by E rose
Describes a week of a soldiers life on base
|I get back from my run, 6k in 20.34 minutes not bad. I want to stretch but I have guard duty in 5 mins. I walk to the bathroom and drink from the faucet. Back at the tent, put my uniform back on. Slide on my boots. My bed is a mess. I'll fix it when I get back, but no, I'll probably just fall asleep. I'll fix it in the morning. Or on Thursday morning, before I leave base. My prayer book is next to my underwear, I move it. Shit, I forgot to pray again today. Or is it still the same day that I've forgotten? Is it Tuesday? No it's still Monday. Maybe I'll say a psalm when I get back anyway. But I'll probably just fall asleep.
I get to the area we are guarding. There is a commander standing there with the person I am to switch. The commander is explaining to him how to cut this wooden plank into some kind of sign. They are arguing because the commander wants him to cut this huge 6*6 plank using a pocket knife. I tell the commander there is no problem, I will split the board by karate chopping it. We decide to save it for tomorrow.
My unit has gone to do training in the field and left me behind to guard the remaining equipment. From 9-11pm. There is only one hummer left. Ridiculous. I have to wake up again from 3-5 to guard over the hummer.
My unit is sleeping in the field the next 3 days. I will probably much more comfortable then them, having a tent and hot food. But I'm bored and unhappy. I wanted to go with them.
Me and the other three guys doing guard duties and KP were awarded and decorated at a ceremony last week for being outstanding soldiers. For this reason, I feel, we are not doing the training with everyone. They know we are disciplined and will not complain. This variable around the base duty is called "nishmish", which also means apricot.
As in, hey *soldier what do you do?
I'm an apricot *sir.
The first day I did kitchen duty was the worst. The duty itself wasn't that bad, I was just seething about the fact that I wasn't doing the training. And that they sprung the fact upon me suddenly. It felt like they were trying to do it behind my back, everyone knew but me, and then I was in the kitchen.
I was mad. Guys told me about the days in Guarra they would think about hurting themselves, shooting themselves in the foot to get evacuated. It wasn't that bad, I thought they were being melodramatic, pussies. This was the first time in my service I thought about hurting myself, there in that kitchen. I was cutting potatoes. One little cut with the knife could get me a doctors appointment off base. A nice cut might get me a few days at home.
I don't know if I was serious, I was just angry. I told myself if I gave into the temptation I was just letting them get me down. Instead of cutting the all the potatoes into fourths like I was supposed to, I cut them into different shapes. I carved out two potato people on potato horses, holding up tomato stem maces, poised in epic battle. It cheered me up a bit.
I want to tell new draftees, that if your a good soldier, if your really hardworking and diligent, you'll spend a good amount of your service scrubbing toilets. I'm not disillusioned though. I knew it wouldn't be all shooting and saving the world from terrorists. I came here to be a part of something, and raise the standards of the army. And if you think about it, even the shitty jobs are essential to its functioning.
10pm, one hour has past; the hummer is still here.
Wake up, guard, sleep. Wake up, guard, lunch, sleep. Wake up, guard dinner. The guy guarding the tent asks if I can switch him so he can eat. Sure, if they have any hot pastries bring me one. I sit down and begin to read.
A commander comes into the tent and asks a soldier about the sign. I can see it outside, a big 8 about six feet high. The commander asks why they couldn't cut out the holes from the eight with the pocket knife. The soldier tells him another guy was able to burn a hole in the wood so they could cut out the middle. Burn a hole? The commander asks. Is he and idiot? He asks. The soldier shrugs. He and the commander leave to dinner.
A soldier comes and asks after the guy that just left to dinner. I tell him he went to dinner. What are you kidding me? He exclaimes. He asks me if I smoke. I tell him no. He sighs and leaves. I go back to reading.
The commander and soldier that left to dinner are back. The commander brought a saw which he is sliding through the burned hole to try and cut out the center. He's not succeeding. It's dark now and they decide to leave it for tomorrow.
The guy who I switched comes back from dinner. No fresh pastries. I lie down in my cot at the tent. I see my prayer book on the floor, I pick it up and kiss it before putting it back in my bag. I should pray tomorrow. Right now I might fall back asleep. Maybe I'll go for a run before my next duty. But I might just sleep. I go back to reading.
I hate winter. The cold makes me lazy. All I want to do is eat and sleep. But there's not much else I can do. Someone asks me to come exercise with him. I can't I have guard duty in a bit.
There's a new guy who's joined to help us with the guarding and KP. He hasn't gotten out of bed all day except to guard, and even then only after some argument and threats exchanged.
I walk into the tent. Some soldiers are standing around the new guys cot, kicking in the stand, so that half of the bed falls in. I think they are doing this because he has to guard and they brought him food and they want him to eat. It's almost 9. Dinner was at 5. He is cursing at them and telling them to pick it up.
A commander comes in and tells us that our unit is back. We must hide the 8 sign in the tent. I don't know why.
I stand by the bathroom charging my phone. My friend from a different unit is talking to me. He's telling me he has a problem with his back. He saw the doctor today. He had his units medic chafe near his spine with a coin so it would look inflamed. If he can get a hospital visit and a document for one day off base, he
Can send it to his friend in California and have him photo shop it to say five days. Since the commanders cannot confirm this with the hospital, he says, no one will know. His other friend did the same thing last week.
What's with this army?
We're all apricots.
They come one by one back to the tent, setting up cots, taking off equipment. They are all wearing the one piece suit. They look like green Eskimos. With there hoods down now they look sort of like garbage men.
My unit leader slaps me on the back and asks me what's up. I still feel harsh, still can't look him in the eye. I realize my guard duty isn't for another 2 hours. I should probably go to sleep, but I might go exercise.
I'm trying to sleep but it's windy and the tent is making too much noise, walls flapping and beams creaking. I open up my eyes. I am still but everything around me, the walls, ceiling, support beams are moving, swaying. It feels like I'm underwater, looking at the surface, and there are waves rolling over me. It's very trippy. I lie awake in bed for a bit until a soldier comes and tells me I have to go guard.
Outside the tent some soldiers are trying to cut out the middles of the big 8. I think there from the 8th unit of my platoon, the Rockets squad. It might be their sign.
I'm back guarding by the hummers. My unit went into the field again this morning but this time they left 4 hummers behind. I'm not sure how they got there.
I like it better when they're gone. We're reporting to a different commander from another unit while ours is in the field. He doesn't care much what we do so it's more chilled out. I sit in the drivers seat of one of the hummers and read a book. My commander would flip a shit if he saw me.
Early morning. There is yelling, the unit must be back. A run. Everyone up, there is a run. A run they call it. As I step outside and see the unit, everyone jogging in place to fend of the cold, I also see the two stretchers centered between our semi circle. It's six AM and it's freezing, but we won't be cold for long.
We put sandbags on the stretchers.
Four twenty-kilo bags on each one. The sandbags are heavier though because they have become soaked from the rains and frozen over night.
We hoist up the stretchers and start running.
Just once around the base. That's all were going to do I tell myself. We wouldn't be able to do two. That's not what they have in mind though. As we near the end of the first lap we veer towards the main gate. Their holding it open for us. And we're out, running through the cold desert.
I begin to tire, but I stay under. Someone switches the person next to me. I stay under. The two people behind me have bin switched. I stay under. Out in the wilderness we reach the top of a hill and turn around, the half way point.
Self encouragement. Your strong. Your a panther, no a lion. You are the strongest, the people around you are depending on you. They will remember what we've done here today. What movie is that from?
The person next to me yells: Forward charge! And that's it. We are sprinting and the weight of the stretcher is no longer there. It is floating like the ark of the covenant over the shoulders of the priests. We are back through the gates, barreling towards the barracks. Don't slow down, they yell. Show them who we are.
And we're done. The commander congratulates our effort, tells us to take a shower. I have to rush because I am guarding in 10 mins, but I don't mind. Even though I have already received it, I have now earned my reward. Validated myself. I have a weekend pass.
I wake up, and realizing I have a bit of time, pray before leaving the tent. This is my last guard duty as an apricot. In a few hours I will be off base, in civilian cloths. Relaxing, maybe chilling with a beer. As I walk towards the post I see it. A large 8 painted red and towering 6 meters high, suspended with rope over an equipment storage tank. It's not mine, but it's pretty cool, and I'm sure I'll see it again.
There's nothing like that sun. That sun that hits your face and warms you as you walk away from the main gate towards the bus stop. It's a bit blinding but that doesn't really mater since you can't see anyway, you didn't put in your contacts on in your rush to get off the base. The people working the gate sneer at you. They aren't like you. They won't go home this weekend. The perimeters of their existence are the fences of the base. You feel the sudden switch between the rushed panic and relaxation when you behold the reassuring sight of people waiting for the bus. You haven't missed it, and you know it will be ok. The shadow of the bus stop touches your foot, and works it's way up your body as you approach. With it comes a feeling, a feeling that fills you. Liberation.