Sunday, February 26, 2012

Eerily Beautiful

So while I was walking back from the shower this evening I had a moment of clarity and peace.  Its a strange feeling to have when you are in a war zone.  It was almost a nice spring night here, the wind was blowing through the trees of a name I do not know.  That was the only noise I heard aside from my footsteps.  When I realized I didn't hear any helicopters, trucks, people, birds etc.. and all I heard was that it was soothing, relaxing, peaceful.  Then my exact next thought was oh shit what was going to happen... luckily nothing did.  Sadly I couldn't just enjoy that moment, call it training, PTSD what ever you want to say.  Any time I have been in a situation where I had a moment of calm it was usually followed up by a few moments of sheer and utter chaos.  I then started thinking back on all the stuff I had been through in the military, while to some may not seem much, but to others is a world away.  Most people have no concept of what goes on here, they now there are bad guys and we fight them.  They know that troops do dumb things that get plastered all over the news.  They hear about or know people that have been killed over here, but no one really understands what it is like out here.  I am just a dirty contractor now, and yet I find myself longing to put that monkey suit on and go on a convoy out of the wire, to go do that hit on the house that we know is full of bad guy building IED's...  Sadly and to the joy of many back home I cannot.  I can't help it, I loved what I did, I just didn't like who was in charge.  They let me and my fellow soldiers down one to many times.  They continue to get worse too.  I occasionally talk to the soldiers out here.  Stuff they tell me they can and can't do now is sickening to here...  their hands are so tied in political bullshit that they can't even test fire their weapons.  To me that is unsatisfactory, someone in their chain of command has failed them.  To let them roll out of the wire with an unknown functional weapon to me is wrong.  So on that note I will let you all in on one story of mine.  I will change names but the story is true.

No shit there I was... (ok just wanted to start a story like that).  It was a night in Iraq like many others, 80 degrees and cold.  I was the truck commander for our little jaunt to the Regional Embassy Office in Al Hillah Iraq.  The trip its self was only about 20 min or so, but it was treated as any combat patrol should be.  I was going over the plan and personnel load out of the people on the convoy, and I noticed our cook *SSG TOM* was the .50 cal machine gunner on my truck which was the rear of the convoy.  Now for those of you who don't know SSG TOM he is not the brightest bulb in the bunch.  He was a cook, and not a very good one.  He had been our cook the whole deployment and had messed up just about every meal he had made yet for some strange reason we couldn't get rid of him.. but I digress.. Well SSG TOM had no experience as a gunner, and had been on limited convoys throughout the deployment.  He had been a driver all those other times.  I should say this was about a week before we were scheduled to go home, so a lot of guys were burnt out and not wanting to do the minuscule tasks.  So I go to the convoy commander and tell him that don't think its a good idea to put TOM on the gun.  He looks me dead in the eye and says "well he's gotta learn sometime"... Blew my mind.. a senior NCO and he says that?  I said back to him no he doesn't if he wants to learn take him to the range... but me being but a SSG and him being a SFC I wasn't going to win that battle.  He tells me not to worry because he gave him a 2 hour class prior to us leaving.  I still wasn't impressed.  So the convoy lines up to roll out, I hear the lock and load over the radio, I then hear TOM start loading the .50  only I could hear he wasn't getting the rounds to load right.  I ask him if he is ok.... no answer.  Then it sounded like he got it right, so I left it alone.  We get maybe 3 miles outside of the base and I hear him trying to load the gun again.  Pulling on the charging handle and I look up and his barrel is pointed directly at the trucks in front of us... I yell at him to find out what the hell he is doing.... no answer... by this point I am already mad and going to be having a talk with him about flagging the other vehicles... well get get to the REO and we are told to unload the weapons.  I hear him up there struggling with this... and then I hear him start beating on it. CLANK CLANK CLANK!!! Finally enough was enough.. I punch him in the leg so he has to answer me, "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING UP THERE!!!!"  he pops down from the turret and starts stumbling over his words trying to come up with something.. I finally asked him to see the round that was "jamming" and when he handed it to me it was all sorts of fucked up.  The base of the round was dented beyond repair it was the front was bent as well... I am absolutely beyond mad at this point.  I get him out of the truck and just go off on him.... I asked him why he let me leave the compound with out a loaded weapon.. "because I didn't have a flashlight on me"  I have 4 on me right now why didn't you say something... "I dunno... sorry"... next question why did you flag the front two trucks while you were trying to reload what if you had accidentally shot them? "I dunno..."  And this went on for a couple minutes more and finally I had enough I was about to destroy this kids life... so I told him to get the fuck away from me...  I went to the SFC and told him what happened in a kind of " I told you so" manner.. because I did tell him so..  Luckily the guy we were picking up there knew how to work the gun.  So the ride back he was in my gun and SSG TOM got to ride with me... he tried to talk to me once and I told him to shut it.  We get back and I called him out.  Made him tell everyone what he had done, he started crying and honestly felt bad, but I was still so frustrated.  He tried a couple more times to come talk to me finally I had to tell him that I would come to him when I was calm enough for him to talk to me....  there is more to that story of what happened later to him, but I will leave it at that for now.   

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