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!