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.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Quieres comer?

military food is notoriously awful, as any army movie or war documentary will show you. metal cans ripped open with bayonets, grizzled men eating bean slop in foxholes; you know the images to which i am referring. these heroes from wars past deserve a standing ovation for tolerating such mediocre cuisine.

2003: We started off getting rations of food and water: 3 liters of water and 1 MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) per day. MREs are vile little brown plastic bags, with smaller boxes and bags inside. they contain roughly 1100 calories total, and are meant to give you all the nutrients and energy that you might need during intense operations. there are 24 different 'menu' options, divided between Case A and Case B. there was a time where i ate around 3-4 MRE's per day, and i could tell you exactly what each of the 24 choices contained, down to the condiments. i loved menu #7 (Chicken with Salsa), #5 (Grilled Chicken Breast), and #23 (Chicken with Cavetelli). when i received my first MRE in basic training, i was ecstatic. after hearing so much about these meals with a shelf-life of 7 years, i was aching to try one. after my 1500th MRE, i have become completely desensitized to the utter lack of flavor and engenuity it must take to create something that is more an engineering marvel than a food item.

2005: dining facilities (dfacs) have sprung up, giving employment to thousands of oompa-loompa like short men with very dark skin in dark blue jumpsuits. they either understand no english or are just so filled with hatred that they disregard your order entirely. if you say something terribly complicated like 'no cheese,' they will pile cheese so high that you will have trouble discerning what is on your plate aside from grated cheddar. the smile they give you after butchering your order says either 'have a great day,' or 'fuck you, white devil.'

MRE's were still present, though in far more limited quantities. the new addition to eating possibilities was frozen food. at the small patrol base where i spent about 5 months, we used to horde frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets to microwave at our convinience. these deliciously unhealthy meals were a favorite of everyone, and we guarded them fiercely.

american fast food places were springing up in the larger bases, and my unit's was home to a Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hug, and Taco Bell. housed in trailers, the menus were very scaled-down, and the food tasted almost like it's stateside equivalent. it's weird getting a burger from a dude in a turban, and the condiments depended solely on the convoys coming in and out of the base. signs on the window where you ordered gave poorly-worded insight into what your order might be missing: "out stock, the lettuce" sometimes meant that they were out of tomatoes, etc.

2008-2009: a 24-hour Dfac with a rotating menu, providing food to about 5000 people for 4 meals a day. amazing variety: there is a short order line for chicken tenders, onion rings, etc., a 'main line' for the day's offering of chicken, a sandwich bar, a taco/wing bar, and huge refrigerators full of gatorade, sodas, and about 19 varieties of milk. i love the premade chicken ceasar salads and the cheese tortellini in pesto sauce. some people complain about the repetitive food, but i know better. things could be so much worse. at least dinners don't come in brown bags.

recap: grizzled beans, out of stock the humor, loco lub you.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

soft balls


since the last time i wrote about sports (and sports injuries, coincidentally), we were in the middle of flag football. now my base is ablaze with chatter about the softball contests taking place almost nightly on the same barren, post-apocalyptic, mad max-type field that is home to every sports team here aside from the wrestling team (they actually compete in the Thunderdome). the rocks and dirt mounds make fielding ground balls a chore, and the multi-million watt bulbs lighting the field make fly balls disappear on the horizon and reappear on your upper lip (SPC Turkey Jerky took one to his eating hole, and it wasn't pretty). running on the field is the one fun aspect of a sandy field. after sprinting to make a play (or NOT make a play if it's me), you can turn around and see a cloud of dust behind you. the feeling that you were moving so fast that your speed-vortex caused a windstorm in your wake is quite satisfying.

our softball team has jerseys. theyre very nice, and quite out of place in this feces-scented dirtbowl. white with blue pinstripes, they would make the yankees drool in envy. i actually do not have one, so i drool with envy while playing, which makes it very hard to discern where my strike zone is while i am batting. these jerseys cause our opponents to lust after our funding and collective sense of style, and how seamlessly we can transition from an army uniform into one specifically for softball.

the rules are simple: pitch underhand, swing hard, and talk as much trash as possible to your teammates. games are considered 'low-scoring' if one team ends with less than 30 runs, and a mishandled ground ball can turn into a grand slam at the whim of a pebble. the bases are literally 5 running strides apart for me, and this leads to hilarious base-running mistakes and collisions that would make destruction derbies proud.

our record is currently 4-2, and we are led by a fiery coach/captain/third baseman who pumps us up using his enthusiasm for the game and intimidatingly pronounced neck veins. every team meeting is treated as if we were down by 12 runs, and i do my best to take this as seriously as possible. keep in mind that 1/4 of our pep-talks are in spanish, as are the insults hurled at each other. the three other non-spanish speakers and i just look around, admiring passing female corn children or inspecting nearby rocks for possible phallic semblance.

since the unit replacing us has arrived, my company's command has taken a sudden interest in our extra-military activities. having these people show up and toss words of encouragement our way ("score more runs than they do!") puzzled me for a few minutes, but then i realized that they feel the need to appear to give a shit about us after 11 months of enjoying being the enemy. it is nice to have a cheering section, but they never participate in The Wave or some of our favorite chants ("hey-yo MALDO!" or the team favorite "Hey Tiller, stop strangling him!"). it's like having a father show up to his son's first baseball game... when the son has already earned his varsity jacket.

our first playoff game is coming up this weekend, and we are all set to face off against the KBR team (named the Master Batters... how great is that?) who have been playing together since conception. they are undefeated and quite talented, but they lack one thing that we have in spades: dominicans. sociological note: dominicans are literally born with bats and gloves, and they are sent, 300-style, to brutal, no-holds-barred baseball camps when they turn 7. they are dragged away from their teary mothers and subjected to base running drills while being chased by puerto ricans (dominicans can't stand them). fighting wolves in the snow armed only with a wooden Louisville, they must triumph or face the possibility of never being able to play baseball again.

Recap: provocative titles = more readers, dominicans fight wolves, im batting .820.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

and the award goes to... everyone!

the army enjoys making things group activites, which is supposed to promote togetherness and unit cohesion. on some levels that is accomplished, but there are certain things in life that are best experienced solo.

Group activities vital to the military experience:

Running in formation

why it rules: when you get tired, you can draw strength from those around you. someone is always sweating more or breathing harder than you are, and for some reason this motivates me. having cadence sung helps you keep in step, allowing everyone to be on the same foot at the same time, mitigating (the army's favorite word since 2004) the risk of tripping.

why it lacks ruling ability: singing cadence inhibits your ability to breath, which is my #2 favorite activity while running. people also have trouble staying in step, which can lead to people's legs getting tangled and them falling over (watching this happen is my #1 favorite activity). also, larger formations for running (between 100 and 4,000 people) tend to be horribly paced, ensuring that the people in the back are either walking or sprinting in alternating intervals.

Group Bathroom time

Perks: this gives you valuable time to spend around your buddies when you would otherwise be alone. the army would not last a week if you were no longer able to candidly evaluate the quality of other people's bodily noises. granted, there is a fairly steep comfort curve that you must overcome (usually in the first 4 weeks of basic training), but after that, it's almost like family time. rarely do i shower without running into at least 3 people i know, promptly starting a game everyone enjoys: holding a conversation without looking directly at a naked person. this event encourages mass participation, and encourages you to become proficient at getting dressed while staring at the ceiling.

Sags: i've seen more penis than jenna jameson (sorry mom) and more ass than public toilet seats. people do unspeakable things in the shower stalls, and for some reason the bathrooms and showers always smell like the end result of a laxitive-and-baby food cocktail. if seeing all of the back hair and ass-acne doesnt make you gag, the odor certainly will.

Mass Punishment

for: it is a great tool to show large groups of people what NOT to do. making one person's mistake everyone's mistake shows how important every member of a unit can be.

against: it is only useful in basic training. beyond that, it is a way for leadership to flex their authority muscle (which is located under your sphincter) and show people that they are in charge.

Blanket Awards

Sweeeeeeet: if a unit does something noteworthy, everyone should be recognized. it is a great opportunity to show appreciation for the hard work of soldiers en masse.

Uncool: as far as deployments go, the army feels that everyone should only get one award unless you do something truly noteworthy (like being able to keep track of your weapon for 10 straight months) or truly boneheaded (stealing expensive electronics equipment from a Morale, Wellfare, and Recreation facility). giving awards out only once in a 12-month deployment cheapens the remarkable achievements of the few by mixing them in with the completely achievable performance of the many.

there are many other group activities of which the army is overly fond, but these are the most noteworthy. i can't wait for a job that i can quit...

recap: i should write leadership manuals, never ask me why i dont enjoy sausage, and i got another Army Commendation Medal today. consider my own horn tooted.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

They're punching each other!

there is a boxing event held here from time to time that unites service members without fail. their common lust for blood and violence leads them to gather in throngs to witness what can only be described as 'boxing.' last night such an event was held, and the area around the ring was packed so tightly that people had to find seating on top of nearby trucks, buildings, and bunkers. being a pioneer in the truest sense of the word, i was the first to embark on the harrowing climb to the top of a bunker, and was soon followed by friends and the omnipresent Ugandan security forces that continue to attempt to take over the base.

the national anthem sung to open the festivities brought tears to my eyes. it wasn't so much a welling up of patriotism as it was sadness for my freshly ruptured ear drums. apparently out of the thousands of troops here, the best singer we have to offer has the vocal range of a dog being neutered without anesthetic. this horrid display of failed yodeling meant only one thing: the event could only get better.

the first fight must not have been very good, as i recall very little of it. the second, however, was quite interesting in the way i imagine special olympics boxing would be if it were held underwater. the contestents' blatant disregard for 'rules' led to a simultaneous disqualification, causing eye-rolls and moans from the thousands of onlookers.

the third fight lasted around 30 seconds, and improved the current weight class champ's record to 5-0. it was a powerful display of precision pugilism, alleviating all need for antiquated alliteration. the fight was stopped by the referee, arguably saving the life and pride of the loser.

i should take a moment to mention the ringside announcer/MC. his cliched and hackneyed lines were repeated at least 5 times each to make sure that everyone in the crowd was certain of his views on things. i have never heard the obvious stated so loudly and annoyingly. his vernacular might have been a good running commentary on a fight between two hobos in a breadline, but was strikingly out of place among the highly literate and erudite members of the armed services.

MC: Oh theyre really throwing punches! theyre punching! theyre throwing punches! theyre throwing punches!

Matty America: are they punching?

MC: theyre attempting to punch each other!

fights 4 and 5 involved members of my company. fight 4 ended quickly, and our man was not victorious. the fifth ended relatively quickly, and our own Iron Mike remained undefeated in 4 bouts. this victory drew large cheers from the crowd, and i did what any boxing fan would after his favorite fighter was finished: i jumped down from my seat and went to get food.

this distraction prohibited me from thinking about the emotional wringer that someone in our chain of command is putting us through. changing departure dates every few hours (and never for the better, mind you) really fucks with your head. three years in this country, and i can hardly bear the last weeks. my cramped tent's walls seem to be closing in, and my days at work feel hours longer than they used to. everyone is getting really uptight about the littlest things, as all of use are worn thin after 11 months of what has turned into a fairly worthless tour.

recap: violence brings people together, someone shoot the harpy, over 2000 views!

Monday, 11 May 2009

it's not a race, it's a tour.

a few days ago, i volunteered my team (which consists of myself and another soldier) to pick up the unit replacing us at the helicopter pad. i helped them throw all of their bags and gear onto my bus, and then took my seat facing the rear of the vehicle. i knew this unit was from the midwest, but as my eyes took in the faces staring back at me, i realized that these people weren't from the corn belt; they were the children of the corn, all grown up. the sea of blonde hair specked with blue eyes was amazing to me.

the unit i am in is quite diverse. i represent about 47% of the white male population in my unit (and that's not a crack at my size, either). this tidal wave of caucasians that washed over our base is incredible. no longer will i be chastised for my lack of skin and the jokes about my parents being albinos will be directed elsewhere.

i knew it was time for me to head home when i introduced my shin to the metal rail under my bunk the other day. as i winced in pain, my first reaction was to yell out an obscene word... in spanish. lots of my army friends speak spanish, and i can muster up a few key phrases if need be, but i have no business exclaiming displeasure in the language of Taco Bell. this event troubled me to my core and made me realize that it is time for me to be honest with myself: i am finally worldly and urbane. knowing curses in 4 languages and being able to use them at the drop of a hat (or crack of a tibia) means that i have really come into my own as a person.

i hate to sound like a typical white person, but most of my closest friends in the army are hispanic and black. of the 6 guys to whom i am most attached, only 1.5 of us are white. this has given me new perspective on my culture (white people are douchebags), insight into how white people are viewed (total F-ing douchebags), and how white people can help the world in general (stop beings such bags of douche). i have spent many sleepless nights pondering the finer points of these revelations, and come to the conclusion that our differences make us interesting.

before you roll your eyes and close the web page after reading that horribly obvious statement, think about the following: aside from the military, it is very rare for races and religionsto be forced to get along, work together, and co-habitate for such extended periods of time. it is one of my favorite parts of being in the army, and the new slang terms i have learned have already proven quite valuable. i wish it were as easy to garner this sort of varied comraderie outside of the army, but this unique situation makes it all the more valuable for me.

recap - i have a little bit of dominican in me, obama zien, doncha know.

author's note: when asked to critique the portion of this entry regarding other race's views on white people, my friend Codename "Gemini" offered this gem:

"well if half of them would get their nose out the air they could see that they are being douche bags. that said, i still like to play in the snow every now and then."


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

the end draws near...

my blogging from iraq draws to a close, sadly. i will be moving away from my wireless internet within the next few days, and dont want my adoring fans to worry about my well-being. i will do my best to post something while i am without wireless, but we shall see.

be well, and i will keep you posted on the numerous follies that the national guard has to offer the blogging community. i will miss you!


Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ebert and Roeper and America at the movies

my job description is very vague. it includes periods of doing things and periods of not doing things. since where i work is a fairly sterile environment, no ipods or computers are allowed. for some reason, however, we are allowed to keep a dvd player and television inside our building. this is a very mixed blessing due to the fact that not all movies are 'good.' since we usually watch these movies in groups of 10 people or more, the bad ones get torn to shreds. imagine Mystery Science Theater 3000, but instead of a robot, a dude, and an alien, it's a room of aggressive, under-sexed men who may or may not belong in special ed. this running commentary ensures that no exposed breast goes unnoticed, every act of excessive violence is heavily scrutinized, and plots are largely ignored (unless breasts and violence are integral to the storyline).

another factor in the movies we watch is the quality of the disc. we do not purchase actual DVDs as they sometimes cost well over two dollars. instead, we purchase bootleg copies that cost (depending on your haggling skills) anywhere from $free to $2. some of these movies have the laugh tracks provided on comedies, and/orpeople walking to and from their seats. an added bootleg bonus is getting a copy that was filmed by someone with either parkinson's or epilepsy (i do not say this jokingly, but as a statement of fact).

Slumdog Millionaire is the only film that has actually silenced and entertained everyone for it's duration. movies about oppression ('Resistance' starring james bond), infidelity ('Shattered' starring another james bond) crime ('Rock n' Rolla' starring King Leonidas from '300') or violence ('300' also starring King Leonidas from '300') are given more leeway than other films due to their firm grasp on humanity and touching morals.

the aforementioned movies were all very good, and we have watched each one approximately 25 times. we don't just watch the good movies multiple times, however. i have viewed some of the worst garbage to ever make it's way out of a brain and into a DVD player. i will now field some questions from people who read this blog regularly in order to better illustrate just how terrible some of these movies are.

Specialist Turkey Jerky: Matty America, is Boogeyman 2 the worst movie ever made?

Matty America: STJ, i have never seen Boogeyman 2, but i can assure you wholeheartedly that Boogeyman 3 is worse. the film barely gets 4 stars out of 23 (arbitrary rating systems are fun) due to the abundance of braless co-eds.

Scraps: Mr. America, what are your feelings on the plot of Feast 3?

MA: a great question, Scraps, and an easy one to answer. midgets dressed as luchadors, cannibalistic lesbians, KARATE, and men being impregnated with satan-spawn do not constitute a 'plot' per se. 5 stars our of 23 (due mostly to the aforementioned flesh-loving lesbians).

Escort Control: Victor Matty America, is there any way to top the raw tenderness and masculine sexuality of Ryan Reynold's body in The Amityville Horror?

MA: for those of you who aren't aware, this question is rhetorical. Ryan Reynolds is the peak of manhood, and i'm starting to get sad that he stopped returning my calls. 1089 stars out of 23 (one star for every inch of Mr. Reynold's body that i would like to lick in a heterosexual way that signifies respect for his build more than lust)

Freddy Flames: Mr. America, why are you such a great writer? by 'writer,' i mean 'douchebag.'

MA: well fred, i think that you really need to... wait. you can even harass me on my own blog? how did this happen? next question!

90% of my unit: ¿Senor America, cuál es su menos favorito de la película que has visto este despliegue?

MA: what? um. yes, three times. thank you for... gracias por... the question. loco love you.

Spanish word for 'to eat': Matty, is it possible for a movie to be more awful than 'Teeth?'

MA: the short answer, Comer, is 'no.' the long answer is (insane run-on sentence alert) 'a film depicting a young woman who pledges herself to celibacy but ends up having sex with everyone from a friend from camp to her stepbrother despite the fact that she has shark teeth in her vagina that have a habit of lopping off anything that enters said vagina and then actually goes so far as to SHOW the lopped-off offender cannot possibly be any more horrifying.' also, the best acting performance in the movie is turned in by a severed penis. go figure. negative 15 stars out of 23.

that was a quick summation of 9 months of movie watching. if you have any questions about these movies, my blog, my life, or my views on the oxford comma i just used, please email me at i will not respond unless you give me your Paypal information.

recap: take what you can get, i didnt mention how much i hate the tv show 'Martin,' dogs eating chopped-off penises have no place in movies.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

brushed teeth

since the invention of war, people not participating in the actual military actions have always demonstrated their support for the troops. wearing yellow ribbons during the persian gulf conflict in the early 1990's signified a person's support. post-9/11, american flags were flown over every semi-official building, on every automobile, and served as backgrounds for every news show on television in record numbers. in 2008-2009, the one true symbol of troop support and patriotism has been to send Matty America toothbrushes. apparently i am lacking in the dental hygeine department (photo of Mr. America circa December 2008), and people in droves are trying to subtlely trying to tell me that i need to focus more on brushing than on gargling with soda.

as the years have passed here, so have soldiers' needs. in 2003 i would have gladly traded 50% of my ammunition for a clean pair of socks. after a few months of communicating this need with the people at home, i had actaully amassed enough socks to wear a brand new pair every day (which i did for almost 4 straight months.) in 2005 it took almost 7 months to stem the incredible flow of socks that i was receiving. the one issue was that i had enough socks and was in dire need of snacks. this tour, for whatever reason, has brought with it a glut of toothbrushes and toothpaste.

i am a hygenic person. i shower daily and cannot fall asleep if i havent brushed my teeth. that said, i cannot fathom a use for enough toothbrushes to scrub my teeth, clean my weapon, detail a few cars, throw some at our 'dentally-challenged' soldiers, and still have a few dozen to donate to charity.

i realize i might be coming off as slightly ingrateful, which is not my intent here. i am infinitely appreciative of everything anoyone has sent me. taking the time, effort, and money to mail things halfway around the world is really amazing. there have been a core group of supporters who really make getting mail enjoyable. i am so thankful for the strangers who have gone out of their way to make a difference in my life. i am often so innundated with mail that i give away a good portion of each package (but of course hoarding my favorite things).

it has been my contact with home that has allowed me to push through my tours. i can't imagine having no internet on my bunk now, which means that i am spoiled rotten compared to the rotten conditions in which i lived just 6 years ago. the care packages are my lifeline, and i owe a lot of people thanks for all of the work they put into keeping my morale up. i honestly dont know where id be without turkey jerky, dried fruit, bunnies, socks, and toothbrushes. thank you.

recap: don't send toothbrushes, thanks to al gore for the internet, mmm turkey jerky

Monday, 27 April 2009

bathroom humor

when a person gets deployed, there are many creature comforts that are violently removed from their lives. these are things most civilians take for granted on a daily basis, and it is hard to even notice them until they are gone. having a personal vehicle (people in the states might refer to them as 'cars'), getting to decide what you are having for a meal, being able to choose your outfit for a day, and not having to walk 200 feet to use the bathroom.

this last issue is most troublesome for me. i have seen the accommodations in iraq improve from a hole in the ground that i dug every afternoon to relatively spacious metal boxes complete with two windows. the bathroom situation has gone from a hole that you dug whenever the need arose to having actual toilets and sinks. the reason i don't see this as a massive improvement (i know it is, but bear with me here) is because the holes that i dug were at my convenience while the facilities here are a 20-second sprint from my bed (up to 45 seconds if i can't figure out how to operate the lock on my door due to limited amounts of sleep).

the closest place to (legally) relieve myself is a port-o-potty that smells like bleach, feces, and cigarette butts. this pungent trio never fails to make me retch and roll my eyes. the actual bathroom stalls arent much better, but have much more entertaining material scrawled on the walls. you can find everything from scathing commentary on my chain of command (El Chupa, anyone?) and email addresses for what i am assuming are homosexual rendezvous. also of note: the stains, scents, and the abundance of mysterious hairs.

the shower trailers are perfect in theory, but are poorly maintained. they appear to be cleaned regularly, but retain remnants of every person who has used them in the past 4 years. the floors are always soaking wet, leading to embarrassing slips and the occasional sprawled-out naked guy who always happens to be in the way of getting to your towel. the shower heads break, on average, every 100 minutes. the most puzzling of all the shower mysteries is how people neglect to take their undergarments with them. there is always a pair of Hanes sitting on the floor, marinating au jus.

i dont mean to sound like an ingrate, but i would rather have something less 'nice' in favor of something more hygenic and better-maintained. call me picky or 'clean,' but the 4-foot saudis or malasians or whoever they are need to start working harder for the 43 cents we pay them to clean our shit, puke, and piss off of the floors of our bathrooms.

recap: bathroom sprints suck, dont touch the Hanes, pay raise to 45 cents DENIED

Friday, 24 April 2009

man is it HOT today!

if you have ever been surprised by the wave of heat that ripples out of an oven as you open the door, then you know what iraq feels like. today was the second consecutive day off 100 degree-plus temperatures, and we're only 2/3 of the way done with april. the heat lasts from mid-april until the middle of november, and it is constant. there are no cloudy days, no rain, no reprive from the brutal sun and hot winds.

while your brain sizzles under a ballistic helmet, the core of your body is being superheated by the kevlar and ceramic in your body armor. long sleeve shirts over tshirts, long pants and boots add to your personal sauna. the sweat runs down your face, in your eyes, and soaks everything youre wearing. everything that is normally annoying becomes an awful experience. typical hydration for me is about 4 quarts of water per hour that i am not in air conditioning.

intresting fact: no matter what you are doing, you talk about the heat. it is an unavoidable and completely acceptable topic. Example:

Matty America: ... put his whole hand in! can you believe it?

Specialist Kipping: it's fucking HOT.

MA: i wasn't talking about that, but yeah. i need some cold water.

SK: grab one for me, too? im sweating my sack off.

MA: man... it's HOT.

as you can see, it is a rare social occasion where whining actually constitutes an entire conversation. mentioning specific body parts that happen to be perspiring an inordinate amount is also acceptable. mentioning how good other males look while drenched in sweat is not specifically covered under Clinton's "dont ask dont tell" policy, thereby allowing us some room to explore exciting vagaries in army regs.

the key to survival here is hydration. approximately 2/3 of the water i have consumed in my life has been in iraq. you can tell immediately that youre getting closer to falling over dead from heat stroke when you get spotty vision and a very dull but painful headache. we keep our water in large insulated bins full of ice, and it is quite refreshing as long as you dont leave it out for more than 5 minutes. after that time is up, it has already attained the temperature of the air around it, and can actually burn your mouth to drink. conversation after imbibing scalding liquid sounds something like this:

Staff Sergeant Senile: AHH! it burned my lips! it's so hot!

Matty America: it's really hot out. the water is hot, and it's hot out.

SSS: man, it is so hot, i have a river running down my asscrack.

MA: wow. it is really hot out. i mean SERIOUSLY hot out.

SSS: its really hot, and my water is really hot. tomorrow is supposed to be hot, too.

MA: uh-huh. yesterday was hot, too.

that conversation has hours of potential that i won't dive into. for the full transcript, buy me four drinks when i get home and i will gladly tell you anything you want to hear.

recap: iraq is hot, water can get hot, iraq gets really hot, sweaty guys look better even to other guys.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

let me be brief

this picture has nothing to do with my blog, but i love it.

information in the army is a tricky thing. the world's largest game of telephone happens between people wearing uniforms every day. this double-edged sword is one of the most interesting parts of the army to me. on one hand, it greatly helps with little things. an example:

Matty America: there is a formation at 1630 to discuss new procedures.

Soldier: it was canceled.

MA: really?

Soldier: yeah i heard it's at 1745 and it's an inspection.

MA: who told you that?

Soldier: i... i dont remember.

as you can see, this process is much easier than, say, using carrier pigeons. birds tend to get lost or sidetracked by shiny things whereas soldiers will come straight to you and tell you that another soldier was looking for you. you will, of course, never see this other soldier because they were not aware that you didn't know.

since there is very little rhyme or reason as to who gives you information, it can come from very surprising sources. i have learned more about timelines and events from CNN than from my unit since getting mobilized 10 months ago. finding out about your upcoming from the inside of a bathroom stall is not completely out of the question.

this also segues nicely into another one of the army's favorite pastimes: spreading rumors. if i hear that 10 people are needed to wake up early and perform a Meaningless Army Task (MAT), i am obligated under Army Regulation 450-7 to tell my friends that there is a good chance that we will be having a room inspection in addition to performing the MAT. this will cause them to lose some morale and then concoct an even more skewed version of this tale to pass on to other people. this is the most detrimental to motivation when it involves projected dates for returning home from a deployment.

the army combats rumors through giving a surplus of useless information. this is given out en masse in briefings, which are the mental equivalent of waterboarding (too soon?). the army sits around thinking of ways to put soldiers to sleep and then yell at them for going to sleep. the 21st century has brought about many useful tools in ways to bore it's troops. the number one sleeping aid perscribed by the army is Powerpoint, which, when coupled with dry military information, can cause even the most severe insomniac to be counting sheep within minutes. briefings, as per military law, are not allowed to be informative:

Captain Obvious: today i will be giving blocks of instruction (read: classes) on proper liquid soap to body surface ratios, clipped toenail disposal policy, and the 37-step process to properly identifying types of gravel. we will then break for 10 minutes -

Sergeant First Class Lumpyhead: excuse me sir, i just want to tell everyone that if you feel yourself starting to fall asleep, have some integrity and stand up. go ahead, sir.

CO: These are important classes, and no one here can afford to miss a word of any of this. i will now read verbatim every powerpoint slide that pops up. with any luck, we should be done here by early May.

SFC L: sir, might i also add that when i was a private, we didnt get classes on gravel identification processes, and i dont think i'm half the soldier i could have been because of it.

these classes and briefings are usually a result of higher-ranking people feeling bad about making so much money while doing so little. they want to 'give back' to the troops via briefings, and the longer they talk (obviously) the more effective the briefing was. id love to tell you more, but i need to go find out about our training schedule from a port-o-potty.

recap: birds get sidetracked, powerpoi...zzzz, bathrooms are smart.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

i dont know, sergeant

i know that many of you have literally been holding your breath since i mentioned that i was up for the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Month. i studied. i did two practice boards. i cleaned my gear. i blogged about it. i stopped caring 3 days ago.

that last bit of information was the most important for me. instead of staying up for 5 days straight, i just decided that i knew enough not to get laughed at and figured i would wing the rest. to tell you a little bit about boards, they are required for advancement while serving on active duty. you get 'promotion points' for them, which, much like an arcade, can be redeemed for sweet prizes. in the national guard, the best-case scenario is that you walk out of the board smiling and maybe get a piece of paper saying that youre an awesome dude.

to me, the most interesting part of studying for the board was finding out just how vast the information the army compiles is. every piece of paper has a Department of the Army (DA) form number, and every manual has an appropriate Field Manual (FM) number. memorizing appropriate form numbers, manual titles, training plans, sub-categories of silly details. i can honestly tell you the main idea of 99% of the stuff, but cant recite it verbatim. if there are seven steps to _______, i will remember 4 and they will be out of order. i skip parts that i deem 'silly' (what is the definition of 'motivation?' who cares, it's when people are happy and shit. next question.) and move on to things that interest me (is that episode of 30 rock done downloading?).

there were a total of 8 people going to the board today, four soldiers and four NCOs. the soldiers went first while i worked on my hand and neck tan outside. two and a half hours later, i was up. i wish that i hadnt had to turn in my Nerves of Steel (FM 17-10) at the end of my first tour. i took a deep breath and remembered that i was pretty much just there for fun. i was risking nothing and had nothing to gain.

believe it or not, there is actually an army procedure for knocking on the door before entering a board. i did all of the little stuff right and was told to take a seat and 'relax,' which means that i was allowed to sit with my feet up to 12 inches apart, sitting up straight, with my hands kept on my knees. i was very relaxed and doing really well when, out of nowhere, the board started. i relied heavily on my army training in the lethal field of Sergeant in Charge of Total and Utter Bullshit, and before i knew it, i was walking out the door.

realizing it was over, i let the iraqi sun heat up my armor and face. smiling, i walked back to my room and promptly passed out. this was the last real hurdle of my army career, and i didnt let myself down.

recap: board today, the army is an arcade, DA form 23101, stress-free

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

the truth about the lies

This guy has an IQ of 89, drives a pickup, chews tobacco, and hunts marine vegetation in his spare time.

you've all seen them; pictures of soldiers with camo face paint, ominously pointing the muzzle of their weapon at an unseen enemy just off-camera. only posters recruiting for special ops teams can pull this off effectively, but for some reason everyone who enlists seems to want to emulate the feelings these snapshots evoke. whether their job in the army is 'Bullet Sponge' as some infantryman like to call themselves or one of the lower REMF's (Rear-Echelon Mother...), everyone is entitled to take badass pictures of themselves.

i am as guilty of this as anyone, though my army posturing days ground to a halt half a decade ago. everyone knows that i have guns. everyone knows that i wear a uniform. why beat it into people's gray matter? the reason is simple: as a collective, the army has to uphold it's image. if my friends back home see pictures of me flexing for the camera while holding a military firearm, they naturally assume that death and destruction are the first two words in my job description. no one in the military wants the job i have here. it is not glamorous and will never give someone a chance to earn a medal of honor. i'm content with that, but some of the guys here on their first deployment will return home lacking a single story that would ever end up in a book or made-for-TV movie.

facts aside, we are still a hardcore group of combat veterans. we need to propegate visions of bayonetting our way through entrenched insurgents in the people at home. the best way to do to that is through photography. if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a soldier sans smile holding a gun is worth a thousand blogs. since no one knows exactly what is going on behind the camera, your mind runs wild: 'is he about to take an Al Queda stronghold wearing nothing but a wifebeater?' 'did his roommate just finish off his multigrain tostitos?' 'when is the next episode of 30 Rock going to be available for download?'

the blame (there is no culprit here, i just feel like pointing fingers) rests squarely on the shoulders of civilians. since civilians arent connected with the military, they will eat up any scrap of information no matter how ridiculous. if i said that the army was running operations in britain to knock off overzealous Tea and Crumpet Barons, you would be surprised that you hadnt read about it in the newspaper. if i mentioned casually that i was air-dropped into the persian gulf and brought to shore by Navy seals (the animals, not the badasses), you would think that my job is pretty nifty. i'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, and admit that a lot of things that we do in the army are really cool (explosions never get old to me as long as i am safe. you haven't lived until you've felt the concussion of high-explosive rounds being fired at a rate of 10 per second). i am also not trying to tell you that there is such a thing as a worthless mission or silly job in the army (yes i am). just know that things are not always what they are made out to be, especially if the Army is involved.

recap: flex, pose, lie, when IS the next episode of 30 rock coming out, i want trained seals.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

the good ol' boys

the guy on the left enlisted before the civil war, and is now serving in iraq with my unit. amazing, huh?

for those of you who have ever seen the movie '300,' you might remember a part where the spartan 300 meet up with a larger Acadian force. when asked what their professions are, they respond with the usual fare of the time: blacksmiths, farmers, etc. the spartans are all warriors, and respond in kind. the spartan leader quips that it appears he brought more soldiers.

the army is the spartans (kind of), and the national guard is the acadian force. we are a lightly trained force comprised of cops, bankers, and students. we train (read: drink together) two days a month and are still held to the same standard as professional soldiers. the epitome of this organization isn't the young soldiers who still cling to their ideals, but the ones who have been in for a quarter of a century. most of these relics have never served on active duty or been held to rigorous standards. they do, however, band together and ruthlessly protect each other. enter 'the good ol' boys,' a clique of 6 or so older gentlemen who have somehow gained control of my entire unit.

3 of these pals outrank me, and the rest are at my level. they have all been in for over 18 years, and have been promoted mainly through 'grandfather clauses' that allow now defunct regulations to govern their progress due to their unthinkable amount of time in service. this cracks me up mainly because some have been in the army as long as i have been alive, and they dont even have authority over me.

the camo-mafia that they run is tyranical in nature and completely unavoidable. their impact is far-reaching and demoralizing. they give each other entire WEEKS off, and act as if it isn't an issue. considering we work four long days before we get one off, having 18 consecutive days off without proper cause is just ridiculous. you might be thinking 'well Mr. America, didnt you just get 11 days off in a row?' the answer is 'yes,' but the whole point of this blog is that it is MINE, and i refuse to be put on trial here.

this band of clowns hold civilian occupations such as policeman, professionally obese person, mailman, and crackhead (i'm not joking). some of them like to pretend that they are accomplished leaders and shape the lives and ambitions of their troops. in effect, however, they are a detriment to morale and logic. i am resilient and refuse to be brought down by people who would compete on 'are you smarter than a 5th grader' as the 5th grader. no more petty confrontations, no more back-talk from me (unless it involves the well-being of my soldiers), and no more yelling at the wind. the end draws near.

recap: spartans kicked ass, i wish i hadnt enlisted, the 11 days off were doctor-ordered.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

speed blog = suck

this entry will be a race against the clock, so please allow for poor grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure (as if the other entries were any better, really).

since i maintain and feed a healthy ego, i decided to put a counter on my blog about a month ago. i was getting great feedback from people, so i figured i would find out if anyone was actually reading it or simply paying lip service to me. it turns out that i have recorded around 1000 reads in under 4 weeks. this has thrown a lot of fuel on my writing fire, and prompted me to deliver this half-baked piece about everyone's favorite topic: me.

i enjoy writing, and this forum has become my outlet for many types of stress and anxiety. somehow it validates my mission here and my life in general through sharing. granted, i am far more sober and camouflaged than most of my more avid readers, but people seem to take interest in the on-goings of this incredibly mundane deployment. i could always use input on subjects that you (yes, you) would like covered or previous topics that you could use some elaboration on. there is a comment section here for a reason! let me know what's on your mind.

recap: speed, 1000 dummies, caity comer, still in iraq

Thursday, 16 April 2009

omg lol BS

Ten months ago, i was attempting to prepare my brain for another year away from home. i was getting my belongings for a year of storage. i was giving pep-talks to my friends and family. i was terrified of not having my cell phone. i was unemployed and in the middle of many awesome (albeit self-thrown) going-away parties.

The beginning and ends of deployments are typically the hardest and most BS-filled. right now my unit is suffering through hours-long briefings after finishing 11-13 hour workdays. as if that isnt bad enough, these briefings are completely redundant. i'm not saying theyre not informative the first time, but when you see the same powerpoint for the 3rd time, you start wondering if anyone in the army communicates.

this ties into another factor for all of the nonsense: officers. there is always friction between officers and enlisted, but it becomes much more pronounced when officers are political. these promotion-hungry college graduates decide that they need to leave their mark on the army by engaging in what can only be categorized as 'shenanigans.' since it is rare that officers have to do actual work, they feel free to extend their soldier's mission, volunteer them for more work, less downtime, etc, while restricting their ability to complete their mission simultaneously. sidenote: there is at least one officer from my unit who reads this, so i feel the need to be diplomatic. officers serve a VERY important role in the army, and i hope this part is educational for you civilians. without officers there would be almost no need to ever salute. without salutes, we're just a poorly-dressed corporation. anyway, thank you, officers, for giving us a reason to salute something other than flags.

anyway, we're now about 3 weeks away from this impending BS-explosion. there are already telltale signs, but most people here arent looking for them. the sad thing is that this is an inevitablity for me, and knowing that they're on their way can't help me avoid or change them. luckily for you, this might give my blog some serious fuel, or at least an occassional rant or two.

to recap: got mobilized, officers, salutes, end is in sight.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The Bored

in the last 9 years, i have been in school for a total of 4 semesters, most recently about 3 years ago. i tell you this because i am now love handles-deep in reading associated with the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Month Board. it is the next step up from the Soldier of the Month/Quarter/Year board in the sense that it is for higher-ranking and, logically, more experienced soldiers. it has been almost 6 years since my last board, and in those years i have forced most of this information out of my head. staying sane in the national guard is hard enough without having to worry about which army regulation covers the length and uniformity of my sideburns, or which field manual talks about nighttime urination tactics. since my focus has been my own survival, i have forgotten many of these little military nuggets. the ones i haven't forgotten, i have never had to know: until now.

i was handed a 3-inch thick three-ring binder and some highlighted sections upon which to focus. i was also promised a 'sponsor' for this oral exam, and he has yet to help me at all (unless you consider telling me when to show up a form of help). not that i am afraid of this experience, i am just caught between the slow-moving but omnipresent glacier of ending my time in the army, and the mountain that is my competitive nature. simply put, i dont know if i should give a fuck. let us weigh the options together, shall we?

reasons i should give a proverbial fuck:

- as i mentioned a minute ago, i am quite competitive. i would like to walk into this knowing 100% of the material and really impressing everyone.
- i tend to 'do the right thing' a very high percentage of the time; why stop now?
- this would be a very fitting end to my army life.
- i have already decided that if i beat out the rest of the soldiers at this board, i would 'forget' to go to work for the rest of the time here.

reasons i should blog instead of studying:

- national guard soldiers have no reason being thrown into competition like this with active duty people. their occupation is to know this stuff. they eat it and breathe it. i should know, i used to be one of them. i have lost before i have even started.
- the award is little more than a pat on the back.
- "i was April 2009's NCO of the month" gets you as far with girls and employers as "i roadmarched 62 miles in 24 hours with a 55-pound pack." most people dont know what youre talking about anyway.
- my blogs are much more fun to write than all of my study guides are to read.

none of this writing changes the fact that i am going. it did, however, cut the time i have to potentially study by almost half an hour. army logic states that the less time i actually get to study, the more acceptable it is that i don't do well. maybe i should go running and then try to figure out how Twitter could possibly add to my life.

Friday, 10 April 2009

five reasons i'm glad i enlisted

when i joined the army, i was a month out of my teens, and looking to better myself through discipline and guns. i remember the bus ride from the atlanta airport to fort benning. i only knew about basic training what movies had told me, along with general assumptions (screamed at, spit upon, beaten, and possibly complimented on my dimples), and it turned out that most of these were greatly exaggerated and played-up. i did get a nice comment about my cheek-craters, though. sometimes things in the army arent what you expect them to be. there have been a number of occasions since i joined that have exceeded any preconceptions that i might have had.

the first and best example i have is when i went to what is known as 'reclass school' in the fall of 04. i was an infantryman, but the national guard demanded i become proficient in the art of water purification (if you have ever seen In the Army Now with Pauly Shore...). i went to the middle of nowhere, virginia, for two weeks of classroom training on filters and valves. at the time there were only 100-something people on an army post that can fit thousands. we had free reign over every building on post, and our small class (about 13 people) had so much drunken fun that i can't even go into detail here. weeks 3 and 4 of the class were in fort lee, virgina, which is much more civilized. it was actually so populated at the time that we had to stay in a holiday inn for two weeks. the army paid for us to have housekeeping and fresh sheets every night. i spent about 6 hours a day in class, and the rest of the day drinking, rapelling off of the hotel roof, going to hick bars, and feel sorry for the cleaning lady who had to pick up all of the miller lite cans on my floor.

living in fort hood texas put me a 45-minute drive (mom, stop reading now) from austin if i drove over 90 mph. going down to 6th street for a night or weekend was always an amazing outlet for me. it completely removed me from the military vibe that i have never really gotten used to, and this reprive was always crazy and awesome. live music, UT girls, and cheap drinks usually led me to spending the night in a motel or in my car parked under the highway.

The national training center in fort irwin is located conviniently near nothing. it happens to occupy a good amount of space in the mojave desert, and it is where large units go to train. my squad went in january of of 2003 to be 'op-for' or the opposing force for a unit based out of new york. we were very autonomous, doing missions for 2 days out of every 4, and we spent those two days running around the desert shooting fake bullets at people and 'killing' them. since we were on our own, we decided to 'turn on' our equipment, making us impervious to their silly weapons. we slept under the stars, ate crappy food, and went to the stores and stuff that the other people werent allowed in while training. the best/worst part of the trip: my buddy Kyle leaving two open bags of beef jerky out. it attracted about 30 coyotes who spent the night sniffing my sleeping bag while i lay inside with a 6-inch knife in my hands and my eyes wide open in terror.

any weekend spent in fort dix is semi-memorable. the amount of alcohol i have consumed in the barracks there is astounding. with nothing to do BUT drink, there is an unlimited amount of fun things you can do with a few friends, a camera, and a lack of knowledgable supervision.

the 5th and final best thing ive done in the army (trust me, finding 5 has been kind of hard) is iraq. the deployments have really dragged, and i think three tours is two too many, but i have learned a lot about the world here. i mentioned a few of the things in an earlier entry, but there really are quite a few good ones. the iraqi people are incredibly generous. if you compliment a guy on his shirt, he will literally take it off and offer it to you. you'd be amazed how easy it is to turn down a gift from a strange naked man who is yelling at you in arabic. aside from the people, the harsh landscape and climate are really intense.

it appears that my mind is attempting to gravitate toward rewarding and happy thoughts about the army to help me through this last leg of my camouflaged journey. whatever it takes, i guess!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Post-Traumatic Sports

one of the largest facets of being a soldier is physical fitness. i have to be up front with my current lack of adherence to the army's "standards," but luckily i am in the national guard, where you can fly under the radar with a spare tire or two. sports have always been my way of keeping in shape. i have only been on a handful of sports teams since high school, but most were soccer leagues that encouraged post-game drinking and the like.

as some of you may have read, i was recently involved in what some might call a 'soccer miracle' that ended with an 11-day absence from work due to a superficial leg wound. since that has healed, our flag football season has started. we play on the same surface as before (consisting of sand, small rocks, big rocks, and sand), only this time i am aware of what might happen if you should choose to get daring and slide around on your knees. our team is lacking skills in only one critical area. sadly, this area is the 'actually winning games' category. we have the heart, the skills, and the drive to achieve greatness, but seem unable to get a second 'W.'

now let me explain something about flag football: it is more like golf with running than actual football. if you make contact with another player, it is most likely illegal. i'm not talking about your black-and-white 'good touch/bad touch' here since a lot of this falls into a flag football gray area. you are allowed to grab an opponent's flags, but you are not allowed to miss and accidentally grab, say, his shirt. if you get his shirt, this results in a penalty that causes a loss or gain of yards. the officials base their penalization on the strict and time-honored principle of 'whichever team is whining more vehemently.' this brings sporting to a new level, since the officials keep in mind that players on both teams are in possession of firearms and bad words.

activities like sports, running, and going to the gym are great morale-boosters here. losing games detracts from morale and adds to the frustration most of the troops here are already feeling. to anyone out there who might be on the opposing team for tonight's game: let us win. it is vital to the progress of our great country that our spirits stay high enough to deal with the daily rigors of sitting around, sitting around with gear on, and sitting around wearing gear while operating a vehicle.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

iraq n' roll

as my third deployment winds down, i have begun to reflect upon the impact iraq has had on my life. this is supposedly the birthplace of civilization, and as history-rich as it may be i haven't been able to enjoy it much from a tourist's perspective. there have been a few things that have really made me pause and think about the differences between the U.S. and iraq, though. everyone who has watched TV or been on the internet in the last 7 years has a decent idea of what the terrain is like here, and how baghdad looks at night as it gets hit by missles and bombs. thinking back, that is very little of what i will remember about it.

the night sky in iraq circa 2003 was the most incredible thing i have ever seen. it would literally keep me breathless on a nightly basis as i watched shooting stars and attempted to grasp the enormity of the milky way (which looks like a long, thin cloud). the viewing was aided greatly by a total lack of electricity in the area along with the fact that i slept outside for 90% of the year i was there. some of the happiest and most peaceful times i had in 03 were lying on the dirt with alkaline trio on my CD player, looking up at the stars wondering if anyone at home was looking up also.

through the first month of my first tour, we 'showered' in streams and rivers that we came across. it was always amazing that an irrigation ditch in the middle of the desert allowed plants to grow on the banks. we would jump in in full uniform and use bars of soap to clean our uniforms and strip down as we cleaned until we were actually cleaning ourselves. we had two bradley fighting vehicles providing security for the swimmers so that no one snuck up on us mid-bath.

in 2005, i would stand on top of our building on the banks of the tigris river in Samarra and look out across the city. you could see the spiral minaret and golden mosque illuminated and if you time it right, you could actually see the locals bouncing tracer rounds off of them, and occasionally firing RPGs at them this always mystified me because both of these landmarks are centuries older than our country, and they were treated with apparent disregard for their historical value. hey, at least i appreciated them, right?

this past year has been much less beautiful and interesting. i have, however, been completely immersed in iraqi culture. on a given day, i deal with about 100 or so detained iraqis. they are big into kissing each other, speaking arabic, and not showering. 98% of them smell worse than any person youve ever had near you. in case you weren't aware, it is their culture to wipe their ass with their left hand (no toilet paper for them) and then rinse their hands with ... water. that's it. i'm sure this contributes greatly to the stench, and it isnt something i will soon forget.

there a myriad of other things that i will remember about my time here, but these stuck out in my mind the most. i can't write a tourism guide or anything, but i could probably drive from kuwait to tikrit without asking for directions.

Friday, 3 April 2009

waking up 3 hours before the crack of dawn.

there are certain things in life that you cannot grow accustomed to. think of stubbing your toe: you could do it every day for the rest of your life and still not get used to the pain. the army stubs your brain weekly, and the dull throb of your aching morale echos in your mind for at least 12 hours. here is a list of things that, after almost 8 years in uniform, i have not gotten used to:

1 - waking up regularly before 4 am. i get out of bed currently at 315 am, and snarl and curse at myself for a solid half hour. i am a morning person. i can honestly say that in my entire life, i have never hit the snooze button. getting up that early isnt the problem, it's the fact that my brain simply does not start up for at least 15 minutes. i often find myself standing in my dark room trying to figure out where i am, and wondering why i'm standing in a dark room.

2 - everyone who outranks me being my boss. it doesnt matter where you go or what you're doing, there is always someone there to keep you in line. i think i will forever be paranoid about doing little things wrong. example: every time i step outside, i always reach for my cover (in the civilian world: "hat."). when i do not find it, i freak out for 1/10th of a second, then laugh at myself.

3 - being away from home. time passes slowly, and you have ZERO escape. i can't hop into my car and go for a drive, nor can i relax with a cold beer after a 16-hour shift. my cell phone has no reception here and really cant pick out clothes to wear. adding all of those things together really tend to fry your brain.

4 - constant changes to the most mundane things. if you think that where you hang your workout clothes in your closet in relation to your polo shirts isn't a big deal, it would be if you were in the army. though i havent really encountered too much of this particular brand of nonsense since basic training, the small changes to things that dont matter are everywhere, and always quite annoying.

5 - the smell of burning feces. this is not meant as a joke (ok, it kind of is). everywhere you go in iraq, you are bound to smell lots of excrement. the overpowering stench of other peoples bodily waste leaves quite the imprint on your brain. think about the worst-smelling public restroom youve ever visited. now magnify that times 10 and make the smell EVERYWHERE. you cant hide from it here. indoors, outdoors, you name it.

this is just a list off the top of my head. i'm sure i could identify 5 more, but really dont feel like thinking that hard at the moment. now i have to start thinking about bed since i have to be up at 315 again tomorrow. pity me!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April 1 - laugh it up.

my first idea for an entry today was based on the fact that it is April Fool's Day, but quickly realized that any joke i posted here 1) wouldnt be as funny as most of the truths in my life and 2) would probably end up being cruel.

i decided to turn to my good friend Wikipedia for insight in to how such a day could come about, as most holidays are spent celebrating certain things, remembering dead people or fueled by religion. April Fool's Day (AFD as it is known in Army circles), preys on gullible and unsuspecting people. the wiki entry is hysterical, chronicling some of history's best pranks. Apparently a physicist wrote a paper in 1998 about Alabama's proposal to change the irrational pi to a 'biblical value' of 3.0. other pranks include left-handed whoppers at burger king and swiss people harvesting their spaghetti crop after eradicating the pestilence of the feared 'spaghetti weevil.'

this invesitgation into AFD along with reading an interview with Seth Rogen have brought me to really appreciate the humor of others. humor is my default defense mechanism, and making light of situations has allowed me to keep my sanity for almost 3 decades.

i feel that the world as a whole has quite the sense of humor, finding my proof in the fact that WNBA is still around, Fergie was able to sell records, and (prep yourself for a laugh) this. all kidding aside, i really dont know how people were able to tolerate life without being able to watch movies, go to comedy clubs, and enjoy pranks on april first. back in Ye Olden Days, they had court jesters, puppet shows, and people being burned at the stake to entertain them. before that... not so much. you never read in the bible about Matthew being a really funny dude, or Noah bringing 3 giraffes on the ark 'just for shits and giggles.'

the evolution of mankind to the point where we will go to great lengths to amuse ourselves signals progress. instead of having to rise and rest with the sun, we can now spend all night on the internet, googling 'tennis groin shot' and 'leading WNBA scorers' to give ourselves some chuckles. i am encouraged to keep finding funny people and things to add to my life so i can embody this step in the right direction.

sorry about the cracks on the WNBA.

no i'm not.

Monday, 30 March 2009

cramped quarters

living in what would make a tiny two-car garage with 7 other adults is, at times, quite harrowing. you get to know their habits, quirks, fears, and intricacies. if you look closely, you can see them at their most vulnerable and open. this makes for close friendships, burning hatred, and fun writing.

8 people on 3 different schedules. 5 different musical tastes. 3 different languages. 8 different heritages. 3 different ranks. ages ranging from 22 to 29. 10 months together. and only one blog. that means that whatever i say about these people is what goes. there is honestly no need to slander these fine soldiers, but a slight embellishment of the truth may be in order.

i have spent the last 10 months in the top bunk, which is fine by me. my bunkmate is very easy-going and we get along quite well. he is considerate and it is infrequent that he eats an entire box of my powerbars. we have a very similar sense of humor, and take comfort in how much he hates my music (except for kings of leon for whatever reason). i quote rap lyrics to him to show how much we have in common:

MA: 'i do my thing in the club with the burner tucked.'

LW: 'what the hell is wrong with you, whitey?'

the other two guys on my side of the room are quite interesting as well. one is a manic/narcoleptic Chilean and the other is a sociopathic eskimo. i'm not sure if he's actually an eskimo, but it sure sounds good. he was called up from inactive reserve to come on this deployment, and he has been an absolute joy to have around. he leaves cute messages on our door (see photo), and laughs like an oxygen-starved weasel. in case you can't read what the picture says, i woke up to find a cryptic warning: "In case of zombie infestation... i told you so, so run zombie food, run!" this pretty much sums up my favorite paranoid kansan. he's leaving soon, and i will miss him. how will i prepare for the end of the world if he's not here to warn me?

our chilean buddy was deployed with me in '05, and he hasnt lost his crazy edge. he claps loudly and randomly, usually without reason. he enjoys keeping perishables in our fridge for up to 5 weeks without explanation or reason, bringing them to a point closer to 'mulch' than 'ripe.' due to circumstances beyond his control, he slipped in the shower and broke his wrist, ending up sprawled out on the bathroom floor, naked in front of 5 guys. never a dull moment.

80% of the laughs i have had this deployment have come from these 3 guys, and i would love to buy them all a beer when we get back. something tells me they might not want to talk to me after this blog... we'll see!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

lazy sunday

having a blog is not easy. not only do people constantly pester me with blog suggestions ("write about how handsome you are!" "talk about your modesty!" etc) but they also expect name drops (karen, hilger, erin, rana, doris, comer, everyone else). this pressure, combined with my rigorous daily schedule of waking up when i want and sometimes napping and getting food, really stifles my creative process. clearly this is too much for my brain to handle, as i am now writing blogs about blogging and forgetting to shower. this downward slide into what i am assuming is some form of dementia will soon result in a stroke, leaving my adoring masses salivating for their 'fix.'

considering all that happens in my daily life and all i have done in the past, you would think that finding inspiration for writing would come easily. i have been tempted to write about some of the new music that i have gotten, movies i have seen, and how handsome i am. none of these topics could carry an entire entry ("saw Rock N' Rolla today, and boy am i glad guy ritchie left madonna. the end.") so i am left to write about whatever comes to mind.

this is a horrible time of year for deployed soldiers. well-meaning people from all over the united states band together and send box after box of girl scout cookies overseas. since these sugary treats were a rarity at home, i decided during my tour in 2005 that i would eat every cookie that i could get my hands on. they came in by the truckload it seemed, and i had thin mint residue smeared from the corners of my mouth and caked onto my teeth. when all of the green boxes were gone, it was on to the peanut butter cookies. after about two weeks of horrible acid reflux i decided to never eat another girl scout cookie in my life.

i got my first box yesterday in the mail with a note promising many more boxes to come. i'm crying as i type this for fear that i will not be able to find suitable homes for the bounty that is on it's way to me. hopefully i can find some soldiers who want to gain enough weight to have their fingers turn into little sausages, but that is quite a stretch.

Friday, 27 March 2009

fun and games

i am often asked, 'what do you guys do for fun over there?' a completely understandable inquiry, but one that really exemplifies the mystique of the military. speaking from my own personal misconceptions before enlisting, i figured that when you werent getting cursed at Full Metal Jacket-style, you were most likely singing to pretty girls in bars a la Top Gun. everyone in the military is good-looking, and usually scowling. i feel that i shared these assumed truths with many other civilians.

the military does its best to perpetuate these views. i will always remember a recruiting poster i saw at my armory in new jersey: four young people standing close together, smiling like they had all just popped 5 pills of ecstacy. they are of both genders, mixed ethnicities, religions, and presumably all favor different professional sports teams. now if you step to the side, they magically appear in the same poses, but this time they are in uniform. the most notable change isnt the j crew-to-surplus store wardrobe switch, but their facial expressions. when in uniform, you apparently have to always look as if your commander just ordered you to bayonet your way through a cave filled with 9-11 masterminds. these soulless stares haunt me daily, and make me wonder if sometimes i take this whole experience too lightly.

please dont misunderstand, there have been times in my accolade-drenched time in the army where i have had my game face on. 70% of those times have been in the bathroom, 20% during actual combat, and the other 10% were most likely an accident. truth be told, i have spent most of my military time bored out of my mind. this could be due to the fact that we spend so much time doing run-throughs of drills and talking about things before we do them that when it comes time to actually do 'cool' stuff like kicking in doors and securing insurgent strongholds, i am so desensitized to the operation from all of the training that it doesn't feel that cool at all.

i am digressing from the whole 'fun' issue, i know. we are forced to make our own fun, because if it were left up to the army, there would be Field Manual 11-670 Enjoyable Passtimes and Recreational Safety. no one needs guidelines on free time. that said, the fun that i have had in iraq has changed with the tour.

in 2003, i spent most of my free time throwing rocks at things. this is not a joke, but a very serious passtime that most army personnel engage in regularly. rocks are bountiful here, and so are things at which to throw them. if nothing is around, simply dig the heel of your boot into the ground until you have a target. up to 5 people can simultaneously enjoy your boot divet with rocks of their own. optimal targets included:

- metal objects . their satisfying 'clang' denotes a critical hit, and acts as a starter's gun for high-fives and trash talk.

- open containers. sinking a rock into an empty coffee can or upturned helmet gives you the rush of hitting a game-winning three-pointer.

- living things. people are the best, as you can put over-under odds on how many times you can hit an individual before you get punched in the face.

in 2005, fun was abundant. i had my laptop, ipod, psp, and gameboy to keep me company. more spend-happy people purchased TVs and playstations, so there was usually a madden or halo tournament going on. these activities do not make for good writing.

this tour is by far the most enjoyable. i have the internet on my bunk, and right next door my best friends wait eagerly to play rock band with me. electronics aside, we entertain ourselves with our wonderful fitness facility, which is open 24 hours to help people like me feel inferior to some of the muscled-up freaks who obviously inject themselves with liquefied beef to obtain their impressive stature.

but sadly, that is pretty much the end of the 'fun.' the army doesnt waste its resources on miniature golf courses, arcades, petting zoos, roller coasters, midget-tossing, or knitting clubs. although at the rate we're pumping funds into the area, soldiers deployed here in 2013 have a good shot at a bouncy castle.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

selfish service

the army has seven core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. i am failing at least 6 of them currently, and all 7 if you dont think that sitting in my room all day is an honorable thing. since losing my fight with gravity, rocks and clear thinking, i have been sitting around. yes, you read that correctly. i am currently fighting the war on terror from my adorable little apple laptop.

day six of worthlessness started about an hour ago, and i feel better by the minute. not only does my leg still look like i drunkenly scratched a mosquito bite with a cheese grater, people actually feel sorry for me because of it. dont get me wrong, it still hurts like you wouldnt believe. but i am slipping through the military cracks and havent had a single thing to do for the better part of a week. i live in constant fear that someone will come give me something to do, but i have a sneaking suspicion that i will spend another 3-4 days sitting on my increasingly ample ass.

the only issue with this is that My Personal Quest For Fitness Perfection (MPQFFP) has been put on hold due to my inability to continue my cardiovascular workouts. MPQFFP doesnt require an acronym, but it really validates the whole process for me. i have recently gotten in good enough shape so that i dont cry when i look at myself in the mirror after a shower, and this is obviously a step in the right direction. according to my assessment of my progress, i should be the pinnacle of masculine perfection within the next 3 months. now it is up to 3 months and 6 days, thanks to my neverending amusement with finding glorious and often ridiculously silly ways in which to injure myself.

my current concern is not that i am letting my unit down, or even myeself. i am starting to worry that all of the tax-free dollars that american citizens are paying me to sit in iraq and blog about sitting in iraq will end up making a one-way trip to amazon or (tally 6 bonus points from Rana for that one, and another 15 for dropping her name). amazing that since i was fighting this war in 2003, my biggest conerns here are finance- and boredom-related. anyone who says that this war is a quagmire just needs to talk to me; we have won it.

all of this typing has left my fingers a tad cramped, and i am growing quite tired. i think it might be time for an all-expense paid nap.