Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mortars -- They're Fun!

I wasn't quite sleeping. I remember we'd been sent down to the leaguer in a LAV III (Light Armored Vehicle) that belonged to four platoon (us being six platoon) while the engineers continued the tear down of COP (Combat Outpost) Talucan. I had lived in that COP for the past three weeks, sometime back in July of 2008. It had been a good home, I suppose, although brought along with it memories of Captain Leary, the man who had died not even two hundred meters away from it. Anyway, the current higher ups felt that they wanted to create some kind of stability box to reinforce the Canadian presence in the Panjwai District, and COP Talucan no longer fit that description, so it was getting shut down. A massive convoy of tanks, LAVs and support vehicles had come up the river to our area. Some Badger's were tearing down the Hesco walls, and like I'd said previously, I and my section had been sent down to the leaguer. We weren't needed for security or anything -- they had tanks up there.

Taking a combat stretcher, I'd set it up and run it between the tires of the LAV about halfway so I could at least snooze in some kind of shade. My legs were sticking out, but I didn't quite care. Not at least right away. We'd been sitting there maybe forty-five minutes when the first mortar hit. We'd kinda expected to get hit, to come under contact. I mean, the area is a Taliban hotspot, which was why COP Talucan was set up in the first place. So it would be safe to assume they'd send us off proper by shooting at us. Well, that first mortar hit dirt maybe thirty feet away from me. Snapped me awake fast. I remember rising and smashing my face against the underside of the LAV before pulling me legs under and giving them a quick pat down, making sure they were okay. I did the same with my junk -- you know, make sure the proper equipment was still there and not a ruined mess from shrapnel.

Using my initiative -- more like common sense and training -- I slid out from under the LAV, yanked the stretcher out while I was at it, folded it back up and stowed it before tossing on my flak jacket, chest rig. Donned my helmet, unstrapped. Was only wearing a t-shirt instead of my combat shirt. Got my rifle and headed around to the back of the LAV. Everyone was there. We crammed inside. When being mortared, you seek cover first. Let the armor fight. So, suddenly instead of being the normal number you'd expect crammed into the back of a LAV, you have the nine of us in the section plus two interpreters and the Doc. Hatches get closed and we can still hear the mortars tolling away. Little whumps with booms outside. The radio traffic is already frantic by this point.

They're calling in for chopper support and some artillery, if not a jet to get on station and start mowing things down. The firefight goes on, the LAV moves to a new position where it can support the fighting. Except it's really only a position to cover the leaguer. It doesn't fire at all. I'm not surprised. Forty-five minutes pass cramped in the back with twelve bodies listening to officers, majors, who don't do this kind of fighting, not like the captains who lead their platoons, call out for support and give sloppy orders. Eventually, the choppers come in, mowing down anything that moves. A jet drops a five-hundred pound bomb on the position identified to be the mortar base point. Finally, after an hour, things return to normal.

The LAV parks, the ramp drops, and we scramble out to stretch legs. A little laugh, a few slaps on the back, and we begin joking about the episode like it was nothing. The interpreters head back to their vehicle, the Doc his. Like nothing happened.

Just another day in Afghanistan.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reflections of My Service Prt 2

When I arrived at Battalion, I was kept in the dark of what was going on. There was, however, no doubt about me deploying. We were told that from day one of getting into Shilo. I, on the other hand, found myself course-bound that morning. January 7th, 2007. We got into Battalion, formed up three ranks and the Company CQ told us the first rank was 4 Platoon, second 5 and third 6. I was in 6 Platoon, Bravo Company. Then the next question: who had drivers licenses? I did. And everyone else who bothered to show they had them ended up on their air brakes course. I would be vetted into becoming a LAV (Light Armored Vehicle) III driver, as well as a LUVW (Light Utility Vehicle Wheeled) driver. So, while everyone else was off finding out what Batalion life was really like, I was still doing courses. One after another. Air brakes, defensive driving, dangerous goods, LUVW, LAV III and the maintenance of the LAV III. This took me up until March when we finally started the true work-up training.

We started with ranges. C6 GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun), C7 Service Rifle (basically an M16), C8 (M4A1), C9 LMG (Light Machine gun, basically the M249 SAW, squad automatic weapon), M72, 84mm Carl Gustav Recoiless Rifle SRAAW (Short Range Anti Armor Weapon). There's more, always more. Be we did it all in one long succession. Courses on first aid refreshers. Even for being vetted to be a LAV driver, I ended up an M203 Gunner, essentially a rifleman.

We did small exercises. Little one and two week excursions into the Shilo training area. Live fire exercises with artillery support. Clearing buildings, securing them, personal and material inside. I also discovered that during these exercises, and especially the ranges, I could spend upwards of twelve hours sitting inside a LAV III not doing anything. Just sitting there, waiting. You sleep, wait for your ass to go numb, drift in and out of consciousness, feel your knees aching, feel your bladder fill and you can't leave. And all the while, you're jammed in back with six other guys. Uncomfortable as all hell. And by the time you get to dismount, if you ever actually do, you can't jump out of the vehicle at full force. You need to ease yourself out, using your right as a cane because your body is bent and haggard and your knees are killing you and suddenly you feel as if you're ninety years old.

Reflexive shooting ranges. More courses, more ranges, more exercises. Some good, some bad, and depending on who was running it, a complete and utter joy or pain in the proverbial ass.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Perfect Weapon for Any Occasion

Ultimate role-playing and dueling weapon? According to a buddy of mine: A laser katana that shoots katanas that are also laser katanas. Can't argue with that, unless of course it's a rocket propelled chainsaw.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Yeah, Awesome

I could only ever wish I were as awesome a soldier as these guys, but since I'm out, I doubt I ever could be. Plus the rules for fighting wars have changed a fair bit since those days, but it does little to diminish the awesomeness these soldiers were capable of.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Forum Dueling Basics -- Just Die Already

It gets to me a lot that people don't know how to take damage. Ignoring simple facts like concussive damage caused by shockwaves, blasts, explosions and all the rest, among other things. Too many people feel attached to their characters. I'm not saying we shouldn't be, but when it interferes with dueling, it is obviously causing a problem. No, they don't want a nasty bruise, it might upset their make up or pretty-boy image. I'm sorry, in a fight, you do get messed up. If you can't take damage properly, you're in the wrong. If wanting to hold on to a character and keep them alive means so much, go play in a cheeze duel: mix and true style is out of the question. You are going to get hurt, possibly even die. It's a fight, and generally go to the death. You want to cause as much damage until your opponent surrenders or dies. That's just how it is.

I actually think that maybe it's time for a revolution in dueling. A willingness to accept the death of a character. A bunch of die-cast, carbon-copy throw-away characters is needed. You die, you lose. Take a hit, take some damage. Lose an eye, a hand, an arm and a leg. Your head, maybe? Obviously if you're one of those "attack, dodge, attack, dodge, attack, dodge" types, then you already did. But I wonder how many would accept this? Obviously some people have taken time to craft their characters, spent many hours making them "believable" (if by "believable" they mean the trashy, arrogant, dark and brooding anti-heroes that spew condescending angst into the world) and worthy of a good fight. Well, in a fight, you aren't doing back history, so who the fuck really cares? Just fight, already!

Another thing that gets to me is the whole idea that you have time to have a conversation in a fight. People have this arrogant idea that in their own reality, they have the time to think these long-winded thoughts about the nature of life and everything around them. Or that they can stand back and talk about their grand plans and how worthless the opponent is. If you think this, then you haven't been in a real fight. If you stop and take your mind off what you're doing to chat it up, your opponent isn't going to stop and let you continue. They're going to take advantage of this. But, even for all the points I make, I feel like I'm yelling at nothing sometimes. Nobody listens.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Retards in the Night

I was awoken at two in the morning. A figure walked into my room. I was groggy, didn't know what was going on. A voice kept asking me if I was all right, if I was fine, if I was going to make it through. I could really only grasp the thought as I looked at my clock that someone is playing some kind of rude prank on me. I'm thinking, as my body turns to wakefulness, that I must be late for work if someone is bursting through me door. I recognize the person. Then it hits me: he isn't in my platoon. In fact, he got kicked out of my company before we had even deployed overseas. Wasn't a friend. Not even someone I'd ever associate with.

"I'm fine," I finally said. "The fuck do you want?"

"Oh, I was at the bar, man. They were saying how you got all fucked up."

I could only wonder why this man even cared. He'd threatened me enough times with violence that the whole "coming to see me in the middle of the night to make sure I'm all right" doesn't quite sit well. I humor him a moment.

"No, I'm fine."

"You sure, man? 'Cause they were saying."

"Look, I'm fine. I have to get up in less than four hours. If you want to find someone who's fucked up, go find Hallat."

I say this knowing that Hallat had freaked out, started trashing a guys room a couple nights ago. Had spent twenty-four hours in cells before being transfered over to the Psyche-Eval people.

"You sure?"

"Yes. Get out."

He left, closing the door. I lay there, listening. I heard him walk into the room next to mind and repeat. He was just wasted off his ass. A Tuesday night, he's so drunk he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. I don't even have my name on my door anymore because I'm about to release. He probably came to the room from memory. After all, my roommate, who had since moved out, had once hung out with this nutcase a few times. I fell back to sleep thinking I'd only hear my alarm in a few hours. Nope. I get woken up again to banging on my door, this time twenty minutes before my alarm even goes off. This time it's one of my buddies in my platoon. He's dressed and ready to go down to the lines. I look at him, squinting as I rub the sleepsand out of my eyes.

"Why aren't you ready?" he asks me.

I look at him restraining the urge to smack him in the face.

"We gotta be down at the lines in like thirty minutes."

Oh, right. He hadn't been told. I sigh, look him in the eye: "Timings got pushed back. We don't have to be there for another seventy, eight minutes or so."




Then he walks away out to his car to turn it off. To late to attempt getting those last few minutes. Might as well do the three morning S's: shit, shower and shave. In that order, too. I can't wait till Friday when this stops. Was kinda funny, though, in a weird way, I guess.