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.

8.03.2007

Shock And Purge

We had found something that we think belonged to one of the soldiers who were kidnapped earlier this year. So we're busting the right people.

My boys found more caches and a hearty Hell Yeah to that.

My friend found a dead guy. Hands tied behind his back, head cut off of course, belly down in the weeds.

"Roight! From the soize o'these maggots," he pointed, doing his best Crocodile Hunter impression. "I'd say he's only been dead a coupl'a days. Otherwoise the maggots would be FLOIES! HAHAHAHAHA!"

Iraqi security forces were called up to take care of the body. They were putting it in a bag when one of them started dry heaving at aggressive volumes. My buddy ol' pal starts to snicker until his laughter erupts. The Iraqi throws his end of the bag down.

"No! Not funny! NOT funny!"

My friend nods his head ad continues to laugh. The interpreter whirls around and yaks up an MRE.

On the way back to the FOB, I follow the EOD truck, and a gap opens of course. The big green monstrosity can't keep up as well as lighter vehicles, but my foot pins the limp-dick accelerator to the floor anyway. They pass through a checkpoint (U.S. military doesn't have to stop, because we are Greek Gods, we are rock stars, and no one tells us no head on, they need bombs and anonymity for that) that consists of concrete barriers atleast twenty feet high on one side and a rickety shack on the other. It's very narrow and two Iraqi Policemen are sitting down outside the shack, relaxing, making good money, being more or less worthless leeches in this punch-drunk attempt to save this country (country...? or is it a whole other planet? Calendars no longer apply and I've forgotten what it's like to see Lindsey Lohan's name in the tabloids, amen), when I come speeding towards this narrow passage at excessive speeds.

They see that I'm not slowing down and they leap up and out of what they thought might be harms way, and I jerk the wheel a little to further feed the illusion that they were going to be hit. I was in control of the situation the entire time, and I found it very humorous. I could hear my own voice laughing in the earphones of my headset.

Did I seriously do that? Regardless of the likelihood that they were just two more corrupt, murderous thieves abusing their position, did I seriously pull an asshole stunt like that?

Are we high? On what? Are we becoming intoxicated with the What The Hells and Oh My Gods and Here We Go Agains, the Holy Fuckin Shits and the Come The Fuck Ons that now and then, all signs point to You Have A Screw Loose, Guy?

No, not quite. Not me. I'm guilt tripping myself because a couple of uniformed guys moved as a precaution, and the look of indignation on one man's face because he had to move so suddenly struck me as comical.

The dogs had chewed meat off of the dead man's limbs, just like the guy face down in the road. Always face down. It's the only fate for men to meet out here. That guy was probably the one who tipped us off about the caches. We feel accomplished because we're bringing down a lot of weapons, and there's a fresh dead guy and a much older skull elsewhere, probably won't ever receive a mention. 'Specially if that cat HAD tipped us off, and was consequently butchered by the Ever Determined "bad guys", the guys that this bizarre world picked for the other team.

On an Iraqi Policeman's cell phone, just a picture, belly down, hands bound, head severed. Middle of the road. Face down in Iraq. Hidden in brush. Face down in Iraq. A stewing situation in this part of the world, so volatile that all it takes is the Green Light Withdrawal on our part and KABLAMMO, motherfuckers! Lights on and watch the very fabric of existence in this region split and tear. Chaos and carnage and RED MUD. Explosions and gunfire and limbless scowling survivors that get maybe a week or so before they're finished off or die of infection. Beheadings, shootings, bombings, stabbings, carbombings, space shuttle hijackings, water poisoning, fire of Allah, the wrath of Shiva, Mike Ditka in a bad mood, pandemonium, nothing but sheer aggression and slaughter here on the NEW AGE GRIDIRON where both end zones are blowing up and so is every hash mark on the field and there is no artificial turf.

Just red mud.

8.02.2007

Reclined inside the bowels of the green monster with white painted walls (to reflect light one would guess), black rubber pressed against the ears and cheeks, forcing out irritated beads of sweat.

Beep.

"Uhh...roger," EVERYONE says Roger first thing in every transmission over the net, even if they're about to respond with a negative answer. I don't get it. "This is [random call sign] uhh...we had to eh...'engage' an animal that was charging the squad..."

One of my eyes flicks open. What in the green piss?

Beep.

"Why all the shooting? Can't hit it?"

Beep.

"Uhhh....Roger, it's a cow, not going down so easy."

Take a moment to ponder the humor. I'll allow it.





Ok then. No, cows are not sacred to Iraqis. Those are the Hindus I believe. The owner was found and compensated in monetary form, and in all actuality, probably ripped us off, considering the malnourished condition of the poor excuse for a bovine now not so much different from a wedge of swiss cheese.

And now down to business, to deliver to you, the enraptured reader, the quick and dirty. It's been a great couple of days. Why you ask? Because we've been finding cache after cache, explosives, rifles, chemicals, munitions of all shapes and sizes, you name it. We've blown up so many of these caches, EOD ran out of explosives and had to use all of ours. We've taken so much shit out of the hands of these crazy zealots, its unreal. By we, I mean they.

I relax in my seat and read until it's time to leave.

The AC had gone out in the Stryker and it was an incredibly hot day. Given my tendency to disregard social norms, it wasn't long before I undid my belt and yanked my pants down to my ankles, Bill Clinton style. I relaxed in my shorts like I ran the Oval Office. And why the hell not?

CAUTION! TROUSERS MUST BE PULLED UP AROUND HIPS AND PROPERLY SECURED PRIOR TO DISENGAGING THE PARKING BRAKE.

Whatever works.