Tuesday, March 28, 2006

random thoughts from yesterday's run...

"holy crap dumbass. it's too hot to wear flannel boxers anymore"

"i can't wait til my new shoes get here"

"you do realize that new shoes aren't going to make you enjoy running any more, don't you?" (yes, i talk to myself. and if you run, i highly recommend giving the nike frees a whirl)

"you'll spend money on anything, won't you? the salespeople just see you coming"

"i really, really hate so-and-so. why the hell couldn't they have stayed gone a couple more days? life was so peaceful with them not here"

"breath dumbass. or you're going to get a sideache. c'mon. this isn't the first time you've ever run"

"do i REALLY want to run the army ten-miler? because if i REALLY do, that means i have to run more to get ready for it. hmmm. just how much do i like those guys? oooh, can i just go to washington and watch THEM run it?"

"lordy, i used to run twice this far twice a day. i'm getting olllllllld"

"ooooh. helicopter"

"damnit, i need to be a contractor. and get a nice new expedition to drive around base for a year in."

"hah. that bastard looks miserable"

"oooh. cute girl. try not to sound like you're dying when you pass her"

"holy hell, why do my hip flexors hurt so bad? is that because of those leg lifts?"

"oh my GOD, when did it get to be so warm. wasn't i freezing my ass off on this run just two weeks ago?"

"i can't wait to go home, i can't wait to go home, i can't wait to go home, i can't wait to go home, i can't wait to go home"

"i need to walk" "no you don't. don't be a wuss" "no, really, my hip is hurting" "no it's not, you're making up an injury so you can stop running" "no, really, it hurts. if i just walk for a few steps it'll feel better then i can run again" "shut up. it's less than a block to the end" "okay. maybe my hip doesn't hurt. but neither does my knee. in fact it's numb. that's GOTTA be a sign to stop" "NO!" "how about sideaches. can i stop for that?" "no" "well, it's kinda high for a sideache. maybe it's a heart attack?" "there's no point in stopping now, the end's just 100' away" "but see? i should stop now and walk it in" "no. you're not a quitter remember?" "i hate myself"

"i'm going to RUIN all of this and have apple pie and ice cream at lunch"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

one of the things i miss most about active duty...

is the handshakes. in the civilian world it seems that the only people i shake hands with are smarmy salespeople. rarely do i bump into a good friend and shake hands with them. when i was on active duty i worked with a group of guys everyday. anywhere from 6-12 of us. with that really close bunch we just razzed one another, shook hands if we saw one another socially outside of work, or if someone went on leave, when they came back you might have a big shake. those guys were family we saw one another so much. we laughed and joked and worked our asses off together. then we went out and played hard on the weekends. married guys would wake up and come out to their living room and find the rest of the crew passed out on their living room floor from the night night before, wives cooked for us, kids thought we were their uncles. but there were other guys who i didn't work with but i saw everyday. it was always a big deal, the handshake, even though i'd just seen them the day before. so much was conveyed with that. mutual respect and admiration, joy at seeing a friend again, all that kind of stuff. you didn't do it with everyone, he had to be a good troop.

downrange it's the same thing, but to a new level. there are guys here that i see every so often and we have a big shake or a hug. it's great to see those guys. it means they haven't been shot by a sniper or an ambush hasn't gotten them, an i.e.d. hasn't blown up their truck while they were on the road, they weren't rocketed or mortared. and (more importantly in my mind) neither was i. they say the handshake and the salute evolved from ancient times when you'd show someone your open hand to let them see that you weren't holding a weapon. in the military we're supposed to salute our commissioned officers, but i work in a very small, tight-knit group, so the officers do the hand-shake thing as well.

it's hard to explain without sounding like a freak. but if you've been reading the blog for awhile, you've already decided i'm a freak so maybe you can get past that part and see what i'm trying to say. in the day-to-day civilian world i don't form that connection with someone. i have friends, but whether i'd trust them with my life... and to be able to sum that trust and respect and fondness up in one simple gesture is just amazing. i'm glad i've been able to experience it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

let my actions speak for me!

i'm relatively new to blogging, but i like the concept. i write stuff, you read it, you write stuff, i read it and hopefully it sparks some conversation and further gets the creative juices flowing. at least that's part of it to me.

two people have posts out there that caught my eye recently. JL4 has one about military deserters at: http://jl4.blogspot.com/2006/03/artful-dodgers.html and Cora has one about leadership at: http://maydensvoyage.blogspot.com/2006/03/leadership-is-absent-of-consensus.html . they're not really on the same topic, and the thing that i'm writing about isn't either, but it's all just random stuff that sparked off in my noggin.

soldiers are not policy makers. we're instruments of policy. policy that was set by (in our case) elected officials that hold positions in our country's government. these officials were elected by a majority (yeah, yeah, we all know about electoral college votes, this is an oversimplification. so shoosh) of the voting members of the population of our country. i.e. YOUR (yes, i'm making the gross assumption that anyone reading this is a citizen of the U.S.A. not because i'm egotistical and think everyone is such a citizen or any of that nonsense, but because not too many people read this and the ones that do as far as i know are u.s. citizens) elected officials. now most of the people that read this wouldn't argue about the use of "your", but i know plenty of people in the U.S. who would. the "don't blame me, i didn't vote for him" crowd annoys the hell out of me. if you're a citizen, he's YOURS, whether you voted for him or not. that's the way the system works. sometimes the guys you vote for win, sometimes they lose. deal. anyways, soldiers just go where we're told to go and do what we're told to do.

having said that, it doesn't mean that we're not intelligent or responsible people. we knowingly joined the military service. remember all that hoopla about how bush might be re-instating the draft and how that bothered everyone? we're an all volunteer military. sure you'll hear stories about how this guy didn't know what he was getting into, or how that guy just joined for the college money, or how that guy's recruiter lied to him. but for the most part, we all joined with eyes wide open. we're responsible for our actions.

i can't speak for every soldier wearing a uniform. but i personally have a love/hate relationship with the army. i say that i love the concept and hate the reality. that's not entirely true. but it's a HUGE organization with lots of good and bad. but it's my niche. i bleed green. of my 15 adult years i've been a soldier for 11, and have been deployed for almost 2 years of that time. there was NO place else i would've rather have been on the first anniversary of 9/11 than in afghanistan. i'm proud of what i do. do i love the violence? no. do i want to kill people? no. but i love my country, and i want to protect it. i have a great life and i'm amazingly grateful for the opportunities that i have, especially after traveling to afghanistan and iraq and korea and other places. i love being mentally and physically and emotionally challenged, i love molding young soldiers because that's the impact i have on the army, my way of saying "thanks" for the impact it has had on me. i love the other men and women that i've met as a soldier who think the way i think and the ones who don't. if i was smart enough, i'd be a doctor, if i had figured it out earlier maybe i'd be a policeman or fireman, but the life led me to being a soldier and that's my contribution.

i don't get into my personal feelings on the war or politics much, but let me discuss for a few minutes why i am okay with us being in iraq. i think saddam was bad and i think if we do things right (whether we're doing them right is another question) this country and the population will be better for our involvement. i know for a fact that at some point after desert storm he did bad things and had weapons that were in violation of his agreements. we may not be able to find them now, but he had them at some point. although i don't enjoy being at war, i've trained the majority of my adult life for this. most people go to work and do their job every day that they're at work. we go to work and train for our job and hope to never have to do it for real. but we are now, and it's very gratifying to see that we can do it. again, i'm not talking about killing people or violence, i'm talking about the leadership, the taking care of your joes, keeping them safe, fed etc... my big reason for being here though? i'm a soldier. i'm trained to fight. in theory, i have the skills to parachute behind enemy lines and lead a squad or platoon on a variety of types of missions from bridge recon to movement to contact. i am very proficient with a wide variety of firearms, explosives, vehicles, communications devices and small unit tactics. my family and friends at home? they don't have those skills, or if they do, they don't practice them regularly. i would much rather engage the enemy over here, than have the enemy engage unarmed, unskilled americans at home in the states. which is exactly what happened on 9/11. and while there have been some incidents in spain and england, for the majority, we've kept the violence in the middle east. bush's opponents point out that the conflict might take years over here, because we don't have an exit strategy. they've mentioned that the borders are wide open and terrorists are coming into iraq. in my mind, neither of those is a bad thing. if we end this war today, it gives the terrorists an opportunity to regroup and start picking out fat juicy targets in the states. same reasoning behind not denying them access to the country.

where am i going with all of this? i'm saying "don't speak for me". i am getting so pissed off just thinking about people who use soldiers as an argument. if i die over here, no one who really knows me will have the nerve to protest in my name. it's a free country, they're more than welcome to protest on their own, but they won't dare use my name or question my sacrifice. my parents lost one child in the last year, and they would LOVE to have me home safe and sound but they respect the fact that i'm an adult, respect my ability to make decisions for myself, and realize that after eleven years, this is the longest i've stuck with anything. that probably means that i love it and so they support, rather than question my decisions. if my nice, rational arguments here aren't enough to convince someone, let me point to the fact that re-enlistments are at all time record highs right now. soldiers who are currently serving in combat zones are knowingly re-enlisting to stay in the army, realizing that they'll probably be sent back over here. sure we get some money, but in the grand scheme of things it's really not that much. most of these guys could exit the military and make that much money in the increase in pay they'd make the first year or two at a civilian job. a nice, cush, safe civilian job.

i volunteered for this particular deployment. i could've stayed home and let this unit come over, but i couldn't. confusing? legally i had no obiligation to come over here. but once asked, i would've had a rough year knowing that there were guys down range who said they needed me to join them and i said "no". so i volunteered for serving with the army three different times now, i volunteered for different types of additional training that was needed by this particular unit, and i volunteered to deploy to iraq with them. let these actions speak for themselves and don't speak for me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

where everybody knows your name...



well, they don't know mine, but i know all of theirs... this show came out in 82 i think, and has been in the background of my life ever since. i was on a trip a month or so ago and bought this at the px on the base we were visiting. brought it back and we've been trying to watch a couple episodes a night ever since. it's amazing how good it feels to sit and watch and laugh. we finished the first season tonight, and couldn't find the 2nd on this base. one of the guys was traveling and managed to find season 3. so we started it. hopefully we'll be out of here before we can finish the run of the entire show...

i was in the hospital the first time i saw this show. we were a good, quiet catholic family and a show set in a bar didn't seem that funny to my parents i guess. and they really didn't watch many sitcoms anyways. but i'd just gone off a diving board, and one of the other kids followed without waiting for me to clear the area. he landed on my back and for weeks and months after i had severe headaches and nausea problems. so my folks took me to the doctor who in turn hospitalized me for tests. sitting around, bored silly in the hospital was the first time we saw the show, and we were hooked. i was 13 or 14 and the time and it's funny watching season 1 now. i've probably seen every episode ten times or more, between first run airings and all the reruns since. the guys just feel like good friends almost. and it's amazing to watch it now with a little seperation and see how well written and how well acted alot of it was. sure, they went for the cheap jokes sometimes, and telegraphed the punchlines. but sometimes, even though i've SEEN it before and KNOW what's coming, it still surprises me with how funny it is.

i remember being in college when i got the word it was going to be going off the air. i'd skipped a couple semesters so i was a little older than some of the other kids in the dorm, and that couple years made a difference. some of them had never watched it. but we instituted a weekly countdown to the finale. and the finale was one of the best i've seen yet.

we moved around alot when i was growing up, so the constants were touchstones. church (just got into a big discussion about this the other day. i think a large part of why i still consider myself catholic isn't just because of belief, but because of the feeling of home whenever i walk into a church), some comic books and some shows. no matter where we were, i could always find another kid who enjoyed the show. it was like sports, you could always find a fellow fan of whatever your team was, and that was something to make a connection over.

i read like crazy. it's the monkey on my back. i HAVE to read before bed. not necessarily hours and hours, but it's just another way to shut my brain off. but i also have to watch some mindless comedy. it's my way of decompressing. when i run or do errands or whatever, i'm constantly replaying the events of the day, or planning out the days ahead. the sitcoms are great though. that's me disconnecting from what's been going on, and laughter is just laughter, do we need to discuss why that's good? and then i think the reading settles me down. anyways, cheers has been in reruns for aloooooong time now. it's never hard to find it to watch when you can't find something else.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Making your way

In the world today

Takes everything you've got

Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

All those nights

When you've got no lights

The check is in the mail.

And your little angel hung the cat up by its tail.

And your third fiancee didn't show.

Sometimes you wanna go

Where everybody knows your name

And they're always glad you came.

You wanna be where you can see

The troubles are all the same.

You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee's dead.

The morning's looking bright.

And your shrink ran off to Europe and didn't even write.

And your boyfriend wants to be a girl.

Be glad there's one place in the world

Where everybody knows your name.

And they're always glad you came.

You wanna go where people know

The people are all the same

You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

you can point and laugh...

but it'd be funnier if you actually saw the "mouse dance" in real life yesterday.

i'm really, really, really not fond of creepy-crawlies. i'm not the bug killer in the family. spiders, snakes, bugs, you name it. if the extension on the vacuum is long enough to suck'em up, cool. if there's a broom and they're not to big, i might squish them with that. otherwise i'm going the other way and pretending they don't exist. so of course, genius that i am, i join the army. let's discuss the self chastising that goes on in my head when i'm bellied up to a spot of cover or concealment and i'm watching something big and creepy crawling towards me and i'm making all sorts of bargins with God, if he'll just make it turn around and go in the other direction.

so i'm now the personnel clerk on top of all the extra jobs i'm doing for people. so yesterday i was standing up, pulling some personnel records out and out of the corner of my eye i see this big black thing streak behind my feet and a split second later i feel something climbing up the back of my boot. so i do the mouse dance (at this time i thought it was one of the big black scorpions. it HAD to be!) and start doing convulsions and doing the "eyie-yie-yie-yie-yie" thing. and that poor mouse got kicked off and shot up about 6 ft into the air until we were looking eye-to-eye before he dropped and ran off.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

every once in awhile i turn into a broken record...

the same phrase or story will get stuck in my head and i find myself forced to repeat it frequently. unfortunately, it's rarely anything cool. i haven't coined any phrases that have worked their way into popular culture or anything.

right now i find myself saying "look jackass... i don't know what you're complaining about. we're going home in less than 45 days. if someone came to me and said "look mac, we're going to have to kick you in the nuts every morning for the next x many mornings in order for you to leave the country" i'd take my daily kick with a smile and say "thanks for helping us get out of here"".

we've come so far, and these guys have been through so much, and it's just sad to watch them lose their professionalism and act so silly over things like having to make multiple copies of paperwork for their files, or having to do evaluation reports for their soldiers or do inventories of their equipment to make sure it's ready to be turned over to our replacements. we're going home. they should be laughing and joking and smiling and living large... end it on a high note.

hope everyone is doing well. i am.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

so last night i was still being a big baby and someone called here for one of the other guys. apparently the guy left work and forgot to do something that hade to be done. so i had the pleasure of dragging the other guy out of bed, putting him on the phone with his boss and then watching him get mad and stomp off, irritated because he had to put his uniform back on and drive back to the office. i shouldn't have taken pleasure in it, but because i was irritated with everyone, it was kinda nice to see someone else having a bad day. evil i am...

so i made up for it today. pretty-smelling girl wasn't there last night when we went to get our hair cut. so we left a note and she stopped by later to tell us we could come by today for cuts. her face was all red and she was very subdued. normally she's a wise-ass, laughing and joking her way with everyone up and down the hallway. she said she got bad news. she came back today to tell us she could cut, but the other guy couldn't get his done, so she started to mope her way back to her building. i asked if she wanted to go to dinner with me, and got the story out of her and got her to start laughing and joking. well, that sounds like i'm taking credit for it. people like that just naturally heal themselves. she's not over it yet, but she's on the road. then we came back to the house and watched "just friends". a good, stupid movie that lets you turn your brain off for a little while. so that was a good hour or two of laughing. so i don't feel so bad for chuckling over that guy's misery last night... i'm not a saint by any stretch but i won't be ruining the whoseville christmas anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

today was a weird day...

... something set me off early this morning, and although i knew it was amazingly immature, i was just angry all day. to the point where i couldn't be productive at ANYTHING because i couldn't stop ranting and raving in my head. i was constantly having to bite my toungue and *bleep* myself because i knew that my initial responses to people all day weren't appropriate, that i was tempted to make smart-assed comments and take my rage out on them. above all, i pride myself on maintaining professionalism and staying cool in stressful situations. and then, out of the blue, i saw someone who just put me in a good mood. i'm still irritated when i think about a couple things, but i'm breathing again, and i'm walking around without clenched fists.

then i got an email from a really good friend who i was on active duty with years ago. she used to live in the barracks across the hall from me. she left active duty about a year and a half before i did, and then came back into the reserves a year or so after me. i went to afghanistan first, but she followed last year. it's just amazing how much she "gets it". i've got some apprehensions about going home, re-adjusting. i'm not an amazingly social person to begin with, and there are lots of conversations about what happens over here that i really don't want to have with people at home. and i don't want to have the same ones over and over and over. there are lots of other things, i'm just glossing over them here. but just seeing that she's been through it already, she's surviving it, she understands alot of my desires to just say "screw it" and find a way to volunteer to just say here makes me feel less like a green freak with a horn growing out of his forehead. and having a close friend offer to be there for you when things get a little freaky in your head is always nice.

so it's just weird to go from so much hate and anger to just a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

on the road again...

well, i left for what was supposed to be a one night trip, gone less than 16 hrs. because of weather and other stuff going on, i ended up being stranded for an extra five days. FORTUNATELY instead of being stuck in a muddy pit this time around i got stuck on one of the larger bases in the country with all of the fun stuff.








they have a band...







and more importantly a cinnabon
these pictures were from the helicoptor ride into the city...

well, not this one. this one was from a rooftop where i was hanging out with a buddy
















so, the trip was weird. on the one hand, i was stuck sleeping on a cot away from home for a week, no shower, no clean clothes for four days. but on the other hand, i bumped into my very first platoon sergeant from ten years ago. it'd been over 7 since the last time i saw him. and it was a good talk. neat to see how much i've grown professionally, and he had some good things to say about me. that's always nice.

so all in all it was a good trip. and we're that much closer to going home.

Friday, March 03, 2006

i'm a bad, bad man...

... not really, but i feel that way sometimes.

there's a guy here, who has 20+ years of military experience. he's been in the navy as an active duty sailor and in the army reserves. so when you meet the guy, and see that he's an older fellow, and hear about his background, you automatically have higher expectations of the man. unfortunately he doesn't live up to those expectations professionally speaking. he's incredibly immature, and has alot of difficulties dealing with others. although he's been in the service along time, he's gained and lost rank along the way, so he isn't as high ranking as some of his peers in seniority are, and he doesn't act according to his rank. he frequently treats higher ranking individuals without the proper respect, and resents the authority that they have over him.

the worst part though, is his inability to function in his duty position. he's a supply guy, however until about the tenth month of our deployment nothing he ordered showed up. after about the first 30 days i was instructed to get involved and everything we got was because i ordered it. because of some politics, he wasn't put under me directly, but i was given responsibility for making sure things got done in the supply realm. that is one of the things that frequently irritates the heck out of me, being forced to pick up the slack for other individuals.

i frequently say that in the military you get punished for being a good soldier. and it's true, and now that i'm a leader, i punish the good soldiers under me in the same way. they're squared away, they get their jobs done in an efficient, timely manner, and i force them to help the slack-ass. and because of the way the military is structured, the slack-ass gets paid the same amount of money for being a screw up, and for being pushed aside and told to sit in the corner and not screw anything up as the squared away kid who has to do double the amount of work. i can't give raises to someone based on merit. and because of the bureaucracy, it's frequently so hard to put a bad soldier out of the military, that some people don't. they just try to sweep that soldier under the rug and minimize the amount of damage they can inflict.

because this irritates me SO much, i'm probably much harsher on this guy than i should be. that and the fact that we've been together for over a year now, and he's just been a consistent dissapointment for for the entire time. the bad part about that is that as much of a screw up as he is professionally, he is just the absolute NICEST man i've ever met in my life. period. he will bend over backwards to help a friend out. he is the hardest worker i've ever met, he just doesn't work at the level that you expect him to. simple, mundane tasks that don't take initiative? he will complete those without fail. manual labor that no one wants to do? he does with a smile. and because he is so immature, he is usually cracking up and laughing and lightening the mood when we've got to do these back-breaking projects. the worst part is when i chew his ass for something he's failed to do (and rightfully so), and then less than five minutes later he'll bring me some prize he's found or managed to aquire. and he asks for nothing in return. he doesn't try to get me to be nicer to him, he doesn't ask for special treatment. he just brings me something that he found that he knows i would like or that i need for some project i'm working on. when he does this the guilt just washes over me.

it'd be so much easier if he were just a mean, nasty little man.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"it ain't the years, it's the mileage"

i might've butchered indy's quote, but i hope not.

my birthday is this month and i'm feeling everyone of my years and more. i was not a graceful kid. and i haven't really outgrown much of my clumsiness. (on a side note, the whole "why don't guys dance?" question? in my case, it's a real inability to get my body to do what i want it to do, that lack of grace. i feel stupid, i know i look stupid, and i sincerely worry about the health and safety of all around me. if you can dance you'll have NO idea what i'm talking about, just accept it and don't lecture.) so my body suffered much abuse over the years and i pay for it daily. cracked ribs, broken ankle, toes, fingers, torn rotator cuffs, cartilage peeling on the knees, that kinda stuff. when i was younger i was active enough that i guess muscles around problem areas compensated. but when i left active duty, got a little older, worked out a little less, sat on my ass in front of a computer at work a WHOLE lot more...

this tour has been a little constant reminder of things that hurt now. working night shift used to be no big deal, i could flip my sleep schedule on a moment's notice. now it takes me days to recover. do we need to talk about running? (it is what brought this all about. went for the first time in 2 weeks today. used to be able to take 2 weeks off, and pick back up and run five miles at the same pace without thinking about it. today i ran 2 miles, almost killed myself and did it with an average of 2.5 minutes per mile slower).

it's not all bad. i definately think more. before i open my big, big mouth. before i perform alot of actions... "huh, which path causes the least amount of physical pain for me?", things like that. it's good to know that i at least have the ability to learn...

anyways, i'm not going anywhere with this. just hadn't written in awhile and felt like a) rambling and b) not doing trig homework. but i can procrastinate no more.... (hah, yes, yes i can. and i probably will. just not in this manner).