Thursday, October 14, 2004

Take a Deep Breathe, This is a Long One

Man, it's been a while. We've been pretty busy the last couple of days. I'll try to catch you up on the last few days.


Tuesday morning we got to formation and they told us to get ready to go draw our desert uniforms. This is always a good sign because it means you're one step closer to going over, which means you're one step closer to coming back. I also recently found out that I'm promoteable and all I lack is a record P.T. test. That's physical fitness test. Well, the last one I took was probably five or six years ago. When I got out of the Army the first time I had three short term goals. Don't wake up early, don't run, and don't shave. I'm proud to say I accomplished those goals almost immediately. In fact, the "don't run" one was still in effect until Tuesday afternoon. An army P.T. test consists of two minutes worth of all the push-ups you can do followed by two minutes of all the sit-ups you can do followed by a timed two mile run. There's a chart that tells you according to your age and sex how well you have to perform in each of these three events. Those performances are translated into a number. Each event has a maximum score of 100 for a total 300 possible points. You need 180 to pass but you have to have at least 60 points in each category. When I was in the Army the first time I would score 290 or better. This time I scored 186. Let's just say it's two days later and I'm still hurting from the run. However, I passed and got my commander to sign a memo to fax to the proper people to get my promotion. More on that later. I spent the next few hours showering and not moving at all. Next thing I know it's morning.


Wednesday morning we were told to draw our weapons to go to the range and qualify. All of the IRR guys just qualified last month. In fact I shot 38 out of 40. That's important later for comparison purposes. We had the certificate to prove we had just qualified but they said too bad you have to shoot again. That's not really all that bad because, as we discussed in an earlier post, who doesn't like shooting little paper men. However, we asked if this was the weapon we were taking to Iraq and nobody really knows. I figure if it's not the weapon we're taking why waste a day when there's other stuff we could be doing. Then again the Army doesn't generally ask my opinion so I went. First you go to a range to Zero your weapon. You shoot a series of rounds and make adjustments to the weapon. Then you go to a different range and qualify on little plastic target that pop up and different distances aptly named pop up targets. I couldn't get mine to Zero though. I've never had any trouble Zeroing. This was sort of a shot to the pride because I always zero easily and shoot very well at the range. In fact it's never taken me more than one try to qualify, even the first time around in Basic Training. Remember last month I shot expert. Well, they said it was good enough so I needed to move on to the qualification range. OK, they know what's best right. Well the first time around I shot 19 out of 40. A remarkably embarrassing score That's like shooting ten over on every hole on the golf range. I know this from personal golfing experience. Second time 18 out of 40. Third time 22 out of 40. You need a bare minimum of 23 to qualify. Everyone else qualified first time around except me and another few guys, by the second time there were only two of us and his weapon was broken so he had a valid excuse. Third time around I found the problem. The front sight post on my weapons wasn't fixed in place, it could move up and down. Now, I told myself, it wasn't my fault. Well the lieutenant with us had another opinion and since there is no possible way I could know anything about anything his was the only opinion that mattered. Well, I'd swallowed my pride already but I was still hurting from the P.T. test, so every time I had to go out and fire I had to lay on my stomach and support an M-16 with my elbows propped up. By the fourth time my back was killing me. I feel sorry for the people that have to fight next to me in Iraq. I'm going to have to call a time out every now and then. So, the fourth time I shot 23. We started this whole fiasco around 7:30 a.m. and now it was about 5:45 p.m. I had just enough time to eat for the first time that day and get back by 6:30 to night qualify.

To qualify at night they hang a chem light on a target 50 meters away and you shoot at it 30 times. It's not really an aiming challenge as much as it is to familiarize yourself with shooting in the dark. Well, The first round nobody told the guys running the range we needed to qualify, so they didn't turn the computer on to track our hits. So wee all shoot and go back to the van to go home. The L.T. comes running over and says we have to fire again because of the mix up. What are you going to do. So we get back in line and wait for our turn to fire again. When you're firing at night you load tracer rounds in your magazine after every so many rounds. These make a red streak from your weapon and you can see where the rounds are going. These are pretty cool because it looks like lasers from Star Wars or something. The bad thing is there burning pretty hot by the time it hits it's mark. The grass way down range caught on fire. Not a big fire, but it still needed to be taken care of. Nothing in the Army happens right away. A bunch of guys have to get together and see who's more important so they can use his idea of how to rectify the situation. Apparently fires are the same way. It took 30 or 40 minutes for them to decide 6 guys should walk up to the small fire and kick dirt on it. After the 30 or 40 minutes they needed about a fifteen minute safety brief followed by 5 minutes or so to get ready. Finally the fire was stamped out in about 5 seconds. The range was clear. By this time most of the chem lights had gone out. So the second time around you didn't know where the target was. Can you guess what the Army answer to this one was. Just point your weapon down range and fire all of your rounds so we don't have to turn them back in. How will we qualify you ask? Good question. The L.T. runs out of the tower to tell us how bad we did. I hit the target 6 out of 30. I thought that was pretty good, what are the odds I'd accidentally hit the target six times on blind luck? He didn't see it that way. Two of the lanes had the 18 hour chem lights on them so they broke the ten of us up and ran us in shifts through those two lanes. You only had to hit it 7 times so after I hit it 10 times they told me to rapid fire down range to get rid of the ammo as fast as I could. As long as I qualified I didn't care so look out here goes nothin''. I pretended I was one of the guys on the A-team and we were trapped in an impossible situation with only a bulldozer, some conveniently placed armored plating and a welder. I laid down some rapid cover fire while BA welded us a tank so we could drive out of town. Those dirt mounds didn't stand a chance. Sixteen hours and one meal after the day started I took a shower and went to sleep around 11:30


Not much going on today so I faxed the memo for my promotion and followed it up with a call. The guy on the other end told me he had gotten the paper work and I should see my promotion orders this time next week. About that time I got all of my desert uniforms back from alterations with the now incorrect rank on them. You get four sets of uniforms so I took three of them back and got the new rank put on. I figure if I need one before next week I'll have it. We're still wearing the green uniforms right now anyway. I'm pleased with the promotion. It'll be a few hundred dollars a month extra but, more importantly, it takes me one step further from crappy jobs. Now instead of them saying "Specialist, take this bucket of crap and go burn it", they say,"Sergeant, tell a specialist to take this bucket of crap and go watch him burn it." Also, as if by the miraculous hand of God waving over in a majestic tribute to knowledge, I am actually allowed to make decisions now. I'm sure glad that happened, I don't know what I've been doing for the past 31 years of my life.

That's it in a nut shell. Tomorrow should be a regular day so I'll be able to get back here to the computer lab to do mail call. By the way, today's my 31st birthday. Happy Birthday To Me, La La La La La La.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, man! Still 10 days before mine :) I know I don't post comments much (meaning never), but I check this thing to see if you've updated it on a daily basis. It means a lot to all of us who care about you, so keep it up.

I couldn't let your 31st birthday pass without at least saying something. So...there you go.


10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I almost got tired reading all you had to go through! One test you didn't mention was the endurance test. You passed! Remember tribulation worketh patience and patience results in knowledge so--now don't you feel smart?. Couple that with one more year passing in experience and you sound as if you have the world by the tail. Oh, yes! I remember, in Duet. it says we are the head and not the tail. Guess Moses knew you were going to be promoted and had a prophesy you could now give the orders insted of listening to them. Great job!

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am glad that you got your promotion. That's a nice birthday present! Did you ever find out if that is the weapon you will be taking to Iraq? I hope not. I will pray that you get one that zeros in. Here is a question for mail call: Did you register for an absentee ballot and will you get to vote in the election if you have already left for Iraq?

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Happy 'belated' Birthday. I'm just reading your comments today, Friday, so I didn't realize it was your birthday. I'm glad you passed that PT Test and congratulations on your promotion, Praise God! I really enjoy reading all that you write. You are a good writer and it's great to know what you do day to day. I'm sure it was that weapon they issued to you that was the problem. You just keep up the good work and great enthusiasm. Praying for YOU!

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey congrats! It's nice to have a promotion on your birthday. God honors the faithful. It sounds as though they are putting your through the paces before Iraq. Wow I hurt just reading all you went through. We remembered you all day on your special day. Hope your special day was a good one. It sounds as though it was a tired one. Happy Birthday. TM

12:17 PM  

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