Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Clearance sale on pointless stories

Well, I'm back at Al Asad, the land of milk & honey. In an amazing move that will surely go down in the tomes of history, I have been given two, count em' two days off. I realize that this is a fairly common practice back home, but it's unprecedented out here. I am a wealthy man until Saturday.

This reward is borne from our efforts in Al Qaim, where we constructed a half-dozen SWA (South-West Asia) huts, a large Shock-Trauma Center, several guard towers, and another half-dozen decks for Bedouin tents. We did a bang-up job, and now we're reaping the sweet, sweet reward.

I have a few stories, as usual. Those that have asked me for stories about OIF I were usually given my personal favorite, the tale of Sid the Scorpion and his many triumphs against the worst insects I could throw at him. Well, with all the plywood & whatnot lying about, we managed to find a lot of scorpions and other assorted beasts.


The first match was Sammy the Spider (Camel Spider) Vs. Sid Vicious (Named in honor of Sid, the original champion). They were both about the same size, and the money was on Sid, naturally. As it turns out, this was a good bet. Since Sammy had no size advantage, Sid ended up holding him down with his claws, and stabbing him in the face a few times with his stinger.

Winner: Sid

A day or two later, we put Sid up against a slightly smaller scorpion, with predicable results. Sid took a hit or two, but kept his chin up and won the day.

Winner: Sid

The very day after the last battle, Sid did battle with Fluffy, another scorpion, again slightly smaller. Earlier that day, SSgt Fowler informed us that a scorpion, when surrounded by fire, would commit suicide with it's own stinger rather than suffer the flames. We all decided that the loser of this next battle would be put into the "Ring of Fire", to partake in the scorpion version of Hara-Kiri.

Unfortunately, Sid wasn't holding up so well with all this constant battle. He was slower and took several hits from Fluffy. However, Fluffy, with his considerable speed, was quick to run away at every opportunity. We had to keep pushing them together in order to keep the battle going.

Marines, as a general rule, are not known for their patience. After several rounds of "Push em' together, watch em' run away", Sgt Maus lost his patience. "C'mon, bitch, FIGHT!" he began to scream. Unfortunately, Sid had lost his stomach for battle. I imagine getting stung a few times will do that to a guy.

A chant began to emerge from the crowd. "Ring of fire! Ring of fire!".

"Fuck it, man" Sgt Maus continued, "They don't wanna fight, burn their asses."

And so the Ring of Fire was made. Using Alcohol-based hand sanitizer, A ring was made around the two of them, and set afire.

Fire will motivate anything. Both scorpions scrambled for a way out, passing through the flames, and setting themselves alight in the process. They immediately begain to thrash about. Now, most everyone agrees they were stinging themselves, but I'm not convinced. If you set me on fire, I would be doing the crazy dance too. Sure, you could say "Oh, he's punching himself! He's trying to kill himself so he doesn't have to burn to death!", but c'mon. I'm on fuckin' fire. Of course I'm flailing. I'm on fire.

Winner: Fire

Volleyball, Homoeroticism and Lobster Man.

A curious thing happens when you put a bunch of guys together for months. You start doing things you would never, ever do back home. Like rub sunscreen or lotion into another man's back. In front of the guys. Or maybe someone in your platoon comes up and says "Hey man, I got a big knot in my back. Will you rub it out? I'll rub your back for you!" And you say "Yes."

Pretty soon, you're playing team sports in nothing but a tight pair of PT shorts and shoes. Welcome to the 1st Annual Al-Anbar province Volleyball Championships. Volleyball madness first began sweeping the company about two months ago. It was a small group of die-hards that played every night. Their influence has swept over us, and now volleyball is played every night. Sadly, I have also been consumed by the fever. I call out "Five serving Seven", wearing tight shorts. I clap my hands when we make a point. I scream at teammates when they fail to properly "Set". We all get real sweaty and then give each other high-fives.

Someone help me, because I can't help myself.

I make the mistake of not applying the sweatproof sunscreen, and my back is burned horribly. Every move is extremely painful, and I forget one of the taboos of heterosexual culture. "Hey, hey...Sgt Gonzalez. Wanna do me a favor? Want to rub some lotion in on my back? He acquiesces quickly, because his back is burned too. And so of course I'll rub his back in exchange.

Help me, help me, help me. I can't stop myself.

I'm so red I am given the nickname of "Lobster Man". And hey, while we're discussing sunburns, what the hell is it that makes everyone come up and give you a big old wallop on the back whenever you scorch yourself?

Any Marine: Hey Doody! How the hell are you? *SLAP*

Doody: Aaaaaaaaggghhhh!

Any Marine: Whoa-ho-ho! A little sunburned, are we?

Doody: No kidding, mouthbreather!

Any Marine: Well, I was gonna say sorry, but now..... *SLAP*

Doody: Gaaaaaagggggghhhhhhhh!

So now my body has a little race going: Lung Cancer Vs. Skin Cancer, which one can kill Dave first? Unbeknownst to both of them, I am going to quit smoking and carry a parasol everywhere once I get home.

So that's about all the entertainment I can wring out of my little AQ trip. As always, an update will be put together soon. Apologies to anyone that was stuck worrying about me in light of the Operation Sword situation.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The soul of wit.

This is going to be a short update, as the title implies.

First item of business: I'm okay. I didn't go out on this last op, as some of you have worried about. However, I -am- temporarily living out of the same base that it's being housed from. Thus, the internet/phone center had been shut down. So that's why I've been the invisible man lately. They reopened it for father's day, and so here I am.

I do happen to have some good stories to tell, once I get back to the beautiful Al-Asad Spa & Resort. Time on the interweb here is rather limited, but I promise I'll get some good stuff up once I return, okay? Okay.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Marine Corps has taught me many things. How to launder clothes by hand, for instance. How to fire a weapon accurately over long distances, how to hide myself in many kinds of environments.

In recent years, the Marine Corps has adopted manoeuvre warfare over attrition. In fact, all of my training has revolved around this manner of thinking. Stick & move, jab & weave. Take real estate as quickly as you can, and for god's sake, if you get ambushed, you regroup and attack with every ounce of force you can muster.

So yesterday, when SSgt Bates played a cruel joke on me, I knew I had to regroup and go for the throat. This is a story of treachery & public humiliation.

Yesterday saw me working with Lcpl Archdeacon (our electrician) to help finish one of the buildings we've assembled. Wiring for electricity is one of the final stages in completing a building, but it only takes a few people to do. Thus, he and I worked on wiring while everyone else went back to the barracks to rest and clean weapons.

At around 1100, we had finished what we needed to do, and turned to putting tools back into our gear locker. Putting all the tools back into the gear box is tremendously important. If we lose tools, we can't complete our mission very well. So as I was making a short sweep of the building, who should I come across but Lieutenant Fancher (Navy) using our staplegun to secure linoleum to the floor?

Well, too bad for him, I needed our tool back. Because if I left the staplegun with him, it would undoubtably be used in a triple-murder and I would be the one to hang for it. So I approach, and ask for the tool, at which point he informs me that SSgt Bates (Our acting platoon sergeant) was the one that gave it to him, and if he takes responsibility for the tool, would I let him continue to use it?

Well heck. That sounded reasonable enough. Sounded like a very reasonable request to me. Sure thing, sir. Sure thing. You go ahead and use the tool, but don't stab me in the back, okay? Okay? You wouldn't do that, would you sir? Not me, right? You wouldn't do that to me?


So off I went, blissfully unaware that my afternoon was about to suck. I went to the chow hall, devoured a meal, went back to the barracks, pulled out the trusty ipod, and settled in for a short nap. Not five minutes later, I wake up to find a large chunk of my ass missing, courtesy of Sgt. Maus.

"What the fuck, Doody? Tell me why I got fuckin' Staff NCO's bitching me out for unsecured tools? Huh?"

Oops. Looks like the Lt. screwed me over. Never trust an officer.

"Uh, Sgt Maus, the El-tee (Short for Lieutenant) said that SSgt Bates gave him the tool. I figured that if he gave it to him, and didn't say anything to me, he didn't need it back with the rest of the tools."

"Good, Doody. I'm glad you're the new guy in charge of tool accountability! I'm glad you know so much about our shit that you think it's okay to just loan it the fuck out to whoever!"

Then he storms away, leaving me to wonder what the hell just took place. Sure, maybe I did the wrong thing, but I didn't rate getting bitched out like that, right?

That's when Sgt Gonzales comes in and adds to my confusion. He spits out "Doody! You gonna write an essay! You gonna write an essay about not being a fucking idiot!" and then disappears into the room that Sgt Maus went into. By now, I'm trying like hell to figure out what exactly is taking place. I could have sworn I saw the faintest hint of a smile on Sgt G's face, but it didn't seem like a good idea to try calling his bluff.

About an hour later, SSgt Bates comes in and shoots me an ice-cold glare, then storms off into the room holding Sgt Maus & Sgt G. "Just let me know when you figure out what punishment you want for Doody, Staff Sergeant!" rings out from Sgt Maus, and I decide I'm going to suck it up and just apologize already.

So there I stand at the door, waiting. Finally, he comes out and I make my big pitch: "Staff Sergeant, I apologize for not securing the tool. I incorrectly assumed that it would be okay to leave the tool with the Lieutenant. What can I do to make this right, Staff Sergeant?"

He glares at me, and starts to walk out of the room. Then he stops. And his shoulders start to shake. He turns around and I see that he's silently laughing. I know I've been had. Oh yes, everybody is laughing now. They got Doody! Got him good! Hardy-fuckin'-har.

I was ambushed. Caught with my pants down. Now it's time for the counterattack.

Starting about a half-second after everyone started laughing, I had my eyes open for a means of revenge. I considered the old standbys: Cutting boot laces, stealing a hat, turning chevrons upside down, but I decided to wait. Fortune rewards the patient.

Walking past the worksite on my way to this very internet center, I came across my opportunity. Staff Sergeant Bates' notebook.

I stared at it a few additional moments, expecting it to slowly shimmer away like a mirage. I took a step closer. Then another. I put out my hand and touched it. And then, just as the inkling of a plan began to form in my mind, a cold smile spread across my face.

Any amateur can steal something and give it back later. I decided that I was going to fill this book with all kinds of crazy shit, and then return it during our nightly meeting, so that everyone could see what I had done.

The beginning was simple: "Pee-Wee Herman + Staff Sergeant Bates = True Love!" This was followed with several hearts bearing the name Pee-Wee, along with several lines of "Staff Sergeant Herman" in cursive.

I knew more was needed, so I decided to get a touch more creative. I started cutting out photographs of men from Maxim Magazine. Men in Under Armor ads, Men in cologne ads, it didn't matter. Were they shirtless? Then I cut it out. I placed these pictures throughout his notebook. As I flipped through it, I noticed that the entries were according to date. So I decided to add a few additional journal entries. The following is what I wrote, as best as I can remember:

6/1/05 --

1500-- Saw a gorgeous, shirtless Iraqi Boy today. Just looking at him made my pants tight with painful arousal. I rubbed sunscreen all over his back, and traded him a candy bar for a lock of his hair. OMG, SO HOT.

(And there, in his journal, was a lock of hair that I cut from my own head. I considered the hair to be the master stroke.)

1900-- Remember to make appointment for "combat stress massage". Pay lots of attention to my nipples (the word "nipples" heavily underlined.)

Once my work with his notebook was complete, all that was left was the painful wait until our 2000 meeting. I was not disappointed. When the time came, I sat dutifully through until the end of the meeting, at which time I asked for everyone's attention.

"Everybody" I began "Today I made a mistake. A big mistake, as most of you already know. I failed to maintain accountability of gear. But Marines, I don't want you to think that this is only a problem that PFCs and Lance Corporals face. (at this point, I paused for effect and gave Staff Sergeant Bates a huge grin) Indeed, even Staff NCOs can fall victim to complacency." And with a flourish, I produced SSgt's notebook. "I been lookin' for that!" screamed SSgt Bates.

But it wasn't time for him to get it back, not just yet.

"Marines, I know that I have many failings, chief among them is curiosity. As I brought the book over to the meeting tonight, I wondered to myself, 'What does a Staff Sergeant write about in one of these things?' I am ashamed, Devildogs. I'm ashamed that I didn't have the strength to keep the book shut. I looked. I looked in his book! But I couldn't believe what I saw. I just couldn't.... I mean....well....maybe you all should see this."

And just as I knew they would, everyone crowded around. I opened the book and let them see. Suddenly, the sound of laughter filled the room. Staff Sergeant Bates knew I had him, but there was nothing left for him to do but let me finish my hand.

"Most disturbing, most disturbing of all, everyone" I continued, "are the journal entries. Allow me to read them." And so I did, making sure to point out the lock of hair to everyone. The howling only increased in laughter.

At this point, I knew that one of two things was going to happen. A: Staff Sergeant Bates would take it like a champ and shake my hand, or B: Staff Sergeant Bates was going to cut my balls off. My second gamble of the day paid off. He (much to his credit) laughed as I returned his notebook. Whew.

The lesson of the story is not to play practical jokes on those more devious than yourself. As I took the liberty of reminding him after the meeting "Hey, I whipped this up in an hour. Imagine would I could have done if I let things stew for a few days?"