Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)



DISCLAIMER*The views of this post in no way reflect the views of the United States Army in any way, shape, or form. They are completely my own*DISCLAIMER


The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has been major news for the past couple weeks, only recently overshadowed by the new TSA security proceedings, which may become a post in the future. I thought it might be a good time to share my opinion on the policy and what it might mean for troops, should it be removed.

I could honestly care less about who a soldier wants to climb into bed with. We’re here to do a job. If a soldier is professional and competent, their private life is of no concern to me. Most troops that I’ve talked to have similar feelings. It’s mostly a non-issue, especially on deployments. I can’t speculate how well received it would be to have gay and lesbian couples quartered together on bases, together at social functions, or any of the other issues that would come up. However, those are still larger issues in society outside of the military as well.

I don’t like the idea that the military forces gays to lie in order to serve. It violates nearly all of the values that the military tries to instill in it’s recruits. In the Army, those values are simplified into an easy to remember acronym that comes close to spelling out “Leadership”. They are, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.(LDRSHIP) DADT asks homosexuals to basically violate all but two of those. Those two-Selfless Service and Personal Courage- are, in my eyes, even exemplified by homosexual troops. They must be selfless in order to live a lie, and that takes heaps of personal courage to do. Duty could also be argued, but since it’s technically the duty of a soldier to report conduct violations, that’s a gray area.

It’s also been shown that DADT can be psychologically harmful. By threatening their career if they become exposed, homosexual troops are forced to deploy without as much support from home, and their significant others must adopt pseudonyms in order to prevent an “outing”. Their loved ones back home are denied the support of family readiness groups-groups designed so that the families of deployed troops can get together to share news, commiserate, and help them remain strong. This, to me, is shameful.

There are certainly legitimate concerns to allowing homosexuals to serve openly though, and I feel that they’ve been minimized by the media, to the point where anyone who raises objections is automatically a bigot. There have also been many parallels drawn between DADT and the integration of blacks and women, which I feel are actually pretty weak, particularly with the racial comparison. Nobody doubts the capability of gays to perform their duties. At this point it’s more of an issue of if it will change the effectiveness of our forces.

The first, and I would say, biggest, issue, is that homosexuality has not been fully accepted into mainstream society. We don’t allow gay marriages, and there’s controversy about gay couples adopting children, for instance. I’m not sure what the answer to these questions should be at this point. I don’t support gay marriage, although I’d be relatively comfortable with civil unions-it’s the word itself that makes it an issue to me. Who you want to visit you in the hospital, make health and monetary decisions with, and make your ‘next of kin’ doesn’t concern me. I’m also on the fence about gay couples and children-however that’s based on my feelings that a child belongs in a standard family with a mother, and a father, and all that goes with it. The death of the nuclear family has started to turn this into a non-issue, and that’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax. Enough children are being raised in completely non-traditional homes that it leads me to believe that a gay couple could probably do a pretty good job, but I’m just personally not ready to make that leap of acceptance yet.

While the above paragraph may seem like a bit of a tangent, the point is this: The armed forces, particularly in the midst of a long, drawn out conflict, are NOT the place to conduct a social experiment! If society as a whole is not ready to accept homosexuality, then the military should not be forced to either. The military has a culture all it’s own, but at its base, it is a microcosm of American society as a whole. We come from all walks of life, from all over the nation, and if the nation at large isn’t ready for it, I don’t think it should be forced on the services either.

The other issue that I have is not as all-encompassing, but has to do with living quarters and shower areas. In the military, not only do we work together, but we also live together, eat together, and shower together. It’s not all that hard to get used to, to the point where soldiers often have conversations in the shower with the same level of ease that we would at a supermarket. A body is a body.

However, we do separate males and females from showering together. We don’t allow people that may be sexually attracted to one another to be naked together. This makes sense, in many ways, although it could be argued as unnecessary. I find it interesting that in the very openly sexual culture that America has that nudity is regarded as such a big issue. As I said above, a body is a body, and there’s nothing implicitly sexual about nudity. That’s the way it is though, and without changing our entire culture on nudity and sex, it will continue that way.

So why should I have to shower with a man who might be sexually attracted to me? I’ve seen the counter to this argument- that it’s already happening anyway, and there haven’t been any problems, so it’s not an issue. However that doesn't hold up under scrutiny. For one thing, I don’t know that I’m being ogled. The whole point of DADT is that gays must keep their sexuality a secret. At this point, if some guy is stealing glances at my junk, I don’t know it, so it can’t really make me uncomfortable. However if I knew the solider next to me in the shower happened to favor the hot dog over the hot dog bun, it would strongly decrease my comfort level. In a society, and a military, where sexual harassment and sexual assault is prevalent, this is a problem. Even though the integration of women into the force went well, sexual harassment, assault, and even rape, are still such big issues that soldiers get briefings on it about four times a year.

Further still, in the litigious society that we live in, where a single bad joke or unwanted advance can be grounds for a lawsuit, I could see serious problems for the military. We don’t do lawsuits in the civilian sense, but consequences are still harsh. A soldier convicted can forfeit rank, pay, allowances, or even be separated. They can be flagged against any favorable actions or separated from the service. At first glance, that seems like it would discourage misconduct and make the transition easy. However crimes of this nature are often hard to prove, and harder to disprove. If I think Pvt. Snuffy is a “meat gazer” I could report it. But I might be wrong, and ruin his career. And if I just had it out for Pvt. Snuffy, he’d have a very hard time convincing others that I was lying-even if he made it past the military justice system, the individual soldiers that he works with may not be so forgiving. The criteria for what constitutes sexual harassment are pretty loose, and often boil down to how the accuser feels.

So what’s the solution? Does the military spend millions and require separate showering facilities for gays? There’d still be the chance of sexual misconduct, but hopefully they’d be more comfortable with the idea than a straight person would be. Do we simply eliminate separate showers altogether, and put everyone in the same boat? After all, that would be true equality. It’s happened on remote FOBs in Afghanistan, mostly where US troops are quartered with troops from, say, Sweden. They’ve had surprisingly few issues-the US Military is a professional and adaptable force. The most likely option is that the military will continue to segregate facilities based on sex and not sexual preference. It wouldn’t be a disaster, but it does create a new list of problems to be considered.

I don’t think that there is an easy solution to this, nor will there ever be. Overall, I actually do support removing DADT, and I don’t think it will turn out to be a big deal. The honesty and integrity of the men and women next to me is far more important to me than my comfort in the shower. But these are real issues, and things to keep in mind. There are genuine concerns here, not just simple bigotry like many seem to think. No matter what happens, it will not be the end of our military. We in uniform will drive on and succeed regardless. The idea is to make it as easy for us to succeed as possible.

I would love to hear some thoughts on this, so feel free to comment.

DISCLAIMER*The views of this post in no way reflect the views of the United States Army in any way, shape, or form. They are completely my own*DISCLAIMER

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Deployment Goggles

The phrase “deployment goggles” is used to describe a certain condition that afflicts deployed soldiers, namely that after several months overseas, people who would be otherwise unattractive suddenly become incredibly so. Bases filled with tired, run-down, average looking women become filled with “tens“ . This does also seem to affect the women, however I know nothing of it, so I won’t comment.

This isn’t to say, of course, that all women in the military, and the Army in particular, are ugly. It has more to do with the simple fact the Army uniforms and regulations are not very flattering to the female form. The Army *is* changing this- they’ve announced plans to cut ACU’s in 13 different sizes for women in the near future, but this is more functional than it is for form. Until then, females on post are trapped wearing pants that are designed for a mans hipless figure, and a top with broad shoulders that winds up looking like a tent. (They also have plans to move the rank patch upwards, which is a good thing, and a whole ‘nuther post. I’ve spent most of my adult life concentrating on *not* looking directly at a woman’s chest when speaking with her, and what does the Army do? Somebody was either promoted or fired over that.)

Army PT gear consists of a T-shirt and baggy shorts, which, although comfortable, and necessary for freedom of movement, gets zero points for style. Couple the uniforms with the restrictive rules on how females may wear their hair, makeup, and whatever else they use to get all dolled up, and it just doesn’t make for a population that appeals to the opposite sex. This may be intentional, and I’m not disagreeing with any of these rules, mind you. It certainly makes for some surprises sometimes if you ever run into a fellow solider in civilian clothing, however.

These conditions tend to morph perspective, but it’s a subtle change that creeps up on you. This morning I saw a female soldier on the bus, in PT gear, and found myself checking out her forearms. It hit me then. Dear Lord, did I really just do that? I checked out a girls arms? For the rest of the day, I was very conscious of what I looked at, and all the while, phrases popped to mind that would defy logic based on what most people look for back home. Wow, she has really petite hands. What a slender neck-crap that’s an officer, better salute!

It’s not that I’m a perv leering at every woman in sight, and to be perfectly honest, my love life at home is on the same tempo as it is here-nonexistent. I just had a little shock today when I noticed that the “goggles” were so firmly screwed on. Maybe it will help me notice the little things, when I get home. Like wedding rings, for instance. I’m still getting used to the notion that I’m old enough now to actually need to look for one.

Just another fact of life in the Sandbox. Stay well everyone!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weather

I vaguely remember, while on leave somebody asking me if it was true that the desert got dangerously cold at night. I also vaguely remember me laughing it off a bit, because it hadn't gotten all that cold when daytime temperatures were between "Shirt soaking" and "How did I end up in the 9th circle of Hell?"

Well, despite a distinct lack of trees, Iraq does have seasons and they start abruptly. I fell asleep with the AC on and when my alarm went off at 0-dark-thirty this morning, the CHU was an ice box. I walked out the door in my PT shorts and shirt, promptly whirled around, and pulled on winter PT clothing over them. Yes, winter PTs....in the desert! If I had to guess I'd say that the actually temperature this morning was somewhere in the 50's. It was cold enough that while running, I had some trouble breathing it it, and my ears were red and burning from the chill.

The good thing about it being so cold though is that I sleep much better that way. When outside temps are dropping, there's nothing more comfortable to me then bundling up. The issue is just getting out of bed on time. Unfortunately, ladies, I will no longer be walking to and from the shower shirtless. I'm sure you're all just devastated.

Off to enjoy a cup of "Badass" coffee. Hopefully more to come later.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chapter 4

Keeping up with the fiction theme...

I have a few other projects as well, but nothing noteworthy yet. Boring is a good thing in a war zone though.

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Halfway through the day, I was ready to turn in my ID. We’d done 6 back-to-back transports. There was no lunch break, no coffee stop. We picked up one patient after another and they were all the same. Somewhere in their eighties, diabetes, dementia, renal failure. Some needed a Foley catheter placed in their urethra for urine retention or an infection. Some were going to dialysis. Others headed to die forgotten in a nursing home where no real nursing ever seemed to happen.

My partner for the day, Jerry, was a jerk. He was 300 pounds, with a chip on his shoulder. There was no right way to drive for him. I was always going to fast for him to work, and he couldn’t keep his balance or start an IV. If I slowed down, I was driving like a grandma and somehow our stable patients were going to arrest and die along the way. I ignored him for the most part. He was out of shape, belligerent, and possibly a little jealous of my life and my past. His attitude made the day very easy to hate. After being told to drive faster for the seventh time that day I pulled over.
“Do you want to drive?” I asked, exasperated.
“Don’t get snappy with me! I just want to get to our pickup sometime today.” I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with it today. He watched me for a moment, but didn’t move.
“If you don’t like the way I drive, then drive yourself. Otherwise shut the hell up and I’ll get us there as quickly and safely as I can. Besides if I drive slower it’s more time before we get yet another job.”
“All I’m trying to do is make you a better tech!” he growled.
“Nobody else I work with ever complains, Jerry. You’re the only person in this whole damn company that seems to find a problem with every single thing that I do. You always talk about doing things by the book-you won’t even let me get you an IV line on a rough scene because it’s out of my scope of practice. Well I drive ‘by the book’. I’ve got a wife to go home to, and I’d like to see her again tonight.”
“Fine,” he told me. “Just drive.”

I called out at Hudson Falls Hospital. Dispatch was making up for their compassion the other night and put another job on us straight away. “721, I need you to take it into the crisis unit, 25 year old male, going to St. Johns Psychiatric facility. A scrip for restraints will accompany you.” Jerry looked at me as it went over the air. He hated violent patients. He was a useless fat-body. If something went awry in the back, he’d get his ass kicked by just about anybody. A 70 year old with Alzheimer’s once gave him a black eye.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this one.” I told him. Normally I would have let him squirm, but the name that came through with the Nextel page was familiar. In fact, it was a dead mans name. “You’ve got the next two after this though. I’ve already done four.” For once, he didn’t argue as I pulled the stretcher out of the back and dropped the wheels.

Hudson Falls was a hospital no more than the Hudson River had waterfalls on it. Many years ago, it had been one, with an Emergency Room and all. It had closed in the 1980’s, was bought by the state, and now served as a nursing home/rehabilitation facility, and a crisis center. We were here for the third feature-on the lower level was a psychiatric crisis facility.

Their job was to take despondent people and evaluate them, and then decide appropriate treatment, which usually involved a transfer to a drug rehab or psychiatric recovery center. The weather-beaten, shoddy red brick exterior was foreboding at night, and downright depressing during the day, and the plain, dark long hallways did nothing to lift your spirits once inside. I had heard they did a pretty decent job with patients, but the cloud of despair over the place made it feel like they must be fighting an uphill battle.

I pulled the stretcher through the automatic double doors that used to enter the old ER, waved at security and headed down the hall. As always, the fluorescent lights above me were dim and flickering. My heels clicked softly with each step, pausing briefly at another set of double doors before entering the crisis division.

Inside the crisis center was a bit warmer than the rest of the hospital, both in temperature and d├ęcor. The walls were a light colored wood paneling and the lighting seemed to work better in this part of the building than anywhere else. There was a carpeted waiting room with some fake potted plants in the corners, with comfortable looking chairs and magazines to read. At the moment, many of the chairs were full. The back right corner of the room led to another hallway-the main office and some private rooms for interviewing and problem patients that couldn’t be trusted to sit quietly and play nice with the others in the waiting room. My patient was apparently one of those people in the back rooms. I left the stretcher and Jerry in the waiting room and stepped around to the office to pick up paperwork and get a report.

Heather was on the desk today. She was a small, freckled redhead about my age with a neat, tidy appearance. She wore plain tan business skirt and blue knit sweater. The collars of a white button-down were tucked over the sweater’s collar carefully. It was a conservative look, but attractive nonetheless. She looked harried and busy when I came around the corner, but she smiled brightly at me.
“Thank God, Paul. I am swamped, and this guy was a handful. He’s not crazy, he just wants to kill himself and he’s very adamant about it. Veteran, like you, except he’s a bilateral above-knee amputee, and blind in one eye. He’s definitely got some PTSD goin’ on. Not married, no family. He takes Percocet for pain, and apparently took the whole bottle last night with a bottle of Jameson. A neighbor spotted him through a window and called 911. I took in in quietly, nodding. I was pretty sure I knew this guy. I’d been in that firefight.

Jerry waited around the corner while I went in to introduce myself to our patient. Kevin Burke. He’d been a 19 year old gunner on a HMMWV with me in Mosul. I’d taken the wounds that had sent me home while kneeling over his body trying to stop him from bleeding out. I’d never figured that he’d survived. I took a deep breath, pausing for a moment at the door. My memory of that battle was scattered and there were plenty of blank spots, but I could still hear the screams and smell the burning gunpowder sometimes, and now was one of those times. I steeled myself, walked through the door, and was promptly banged over the head with a chair.

It was cheap, light plastic, and the seat actually broke, but the metal frame caught me hard on the left side. For a moment I was dazed, but not long. Sitting in another chair in the corner of the room was PFC Kevin Burke, former infantry. He was smaller than he had been before, because of the missing legs, but he still had the massive frame of a young man that had once been 6’4. His skin had lost the sun baked tan he’d had in Iraq, it was pale and blotchy from long time spent indoors. One eye was regarding me with a deep fury, and the other lay lifeless and blank in its socket. He was screaming at me.
“Leave me the fuck alone! If I want to die that’s my own business. He threw in even more gratuitous profanity, and deteriorated into nonsense shortly after that. He was known for creative tirades long before he’d been hurt. I did what I’d done back then. I leaned into his face, very close-it was a risk, but calculated. I could probably jump back faster than he could swing. I let my voice get slow and icy. “Private Burke, at ease!” He stopped, the one good eye regarding me curiously. It took a few moments before he recognized me behind my goatee.
“Sergeant Bauer? Doc?” His mouth dropped a little bit, and then he grabbed me in as big a bear hug as he could manage. “I thought you were dead…” I returned his embrace.
“I’m not dead, buddy. I just got sent home. I thought you were dead too though. I thought I’d failed you. Now I find out you want to go and waste that second chance? Hell of a way to have a reunion, Burke.” He started shaking in my arms and then I realized that I’d gone too far-he was crying. It’s not easy to make infantry cry.
“I’m useless, Doc. I can’t work. I can’t drive. I can barely see. No woman wants to look at me. I’ve got nothing left. Sometimes I wish you’d left me in the sand. You wouldn’t have gotten hurt then, and I wouldn’t be in this mess.”

His words made the sounds of battle ring out in my head again. I could hear the chatter of AK-47’s and M4 rifles trading rounds. I could smell the burning powder, and oil and blood. “Back then, I would have told you to quit feeling sorry for yourself and drive on, Burke. I’m not going to tell you that now. This situation sucks, and I know that, but you’re still here for a reason. You’re going to die someday, so why rush it?”
“I’m only here because you made it happen.”
“I failed you,” I told him. “I got hit too. Some other medic saved your life.”
He looked up at me with that one-eyed, quizzical look again. “You don’t remember anything after that grenade went off, do you?” I shook my head no. It was true. The blast had knocked me out cold. I didn’t remember thinking a damn thing after I said a quick, final prayer.
“Tell ya what doc, I’m gonna take this little ’ammalance’ ride with you, and along the way, I’m going to tell you a story. About the man who saved my life.” With that, I called Jerry into the room, and Burke moved himself over with his arms. We wheeled him out talking about the old unit, and girls that used to send us photos to entertain ourselves with in the desert. I winked at Heather, and she beckoned me over to the desk.
“What the hell did you do?” She whispered.
“I told him that if he got better, you’d take him out on a date.”
“What?!”
“No, not really. I used to know him. He’s actually a pretty good guy, just lost some hope.” She nodded in understanding-her and Amy had grown up together and she knew my story through her.
“Have a safe trip, Paul.”
We wheeled down the lonely corridor once again, but it was lit up with Burke’s loud, excited chatter. It was a complete turn-around from the broken man in my paperwork, and far more like the motivated young man I’d known years ago,
“I was going to make them call the cops and shoot me,” he told me. “But then you walked in. Good thing it wasn’t your buddy there, I mighta killed him.” I thought it was possible, even with no legs. I let him smoke a cigarette in the parking lot even though it was against the rules. I could see Jerry’s discomfort and privately reveled in it. I loaded the stretcher, Climbed in the back, shut the doors.
“So Doc,” he started. “Tell me what you remember.” I started to sweat. It was suddenly getting very hot in the ambulance. The diesel engine started up and it sounded like a HMMWV turning over. I could feel the weight of my body armor again, could smell the rank odor of Mosul’s streets. And then I was back in Iraq.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chapter 3

I've been struggling with finding material-and with getting the clarity of mind to turn the ideas into words. Here's another chapter of the fictional story I've posted earlier. The first two chapters are in earlier posts, titled "Chapter 1" and "Chapter 2", respectively. I have no idea how to link to them. Yes, I'm internet retarded.
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When I’d finished, I tiptoed over to the refrigerator. I’d forgotten what day it was. Saturday, April 10th. Amy was a teacher at the Elementary School. Since she didn’t have to go into work, I let her sleep and looked over the “Honey-Do List” on the fridge. There was a woodpile in the backyard that had plenty of logs for splitting, and the yard needed a serious clean-up after a snowy winter. I headed down the hallway to the bedroom. I changed my boxers and paused in front of the mirror.

I’d aged a little in the years. My hair wasn’t thinning yet, but there were lines on my face-crows feet around my eyes, and some wrinkles on my cheeks. My skin was getting leathery. My hair was still cropped short, but I’d long since given up the clean shaven look in favor of a trimmed beard. I’d stayed in shape, too, but there were love handles beginning to show, despite my best efforts to the contrary. Luckily, my arms had stayed muscular. The daily grind of lifting obese people into the backs of ambulances had been enough to keep tone and definition, along with my daily exercise regimen.

The scars were still there. Three spots of puckered flesh, faded into my skin. They looked like cigar burns, two on my left side, within an inch of one another, and one more on the side of my neck. They were bullet wounds, shrouds covering the spots where a 7.62 bullet had torn its way through my body and spilled my blood in the sands of a foreign land. Long, jagged lines still crossed my neck and chest, where a grenade had gone off, sending me home. There was a long scar across my chest from a bar fight after I‘d gotten back, too.. The marks had grown lighter, nearly matching the light tan of my skin, but there were still there as a constant reminder of a more violent youth My eyes had grown softer, along with the scars. They were no longer the hard blue ice chips of Sergeant Paul Bauer. They had definitely seen their share of sorrow, that was very evident. But there was love in my eyes now too. It was a far more pleasing sight than what had been.

I threw on a pair of faded jeans, so old I couldn’t tell what brand they were, a plain black tee shirt, and a plaid lined denim jacket. I headed out the back door, and stretched briefly on the patio. We had about a half acre, on the edge of a large tract of state park. There was a lone, battered tool shed in the back right corner. The yard itself had no trees, except a slowly dying Japanese Maple right in the middle of the grass. The yard was yellowed from the winter, but patches of green were beginning to show up randomly. There were sticks, and leftover leaf piles that I’d neglected the previous fall. I ignored them for now and headed to the woodpile on the edge of the property line.

I’d cut down a big pine tree last fall that was threatening to take out the shed. I’d cut the log into sections a foot and a half long, but hadn’t had the time to split them before the snow had hit. I picked up one of those logs up now, and propped it upright between a couple of two by fours. The idea with splitting logs is to go with the grain of the wood, and to let the weight of the axe do most of the work for you. Done properly and even a huge log will split in one or two strokes. Then you have to quarter them so they can fit into a fireplace easier. I went through about twenty logs , then stacked as much as possible in the wheelbarrow and brought them close to the house. It took me two trips.

I enjoyed yard work. It was tedious, but it was mindless, and that gave me a chance to think things over at a basic level. I had never known anything other than Emergency Medicine. I’d enlisted in the Army straight out of high school., and spent three years on active duty before an AK-47 burst had put two bullets within inches of severing my spine. They almost finished the job with a grenade as I lay on the floor. The Army discharged me and sent me home, and I’d nearly drowned in alcohol and self-pity until Amy dragged me out of that hole.

I’d started working as a civilian EMT soon after that and never looked back. I was always frustrated about being an EMT basic, but I never went for my Paramedic. I loved doing my job, but I had never gotten to the point where it truly felt where I should be-the one secret that I’d kept from my wife all this time was that I was always on the verge of quitting, I just couldn’t think of anything else that I was ever good at besides helping folks. Or hurting them. I’d hated that part of me, but even as a medic, I’d been a good soldier, and I’d put down several people that needed it. Part of me missed that, but going back wasn’t an option. I didn’t think I had any options.

I stopped smoking years ago but I wanted one now. I remembered that my partner, Joe had left a pack in my glove box last week and went to get it. Camel silvers-they weren’t my brand and they were stale but I lit one anyway, and turned around as the back door opened. Gracie, our Black lab/beagle mix , came bounding out the door and circled me briefly before running to the far corner of the yard to do her business. Amy saw me smoking from the door but she didn’t say anything. A disapproving look passed her face, but she let me continue. I took a few more drags and reluctantly crushed it out on the driveway, then picked up a pink Frisbee on the lawn and tossed it for Gracie to chase. She took off after it with gusto, and we went back and forth like that for the next half hour before I decided to head in and shower.

Amy was sitting at the table, reading my letter on the laptop. She turned towards me as the sliding glass back door closed, Her eyes were troubled. “I love you,” she said. “And I’ve missed you these past few days. I know it’s been tough, and I don’t mean to push you too hard, if you really don’t feel up to it anymore.” I walked over and placed my calloused hand on her shoulder.
“I sense a ‘but’ coming, hon.” She giggled a little, and it lightened the mood. For a moment she sounded twenty years old all over again.
“BUT…you can’t just quit your job. You need to find something else first. Or we’ll be out of a house.”

I nodded. We’d properly invested my deployment cash and ended up with far more money than most young couples could imagine having. It had served well as a down payment for the house, and helped get Amy through school, but what was left wasn’t enough to live off of. We didn’t have a huge safety net. Without a college degree there weren’t many good jobs out there. Going back to college as a married twenty-seven year old didn’t appeal much to me either. Not to mention that I still had no ideas on what I’d even study. I gave up, went into the bedroom and grabbed a couple of small fishing poles from a rack on our den wall. Amy smiled when I emerged. “Trout’s open.”

We drove down to the creek a few miles away, and climbed down a slope of slippery, wet, leaves. The ground was still very damp from the nights storm, and the distinctive smell of spring earth hung low in the air, heavy with a feeling of growth and new life to come. The little stream was swollen and swift with runoff from the ice melt, and the previous nights storm combined to turn what was normally a trickling, tame creek into a roaring cascade of water, swirling and crashing over rocks. They held unmoving against the deluge, but it didn’t make our prospects for catching newly stocked trout very good. The water would have moved them downstream unless they could find a gentle eddy to suspend in. We found a calm spot and cast a spinner into the foam.

A few hours later we each had two fish. They would be dinner tonight. We’d neglected to take anything out of the freezer, and fish were best fresh anyhow. Amy was an excellent cook. She stuffed the fish with rice, butter and spices, then grilled them over a cedar plank. I opened up a can of corn and green beans and heated them up, then cracked a bottle of white wine. We ate together slowly, though I still had to focus on the slow part. The Army had ingrained in my mind eating quickly and it had stayed that way even years later. My wife found it humorous, but it wasn’t a romantic way to eat.

With a full stomach and a good buzz from a half a bottle of wine, I curled under the covers and wrapped my wife in my arms, but sleep was a long time coming. I watched the red numbers on our alarm clock change from minute to minute and stared over Amy’s shoulder at the wall behind her. I finally dropped off sometime after 3am, an hour before the alarm jarred me back awake to get ready for work. I was working in two hours and dreading the day. Amy rolled out of bed and slipped into her robe to brew coffee and start frying some eggs so I would have breakfast waiting when I got out of the shower. I was perfectly capable of making breakfast, but she was far better. I loved her more every morning that we woke up next to one another.

A pressed blue shirt lay on the dresser on top of a darker set of cargo pants. I dressed reluctantly and padded out into the kitchen in bare feet. I always put my boots on at the last minute. There were three eggs on a plate sprinkled with cheese and peppers and bacon off to the side. A black cup of coffee was steaming next to it. I ate quickly and kissed Amy goodbye at the door. “Hang in there.” she told me. Her eyes were bright even at this early hour. I knew that she could see my pain.

In EMS, they call what I was feeling burnout. It’s when you’ve seen all you can bear seeing, and it manifests itself in many different ways. Some guys get angry at the job, and get belligerent with patients and partners. Some start to freeze up, or worse, completely break down on scenes. Some plod through the day with a blank stare, with no emotions left to stand. I wasn’t sure where I fell on that scale. Most days it was the blank stare, but some days I felt like I was on the verge of breaking. I’d never frozen up yet. I couldn’t even be sure that I was burned out, because I was never entirely sure that this was where I wanted to be in the first place. Shaking my head, I laced up my boots on the tailgate of my pickup, took a deep breath, and walked through the station doors

Sunday, October 3, 2010

War again...

As I stepped off the plane and my boots hit the ground in Kuwait once more, my brain was in turmoil. My leave had felt long, and relaxing. I spent many a night around the fire pit in the backyard among friends, family, and loved ones. I enjoyed my favorite pastimes, going fishing and shooting, and I even learned to ride a quad. I was a hero to my cousin’s Cub Scout den, and the guest speaker at a college writing course, where I made some new friends. It was almost too good-I didn’t want to be here anymore.

Whatever my original reasons for volunteering to come to Iraq, they had become mired down in the frustrating Army bureaucracy and lost. So many petty rules and regs that seem like a good idea up the chain are often in practice a major annoyance to boots on the ground. Along with the “Ether Bunny”, the “Good-Idea Fairy” can be one of the most dangerous mythical beasts of the military.

A good example is the Army Combat Shirt-it’s a tight, but breathable, moisture-wicking, long sleeved shirt designed to be worn underneath body armor. It’s also quite comfortable without armor, and keeps the temperature feeling much cooler than a standard ACU blouse. But the Combat Shirt may only be worn just prior to, during, or just after a mission. Leave it to the Army to take 7 years to come up with a practical, comfortable uniform well suited to desert warfare-and promptly come up with all sorts of rules stating why it *can’t* be worn!

In any case, when my boots hit the ground, I hated it, but I resigned myself to my fate, shuffling from plane to bus, from bus to tent, to other tent. Each step brought me closer to Iraq again, but also closer to going home again. The thought of stepping off the plane for good several months down the road is a surprisingly good motivator, but I had to be careful not to dwell on just how many months it would be.

Once the in-processing was completed, late in the evening around 1800, we were released for the night. Despite traveling for 20 hours, through several different time zones, I wasn’t tired. I’d slept some on the plane, and my brain was still swirling with thoughts of my life back home, and my future. My college application was in and I was almost sure to get in. I was going to have my own place for the first time, and no more insane 70 hour work weeks-excepting maybe “Finals week”. I was thinking about failed romance, both fresh and stale. I tried to think that the time that I had left would be quick, and there were so many good things happening in the states, I couldn’t wait. I felt like a child when somebody tells him Christmas is just a week away-a week is a short time but it feels like an eternity when you’re excited about the end.

I found a buddy and we grabbed a coffee and traded stories for a good hour. While we sat, a wind began to blow, bringing thick, wet air with it from the Gulf. A fog formed in the darkness, so thick that it was a stretch to see fifty feet in front of me. It cooled the earth around me, the first time that I’d ever thought to consider the temperatures in Kuwait as pleasant. I started to laugh a little to myself at this unexpected turn of events. I’d always loved cool, foggy weather. My buddy from Georgia looked at me funny when I chuckled.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” He asked me. I turned to him and offered a big grin.
“I’m back” I told him simply. Then I shrugged and walked off into the mist.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in the 'Raq

Well, I'm made it safely back to my post in Iraq, and I'm settled in. It's surprising to me how comfortable I've become with things here-not complacent by any means, but the life here has become normal to me now, and although I didn't really want to get back on that plane, I'm actually kind of glad to be back now that I am.

I'll have more on this in a few days, but for the moment, by internet cables are still non-operational back in my CHU, so my access to the internet is limited by my access to the MWR facilities here. Hopefully I'll be up and running again shortly

Sunday, August 22, 2010

opinions please

During my day off today, I sat down and typed up a brief synopsis of two fictional stories that I've had in mind for awhile. This allowed me to solidify some plot lines, as up until now they've both been random scenes in my mind with no clear direction. One of them, Ive posted a few chapters from on this blog. I'm going to post what I have and see what my readers think would be a good choice to focus on for the moment.
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Paul Bauer is a veteran and an EMT struggling with his desire to provide a better life for his family. He has fought depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder in the past, with the help of his long-suffering wife, Amy. A recent string of bad calls has brought his misgivings to the forefront once again, along with the nightmares.
In the midst of his own internal battle, Paul is dispatched on a routine transport, and finds his ambulance under attack. His patient is a known mobster, wanted dead by his rivals, and Bauer’s successful resistance has made some very dangerous people angry. He and his wife are placed in the Witness Protection Program in the care of U.S. Marshall Pat Matthews. Matthews has an impeccable record, but can he protect the Bauer family from a group of hired guns?
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In the aftermath of WWII, retired OSS operator Jack Connery finds his world turned upside-down when expatriate Nazi’s target his family. His wife dead, he manages to save his newborn daughter, but falls into a spiral of deep paranoia and alcoholism. 16 years later his daughter finds his body in their trailer, and realizes that her father was not completely crazy-there were people after blood. With the help of a Korean War sniper, Lee Garrett, she hunts for her fathers killer, determined to take the fight to them, determined to win on her own terms.

Let me know what ya'll think!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Still alive

My apologies for the lack of posting,

There's not a whole lot of excitement around right now, which is a good thing. The little excitement that I've gotten, it's probably best to wait on posting that until the mission is over, and we're home.

There have been lots of humorous events, but none of them are really 'family friendly' and since most of my readers are family, I think I should probably avoid those topics...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Combat Roll

LT asked me to do a combat roll, and I obliged. The roll is probably useless in real battle, and it would be near impossible to pull off in body armor. That said, it's a decent exercise, serving to disorient you. It's a little better than practicing a draw in front of a mirror, in completely tame conditions. It would be nice to actually be able to *shoot* from the draw like that though. I'd like to note, there was no magazine in the pistol, and the chamber was checked multiple times before completing the roll. Try this at your own risk. video

Note, the roll starts at 2 seconds in. I land at the 3 second mark, my hand already on the pistol, as I was reaching in mid roll. The weapon is in my hand, up and ready, in about another half second. I think I can get faster though.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mouse: 1 Jimmy: 0

Sorry for two porta-john posts in a row, but I've got to work with the material I'm given...

Following the rule of no porta-johns in the daytime, last night I headed out, flashlight in hand. The temperature had dropped from about 140 down to 100 or so, meaning downright comfortable in my Pt shorts and t-shirt. I stumbled around in my flip flops, which are too small for my Goliath feet, swearing under my breath each time my big toe found a rock that wanted to make friends.

Eventually, I made it back to the latrine row, and entered the one with the best latch. Some of the doors are closed by string, others tend to crack open a bit, which makes them look unoccupied and leave you susceptible to being bothered by some other soldier attempting to gain entry.

I had just settled when something ran across my foot. It took a moment to register. Bugs were out, I was itchy and sweaty. My skin had plenty of stimuli. When I realized that something had indeed run across my foot, I shined the flashlight downwards. I was half expecting, half hoping for a beetle, but in the back of my mind my brain noted, those were furry, mammalian feet. that had just pitter-pattered over me. My flashlight beam fell upon a mouse scurrying away for the corner.

Now, it should be noted that I'm not scared of mice. I am, however, not a big fan of being trapped in a 2x2 foot *box* with said mouse. I'd like to tell you that I calmly cracked the door, let the mouse outside, and drove on. That would make sense, that would have been the rational, and manly thing to do. I didn't do that. Remember Ace Ventura in the bat cave? (The applicable part is about 1:30 on the video)



I yelled...I thought it sounded like a loud, manly, mice-scaring bellow, and promptly exited the porta-john in the most ungainly and clumsy fashion possible-that included my feet stomping a bit, struggling with the lock, and just about falling out the door backwards-and note that I hadn't taken the time to pull my shorts up.

I did recover quickly, and by the time a few other soldiers made it around the T-wall, my shorts were up, and the mouse was gone. I figured they'd come in response to my loud and thunderous war-cry.

"Hey, Kelly, what's going on? We thought we heard a woman screaming over here!"

Looks like the mouse won that round. But this aint over!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Porta-john humor

Right now, I'm in the middle of nowhere in Iraq. It's kind of like camping, and I don't mind being on the smaller outpost. We happen to be in the middle of a heat wave though, and I wouldn't be surprised it it broke through the 130's. Plus, at our location there's humidity to contend with.

Being on the smaller outpost, we don't have the luxury of flushing, indoor toilets. Just porta-johns. Porta-johns cleaned out every few days by Iraqis. Andthere used by soldiers, who are largely not concerned with things like aim or cleanliness. And they bake in the hot Iraqi sun. Gross.

So naturally, its a pretty fast rule that you don't use the porta-johns for any length of time in the daytime. Doing so is supremely uncomfortable, and results in more sweating than working out in the sun-the temperature in those things is just insane.

The other day, however, one of our guys needed to break the rule.

Rule number two, of course, is that, if you must use the john in daylight, don't do it around anyone else if you want any peace.
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In order to finish the story, I also have to explain something about MRE's

The military "Meals, Ready to Eat" come with water activated heaters, which work decently well. If placed inside a plastic bottle, they also cause a pressure spike which causes the bottle to pop. These are called MRE Bombs. MRE's also come with Tabasco sauce, which contains similar chemicals to CS gas or pepper spray. You can see where I'm going with this...
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We quickly loaded a bottle with a couple MRE heaters, and Tabasco, then poured water inside, and let it drop down the tube in the top of the porta-john. The only sound from within, before the pop was the poor soldier muttering, "F**k". He took it well, but I'm watching out for retribution.

Soldiers are cruel, funny people.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 4th, 1776

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

On July 4th, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies under British rule in North America signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, and became a nation. Though battles with the British had already been fought, and patriots had already died, this was the beginning of the United States of America, as a nation. The men who signed it knew that they signed their death warrant for treason, should the revolution fail.

I won't delve into the particulars of the text-there are so many more with far more knowledge of it than I have. The quote above sums up what I feel is the most important part: that each man be given an equal chance in the world. Everyone born is entitled to their life, and the freedom to live their life as they so choose. It is for life and freedom that I fight for now-for Americans back home, plagued by the shadow of terrorism, of men who would take their lives and and freedom from them. I fight for Iraqis, that they may know the prosperity and the chance of a long and productive life.

The pursuit of happiness does not guarantee happiness-it is a fact often overlooked. Everyone, however, has a right to seek it out, regardless of where or how you were born, your social class, or the money that you have. No person, nor any government, can take that quest away from you.

These items in the Declaration of Independence were predecessors to the Bill of Rights in our constitution, which came later on in our history, but are no less sacred. A *right* cannot be taken away, revoked, or restricted. Our rights are not granted to us by the government, but a product of birth. The governments job is simply to provide the framework so that our rights remain in place-lest the strong arm of tyranny take control. It seems that some of our elected officials, not even 250 years later, have forgotten this. They seem to think that it is their job to regulate our rights, and tell us what is best for us, like over-protective parents. This attitude must change, or our rights may quickly become "privileges" for the favored, and ruling class. Isn't that why the United States was formed the first time?

**I do not advocate revolution, or any violent actions against the government! I'm simply noting that our rights must be protected from those who can't understand what a right is!**

Friday, June 25, 2010

Of comfort in simple places

A cold frost is settling on the newly fallen Autumn leaves, on a dark night in late November. I can see my breath on the air, but I am warm, under a blanket, nestled near a campfire. I can hear a flock of geese honking through the air, and just barely pick up their forms against the inky purple of the night sky. It is cloudless, and the night is clear. I make out Orion’s belt, and stoke the flames of the fire with the toe of my badly worn boots.

My companions lay snoring on out tent, out of the wind on the top of a mountain ridge line. Restless, I’d wandered out to the edge of the cliff to listen to the night and enjoy the feeling of chilly open air rather than the stuffy confines of the tent. I light a honey cigar and think of my troubles, and wonder for my future. An owl calls out and moments later is answered by another. Unidentified night critters can be heard rustling through the leaves, but away from the fire. They are undaunted by my presence in their world, and pulled by some unseen force to gather what food remains to store up fat for the winter. I wonder briefly if our food cache was hung right, and if some raccoon might manage to make mischief of it later on.

I contemplate all the usual things a man should think about in the woods. I think of cold beer, which I was then too young to enjoy. I think of women, and my many failed attempts to woo them. I am surrounded by my own little patch of wilderness, and confront my insignificance to the universe. So many small things alter our lives in ways that we never think about. The path you take on the street may change who you meet. A small chance meeting adds a new friendship to your life that may never have happened if you were just five minutes late. The ambulance call that you don’t take could be the difference between life, and death.

I wonder if these things, and the wilderness around me are all biological randomness, if these events are just chance encounters, or perhaps just evidence of the miraculous, and God’s wonder in everything. I wonder if God is truly concerned with the everyday lives of man, or if he has a greater, more Godly purpose in the universe. I wonder, if I feel saddened by the terrible things that man does to one another, what sadness might mean to God, and how he might handle that, being the only one.

These puzzles bounced around in my head, unsolved, and leaving me confused and utterly awake. The noise in my head grew, in stark contrast to the relative silence of my surroundings. Nothing but the occasional pop of a branch in my now neglected fire broke the silence for a few moments. And then the music started.
A mournful cry came from the hill beneath me, a high pitched howl, a yelp, something close to a bark. Another coyote answered, and another. For a few minutes the hills all around me were alive with song, bouncing from peak to peak, and across the valley below. The coyote’s call seemed to be timed just so. There were indeed miracles in the world, and God listens, even when you don’t think you’re speaking with him.

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It’s not quite 4am as I dress in the dark. I pull my camouflage on over my boxers, lace up my boots, and belt on my pistol. My room-mate lies in bed still sleeping, and my groggy, heavy eyelids can barely see even in the beam of my flashlight. I grab my ID card, take my vitamins, and pocket a bottle of water, then head out the door to go to work.

It’s already about 90 degrees, even at this early hour, but even that temperature feels pleasantly cool, if not quite chilly against my skin. In comparison to the 130 degree heat that I will see later on in this day, I am at ease with the climate.

I walk my way past the Dining Facility, my eyelids begging for coffee, but knowing that the DFAC won’t be open for another two hours. I head up Sharrarah Ur road, stepping light and fast, sipping water as I go. I pass a few vehicles along the way, and one or two soldiers on bicycles headed to work like me, but the base looks deserted, mournful, and lonely in the shadows of the desert night.

The wind is calm, and no dust has yet been stirred up, so I breathe deep and easy, taking the turn onto 6th Avenue, towards the swamp in the desolate far corner of the base. I walk past quiet motor pools full of war vehicles. I pass bunkers, left over from the last war in this place, when I was a child. They are torn apart, and in great disrepair. Gaping wounds have been left in the walls and roofs, where JDAM’s tore through them in bombing runs. I wonder if they were left as a reminder to the enemy.

As I walk, I wonder about the choices that have led me to be here. I think about the sense of duty I was raised with, the compassion that I was born with, and that my family cultivated as I grew up. I reflect on the strong feelings toward justice and freedom in my heart. I wonder if it will make a difference to the people here, who seem so indifferent and resigned to their standard of living.

I stop, and sit on the ground in front of the swampy lake. There are surprisingly few insects out to bother me, just crickets chirping. I look out across the water. It barely moves, with no wind to push it, but moonlight shining down on the ripples makes it look shimmering and alive. Tall water plants reminiscent of cattails rustle gently, the only noise that’s outside of my head.

I once again contemplate the random events that shape our lives-if I had stayed in college, I would be a different man right now. I would probably never have been a soldier. I would never have had the chance to experience the joys and sorrows of my job back home. I would not know the same people, or have the same views on the world.

I wonder if I will experience combat here, and wonder if I’ll perform the way that I hope. I try not to think about it, but I can’t help but ask how well I’ll take it if I lose a friend under my care. I ask myself if the mission can succeed here, with the political climate in Baghdad, and at home. I try not to think of the possibilities, and rise from my place at the edge of the lake to get to work.

From across the desert, and outside the wire, comes the singing. A high pitched howl, in quick, barking staccato. It carries from beyond my field of view, and the sound is joined with other howls in a moment, reaching me in a beautiful, if eerie chorus. I’m reminded by the jackals of a another discontented night, several years, and thousands of miles ago. They tell me that all is as it should be, come what may, and that there’s beauty everywhere, even in a war-torn corner of a desolate desert landscape.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Critters and the War on Mice

I've been in Iraq nearly two months now, long enough to have some critter encounters that I think I should share. Iraq certainly has plenty of wildlife to be found if you look hard enough. I'm still trying to get my hands on a field guide to middle eastern birds, so if anybody knows where I can get one, let me know.

Camel Spiders


Camel spiders are a relative of the Arachnid family, and they belong to the order of Solifugds. And no, I can't pronounce that. There are a number of rumors about their size, speed, and habits that circulate around here.

The rumor is that they got their names by their nasty habit of burrowing into a camels viscera in order to lay eggs, which later hatch, and devour the camel. Research, of course, shows this to be false, but it still makes for a formidable reputation.

I was under the impression that they could get to be very large, upwards of frisbee sized, but most of the ones that I've encountered have been no larger than a tarantula spider. They are, however, extremely quick, and very aggressive, especially when cornered. They also do, in fact, jump quite high. I've witnessed it, despite what the Wikipedia article will tell you.

My first encounter with a camel spider was on a job site. A couple of guys chased it down to get a better look at it. They poured cold water on the creature, which causes them to freeze up-most likely because it can no longer breathe. We got a good, close look at four fang-like things at it's mouth, and talked at length about the extraordinary things that we'd heard they could do. Then one of the guys released it from the empty bottle and we moved on.

I sat down later and realized that the camel spider was still in the same spot we let it go at, unmoving, and I assumed that we'd killed it. It seemed like a safe conclusion at the time, so I poked it with a short twig, thinking that if it were dead I could examine it a bit more, for curiousity's sake. This was a mistake. I very nearly had a chunk taken out of my finger. The spider jumped up that stick faster than I could blink, but I dropped it in time. He jumped up the wall of the bunker and holed up somewhere, while I sat a little shaken. I later found out, that although the bite can be painful and prone to infection, it is not actually venomous. Small comfort.

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I've also got a mouse problem. It started in the old platoon room. I saw the little guy, about half the size of the field mice back home. He was darting around the edges of the wall, around where I kept my spare medical gear. I was going to set out traps, because I saw the droppings on the floor, and realized he was making quite a mess, but we were switching rooms the next day. Let the new guys deal with it.

Since the re-organization of the company, myself and Sgt. McCarty have taken on the task of combining our respective medical equipment in an unoccupied trailer in the camp, and for the past few days have been doing inventory on what we have, and prepping for upcoming missions.

While going through the foot locker from the old room, I noticed that many of my bandages were chewed, had yellow stains, or mouse pellets on them. These were, of course, discarded. I was very surprised to find my mouse still inside the foot locker though, and very much alive. I emptied most of the stuff out, then tipped the foot locker over, and he ran free. I didn't think I needed to kill him at the time.

When I returned from lunch though, he'd returned to the new room. I caught a glimpse of him darting behind the vehicle first aid kits. I wasn't able to dislodge him without making a horrible mess, but in a few minutes I began to hear chewing again. So no more Mr. Nice Medic.

The house back home is over 100 years old, so I'm no stranger to war with mice. Ive probably been at war with mice for about 13 years longer than this one has been alive. I bought some traps, and they are set. If the viper that lurks underneath the shed doesn't get him, I will.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Notes on Combat Medicine and Handguns

I haven't seen any combat here, but at this point I've run through enough simulated missions to have a bit more insight into what works for me, and what doesn't as far as my armament is concerned.

For the entire time that I've been reading about, and using firearms, I've been told that a handgun is nothing more than a stopgap until you can get to a "real weapon". I'd like to offer a dissenting opinion on that. As a medic, I'm carrying an M4 Carbine and an M9 handgun. My combat load, including body armor, aid supplies, ammo, and sundries, weighs about 70 pounds, give or take. I weigh just under 170 lately.

We're patrolling in heavily armored vehicles with very little room to work with inside. In the event of a hit, it's my job to get to the casualties and treat them, and then get them to a vehicle in which we can evacuate them to higher medical care-by ground, or to an LZ for the chopper.

So far, once I sling my M4, it hasn't come off my back. It tends to get in my way, even with the stock fully collapsed. The barrel catches on seats and straps, on my armor, or doors. It's not quickly accessible. Were I to keep it up front, it would bang my patients in the head, and get in the way of my hands applying bandages or tourniquets. I full realize it's utility if we were taking fire from longer range and I needed to lay down suppressive fire, but with the current ROE it's not likely.

My 9mm is kept in a Serpa holster on the left side of my chest, strapped to my armor. It gives me minor pause about muzzle discipline, as the angle can tend to flag people to my left side depending on where they are at, but with movement, I dont think that there is any completely safe place to put a handgun where it won't flag someone, at some point. That's where safety latches and trigger discipline come into play.

What this position does do, however, is keep the handgun readily accessible, no matter what position I happen to be in, excepting completely prone. In many cases when we get hit, civilians swarm the area-begging for food and water, offering to help, throwing rocks, trying to loot our downed vehicles, and just generally causing enough mischief to raise the pucker factor a bit. They also don't have a good concept of personal space or standoff distance, and sometimes the only thing that gets them to back off is an aggressive demeanor and the muzzle of a weapon. This makes the 9mm perfect. I can be treating a casualty, and if somebody breaks through security, have a weapon on them immediately and still be able to work with one hand. I'm a fair pistol shot, Ive qualified expert each time.

All of these things combine to make the M9 my go-to weapon, and really, my primary weapon. It's not ideal in terms of range or stopping power, but for my situation, its really the best that I could hope for.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memoral Day

"We sleep soundly in our beds at night because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." -George Orwell (I've also seen it attributed to Winston Churchill)

Memorial Day will be celebrated across the United States tomorrow, and in a subdued fashion, on our bases all over the world, in honor of those who have died defending freedom. Your freedom. My freedom. Your neighbors, and your child's freedom. In many cases, the United States has fought for the freedom of another country's citizens as well. We joined the effort in WWI to turn the tide of the war in Europe. We stepped in again during WWII to liberate the French and allow the British to keep on fighting the good fight. We once again headed to war in Korea, and in Vietnam-to stop the spread of Communism, and to keep the people in those places from having to live under misery and oppression. And today, regardless of your politics, we once again fight for freedom.

It doesn't much matter to me what the "behind the scenes" reasons were for coming to Iraq. We released the Iraqi people from a horrible dictator. We have built schools, roads, hospitals. We've trained them so that they can keep order. We've given them the power of a vote-and even in the oppressive Middle Eastern climate, even women now have a say in who their leaders will be.

Our troops in Afghanistan have done the same, and soldiers, sailors, marines, and airman are fighting the good fight in two theaters of operations now to keep the enemy from our back door.

And yet, so many people seem to forget the significance of this day. So many see it as the start of summer, the opening of the pool. Or just another day off work, to throw some burgers on the grill and drink beer. By all means, enjoy yourself on this day-but just don't forget the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given their lives up in the course of our nations short history, so that your could enjoy that burger, and drink that beer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Settling in...

Well, I'm slowly settling in here in Iraq. I don't think that I will ever be used to this heat, and the doxycycline is doing some interesting things to my skins tolerance for sun, but I only have another ten days worth. I still haven't gotten a burn, but it feels as though I am, every time I'm out in the sun.

Contrary to what many believe about the draw-down in Iraq, that all the troops are sitting around with nothing to do, it looks like some units like mine have their work cut out for them. We'll be very busy, and potentially even jumping FOB's, so I'm not counting on being in the same place all that long. I won't give too much more detail than that.

Everyone is asking what I need, so I figured I could post a tentative list here-obviously things will come up that I haven't foreseen yet-I still may need my aid bag for instance, if things continue on their current track.

Weapons Cleaning Patches
Gunpowder solvent/lubricant
A scraper tool(like a dental pick) for hard to reach carbon deposits in my rifle
Keychain lights(like the $1.99 LED's)
Alarm Clock
AA batteries
Q tips
Listerine
Whitening Strips
Body wash(I've been using Irish Springs hair and body-that way I dont carry two bottles to the shower)
My multi tool(should be with my other knives)
Small bottles of hot sauce(Franks Red Hot is the best!)
Anti-itch cream for bug bites
Gold Bond
Protein powder

I don't have a whole lot of room here, but letters are ALWAYS appreciated, and it'll help me get a list of addresses together so I can write back. That was a major omission of mine, coming out here without those.

More later, and if you have any questions, message me!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Boots on the Ground

Before today, I had never left the United States, but today I've stepped foot on the soil of three different countries. I'll be here in Kuwait for just a few days, than off to Iraq for the real fun part.

The flight was long and cramped, it's 0140 hrs here, and nearly 1940 where I'm used to, so I need to turn in for the night. With any luck I'll have some great photos and a humorous incident involving a scorpion or camel-spider to write about within the week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Off we go...

Well, my orders are cut, and I'm off to Iraq as a medic with a Engineering unit, specializing in rapid road repair missions. They blow up roads, we fix them.

I wont be posting much, due to OPSEC reasons. Funny stories yes. Combat stories, if any, will come after the mission is complete and I am home. I don't want to jeapordize our safety over there. The enemy watches these things.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A shift in review

We respond to a female fallen, with a nosebleed. Sitting there in her wheelchair is a profoundly mentally retarded woman. She is dirty disheveled. She doesn't respond to me verbally when I try to talk to her, just looks at me and rocks back and forth. The bleeding from her nose is stopped.
"She fell," the nurse tells me. She hands me paperwork and tries to run off. I'm already frustrated with her.

"How about giving me a report?" I'm barely covering the edge in my voice. The nurse repeats her previous statement.
"Any LOC?" She shakes her head. "How long ago?" 30 minutes, comes the distracted reply. For some reason she wants to run. I do a quick assessment and find no other injuries whatsoever. My patient is covered in old food, and smells like spoiled milk.

"So, you're telling me that this woman was sitting *IN* her chair, and without standing up, fell forward onto the floor, landing on her face, and the ONLY injury she managed to obtain is a bloody nose with an obvious fracture?" The nurse nods and runs off. I write it in my report as it was told to me. I don't buy it. No word on if the state is involved yet. My words might have made no difference.

................................

We're called to another home, for chest pain. There are two other ambulances there for other patient, but medics have initiated care already. She is in no acute distress, alert and oriented. As we get to the elevator, her daughter comes up to the stretcher. "This is all because she was out at Lace last night!" She must be kidding, Lace is a strip club, but I play along.
"I thought I recognized you there!" We laugh and the daughter grumbles, "I'm a grandmother myself, they'd probably kick me right out of there!" She looks no older than 50.

My partner is taking her in, and because she is lucid, he explains everything to he. He even explains all of her history, and tell her what it means. He tells her each and every one of her medications, and tells her what they are for. He is very patient with her many questions. "I like that about you," she tells him. "because you treat me like a real person."

The transport is an easy one, and as I turn to leave the ER she says, "Are you married?" I shook my head no.
"Haven't met a woman that could stand me yet," I said with a grin. She smiled. "I'll pray that you find one. You're such a nice young man." She smiled, and I know that her scary moment had been turned into something a little more positive, because she had a good crew.

.....................

Dispatch must be crazy. They're sending an all-male crew to go pick up a 14 year old female psych patient. I'm ready to refuse when my paperwork says that she is aggressive and violent, and I have a scrip for restraints. A 21 year old soldier wrestling a 14 year old girl alone in the back of an ambulance is just asking for a lawsuit or jail time, even if everything was by the book, and there were no dishonorable intentions. A female supervisor comes down with us instead.

The girl is quiet, reserved. She seems friendly enough. I can scarcely believe the stories on the paperwork...punching cars, threatening her family with a bat, sending nude photos to boys, walking out in the middle of traffic, and lie after lie. She sits there and listens to her Ipod until she pops in a stick of gum and I offer to throw out the wrapper.

Sometimes it only takes a small trigger to make a psych go off. It also takes an equally small trigger to get them to warm up to you. It's a delicate balance that in this case, paid off. From those few spoken words, she began to talk. About school, and getting kicked out. About her dreams of getting into medicine. About kid stuff, like climbing trees and decorating books with aluminum foil from gum wrappers, and snowboarding. She walked into the treatment facility of her own volition with a smile on her face. Only God and she know if any of the stories she told me and my supervisor were true, but if nothing else, the talking made a difference. And those little differences are why I do what I do.