December 05, 2007

IraqNoPhobia - Chapter 1 Part 1

Below the fold...

03 AUG 90

 

            We walked out of the chow hall into the already blazing Alabama Friday morning. I was in the habit of stopping briefly to read the headlines on the newspaper through the plexiglass on the front of the paper vending machine. We weren’t allowed to watch TV or buy newspapers or magazines, as they were a distraction from our mission. Our mission was to become soldiers.

 

            I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned at the headlines. My “Battle Buddy” nearly knocked me over as he walked into my suddenly non-moving form. The bold print, above the fold read:

 

                        Iraq Invades Kuwait

 

            Brian said “What the hell is the matter with you Daniel?” in his almost street drawl.

            “We are going to war” I said almost at a whisper still in shock.

            “What kind of bullshit are you talkin’ bro?”

            “We are going to war” I said more firmly “Iraq just invaded Kuwait” I said as I pointed ridiculously at the paper machine.

            “So muthafucka, how does that mean WE are going to war?”

            “We have been flagging Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf for years, and won’t let Iraq do this shit…”

            “Bullshit, D, the President don’t give a shit about no Kuwait…where the hell is that anyway?”

 

Later that day after further ridicule from my squad mates for knowing entirely too much about some “Bullshit in the desert”, I finally gave up. I knew in my soul that this was to be “The War” of our generation. I knew that I would be there. What I didn’t know then, how right I was…or how long this war would really be.

  

I had joined the U.S. Army Reserve in January of 1989, when I was only 17. I had to have my mother sign a waiver allowing me to join at such a “tender” age and therefore was subject to her veto power concerning my choice of soldierly profession.

 

When I initially though of enlistment I could only see black and gold, and forest green. I wanted to be a Regular Army AirborneRanger (yes it was just one word then, at the end of the Cold War – as General Powell explained so succinctly) and then a Green Beret. Unfortunately, for my wild dreams of special operations glory, Mom wasn’t having it. She insisted on a job with more pertinence in the real world if I decided not to make a career of it, and suggested that I enlist as a reservist initially, so if I didn’t really like the Army I wouldn’t be tied down to a full time career.

 

So, back to the recruiting office I went. I was redirected to Staff Sergeant Swed, the long serving and very persuasive Army Reserve Recruiter. I explained to him my plight, and he offered up a solution instantly. He suggested that I enlist as an MP, Military Police, Soldier. He made it clear to me without actually winking or nudging me Monty Python style that whereas I would have a job title that sounded good to Mom, I would be able to do most of the “Field Work” that the Infantry types got to do, and without all of the marching, Because MPs ride into battle, Bonus! To add the frosting on the cake, six months after completion of training, I could transfer into the Regular Army if I wished.

 

So my enlistment was into a special program for High School Juniors that allowed new soldiers to attend Basic Combat Training during the summer break between the Junior and Senior year of High School, with completion of Advanced Individual Training to follow immediately after Graduation of High School. I received a fifteen hundred dollar enlistment bonus, and orders to report to the 449th MP Company (Combat Support) in Jacksonville, Florida, for two days a month pending my orders to report to Fort McClellan, Alabama for Basic Combat Training.

 

Basic was a cross between “Full Metal Jacket” and “Stripes”. The Soviets were the enemy and we learned our bayonet drills chanting our war cries in response to our Drill Sergeant’s prompt:

 

            “What is the spirit of the Bayonet?!”

            “KILL! KILL! KILL!”

 

            “What makes the grass grow Green?!”

            “BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!”

 

            What Kind of Blood?!”

            “COMMIE BLOOD!!”

 

I know to some readers this would sound a bit hokey and quite barbaric, but the business of soldiers, contrary to poplar modern belief is to engage and destroy the enemy.

 

 We trained hard and well that hot summer. The sweltering heat of the day seemed like it was designed to help the Drill Sergeants break us. Most of us knew that the screaming and profanity and constant pressure to learn, think and act as a team was all designed to weed out the weak, but some days you still felt like you couldn’t take anymore. The days that I had to dig deep for motivation, I found it easily enough. I found it in my Father, who I wanted to make proud, and in my Grandfather who fought in Europe in World War Two, had doubted my ability to hack it in Basic – I had to prove him wrong.

 

In the end, Basic Combat Training was fun and informative. We learned things that we would remember for life, “test-tuck-test-tie” when setting up a Claymore mine, “breathe-relax-aim-sight-squeeze” when shooting, and “slap-pull-observe-release-tap-shoot” when you have a rifle malfunction. We left with our little rainbow ribbon (the Army Service ribbon) and our Expert Marksmanship badges and our new title of Soldier. After being called anything BUT Soldier (mainly the disdainful and loudly pronounced “Private”) the simple moniker made us feel like we owned the world. We returned to our hometowns and went back to High School with the other kids. But we weren’t like the others any more.

 

I remember the first day of school in the gym, changing clothes and being gawked at because I had a shaved head, a fresh small pox vaccination scar and a (relatively) hard and lean body. Though I do look back at the pictures of that skinny kid and am shocked at how little I was! Some football player finally got up the nerve to ask me why I had my head shaved…I was a shy kid, and still quite a bit humble regardless of my Soldierly training. I explained that I had been to basic training over the summer break and was instantly met with disbelief, and almost instantly challenged to do 50 push ups. I obliged my good natured peers and stood back up to further looks of disbelief. That was the start of the best senior year a kid could ask for. See, being a Soldier somehow gains you instant popularity. Being a Soldier and still being in High School is like being a starter on the football team. It seems the girls took notice of my metamorphosis as well…suffice it to say I rarely longed for female companionship. Things got even better when I met and fell in love with Nicole Marie.

 

She was beautiful, smart, funny and very sexy. We had very little in common, but found that we loved being around each other. Of course, teenage lust played it fair part as well. We were soon so in love that we could not stand to be apart. We knew that my trip back to Ft. McClellan would be hard on both of us, but she promised to be true and I promised to come home. We would both keep our promises – this time.

 

We learned our lessons well, and made friends that we thought would be for life, and when news that this foreign war was to be our own came and Soldiers started to be advised that they would be deployed as soon as they graduated from AIT, we all began to get excited…to look forward to war.

 

           

Posted by: Misha Moriarti at 07:19 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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Posted by: km at September 10, 2010 12:27 AM (TkrtU)

2 The whole situation about Iraq is just terrible. Wars lead to nothing.
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Posted by: Deb at June 04, 2011 02:49 PM (zh2eb)

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