Alright, so I asked Airmanmom to ask all you, her readers, for questions that they wonder about. I did this because I have been battling a rather tough case of writers block for the past several weeks. Actually, check that, I haven’t been really blocked, its just been that there hasn’t been anything worth writing that much about because anything of any real consequence was depressing.
We hit a bunch more IED’s, someone actually got hurt this time. (Broken leg, he’ll be fine) We have to move to another FOB that is even closer to the Pakistani border, which will mean all the more fun for us in the coming months and another unit is here to replace us and we are having all sorts of power struggle issues with them. So needless to say nothing fun has been going on and nothing funny has happened lately. And as so many of you said when I was still able to write publicly, prior to some sensitive little officer getting his feelings hurt, I was always much better at writing about funny things than anything else.
Well I was getting bored, a typical state of mind for a soldier in a combat zone. Whoever said that war was 90% boredom and 10% sheer terror was a master of minimization. It’s more like 99.9999999999% and .1111111111% But enough of that. So I asked for some inspiration. And I got it. Not exactly the questions I expected, but regardless of that they were some good questions. (Be advised, the question that I expected was, “Have you ever killed anyone?” And just so you know, don’t ever ask a soldier that question, because if he answers it he is probably full of S$#%)
Without further adieu,
From Butler and Bagman: I'd like to read about daily boring routine stuff...games, shaving, details...Actually I've always wondered how soldiers keep dirt out of everything. Where do they do laundry?
The routine stuff? Really that’s what you want to hear about. Alright, so I’ll run down a average day (if there is such a thing). Now this is a day that we are not charged with guarding the FOB and spending 12 hours stuck in a tower staring at Afghani dirt and throwing cans of pop to the local ankle biters. This is also a day that we don’t have a mission outside the wire. We usually have to be up by like 0800. Breakfast begins at 0630 and goes to 0800, but most of us, myself included would rather sleep as long as we can so they can take their day old toast and runny eggs and shove them...(I have to keep the language under wraps.) Then the details begin. If there is nothing for us to do, well no matter, then they (the bosses) will just make stuff up for us to do. Clean this, organize that, move this here, move that there, check the trucks for the 9 zillionth time, test your weapons, do this, do that, blah, blah, blah...Normally these days are spent with the bosses running all over the FOB trying to figure out where the hell we all disappeared to. And us moving from this place to that while trying to avoid any and all contact with that evil thing called, “WORK”
That is the only thing I can think of that even remotely resembles a typical day. Mission days are either really boring or really insane, depending on whether or not the Taliban decided to come out and play that day or not. Or if they left us an exploding present in the ground or not. They basically consist of us getting up, getting the vehicles, weapons and all the other stuff ready, then driving around and talking to people. Pointing a gun at them and asking, “Are you the Taliban?” Real Gomer Pyle type BS. Then we come back. Fun all around.
Tower days are ridiculously boring, maddeningly so. You spend 12 hours sitting in a tower the size of a closet looking at the same thing all day, then you spend the other 12 hours of the day on standby just in case something happens.
That is pretty much what we do on “typical” days.
How do we keep dirt out of everything? We don’t.
Now, where do we do laundry? This is one where I have lucked out big time. I managed to get to a FOB where they have a “laundromat” and it is staffed by local workers. So I take my bag of nasty clothes over to them, drop it off, and the next day I get clean clothes back. They don’t fold them though, what a bunch of lazy...(yeah) So in that respect I am spoiled here. I am moving to a place though, where there are two washing machines for 150 soldiers. Needless to say, the stink level there is going to be epic. I think we are probably going to end up doing most of the laundry in buckets and hanging it outside.
From Mary Ellen: where and what do you eat? where and when do you sleep? what do you do for fun, if you have time for that? what are your buddies like and what do you do together? what kind of interaction with locals do you have? And, I'm always interested in what kinds of things we can send our soldiers to make their lives easier or more fun. I'm running out of original ideas for my adopted soldier, and she always writes 'thank you' without letting me know what she especially wants!
Where do we eat? Well they’ve got a whole building set aside just for eating. We go there between the hours of 0630 and 0800 for breakfast. 1130 and 1300 for lunch, and 1700 and 1830 for dinner. We actually get some pretty decent food, so its not half bad.
However, when we are out on mission you either eat MRE’s which are “meals ready to eat” or as most GI’s prefer to call them Mr. E’s or mysteries, because whatever it says on the bag is not necessarily what you actually eat. Or you eat whatever you grab from the chow hall and put into your truck which means you subsist on a diet of salt and vinegar chips, orange fanta and M&M’s for up to three days at a time. Always a healthy diet when you are in the military.
Where and when do we sleep? Wherever and whenever we can. There is an old adage in the military. Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand still, never stand still when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, and whenever you can lie down, GO TO SLEEP. Usually we sleep in our rooms. We’ve got buildings that serve as sleeping quarters. So we spend as much time as we can in there and horizontal.
What do we do for fun? What? Like this whole war thingy isn’t fun! Ha, but when we do get a minute or two to ourselves everyone does something different. I like to write and piss and moan about everything going on here, others like to play basketball or volleyball, others play poker, others play video games on their computers, others watch movies, some (like me) come up with practical jokes to play on their fellow soldiers. I couldn’t tell you for sure what everyone does because hell if I know. But we basically just kill time between one thing and the next. I wouldn’t worry though, for the most part the military has enough stupanity (stupidity & insanity) to keep us busy for the bulk of our deployments.
What are my buddies like and what do we do together? I have to delay answering this question just because this is one that I am actually going to sit down and think through because the personalities that we have here are so unique that there is no way I could answer this unless I had about 100 pages and 12-15 hours of your time. But never fear, I am going to work on answering this one. So stay tuned.
What kind of interaction do we have with the locals? This is fun for us. Our first interactions with the locals consisted of the local kids coming near to our towers and begging for Pepsi and Coke. And us responding by winging several cans of this stuff at them. Which we thought better of later after we had sent a few children to the medics with dented foreheads. (kidding)
Then when we started going outside the wire shortly after getting here our interaction increased exponentially. We started going on humanitarian aid missions where we got to give away clothes and blankets, and food and all sorts of stuff. That was pretty cool just because these people here have next to nothing and what we give them is appreciated. That and seeing these kids faces when you give them M&M’s or gum or any sort of candy is priceless. The unfortunate part is that we probably gave some of this stuff to Taliban members and they in turn, used our own stuff to blow us up. But such is life in Afghanistan. After that we started working with the Afghan Army and police and that was interesting to see how they fight, and how they manage this whole situation. We also run a clinic near the FOB, which is where I found that dog that was in the picture with me, now this place sucks because its where you see what the harshness of this country does to people. Normally I haven’t got much sympathy but when you see the women and children you can’t help but feel for them.
As far as what your soldier wants. I have no idea. She’s a she and I am not, I haven’t a clue what she would want. I could say that some movies wouldn’t hurt. Funny ones are usually the best, this place is depressing and could use some lightening up.
From Julie: I would love to hear what he plans to do in 163 days...can’t tell you because most of it is not the kind of thing I would like for my virtuamom to know about! Suffice it to say it involves several nice young ladies I know, a lot of booze, and I will be eating everything in sight.
From MightyMom: HOW us regular old civilians can let you our defenders know just how much we appreciate you. I mean, really and truly....do batteries and calling cards do it? letters from strangers? WHAT???
Well, I can’t answer this one for anyone but myself, so here goes. Its not necessarily the batteries and the calling cards, or the beef jerky or the candy, or the whatever that makes a difference. But all of that helps and is appreciated. Its the fact that each and every GI knows that someone, anyone back home is thinking about them. Send them emails, send them letters, send them whatever. Just take the time to think about us and I’ll be happy with that.
From Grandpa-Old Soldier: What do you do when you are not working? Hows the chow? How are you being treated by the locals? Have you been promoted during your deployment? Have you created a short timers calendar yet?
When I am not working? When is that? Kidding, I write as much as I can, I call home as often as I can, I spend a lot of time wasting time. Watching movies, laying around, smoking too many cigarettes and BS’ing with the guys. There isn’t much else to do.
The chow? I have to admit, when we aren’t out on mission and having to eat out of a bag, the chow isn’t half bad. It’s hot, it’s edible and there’s plenty of it. So I can’t complain.
Have I been promoted? Ha, don’t you remember how I used to talk about my command in my blog? Bear in mind, that is how I talked about them all the time regardless of the time and place. That being said, my attitude, coupled with my severe distaste for anything resembling authority has definitely put a hold on my career advancement. But don’t worry, its been more than worth it to me.
Short timers calendar? Yep, its on a “hot buns” calendar that I found at the PX in Bagram when I was on my way back from Qatar. It’s nice, I think you would enjoy it. The “buns” are very shapely!
From Love Letters To The Middle East: Also, it'd be interesting to know what really we can do for our soldiers. Also, my big question would be, what are the views from Soldiers on Obama's pitch to start preparing an exit strategy plan for Afghanistan. And what does he think about ending the Stop-Loss policy?
I answered the first part of the question already, I think. If I haven’t just let me know and I’ll try to do better. But as far as Obama’s pitch to start preparing an exit strategy or Afghanistan. First of all, I haven’t heard a thing about it. But anyone who is developing any plan, strategy or otherwise that involves getting me the hell out of here is A-okay with me. There aren’t enough pages in the Bible to explain exactly what I am talking about here, but the impression that I have of this war is that of a retard with a football helmet on banging his head against a brick wall. Sure its entertaining, but nothing is getting done.
The stop loss thing, well here goes. I don’t know how many of you know this but I was an active duty soldier for 5 years, 6 months and 19 days before I joined the national guard and got shipped over here. Now my original contract was for 5 years. So I got stop lossed for 6 months and 19 days. Not too long I guess, compared to what has happened to other soldiers, but it doesn’t change the fact that it sucks. I know that the military has needs and those needs get all the more pressing when there is a war going on. However, it doesn’t change the fact that we did sign the contract that said a stop loss was possible. Yet how many soldiers who were stop lossed even knew that they were subject to it when they signed the enlistment contract. I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t relieve them of their obligations just because they didn’t know about it. However, I do think that the stop loss policy should have to be thoroughly explained to all enlisting soldiers. I would have to say that if there was one contract that should contain no fine print whatsoever it is a US military enlistment contract. On a personal level though, I felt like I got 6 months and 19 days of my life stolen from me on some technicality of a contract that I signed when I was 19. Once again, I was and adult and I ate the consequences of my naivete, but it still sucked and I would rather it didn’t happen to anyone again unless they were fully aware of exactly what it was that they signed. So maybe they alter the policy as opposed to getting rid of it. Hopefully, someone a lot smarter than I figures this one out.
From Debbie: I also want to know what you plan on doing in 163 days :) Do you have someone "special" waiting for you? Do you plan on staying in the military and why or why not. Okay, this is a weird one. How do you feel (and your buddies) about removing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell?
Well, the usual answer applies to the first part of the question, I hit on that one previously from another questioner.
Do I plan on staying in? The military and I have been a weird mix ever since I joined. I am a rather large ball of contradictions. The biggest one, as it applies to the military, is my disdain for authority and my habit of questioning everything that comes down from on high. Yet, my love of the Army is such that I probably could never leave and when I am forced to by either age, death, or medical condition it will be a sad parting of ways for me. The army has provided me with such an interesting life that I would be remiss to just bail on them now or ever. Notice that I said them and not it. The military is not an it. If it were I would never have bothered to stay for so damn long. The military is all about the guys next to you. The people are all that really matter. Otherwise the army would be nothing more than funny clothes, guns and a mountain of dumb ass regulations. When you add the people to the mix, then it gets fun. I have met some of the best, worst, weirdest, and funniest people I have ever known. Without the Army I would’ve missed all of that. Not to mention, it has carried me the world over now. I am 30 years old and I can’t hardly remember all the different countries I have been in so far, and I can’t thank them enough for that. So I am staying until they throw me kicking and screaming out the front door.
Now the don’t ask, don’t tell thing. I think that the prevailing attitude amongst the soldiers is pretty much indifference to the whole thing. There are exceptions of course, but the younger generation for the most part couldn’t care less. The idea being that who you boink has little, if anything to do with how you perform in the military. The question that I would have about the whole thing is this, once you remove the policy and homosexuals are allowed to serve openly are they going to be able to handle the culture of the US military. Personally, so long as they accept the culture and norms of the military and toe the line and pull their weight just like everyone else, then screw who you want. But don’t get pissed when I crack a gay joke!
And tell Mary to shoot me her email address and she can read all about what I have been up to.
Alright, I am done now.
I love you mom...and virtuamom...