December 20, 2005
Yes, it's a ripoff of a book title, namely "Love My Rifle More Than You", a most excellent book about one person's time in the US Army in Iraq. Written by former Sgt. Kayla Williams, this book is not going to answer all the questions about Iraq, women in the Army, women in the Army in Iraq. It probably won't answer many questions about Kayla Williams.
There's a lot in the book that quite honestly won't make any sense to you unless you were in the military. Things like "what goes TDY stays TDY", and the rather unsurprising games like "let's throw rocks at each other's privates" and "bet you won't". It's hard to explain a lot of these things to ex-military who weren't in your unit, much less civilians. There's a reason why quite often, current and ex-military members seem to get along with each other so quickly. It's not some silly band of brothers thing. It's more slippery, but a lot of it has to do with the thought you get when you find out someone was in the military: Cool, they get it.
But what is it? Well, that's the hard part. You really do almost have to have served to really get it. That's why a lot of the stuff Ms. Williams talks about in the book get such a different reaction from current/ex-military than from the civilian world. Because, in a real sense, we are different.
First, I don't want to make it sound like all readers with a military background will like her book. Some will be appalled at some of her stories, some will be angry that she talked out of turn. The military is not the homogenous group civilians believe it to be. For example, i was in the USAF from '86 to '93. Every time I talk to someone who was in one of the other services, I get "Air Force? Wussies!". That seems perhaps far more insulting than it is. The truth is, with a few exceptions, mostly special forces - related, the Air Force is the wuss service compared to the other branches, especially the Marines. When I was in, BMT, Basic Military Training was 30 days. (Note, that's thirty training days. Weekends didn't count, nor did holidays, so it was more like thirty business days). I had to fire a weapon one time, an M-16 modified to shoot .22 rounds. I ran the confidence (obstacle) course once. Our fitness test was a timed 1.5 mile run. Face it, there's not a lot of call for being able to hump your stuff miles on your back. For one, we have lotsa planes. For another, most of my equipment was rather huge. B-1B bombers have big support needs. We had a coolant cart that required at least a C-141 if it needed to be flown somewhere.
I was also in during the last years of the Cold War, and Persian Gulf I. So our mission goals were, well different. But they were weird too. We lived at ground zero times ten. Grand Forks AFB had B-1Bs, KC-135Rs, and Minuteman III missles. We didn't practice bombing terrorists, we lived with bombing Soviets. At some point you realized that if we went to war, everyone died. Not, "everyone near the fighting", but everyone. We figured that in a full on exchange, the planet would quickly become rather lifeless. Except for roaches. And Cher. So you get a real fatalistic attitude towards things like dog tags and identification. Because, like dude, there wasn't going to be enough of us to match dental records or even DNA to. Of course, there'd be no records for matching, and no one to do the matching anyway.
But we worked, outside a lot in Northeastern North Dakota, or as we called it..."This fucking hellhole". If you want the true experience of working outside in -40°F wind chills with a -10°F ambient, clamp some dry ice between your legs for a few hours while someone blows freezing air on your face. Now, stand on a rickety ladder, and hook up 30 or so individually keyed cables that go in above your head after shoulder pressing a hundred pounds and holding it up for a minute or so. Now, do that 3-4 times. At random times, someone walks up and sprays you with cooling oil. For extra points, when you're done, take out your contacts after realizing that not even Lava soap will get that crap out of your skin.
There were other things that added to the weirdness. PRP, Personal Responsibility/Readiness Program. Basically, it was a program that applied if you worked around things that could carry those other things that make the big mushroom clouds. If you went to the hospital and got put on major painkillers, you were off PRP, and were essentially useless at work. But in the special PRP section of the records area were these signs that were designed to remind you of the seriousness of PRP. If you don't wake up in a cold sweat thinking about PRP, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND THE PROGRAM!. For almost 6 years, every time anyone from the Bomber maintenance side saw that sign, we all said the same thing:
We don't have a fuckin' clue
I guess if you worked in a missile silo it was different, but to us, we fixed planes. That's all. We really didn't think of ourselves as "warriors" in spite of the nigh-constant PR from SAC about it. "Warriors of the North" we were called. Bullshit, we fixed planes. Had the hordes of the evil commies swarmed out of Canada, we would have only gotten ornery if they had kept us from the beer. (Considering the hordes of assholes that came out of Winnipeg all the time, had the Soviets nuked that city until it glowed, we might have given them a medal. Canadians as a rule are very cool. Winnipeggians, as a rule, are rude, donkey ball-sucking cocknockers).
So we'd look at the missile side of the base and think "damn, you're like, in the military 'n' shit". I mean, we all were, but we were too busy working to really get all military about it. However, you work midnight shift on a flightline, especially one with an almost two hundred degree difference between July and January, and well, you get...warped. Your sense of humor gets really warped. Crueler. For example...one night, we're sitting in a trailer, waiting for some support equipment, and Ritchie was with us. Ritchie was a dweeb. Bad acne, crackly voice, you name it. Couldn't get laid at Myrtle Beach during spring break. No, really, we tried. In a situation where we had a room full of hot drunk women who were on the prowl, he never talked to any of them. Oy. But it was a few of us, including Ritchie and Bill. Bill was a good - looking kid, and a bit of a dick. Bill liked to fuck with Ritchie. A lot. Okay, we all did. But Bill decided to fall asleep. Ritchie gets up, walks over, sticks his ass damned near on Bill's face, and farts. Not a normal fart. This thing lasted forever. It lasted so long that he had to pause. It sounded like he was shitting himself. But he soldiered on until he was done. It fucking REEKED. But no one left this very small, unventilated, now very FOUL - smelling trailer. Because we knew that Bill was going to wake up. And he did, gagging and coughing, and we were almost pissing ourselves we were laughing so hard. There are very few places where that would be that funny at what, for anyone else would be noon at the office. But in that place, that was high comedy. Duct-taping people and throwing them in the snow.
Chewing tobacco. It was everywhere. So were spit cans. I can't describe the inside of a spit can. I can tell you what it tastes like, albeit unintentionally. It's disgusting, in a way that defines the word. So the rule was, you ripped the tab off the spit can, that way mistakes weren't made. So there's this guy, Lee. Lee's an idiot. About fucking useless for work. Balding, buying Rogaine, (when this shit was expensive, and prescription only), then dousing his head in peroxide to bleach his very blonde, thinning hair even more. Because he wanted to look like a "surfer dude".
IN NORTH DAKOTA. North Dakota is of course, well known for surfing.
So we found out that Lee was not only worthless, but gullible. Lee whines his way onto mids. We didn't like this...mids was for working, days was for dumbasses like Lee. So my roommate hits on a fun game. It went like this:
- Wait for Lee to buy a soda and sit down
- Wait for Lee to leave his soda can untended
- Reach over and pull the tab off of Lee's can
- Lee whines like the little bitch he was
- Free sodas, score!
Final story...Rich was an interesting camper. (Rich, not Ritchie, keep it straight.) So Rich gets a microwave burrito, and soaks that bastard in taco sauce. It looked disgusting, or as I told him, "Holy shit Rich, that looks like a fucking used tampon!". Rich gets a little green, and says, "You fucker, here, you eat this, I gotta puke" He puked. We realized we had a line on free food forever. He'd get food we wanted, we'd say "Look, Rich's eating another used tampon!" "You fuckers" Score! Rich wasn't as stupid as Lee, he eventually started throwing it away, which ruined the fun.
This was standard fare for years. So when Kayla talks about "Bet you won't" or "Let's throw rocks at each other's dicks and Kayla's tits", well, I get that. I totally understand how in that situation, you're going to eventually realize that hitting Bill in the dick with a rock is some pretty funny shit. It's never not funny either.
But I'm not sure if civilians will ever get a lot of what she's talking about. Because they're not in the club. Hell, I've never been, and never will be in her part of the club. But I was in the building at least. So if you're a civilian, and you read about some of that silliness, if it doesn't make any sense to you, ask a friend who has a military background. They may not be able to explain it to you, but they'll understand it at least.
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