Well I've been at Ft.Lewis for a month now after having been called up the first part of November and I'm here to say things are getting a little better- the National Guard, or at least C Co has the mentality that we have to hit it hard and fast and get everything done in two weeks what the RA takes a year to get done. Push that with the frantic knowledge in knowing we're all being re-trained as Light Infantry for urban ops, and an imminent deployment to an operationaly hostile theatre and openly hostile region of that theatre, well, you get the picture. Things have tapered off, and so for the second Saturday night in a row, I'm home doing wash and spending time with the wife...
So anyway, its official, we now have our AO and are training for urban warfare and COIN duties, mostly against groups that enjoy taking a morter around in the back of a Toyota and lobbing it at our base of operations....or so Top (1st Sgt). No one is happy about losing our beloved M1A1s and trading them in for a pair of "leg" boots and M4s with reflex sights, but after running our first STYX lane as Light Infantry last night, I'm confident in saying that after two more months of this crap, we'll be regular SWAT Rambos.
As for my fire team, we are the former crew of our beloved M1A1, Charley One-One, myself, Sgt."Cisco", and my battle buddy PFC "Andrew"- our tank commander, an E-7 who reminded me a LOT of my father, got transfered perminantly up to HHC, probably good 'cause he wasnt much of a field guy even if I was realy sad to see him go. Cisco is a former Marine who has been an NCO 5 times now, Corporal to Sgt in the Guard when he was in his early 20s, then enlisted into the Corps where he made it to E-4, came back into the Guard, when I met him he was a Corporal, and was promoted to E-5 again a week before we were activated. He's like my hyperactive older brother, a true ADD-HD boy, he is both very intellegent, and very rambunctious when he doesnt take his meds. Actually, if I may refer to an NCO as this- he's a holy terror when he's off his meds. My plan is to stick him with a pocket knife and a cut down M2HB and point him towards the enemy if things ever get dire- if there is anything left of Iraq afterwords, I'll be amazed. He's also got the most poignent habit of credit carding anyone and everything- let me explain- credit carding is a sort of wedgie, performed by apporaching your target either in a standing or bent over position, putting your hands togeather as if praying, jamming them between the target's knees, and sliding quickly and smoothly up to the asscrack, at which point you pull your hands appart and leave the target both starteled and with about a foot and a half of BVD up their exit-only chute. He also does "dode checks" when off-meds, which generaly consist of a cupped hand shoved suddenly and rapidly "Crocadile-Dundee" style into the groin of the unsuspecting target or targets at a frequency that leaves the entire platoon falling in with one hand over the package to make sure we dont get 'checked'. He and his wife, a pleasant enough looking woman known simply as "red", are platoon fixtures, with many a long night of good drinks, movies, music, and whatever else comes up (dominoes or cards usually, paintball and those little plastic-track racing cars sometimes too) at their place. To his credit (the reason we put up with all his $#it too...) he is probably one of the most dedicated soldiers and NCOs I've ever met- he's already pushing me hard towards getting my E5, albiet with TMTMs (Marine manuals) and a lot of shared information and responcibility. I've got no other way to put it than he has assumed the role of the older brother I've never had- a blue-collar, 32yr old version of my kid brother. Our of all the NCOs I could have been assigned to in my unit, Cisco is the one guy who will either bring us home alive, or make sure we make the enemy pay dearly before killing us. Much to the dismay of our Pl.Sgt last night he actually bounded us and another fire team, overwatch in 3-5 second tactical rushes, through the barracs of orth Fort, to our "suspected OPFOR" target, over two miles, an exhausing endevor for even 500m in only battle rattle, with ruck sacks. Sometimes our Pl.Sgt confides in me that he things Cisco thinks we are training to be Force Recon elements against someone like the Chinese or the Soviets, not a bunch of terrorists and opfor militia guys. To his credit our squad has two "beta-C" mags, and he's gotten the plans for some device we can use to convert our 3-rnd-burst weapons to FA, to our unit mechanics, and tried one of their examples out already. Our CO and supply guys were more than thrilled at his ingenuity but told him to keep them under relative wrapps from the rest of the unit (s).
Andrew, my PFC 'charge', is a tall gangley kid who is surprisingly smart for his demeanor (he comes off as a real hayseed) but has a tough time showing it especially under pressure where his frustration often costs him his goal. A Matrix devotee who loves to call me "MISTER Anderson...." first thing in the morning, he often muddles through the day with an "Eyor" attitude and a grumble, but my faith in him is beginning to pay off as he is showing himself to be a more than capable soldier in the field when it counts, and an excellent Humvee driver and navigator. Although he resembles the string of "Forrest Gump" battle buddies I was cursed with in Basic, I think he just moves at a different pace than the rest of us- a deadly flaw in combat, but one that is far easier to deal with than the limited mental abilities everyone assumes of him at first. He'll be the first to admit going Combat Arms was neither his idea, nor has it realy panned out for him- he'd be far happier in the rear with the gear, or better yet at his appartment with his Pug. Still, our team wouldnt be the same without him and I count him as a good friend, same as Cisco.
First Platoon is full of characters, but we set the standard for our company- unlike some other barracks, ours has a tidy military like demeanor and has resisted those "homey" touches like christmas lights, entertainment centers, Xboxes, trees, plants, pets, etc... we've also got a rep of being "overly friendly" with one another....and although I think the whole "queer act" thing goes way to far sometimes, I have nothing but 100% faith in the ability of these guys who are going into combat with me. Even Sgt."Handjob" who despite his misanthropic attitude isnt affraid to proudly proclaim that he can fit into girls size 5 vinal pants, and has the best figure of any "woman" in the Army, or admit that if *he* can do it, ANYONE can do it...I'd gladly risk my life without second thought to make sure any one of these guys gets home...even though Sgt.Handjob is convinced falling on a grenade wouldnt save anyone....
As per what I expected, our unit has all the wrong equiptment, we never get enough sleep, we're always on 'lock down' (kinda like being in Basic again some days) and no one is ever realy sure of whats happening even 10 minutes before it happens. We're fighting WAAAY outside our MOS-Q abilities, but our moral is superb and I think to the last we are mission capable and competent to this point. Although everyone has their own reasons to do this thing, we're all more than happy to be headed over to pitch in a hand and get this mess cleaned up.
I've already got "dibbs" on Saddam's HiPower if we ever find him :) I told the other guys they could have his stockpile of "gold $#itters..."
Anyhow, enjoy the pics, and God bless...