A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.

~Rita Mae Brown
Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.

~Alfred Adler


On The Bedside Table
  • NOS4A2
    by Joe Hill
My Now
Old Writey Bits
My Thanks
Matt Fitzhardinge - Alaskan dogsledding header picture

« The Army Taught Me How to Hallucinate Like a Man | Main | Almost to the Valley »

Another Lifetime

During yet another neverending round of trying to rid myself, and my home, of some of these mounds of paper that threaten to suffocate me, I came across one of the little memo pads supplied to us by the DND during training.  This particular one seems to be a diary of sorts - of course I have no memory of it, nor can I believe that I ever had the time or necessary extra brain power, to write anything down.

I haven't read this yet and am just going to read along with you as I type, unedited...  This 'entry' was written almost at the end of my second round of training.

19th August 2006, 00:23

I'm not really tired at the moment but in an effort to keep boredom at bay I though I'd write some field notes while I sit.

We are three Platoons strong - roughly 100 troops - in a large concertina-wired base area.  I am currently on shift in a trench facing east toward some low hills with my machine gun as the milky way spins its way across my skies.

Most of the troops dug their own trenches but we were lucky enough to grab some existing ones to 'refurbish'.

It's been a long day in what I'm sure will be just one extended 'day' over the next four.

We spent most of the day readying camp as machine gun fire rattled off to the east and just as we were beginning to look forward to dinner our section commander rounded us up for a presence patrol.

We weren't given enough time to grab anything so at one rest point we all made do with a couple of my ever-present scotch mints.

The patrol took my section of 8 roughly 8 km through the woods and along sandy roads and we encountered only some locals who were being harassed at gunpoint by a PLA member.  The section broke that up and we directed the locals in the direction of the nearest refugee camp before heading back into our camp just before sunset.

During dinner there was a suicide bomber at the gates - although I'm not sure what happened other than that we heard no explosion.  Other than a couple of artillery attacks the afternoon has been relatively quiet although there has been machine gun fire in the distance all day.

After dinner there was something happening but unfortunately we were doing a little infighting so I'm not sure what was going on there either.

About 10 pm I racked out on the ground to get a little sleep before this current shift on the perimeter.  I tell ya, theres nothing like sleeping in the glare of the camp lights fully dressed but for boots with yhour rifle in your bag with you and smelly boots beside your head for a whole hour before being woken up by a flashlight in your eyes. 

There's no life like it.

Currently, half of our section is out on patrol to search for the PLA camp while the rest of us take shifts in the trenches.  I can hear attacks and screaming off to my right about 400 m but they don't seem to be getting closer and the Lieutenant didn't mention it when he came by a few minutes ago.

It's pretty chilly out - especially since my clothes are still damp from the patrol 51/2 hours ago.  I can see my breath in the lights as I sit here eating sunflower seeds and 'talking' to you.

I have an hour left of this shitf and am hoping for a little more sleep before anything happens.  Or at least to put on some long underwear until the day heats up.

They're saying the next few days will be 26 degrees with a thunder shower or two. 

My ass hurts. My hands are swollen.  It feels like I've got four horsesw tied to me - straining to pull my limbws apart - but slowly as I fight.  I smell.  I discovered last night back at the garrison that six of my toes are now as numb as the six fingers that lost feeling last week.  For the most part, though, I remain one of the most effective members.  I hope I can keep that up but the prospect of little sleep to allow healing/rest is not a cheery one.  The weight of this pain will be borne almost fully by the anti-inflammatories and the painkillers for a while to come.

I'm not sleep deprived at this point by any means but my patience level with the ineffective third of the section is, well, 'low would be quite the understatement.  Not only is their lack of desire to do ANYTHING affecting the team it also requires that a couple of us do twice as much.  Which, for me, adds up to eight times as much as my body can handle.  The whining is incessant.

Oops - close attack - gotta go.


Well, that just brings it all flooding right back.  When one is on perimeter watch and is attacked, you're supposed to sound the general alarm by screaming "ARTY ARTY ARTY" (for artillary) and I out-thunk myself and waited too long, thereby killing most of the camp. In that, the military failed to program me - at the end of it all, I still reasoned too much.

After that, we were no longer allowed to keep watch alone and had to do it in pairs.  I remember that I had asked my Corporal if I could sleep out there and gaining permission, dug myself a shallow depression beside the trench... passed out.  Only to be woken by a screaming face a few hours later.  Apparantly there was a little miscommunication but he took pity on me (probably because quite a few times I had been so exhausted and in pain that they were unable to wake me up, my body just refused to function) and let me stay out there the rest of the night.  It's the only time we were in the field that I got anything close to resembling 'rest'.  Considering the shifts were rotated out every two hours, it wasn't much.

So, there you have it.  A small, supremely inelegant snapshot of soldier qualification training.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (2)

I disagree - or rather I feel that inelegance is an advantage to that kind of writing. The blunt matter-of-factness adds to the realism and makes the inherently weird situation all the more odd. Do you have more of these diaries? I love to see more.
May 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfishboy
well, fishboy, for you I will definitely check. :)
May 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>