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.