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.


  1. hooch said...
    You know i was in the post office the other day and they had this program where you can pay postage for a care package that is already addressed to a soldier. As i walked down the line of boxes i was reading the names and was shocked when EVERY name was for an officer. They also had a little area where they had pictures of the Soldiers accepting the boxes...all officers....all airforce (with the exception of one pictures)....there was only one specialist in one picture and he didn't look like he wanted to be there....there was even some fag major holding his m16-a1 like he was billy badass when the guy has probably never left the FOB. So my questions are...do you get care packages often and what do they hold? Do the officers that just sit on base and never leave the fence but still tell you where to go and what to do piss you off or are you so far down the chain you never deal with them?
    Anonymous said...
    Panama City, FL sounds like it might be good for you. A few days at the the beach, a few beers, a few friends trying desperately to pick up loose women, then come home.

    Anonymous said...
    Good description. Don't forget the rural areas where you drive through the open sewage and then have to change a tire. And see the little ducks and dogs that roll around in the sewage to cool off. Not to mention the endless trash piles with the cows that eat garbage walking around. Makes for good eatin'.
    Anonymous said...
    Low intensity conflict is worse than open combat. FOB officers do nothing but come up with asinine rules about what you can and can't wear to the bathroom or chow hall. Sgt. Major's enforce those rules with a vengeance since they have nothing better to do.
    E6's and below do all the dirty work outside the wire and sometimes let the incompetent LT's and E7's come along for the ride and make stupid decisions that get people hurt. The 1st Sgt's job is to listen to all the complaints. Contractors waste all our taxpayer money and do nothing to fix things they are obligated to fix in order to save KBR money. It's a wonderfully fun job.
    Anonymous said...
    What you say about people wanting to know what it's like and then stare at you blankly as you try to explain rang so true to me. People want a 30 second answer or a 1 word answer. Anything longer or more detailed can't be fathomed by civilians and they just kind of nod or change the subject.
    David M said...
    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/08/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
    Peps said...
    A while ago you got upset at me for a post I commented earlier where I said you didnt' have to take shit from other people 'cause you're doing something there not. YOu said you weren't thinking as yourself as something special, and wanted to make that clear. And as endearing as that is, no matter what someone is going to look at you differently, I just happened to be that one. Ignore it if you don't like it, but at some times everyone will be judgemental, it's why we're well people really. I didn't mean to offend you, didn't mean to make you angry. It was just a passing comment I thought about what you were doing, nothing more.

    On another note, good luck with your new trip. Have fun.
    julie anna said...
    You deserve to do what ever you want when you take leave. I hope you enjoy every minute of it.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. YOU rock, Ryan. Keep cranking out YOUR steady supply of awesome cuz I'm always reading it.
    Anonymous said...
    our society is conditioned for 'sound bites' ~ ppl THINK they want the details 'til you start giving it to them

    i completely understand why you and your friend would want to get away on leave and chase chickies, and drink and sleep and whatever
    ....but don't forget about your family, dude ~ i'm sure they're missing you to pieces ;)
    Anonymous said...
    Good for you guys, hope it's an adventure in paradise! Enjoy, enjoy!
    Jessie said...
    I have no questions to ask. Because free reign usually means I'm about as empty upstairs as Paris. ;) But for what it's worth, I do actually like knowing. Of course, we've discussed this before, so.

    Er, have fun on leave. I'm pretty sure you won't have to do much chasing. ;) Most women I know would panty drop if a soldier said hi. Just so you know. *grins*

    And random fact of the day: jellyfish come from sea polyps. Yes, yes, I might be the only person in creation that didn't know this, but damn it, it's interesting. Especially when they can wait 50 years to reproduce.
    sheena said...
    rock on...drink one for me on your leave and have a good time!! miss ya cuz
    Anonymous said...
    I'm one of those dorks who doesn't know WHAT to say, so I end up saying dumb things. Bottom line is I support you and what you're doing, no matter what, and I want you to know it. Have fun on your leave, where ever it is. :)
    Anonymous said...
    dude, bring extra condoms on your vacation
    Jenni said...
    when you go on leave, eat half a hamburger, have an irish car bomb and think of me...and i'll do one for you, (even though i think guinness is gross!) =) miss you doughboy...


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