pulling a muscle in my arm, nothing more. So what the hell was that? Did we get blown up? Was I so disoriented that my mind processed the dust BEFORE it could grasp the impact or explosion or whatever the hell that was? Can't be, because it wasn't quite like that when we got blown up on top of that house... so what then?



A second impact buried my face in my assault pack again. I now knew that it was obvious that motor vehicles of some sort were striking us. But come on, our own trucks? That can't be.



My friend is writhing around inside the truck, apparently in pain. I don't know, I guess it hurts when a massive military vehicle rear ends you doing 30-40 miles an hour. But that's probably just hearsay. Everyone's yelling at each other, shouting, "Is everyone all right?" and all that other AllState commercial gibberish. I decide that perhaps I should stand up in the hatch, since my compadre is banged up, and I don't feel like being yelled at.



"Whoa, don't drop the ramp," I told the driver. "Our ass end is like... on TOP of their truck."



What had happened was we were about to cross over a median to the other side of the road, but a seperate convoy was oncoming, so we stopped on the median to let them pass. This was also a dusty area, and kicked up a brownout. The other two trucks didn't see us stop, so the second nails us, and the third manages to slow down before smashing the second up.



A friend of mine from one of the other trucks cut his forehead pretty deep and had to be checked out for concussion and whatnot, but he's fine now, munching on percocet and watching Spongebob or something. The other guy is doing well too, just a bit stiff.



The cages on the trucks took a pretty severe beating, but it was amazing how little damage the Strykers actually took. So uh...thanks for the tax dollars. They seem to be keeping my ass quite safe.

9.17.2007

I'd been itching to get back on the ground for some time. Always driving, the same places over and over again. The same routine. Gear up, open the truck, wait, drive, wait, drive, fuel it up, close it down, sleep. Wake up. Repeat. Gargle, swish, and spit. The Groundhog Day Effect in near-lethal doses.

During these mind-numbing excursions, I'd find myself responding to radio traffic, generally serving no real purpose.

And then the company commander says, "Who is that? Is that Suspect? Wow, he's really clear over the radio. Think I'll make him my new RTO."

An RTO is the radio guy. That's the job my buddy was doing when he was killed by the sniper. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but it became a long running joke. Well, it DID until I was told one day that on our next mission, I was RTO, no joke. I grabbed a marker and left a note for my platoon sergeant on the dry erase board under the notice.

"I hate you with all of my being. Love, Suspect."

Being an RTO is somewhat like being on the ground normally, except you carry a backpack with an amazingly heavy radio, considering the bastard's small size. The funny thing is that you actually don't do much, yet some seem to think that it's always best to target the radio guy. Bile flavored irony, really.

Our boys are doing their thing, setting up, moving out, pounding the ground, being ARMY STRONG and whatnot, and I'm following The Boss around. My helmet is fucked up and I can't seem to get my nightvision to seat right, let alone focus. Two minutes into the walk, I begin to sweat like a call girl in church.

It wasn't all that long before I hear that there's someone hiding in the taller grass just off of the road we're standing on. He's by one of our vehicles and appears gives off that whole IED Trigger Man vibe. Over the radio, I hear them saying that this meets Rules of Engagement criteria, blah blah bliggety bloo.

I tell The Boss that this target can be engaged. I'm looking around for this guy, because I'd certainly love to take a few shots at some prick trying to blow people up. I really do frown on that type of behavior. I can't see him anywhere, but he's got to be RIGHT BY us, right?

An Apache flies overhead, and at first, it looks like it dropped a flair into the field. That is, til the "flare" explodes with an authoritative BANG! Oh, that's where the guy is.

A couple of minutes pass by, and then one of our guys on one of our trucks announces that there's someone who appears to be armed carrying or dragging something. He's told to engage with the 240. Cuts the guy down, and another guy runs back into the house.

I ask The Boss if he thinks the Apache had any idea how close we were. 100, 150 meters max. Cool huh?

We laid down, trying to avoid being silhouetted by vehicle lights until the sun came up. I chilled, watched the stars through night vision (they didn't do much, the stars I mean. Bummer). Once the sun came up, we heard what sounded like either wild animals in extreme distress, or women completely freaking out.

The family had found the bodies.

We made rounds around the area, cleared a few houses, talked to a few people, took a seat for a while in front of one house (my back was one pissed off motherfucker, and gladly announced it to me in a constant dull fatiguing ache). I handed out Pringles and candy and Gatorade to little kids who fought over it. Fought over who got to high-five me first. Hearts and minds, right? Yeah.

We returned to the house of the guys that were killed. Why be outside hiding in the grass at 3 AM? Unless you were trying to pull something?

The entire family were herded into two rooms, neither of which I bothered to enter. I watched chickens in the courtyard and did my best to ignore sobbing and shouting and the most eerie prayers I'd ever heard. They had retrieved the bodies and brought them out back, placed them on sleeping mats and covered them with sheets. The guy who had been hit with the 7.62mm looked like he was only asleep. They cleaned him up immaculately, must have put new clothes on him. I didn't see the other one. Out of courtesy, those of us who weren't directly involved in conversing with the family faced outwards, pretended like we were pulling security, or posing for some bullshit army brochure, a myspace picture, whatever. Come on, you all know we were imagining being somewhere else anyway. It's what we always do. Between that and the curiosity of how bad the other guy got it, that was pretty much it.

A car tried to flee the scene of a different house. Warning shot. Warning shot. Warning warning warning shot shot shot. Then everyone in the area opened up. The car stopped and two males got out. I couldn't make much out from the rooftop I was standing on, but as soon as the driver put his hands up, a grenade from an M203 grenade launcher exploded at the front of the car. From where I was, it looked like a direct hit. All I thought was, "Damn. Too little too late. That sucks."

Turns out, neither were wounded.

Is this my life? Nah, this is the Twilight Zone or something. An alternate life while the rest of the world moves on. Still killing time, that's my mission.

Oh, and to you, the reader: I'd tell it better if I had the time. Seems like every time I have something truly interesting to talk about, I don't have the time to do it justice. I'm working on that though.

Til next time. You do your thing, I'll be doing mine. Driving a big green monstrosity through Third World Escape From New York, with 2 foot tall naked toddlers standing in front of their gates while their older siblings wave and demand handouts.

Is this my life?

9.10.2007

The Barrens

I've been doing the same, day in, day out. Just recently, I've managed to atleast get out of the driver's seat.

Flying down a "road" going thirty miles an hour (by road, we mean tire tracks in the moon dust that serves as this weird planet's surface), dust kicking up and attacking our faces, goggles or not, we wave like madmen at the local kids.

They hold their hands out, demanding something. Soccer balls? Food? Weapons of Intermediate Destruction? Who cares, just play dumb. We don't have anything good, dammit, WE ATE IT ALL, MAN! JUST KEEP WAVING! Don't take your eyes off of them until we're in the clear! I've heard these monsters will eat the flesh right off of your bones when you aren't looking!

No, it isn't quite that bad, atleast not yet. The repetition is killing me, so I've got to pepper this story with outlandish lies and exaggerations. Sadly, I've got nothing. I was excited just to be behind a 240Bravo again (you know, that big belt fed 7.62mm fully automatic weapon that every kid wants for Christmas? Yeah, that). I loaded the rounds as we exited the FOB, slammed the cover down...and that was the extent of the thrill. Nothing to shoot at, never even a possible threat, barely any SUSPICION, even by the standards of paranoia.

Dear GOD, put me back in the fucking seat! Atleast then I can recline and do nothing, rather than stand in the hatch while we park for a couple thousand hours. Honestly, I do nothing these days. Nothing. No free time, no action, no bragging rights, not even any real COMPLAINING rights. You might as well stop reading right here and now.

Oh, sorry about that, my mind wandered and I decided that picking at my fingernails would be more interesting. You get where I'm going with this? I'll keep you Earthlings posted as to the non-happenings on Planet Fukkaal.

Montana Slim out.

8.29.2007

Guess What?

Limited internet time, busy schedule, and one lazy soldier, albeit safe and sound, in one piece, and full of piss and vinegar. Doing well, doing nothing, doing little things in repetitive Groundhog Day monotonous hamster wheels. Just killing time, like Buzzell said.

Update coming soon. Groovy.

8.15.2007

Reverse Evolution

Have you ever taken a moment to ponder the wonders of the opposable thumb? It allows you to grasp things, like beer bottles, and to clutch the bottle opener as well. It serves many many functions and is an integral part of our daily lives.

I am currently down by one. No no, relax, it isn't severed. I was attempting to stuff my LT's gear into a space that was clearly too small for this massively gypsy-packed monstrosity. I kicked it, I punched it, I pushed on it. And just when it seemed that I wasn't even pushing all that hard, I heard a sound and felt a feeling. This sound was very much like a wet SNAP.

My thumb bent completely backwards, and for a brief second, I thought of my younger brother, who has a double jointed thumb. Instinctively, I yanked this warped hand of mine back, and the mangled digit snapped back into place. It was over before I could fully process it. I stared at my hand in disbelief.

"Sir, did that shit just seriously happen?!"

"Yes."

"Did you HEAR that?"

"Yes."

"What in the...AAAACK! Oh, WOW, FUCK! GAAAAAH!!!!"

"Why don't you try putting that gear over there instead?"

"GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!"

The First Sergeant comes around as I hop off of the truck and lock the back in the most gimped of manners.

"What's wrong, Troop?" he asks.

"I dislocated my thumb First Sergeant. I ain't EVER seen anything like THAT before, that was way outta left field! You shoulda heard the sound it made!" At this point, I paused and contemplated the prospect of throwing up. Instead I went to the aid station, in complete shock.

"How'd you do this?"

"Dealing with LT's gear and it just snapped. It was pretty nasty. I damn near threw up. It was awesome."

"I'll bet. Get some ice and go to the TMC for X-Rays."

No broken bones, they didn't really tell me much about the results or what was wrong, but I assume it's just sprained. It's insane how it just happened to land right back in the joint. Got a brace looking splint on it, and immediately I knew the Jackoff jokes were going to flood out in torrents. I mean, come on. It's ME.

8.09.2007

Knocking On Doors

It's still dark out and one eye sees dimly with whatever moonlight there is. No power in this neighborhood, and that's the norm. The other eye sees with the NODs, the night vision, in shades of green with skewed depth perception. Nearly a dozen of you walking down the streets. Heel-toe, heel-toe. Quietly as possible. Don't kick rocks or trash. Speak in rare hushed whispers and hand signals.

The gate is locked. This isn't your standard American style gate on a flimsy chain link fence. The walls are five to six feet high and the gate is cheap metal, but it's still solid. There is no reaching through, and this one is locked. Breaching it would make way too much noise.

"Psst! Suspect! Up and over!"

I hand my M4 to a buddy and step on the plate on someone else's back as they get down on their hands and knees and hoist myself over, silently as possible. Honestly, we should just start packing ladders. Sometimes I land on pottery and plants. Other times soft ground. My knee pad scrapes the wall and I wince in a rush of Awww Shit. I grab my M4 from whoever is holding it over the side and scan real quickly as I shuffle to the gate and open it from the inside.

Can't imagine what it must be like for the people inside.

I peek through an opening of the curtains in the window to the living room. No furniture, just a couple blankets and mats laid out. Couple people sleeping on the floor. How did they not hear us? Every noise we make seems apocalyptically loud to me.

We've got the two front sides of the house surrounded, a Joe covering every corner, both doors. One tries to knock quietly, a physical oxymoron, to get the attention of the occupants while not announcing our presence to the neighborhood. Someone else starts tapping on glass.

Nothing, no movement. After a few more attempts, it's decided that we're wasting time and are staying in one place too long. We break in. Sometimes it's the shatter of glass, other times it's a door being kicked off of it's hinges, splintering the wood and scaring the hell out of everyone inside.

If that doesn't do it, cyborg-looking American death-dealing soldiers from some future era called The New Millenium charging in with obscenely bright spotlights mounted on their rifles rushing through the house, clearing it room by room, well that'll do it.

Just imagine being woken in the middle of the night to that. I laugh and shake my head when I think about it. We wouldn't stand for that.

They hand their AK over and make us tea.

8.08.2007

Hey Man! What's It Like?

That's right, fella, sorry about that, I know I've been putting you off for a while with half-assed answers and, "Ah it's ok"s. So maybe we should work on this. But first:

I've been talking to friends of mine that have already gone on leave. They say it's weird, that they catch themselves scanning when out in public, little things like that. And that their friends, obviously searching and digging for some sign of the cliche battle-weary soldier archetype, say things like, "Something's wrong, you seem different." Anyone's going to expect that.

They ask what it's like, act all interested and whatnot. When you finally tell them, it isn't long before they've had their fill, and don't really care. Back to whatever bullshit there was before.

Not me. Sorry everyone, but I won't be taking my flight in that direction. I'm going thousands of miles from anyone who knows me or anything about me, with the exception of one battle buddy. A couple weeks of completely not giving a shit (and not being punished for it), of boozing and sleeping when I want, of chasing the local women around, sight-seeing and ooh ahhing. Walking through streets that don't explode. Doing whatever the hell we want to. A million miles away. I'll come HOME when it's all said and done, when I'm not getting on a plane to come right back to this putrid sphincter.

So for those of you I won't be visiting, let's just get that "What's it like" out of the way.

Open bay tents, thirty or so guys per. Wooden floors, metal wall lockers, bunk beds. Woodland camo style ponchos strung up to section off micro-living spaces. Walk out the door.

Dirt, dust. It isn't so much sand here as it was Kuwait. It's that no-color wasted earth looking powder that's dry and covered with gravel in some vain attempt in keeping it out of the sky and out of our noses. There has never been any "sand" in my ass. Walls and walls of concrete barriers, maybe twenty feet high surrounding every little pod of tents. Gravel gravel gravel, constantina wire, waist high barriers along the sides of roads, tan humvees, white trailer housing units for the lucky ones, more barriers, endless tan dirt sea, CONEX sheds, green trees along some of the perimeter between one section of the FOB and the others. There are those shallow man-made lakes of Saddam's. Couple of his palaces, but not in my immediate area. Only time I glimpse those is when I walk back to the tent via what I call the "Funeral Route" from the chapel. Less people walk on it.

Hop into your truck and head on out the wire. Mazes of barriers and long stretches with high walls and wire strung along the tops, major potholes and dust dust dust. It's green along the main route once you get to it, you know, on the sides, and there are palm trees.

As far as the city, and the sections of it that I've been to, well take your typical urban city, minus any building taller than three stories. Sprawled out, everything tan, Mos Eisley Spaceport of Tattooine. Highways are highways, that's no different. Still bridges and overpasses, sometimes with the guardrails destroyed. A mosque as you curl around an onramp with weak fence along it, higher and higher over the ground and god forbid if your turn isn't sharp enough and you lose control and POW, off you go.

Get off of those major roads and into the neighborhoods. Still all that beige, flat houses with stairwell access to the rooftops. Maybe clothes on the line up top, maybe not. Virtually every house has a six foot high wall all around the yard, creating a courtyard of sorts. I don't ever think I've seen carpet on the floors. All tile or concrete. Most houses are really sparse, the people may be squatting on someone else's abandoned home, and maybe that someone else just split and left the country or the neighborhood, or maybe they're dead. Who knows.

People hang around on the sidewalks, atleast until I wave them off. The less observing us the better, right? The kids are shameless little monsters who don't beg, but demand money and chocolate and soccer balls. I hold my hand out and tell them sure, you can give me money. They fight, they really beat the piss out of each other too.

And now some battle buddy wants me to walk the long mile to the chow hall. Interrupted again.

Fuck it, ask questions if you care.

8.05.2007

Visuals

If you wanted to know what Baghdad looks like, watch the movie "Man On Fire". Towards the end, you see the neighborhood that "The Voice" lives in. Take that, and suck all of the color out of it. Keep the extended families living together.

This is an IP acting more or less like a complete weirdo.


Hello, door. Meet boot.


Clearing a room.

Found this while searching a house.












Dismount.





Suspect driving.