There was a time when I had an outlook on life in an optimistic point of view-where I saturated myself with happiness and carefree thoughts. I think the day everything really changed was in December of 2005. Well, I take that back. It might have changed earlier then that. I remember going out with the scouts in my M88 recovery vehicle. We had to switch out vehicles for maintenance purposes as we were staying in this shit hole outside of Camp Taji. Here’s a picture:
It wasn’t much. We had cable on a little 13-inch tv and we mostly survived on MRE’s, pizza pockets and whatever else we could find. We all slept on Army cots and red Gatorade was the drink of choice. It was the true definition of “roughin’ it.”
As the maintenance guy, we had our M88 recovery vehicle parked outside near a gate in case some asshole decided to run it, they’d have to get through a 45 ton road-block with some pissed off Army guy behind a .50 caliber machine gun. I remember driving across route “Islanders” or route “Thunder” or some crap like that and our vehicle had broken down on the road. We were also informed that the route was considered “black” which meant stay the hell off of it because of hostile enemies planting IEDs everywhere.
The scouts in my unit were highly trained and I had much respect for those guys. They worked hard and since I was friends with the platoon sergeant, I got to ride with them on a couple of missions here and there. I wanted to see what they went through every day. I wanted to experience their job. I wanted to be apart of something in Iraq. I didn’t want to just sit around the motor pool or guard a fucking radio all day. For the most part, that was my deployment. Sitting in the motor pool or guarding a radio. I didn’t do much else.
We stopped on the road with a busted transmission and myself and my soldier dismounted to help the scouts pull guard if need be. We didn’t want to get ambushed and that’s all I could think about because we had high grass fields on both sides of us. I kept day-dreaming of some asshole terrorist running through the grass, bending down on one knee and shooting an RPG at us from the grass. Hey, it could happen, right? I remember one of the scouts totally pissed off. He was cussing at everything and just mad as hell. He was rambling on about how he was done with the Army because he refused to lose another scout in combat.
I just stared at him. He was talking about Eisenhauer. He was the first scout we lost in battle. It dawned on me how combat affected everyone; including these scout soldiers. These guys were my rock. These guys took the fight to the enemy. These were the guys I respected and seeing one of their buddies die during a fight hurt them, too. And seeing how pissed off this guy was sorta made me pissed off, too.
I couldn’t imagine what it was like to lose a friend or a fellow soldier in combat. Especially when the bullets were flying. Your buddy gets hit and all you want to do is save his life. Fuck everything else-he’s your priority. But if the injury is too bad and trying to save him might end up costing you your own life or more lives, you gotta move on. I couldn’t imagine having to make that decision. And I think not being able to be in those situations has made me hate myself. I could’ve done more for my Army buddies. I could’ve been out there in the fight. I’m good at what I do. Every job I’ve ever taken in life, I have excelled at. I’ve always done exceptional jobs. But here I was, pulling radio watch while my buddies are out there getting shot at.
I don’t know how many times I’ve asked to go out with the scouts on missions. I think at one point, I just left the compound without permission from the Battle Captain. I was like, “fuck it. If he won’t let me go, I’m going anyway.” I even rolled out with the Estonian Army, too. Against orders. Fuck it, man. Watch your own goddamn radio, I would say to myself. The Estonia Army guys were all into this combat shit, though. We went into a couple of houses for some routine cordon and searches and they’d literally turn the house upside down and shake it like a snowglobe. I wasn’t all for bashing people’s’ shit up, and one Estonian Army guy called me out when I showed lack of enthusiasm.
“You act like you give a shit about these people, man.” he said.
I sorta just stared at him.
Back at the compound, the Estonian Army guys would literally beat the shit out of each other. You know, for fun. That’s how they were. They were tough and rugged. Durable. Mean and nasty. They were animals. I didn’t feel safe with them. But going out with them gave me a sense of accomplishment. Me, a fucking POG (Personnel other than Grunt or Piece of Garbage), went on a mission with the Estonian Army. I felt like a real bad-ass. I was hoping we’d find some piece of shit terrorist and get to torture the shit out of him like they do in James Bond movies. It was a total thrill ride. But alas, nothing happened.
In 2009 I got picked up for recruiting duty and I literally thought my life had ended. I wanted to go back to combat and be apart of this monster that was festering inside of me. It was eating at me. I hated going to work every day. I hated waking up. I hated going to bed. I hated where I lived and I hated everyone around me. I was now a paper-pushing bitch amongst a chain of command that had never seen what I’ve seen. The worst part about it was that they thought they were God’s gift to the Army. It was sickening.
“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?” –Joan Baez