Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Last Adventure

Digging for truth

I was appointed last week to conduct a finiancial liability investigation for some "accountable gear" one of our subordinate units managed to lose a couple (7) months back.

When I got the word, I immediately thought "Alright! Now I can be like Vic Mackie from the Shield! I'll beat the truth out of them!"

We've been watching the Shield, at night, non-stop, for the past couple weeks.

I packed all my stuff for 2 days of travel into a backpack and caught a "Big bird" flight to one place.

When I got there I rounded up sworn statements from some "parties involved in the incident". I found out the other party was located in another place - I emailed the guy and he fired something back asking if I should speak with anyone else where I was...they gentlemen told me "nah, don't worry about it".

Remember this, "Keep your muzzle down"

I waited a day for a chin-hook flight. Had a pretty good time with the team I was staying with - late that night I managed to nab the flight I was keen on taking.

The flight crew was pretty aggressive. They were flipping people the finger for not falling into their respective places when we loaded the craft. I thought it was pretty funny until I was tapped on a shoulder to remind the captain next to me to point the muzzle of his A2 into the floor of the air craft.

Typically, people keep muzzles down in the event a round "goes off". Having a muzzle down for such an event tends to keep the propeller blades spinning and us from falling from the sky to our untimely doom.

After a little fuss, we managed to take off and I was amazed at how smooth the craft was moving. Given the time of day and the altitude it was friggin hot. Which came as quite a bit of a suprise to me.


I managed that night and 2 days in the location the gentleman I need to speak with was staying. I had problems getting a time together to meet up with him and when I did manage to meet the guy, he wrote a name in his statement for someone I didn't have a statement from...meaning, I had to fly back to my previous location and get a statement...Doah!

Back in the hot night skies

So, there I was waiting on another late night flight back to where I had "just come from". After about 3 hours on the flight line, hanging out with our property book officer - she had to go to some other place, and on the chopper waiting for take off, we flew back. I was smart this time and managed to bring water with me - though I downed the entire bottle in 5 minutes. The flight crew was more subdued. Which made for an uneventful, but hot, trip.


I made it back and the sergeant from the team I stayed with had only been holding out 15 minutes for me. He took me back to the house and after some talking about what happened with me, I passed out in their back room near a couple of our supply guys.

One of the woke me up while he was getting ready for breakfast and we nabbed an NTV in our PT's for breakfast, which turned out to be a "mighty tasteful one at that".

After getting a shower and changing back into my now super filthy uniform (I wasn't expecting a marathon mission), I claimed the final statement and tried scheduling a flight out of town - back to "office land".

From what the flight management teams were telling me, it was going to be about 2-3 days until I made it back to "office land".

I talked with the team leader about up and coming missions and he invited me to ride as an "extra gun" on a simple mission they had a following day.

We moved out really early and after the hottest and longest ride I'd been on this year, we made it to a compound and unloaded.

As we rolled back I noticed the places we drove through were more of the same scenery I've seen all year by plane and ground travel. Destitute towns and people huddled around small shopping areas in exceptionally hilly, and dare I say, mountainous, terrain.

We got a lot of smiles from kids and men as we quickly passed through a couple places that reminded me of strip malls. I did manage to catch 2 unveiled women, walking off through their morning routines. That seemed a bit bizarre considering the state and nature of female civil liberties and rights in this part of the world.

We made it back into the installation, cleared our weapons, and I moved out to grab the guys tacos from "the bell" on post. The night we watched The Meaning of Life, Brick, and The Inside Man. All great films.

The next day was a DONSA (day of no scheduled activities) and the guys worked on planning and reports for the following week.

I did a little bit of shopping at the local stores (keepsakes and cleaning supplies) and got my things ready for a flight. I was pulled over at breakfast for driving "5 miles over the speed limit".

Well, my vehicle is in kmph and the speed limit signs are in mph. Okay, so I should do the calculations in my head...well, at the time I was heading to breakfast and wasn't really paying attention to speed signs as I was going at (what I felt was) a pretty solid rate of speed.

I brought up the issue of meterics with the airforce MP and he told me kmph was posted...well as it turns out it is...on a sign the size of an index card! So they took my name and that was about it. I continued on my way slightly agitiated but, safety is a big deal - especially with my return home coming soon.

As it turns out the following morning I discovered there was another "Big bird" flight back to "office land".

The rest of the day there was a bit of "drama" - some feelings were hurt with a senior NCO at a local unit and after the fall out from that, they got me ready and I wheeled it out to the flight line.


At the flight line. I stowed my things and went over to hit up the restroom. As I walked to the door, a guy, struggling with his gear (looked like all new stuff, I figured he was new to town) looked at me, as I dropped my head to avoiding colliding with him, and yelled "TAYLOR!"

My eyes widened as I could recall the voice but not the name. The guy dropping his stuff had captains bars on and ran over to me. Lifting me up as he gave me a big bear hug of a crush with multiple pats on the back. It's been a long time since I've gotten this much of a greeting from someone I knew a couple years back!

"BENSUN! HEY-MAN!" was about all I could cough out of my lungs.

He gave me "the release" and we started chatting about his deployment and mine. I could tell the years had been great to him.

It's been about 4 since we last spoke. I grabbed his body armor as he shouldered his backpack and laptop bag, and a few minutes later I was in the parking lot sharing the past 4 years of travel and a little history about the AO.

The newly wed and I chatted for a bit about people we ran into from college and his last tour in Afghani-land.

I extended him all the courtesies I could come up with - which didn't amount to much more than promises to send him stuff from CONUS when I get back or to hook him up with the guys I knew in town.

It was great seeing him and it was good to know solid people like him were still working in the system.

I returned to the seating area and started working on my book The 10,000 when I heard another loud "TAYLOR!"

I looked up and saw Mass standing there sporting his body armor and boonie cap. I found out since he volunteered to extend his tour, they let him go to Qatar for a break.

We chatted about his trip, his extention, unit news, and exchanged our predictions for next year. I managed to find out he was planning to wrap up the next tour, go active and complete DS school. He figured it's in his best interest to wrap up the next 6 years full time since he's got 14 under the belt already.

An exchange of email addresses and hand shakes later, he was on the way back to his unit and I was getting all my gear on to catch my flight.

About 1 hour on the flight line later the plane was loaded and I was on the flight with a contractor - she was a bit peevish about the amount of time it took for them to load up the plane (we were wearing our body armor and she wasn't very comfortable with the situation).

I helped her adjust the k-pot she had loosely strapped on and after getting her armor in order, they had completed loading the "Big bird". We trudged up the ramp and after a quick nap, I was back in "office land".

I ran across two guys from my unit at the flight line and we walked to a bus station and caught a ride to our area. Apparently someone with a lot of rank took a vehicle to the gym at night...grrr.

The S1 NCOIC was still up working on NCO Evals and invited me to grab my mail. I told the SPC and SGT that rode the bus with me to tell the TOC guys we walked over here because we were "hardcore like that".

The joke wasn't missed on the SPC, he likes to make jokes about how tough he is in comparision to the other guys in the TOC. I remember him saying once, "CSM, when I grow up, I wanna be hard like you."

Office Land

My NCOIC was still up wrapping up his evening DVD when I stumbled into the office with all my junk on. He paused it and we chatted about the trip and what happened while I was out.

I went for my mail, got back in time for his movie to end and we both called it a night.

The Morning After

It was pretty much the same as always here. So, my last adventure in this country is over. Now the next plane I get on should be taking me home...


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Plague of...Crickets

Loctus's my @$$!

Lately there has been a dramatic increase in the cricket population. It's grown from zero to a nearly infinate size! These little buggers are jumping all over the place in swarms and the screeching of their legs is enough to drive someone to the edge of madness, as if you were trapped in some type of twisted-Lovecraftian-pulp-detective novel!

Witness the Fitness

When I first came back into town, there was a lock of fuss about a duatholon. Basically, you swim 1/2 a mile in the pool and then jump out and do a 3 mile race. I was feeling a bit of the old wheaties spirit coursing through my limbs, so I gave it a shot.

I found out that it was a really bad idea to try this whole thing out, especially since I managed to dork up my right ankle so much that I had to loosen of the laces to accomodate the swelling.

I gave it my all. I was passed 1 time in the pool and, I think, once or twice in the road race. After escaping the water, I was greeted street side to some very tight hamstrings and quadraceps. My legs didn't loosen up completely until I was about 900 meters from the finish line!

It was a pretty sad performance but considering this was my first time trying something like this, I did manage to finish the race.

On the subject of lovecraftian-frog-people

About 3 weeks later, I was invited to a 56 lap swim in honor of the lead life guard's birthday. Coincidentally, he recently turned...56! Mr. Pepper really seemed pumped about the whole thing, as this was his first time swimming that far ever. Well, that made two of us...

The idea seemed like bit much to bite down on, but I didn't have a lot going on that Sunday, so I figured "why not?". Well, that ended up being 2 miles of swimming and we were taking a relay approach. So, we would rotate strokes. I managed to swim my portion of the race. Swimming through 3 cramps in my calves and in the arches of my feet. That seemed like an unusual place to develop a cramp but, I was encouraged to slam about 2 bottles of gatorade every 10 laps.

By the end of the event, I was completely "tuckered out" and the next 2 days consisted of some severe muscle pain in my triceps.

End of the Line

There's been a lot of "drama" lately. A lot of senior types seem to be bumping heads over what I would consider trival things. It's probably not my place to speak these things before the entire world but, I guess we are getting near the end of this trek and attitudes, agendas, and politics are starting to wear thin. Not much time is left and I really hope there won't be a lot more of the "mid day soap theatrics". We have come to far, and considering I'm not a part of it I don't forsee any of it effecting me in a direct fashion.