Friday, 10 July 2009


Without the Army, it is quite difficult to gather material to write about the Army. Figures.


Thanks for reading Underneath the Camo!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Jet Lag

i will save everyone some time and synopsize this piece before it even happens: my trip back to the U.S. was really long and not without it's ridiculous parts. that sums it up. for the full version, read on:

after sitting in kuwait for what felt like a month, we were finally given a time to leave. after cleaning out our tent and organizing our bags, we sat around for a few hours. the next step was loading hundreds of 50-pound bags onto a cargo truck and getting our sweaty asses on some buses.

military sidenote: riding on buses is about the most taxing thing one can do while in uniform. there is always at least one person yelling 'fill from the back to the front! don't skip a seat!' while the rest of the people pack into the seats. each seat is designed for children, and if you are above the height of five foot, your knees will be ground into the seat in front of you for the duration of the trip. to make matters worse, all of the seat recline, and as soon as the person in front of you puts their back against the cushioning, your patella is forcefully moved into your hip.

due to the extreme heat at 2 pm in kuwait, and because the army never lets anything good (such as going home) happen without an extremely long and painful process, the buses stopped every 50 feet to prolong the experience. i put my ipod on shuffle and passed out until the 2-hour journey was complete.

we unloaded the buses and piled into a tent to be briefed on things we already knew. after doing some professional-quality sitting and waiting, we filed out to collect our bags and proceed to the crown jewel of the departure process: customs. dumping out 4 incredibly well-packed bags, having some navy guy root through everything, then repacking everything is quite an arduous process. though i had nothing that is considered 'contraband,' i was carrying SPC Diablo-Cono's wooden baseball bat, which drew some odd looks. oh, and if the customs official who inspected my stuff is reading this, I SNUCK THE ROCK SHAPED LIKE A DICK THROUGH!

after customs, we came face-to-face with one of the more subtle terrorists i have ever encountered. this devious enemy of the state apparently cranked the heat up while we sat on the bus for a few hours, prepping us for 30 hours of travel by drenching us in perspiration and claiming that the air conditioning was broken, even though it was working perfectly well when we boarded the bus. to the bus driver: you won the round, sir, but the fight is still going. i left him a water bottle and empty bag of Corn Nuts to clean up, so i took round 2.

the plane was a 747, the largest paradox ever built by man. absolutely mammoth in proportion, the only offer 1 cubic foot of space per passanger. my saving grace came in pill form. SPC D-C slipped me a muscle relaxer before takeoff, and it kicked in wonderfully. as i drifted uncontrollably in and out of sleep, i was fed airplane food that must have contained powerful sedatives, because D-C kept passing out mid-chew.

we stopped briefly in germany to refuel and such. we got bussed to a small building with a snack bar, duty-free shop, and lots of funny words. i felt as if i was in some weird japanese gameshow (most likely an effect from the muscle relaxers), as all of the beverages had names like 'Happy Fun Shine Milk Great' and 'Mineralwasser. sadly, the duty-free booze was strictly off-limits, continuing my army-mandated AA program ('Step 1: don't drink, or youll die. step 2: refer to step 1 until sober').

the flight from germany to the states was uneventful aside from more muscle relaxer craziness. the obligatory cheer went up as soon as the wheels touched american soil, and the fanfare began. generals and colonels lined the steps off the plane, and shaking hands with all of them left me a mean hand cramp. after another busride, we turned in our weapons and were briefed on the unnecessarily lengthy process to get us out of the army. we were also briefed on how, even though we are done with the deployment, alcohol is still off-limits ('step 3: what the fuck didn't you understand about steps 1 and 2?'), wearing civilian clothes is against policy, leaving the base is prohibited, and so on and so forth. glad to be home.

we were then teased with two hours around our families. not knowing when we will see them again makes things harder on everyone, especially the married soldiers, the new mothers and fathers, and the young soldiers who haven't been through the deployment process before. we are now at the mercy of the army to determine when we can return to our normal lives, thereby completing the circle of life in the national guard. with any luck, ill have a beer in one hand and a pulitzer (they give those out for random, deployment-based blogs, right? right?) in the other within a week. cross your fingers for us!

recap: the air in new jeresy smells like sugar and trees, seeing people reunited with their families fulfilled me in a very spiritual way, i can't wait to be free of this uniform in a few days.

Thursday, 4 June 2009


With less than 100 hours until some half-assed government airline takes me back to familiar soil, I have reached a feeling of floating. The sun isn’t as bright, and the temperature doesn’t matter as much. We have been left alone for the most part, with only minor inconveniences over the course of a normal day. Thankfully our ‘decompression’ period here in Kuwait has been fairly worry-free (if you don’t count the seriously disheartening rumors and palpable anticipation for the lives we have left at home), and even blogging has becoming something of a chore. Who knew that writing would be so hard without .50-caliber Idiot-Piercing Incendiary (.50-cal IPI) ammunition in my word processing sniper rifle?

I’m seriously hoping that this little webpage isn’t the 15 minutes of fame I was destined to attain; that would be very disheartening. When I was young, I wanted to be a marine biologist until I found out that they spent more time researching plankton and sea slugs than playing with dolphins. This turned me off to that profession around age 10. Since then, I have felt that I have a lot to offer the world, but unsure of how to best go about sharing my God-given gifts. My fortes in 27 years of life have included:

- Being on time for everything. I am mercilessly punctual, and am quite certain that it hasn’t gotten me ahead at all in any way. It may have prevented me from getting fired or yelled at certain points, but it has never bettered my life.
- Not dying. Through my three tours in Iraq, I have encountered quite a few sticky situations. Thus far I am still alive. There has to be a marketable skill in there somewhere, right?
- Sarcasm. I’m great at snide remarks, and parlay this ability into making people around me either really like me or think that I’m possibly the biggest jerkoff to have ever lived. Disclaimer: by reading this blog, you have agreed that I am great, and, thanks to you, my ego is slightly bigger with every read. Great.
- Being a good friend/brother/son. I could list references (Dr. and Mrs. America, for starters), but I think you should take my word for it.
- Listening to music at high volume. You might think ‘well Matty, most males go through phases like that.’ You are correct. I’m just a normal guy who enjoys eardrum-shaking Finnish death metal. Oh, and I enjoy John Mayer. Interesting fact: if you listen to Mayer’s song ‘Neon’ backwards, there is a shout-out to me. True story.

Aside from these things, I have no real talents to use or share with the general populace. Maybe I will find a neat trick to do at a party or on Letterman, but at this rate I’m thinking that I am much more likely to have a disease named after me.

Recap: I am alive, I am quite possibly going crazy, I need beer.

Monday, 1 June 2009

memory lane

Please note the dark leg of Spc. Diablo-Cono on the right.

The interesting thing about memory is that time tends to round the edges of the sharper more painful experiences in life. When I think back to particularly hard times, I remember that they weren’t pleasant, but it’s hard to conjure the exact feelings of pain, misery, and suffering that I was experiencing at the time.

It is this fact that keeps me from going completely bat-shit crazy while deployed: years from now I will remember the laughs and friends, not so much the overpowering ignorance and stupidity that have guided my unit through the past twelve months.

While we sit and wait (we are ‘Kuwait-ing’ as Spc. Diablo-Cono put it so eloquently), select handfuls of people are chosen to depart before the rest of our unit. These decisions might seem random if looked at from above, but are highly preferential when viewed from another standpoint. It is the people who have supported the bullshit and hailed our spineless leaders as visionaries and modern-day Paul Reveres (“The douches are coming!”). It was this circle of sycophantic behavior that will most likely require lengthy and complicated surgical procedures to remove heads from some of our mid-level leadership’s asses. With any luck no one will survive the operations, strengthening both the army and the gene pool simultaneously.

As the chosen few trickle out like farts before a shit, the rest of us sit here, comatose. The only good thing I have found about this place is how utterly enjoyable the nighttime is. The temperature drops to a lovely 75-85 degrees and the winds die down. I venture happily out of my tent without my sunglasses and bask in the glory of painfully slow Internet. Since there is nothing more enjoyable to do here, we will endure sub-dialup speeds for hours at a time.

Rumors scurry around here like the child-sized rats that live among us in the tents. Everyone has a friend who heard that it might take an extra two weeks to get home. It might take three days. The sun is supposed to collapse within the next few hours. There is even a rumor that Tupac is not dead, he has just been stuck in Kuwait for the past decade. Who knows what to believe any more. The only thing I know for certain is that my blog is full of truth and honesty. Take my word for it: you can’t take anyone’s word for anything.

Recap: Kuwaiting to exhale, relating people to farts is comedy gold, should be home by December if all goes well!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

out of the frying pan...

Apparently leaving Iraq is just as difficult as spending 10 months there. Two nights ago, we finally left for the helicopter pad to catch a flight out. continuing with one of the oldest army traditions, we sat around for about 3 hours before hearing that out flight was cancelled. About ten minutes later, we were informed that the flight was cancelled, but ‘not officially,’ prompting us to immediately spring into action and continue sitting in the rocks and heat for another six hours. Flipping off common sense when it came time to eat was the only thing that surpassed this blatant disregard for logic. Most of us had gone well over eight hours without a meal, which might not sound bad, but when you consider how fast your body burns it’s energy in high heat and moderate humidity, it became quite an urgent matter fairly quickly. Since we had a minimum of two hours before the possibility of leaving, sending people to get food seemed like a decision that most third-graders wouldn’t balk at. The way it was handled made it seem like we were orchestrating a lunar landing, and, despite my cast caloric reserves, I am certain that I came close to death.

We left the landing zone (LZ) around 4 am, and returned to our previously vacated tents. After sleeping all day, not knowing when we would be departing, we were informed in a 5 pm formation that we would be heading out in a few short hours. After a few minor military stumblings and much waiting, my chopper’s wheels left Iraqi soil around 1 a.m. the quick flight to Kuwait was uneventful in nature, but the chopping rotors lack of available conversation made me close my eyes and reminisce about the years I have dumped into the army and Iraq, I was grateful for my safety and the friends I have made. Corporal Spidey, Specialist Diablo-Cono, and Specialist Noshow have been here with me through this tour as well as the 04-05 debacle, and without them I would not have stayed as positive or happy. We rode out on a Chinook, and the ramp on the back was left open. This gave the rear of the chopper the appearance of one of the slack-jawed morons it was transporting, and allowed me to gaze nostalgically into the Iraqi night. The superheated exhaust blurred our camp’s billion-dollar lighting system into obscurity as I inched away from Iraq for the last time.

Sadly, the rampant idiocy followed us to Kuwait. Within minutes of arriving at our temporary camp here, some of the dim bulbs we sent ahead to secure things here were telling me how I had to be awake in 5 hours to fulfill some Random Army Requirement that involves driving a minivan to transport soldiers to and from the little shops and eateries here.. This sounds like a good idea until you find out the size of the base. From my tent (which is one of the furthest from the center of the base), the shops are about a 2-minute walk if you don’t know where you’re going. Basically, It will take longer to load up the minivan and drive there than it would take to talk, so I am sure my services will be ignored and most likely ridiculed.

I wish I could say that there is silver lining here, but, from the looks of it, we went from one version of purgatory to another. For those of you who have never been to Kuwait, it is nothing but sand as far as the eye can see. Combine that with driving wind and temperatures approaching ‘pre-heat,’ and you can get a tan and windburn just walking to the bathroom. The few amenities of note are completely offset by building frustration and despair. There is wireless internet here, but it is just a tease; you can connect and get a signal, but actually loading a webpage or sending an instant message is too much for it to handle. When I complain about things like this, people usually say “Oh Matty America, you’ve come so far and have so little time left! You are also unusually good-looking, so cheer up.” A deployment is like a mental and physical marathon, and right now I am running on fumes. Even the littlest things set me off, and keeping my cool in the heat is getting harder by the hour. With any luck, only people I like will talk to me for the next few weeks so that I don’t have to start defecating in other people’s sleeping bags to teach them a lesson. Known as a ‘Hot Pocket,’ it is a valuable source of entertainment and a powerful teaching tool. The lesson of ‘don’t fuck with me or I will shit in the little cocoon in which you sleep’ is not one you soon forget.

Recap: done with Iraq, the only thing worse than being stuck in Kuwait is being stuck in Kuwait with a camouflage circus, my tent has dog-sized rats.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

meth or gardening?

Penis Rock. Looks more like the real thing in person, i assure you.

FACT: my wireless internet has been shut off since i am departing within the week. i will now rely on free computers that have to be signed for 30 minutes at a time.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU: absolutely nothing. go about your lives, citizens. as much as i know that this blog has replaced (fill in the blank) 1 - meth 2 - coffee 3 - online shopping 4 - world of warcraft 5 - kelly clarkson addiction, it will have to be put on hold for at least a little while. filling the void with A - tending a garden B - sudoko C - or D - world of warcraft would be a constructive alternative.

FACT: the formerly undefeated Master Batters are not master fielders. we emerged victorious after a hard-fought game in the Dustdrome. numerous bouts of shit-talking sprouted up between the overpaid KBR contractors and the american heroes (us). it was a satisfying victory in which i hit no fewer than 49 home runs and personally accounted for every out in the field. if you think that this is not possible or plausible, you werent there, and this is my blog. only 4 of my teammates were injured trying to carry my burly ass off the field in celebration.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU: you might want to buy your Jersey Bombers trading cards and apparel online as soon as possible as it will most likely sell out faster than a Jonas Brothers concert. you're welcome for the heads-up.

FACT: i am concerned that i will run out of material without the army handing it to me on a dusty silver platter.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU: anything you would like for me to elaborate on, re-visit, or delve it, please just post a comment here. i am very dedicated to my fans in every way, and enjoy writing a great deal.

recap: the 'meth' thing was a joke, we master batted today, Corporal Stretch found the rock shaped like a penis and woke me up to give it to me.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

pitching a tent

as a step in my unit's departure process, we moved from our pods into large tents. these tents are a mixed blessing. they are extremely cold, even when it is 120+ degrees outside, but they have consolidated all of the assholes and douchebags in my unit into a very small space.

i have been reunited with my best friend Specialist Diablo-Cono, and we now live on bunks 18 inches apart from each other. we spend our days lying in bed playing free online poker (interestingly enough, you can still get angry when you lose $5,000 in poker, even if it's not real money), trying to work up the courage to walk the 1/2 mile to eat, and listening to music. after 10 full months of being on opposite schedules, it's nice to finally get some 'us' time and be able to reconnect as only grown men can.

since our silly mission has fizzled to an unceremonious halt, we now have 24 hours of 'free time' a day. naps are bountiful and, thanks to our 65-degree tent, can be taken any time. our softball schedule is less rigorous, our beds are comfortable, and the end is within sight. you would think that this couldnt be more perfect as far as deployments go, right? wrong. the same half-wits who have made the last 11 months terrible are at it again. we have reformed into our original platoons, and the bulls-eye on my forehead must have reappared overnight. there is nothing more degrading than being called out for something you didnt do in front of 35 people and knowing that there isnt a thing you can do about it aside from being glib. with about 2 weeks left until we are completely finished, the nitpicking and assholery are still in full swing.

at this point i have given up on everything and anything having to do with the army. our last 15 days should be the easiest of the tour, and i can't wait to get home.

recap: assholes, douchebags, people over 50 shouldnt act 12.