8 December 2012
Up early, excited, and pumped up for the fact that I was going to get off the FOB today and visit one of my platoons that are conducting a security mission down south of us. They live on a FOB co-located with some Romanian Soldiers and are living in some pretty crappy conditions. As a 1SG I have to create a balance with my visits. I would love to be with them every day and go on every mission (Katrin would KILL me), but I can’t. It’s not my job anymore, but I want to make sure that they are doing the right thing, and most importantly, I want them to know that I care about them and what they are doing. I show them by hanging out with them and living in the shitty conditions with them. The downfall is that if I do too much of it, it comes off as if I don’t trust them.
It’s not fair, nor do I want to put patrols in harm’s way to take me out to a FOB just for a visit. I have two choices in how to make a visit happen, fly or catch a ride with a planned patrol that happens to stop by that FOB. Patrols from one platoon very rarely go into another platoon’s sector, and the only other choice would to ride out with the Squadron Commander and the Command Sergeant Major. I see enough of them already! The choice for me is easy, I fly.
The flight left early this morning. I was up, quickly shaved, and threw on the uniform. I put on my kit, grabbed my assault pack, and slung the rifle over my front. That familiar rush immediately hit me… This is one of the ways that my last deployment had changed me. A simple phrase, movie clip, certain song, anything that reminds me of my last deployment, I get that rush of adrenaline. I get fired up. This morning, dawning my gear for the first time in five years, reminded me of Ramadi.
And man, did I used to get fired up before a mission. It took everything I had not to show the excitement I had for most missions. Now, granted, there were some missions that I absolutely loathed (Western desert recons), but for the most part, I lived to go out in sector and destroy the enemy with my Scouts. I remember one mission (not sure who we were going after) I was so hopped up on a Quad-Mocha-Frappe and excited that we were going out that I was running around punching my guys in the chest (they had vests on) getting them fired up. I think I even bit one or two of them on the shoulder. I would get that fired up. And on about 95% of our missions, when we left the gate, jamming one of our “roll out” songs and passed the gate guards, I would scream “Scouts Out Mother F*$@r, Scouts OUT, WHOOOOOO”, scaring the hell out of them.
And the “roll out” songs, every truck crew had one. Some were rap, some were country, and some were rock. My truck had three that I remember. The first one we went with was Black Betty by Ram Jam… That one fit the bill for a bit, but then we switched to Stinkfist by Tool. About half way through the deployment I took over and Debo’d the radio and we jammed “Rain when I die” by Alice in Chains. My theory was that if it aint raining, we aint dying. And if it was raining when we went on mission, it went back to one of the previous songs.
No roll out song this morning. I walked to the Command Post and grabbed some of the boxes that I would be taking down to the platoon. After loading them into the ATV I hopped a ride to the Landing Zone (LZ) and waited for my chariot. It arrived on time and I hopped aboard with my medical officer. He was headed down to provide some immunizations and check on the aid station. The helicopter that we would be riding in was a French Puma SA330. I had never ridden in one before and this one was a little rough looking. They literally had duct tape holding the interior together. A quick nervous glance at my medical officer and by the look on his face, he had noticed the same thing.
A few months ago I had Jason and Jenny Henderson up at our house to take them to post and watch an air-show and show them around my work. The air show had static displays of Army and Air force aircraft. As we walked around, I could tell Jason was pretty impressed with all the aircraft. He looked at me and asked if I had ridden in any of them, and except for the attack aviation, I had. I remember answering him nonchalantly “yeah” as if it were no big deal. Truth be told, it is a big deal to me. I love to fly and think it’s a blast.
The rickety old Puma took off and we were on our way. The view was amazing. Take away the war, poverty, and corruption, this place is beautiful. We were almost to the FOB when the crew chief tapped my medical officer on the shoulder and yelled to him “we can’t land, fog is too dense”. I thought we were flying above the clouds, when in reality we were flying over the top of about 100 feet of thick fog. The Puma pulled a 180 and we were headed back to FOB Apache. We landed, but I still needed a way to get out to my platoon. A quick check with the flight coordinator and he informed me that another bird would be leaving for the FOB in two hours. I headed back to the CP for a few and then back to the LZ, where I waited, and waited, and waited. I gave the bird two hours, but apparently it was cancelled and no one informed the flight coordinator.
So back to the office I went… Next available hop to the FOB is riding with the Squadron Commander…. It’s just my luck; six hours of waiting for a 40 minute helicopter ride. I love flying, but not that much.
One other exciting thing happened yesterday, I got my guitar! We finally received the last of our containers. I got a good 30 minutes of jamming in before the fingers started to hurt… It’s been too long…