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Archive for August 27th, 2008

He’s a Maniac, Maniac On The Floor

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

So there I was, in Iraq, getting ready to go on a mission. Now, before a unit moves out, they usually meet up about an hour early for briefings which cover the route of march, order of movement, recent operations in the area, evacuation and contact procedures, etc. But the briefings never get started on time, so usually we’re just there waiting around in the vehicles. Usually, this is the perfect time to go over your own gear and make sure your truck is definitely good to go.

This night was unusual because the route commander was especially late.

So, there we were, just sitting around with nothing to do.

It should also be understood by those non-military types that certain job specialties, and especially their holders, are considered… weird. PSYOP, if you haven’t guessed from Skippy’s stories, is one of those. Another one that comes to most people’s minds is EOD, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, my job. Basically, we VOLUNTEER to work with explosives. While we are trained for so much more, the Army uses us as a bomb squad.

We’re the guys that get angry, count to ten, calmly ask what kind of car you drive and if it’s parked outside, and then usually get whatever we want. Basically, people think (know?) we’re crazy. We’re the type of people that it’s bad to have bored…. Maybe Skippy could edit here to corroborate this idea. (And now a word from our sponsor?)

corroboration from skippy- You may have heard the phrase “Idle hands are the Devils tools”? Have you ever seen a trencher? It’s basically a bulldozer but instead of a plow, it has a giant chainsaw. If idle hands are the Devil’s tools, then idle EOD is the Devil’s trencher. Being piloted by ferret. On methamphetamines.

Anyways, there we were, inside our very large  JERRV truck, with nothing to do. It was chow time, and our staging area was right across from the mess hall, within full view of the line going in. Our Team Leader, a Staff Sergeant, or an E-6 for those of military but not Army savvy, was outside, his back against the truck and this is important, talking to a friend of his.

I look over at my co-Team Member, who was driving that night while I was in the back in the gunner’s seat. “Brandon,” I say “what would you give me to do an Irish jig on the roof of this truck?”

Yes, we use first names when “in the truck”, basically when no one of higher rank can hear to get mad; calling people by their rank and last name falls under customs and courtesy, and some people of higher rank get really bent up about that kind of thing.

Brandon then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a dollar. “I found a dollar,” he said, holding it out.

“Done and done,” I say, snatching his dollar. I climbed out of the gunner hatch, and begin doing am Irish jig. I wasn’t very far into it, when I saw a shadowy figure separate from the chow line and make a bee line for us.

Now, for anyone that has never met one, Sergeants Major, or any military E-9 (as high as an enlisted man can get) have a certain kind walk when they are perturbed. Only THEY can do this, as I’ve never seen ANY impression come even close. Maybe they teach it in the Sergeant Major’s academy. Again, I might need corroboration from our military writers (another word from our fabulous sponsors!)

Corroboration from skippy- You know how in the Jaws movies, there’s the part where the cello music starts picking up and the shark is now moving directly towards the helpless and delicious marine biologist/nocturnal skinny-dipper/comedically chubby kid? You can see the fin, and it’s cutting through the water, as the monster opens it’s mouth to bite the victim in half. That’s how a ticked off senior NCO walks. Except with feet, instead of awesome John Williams music.

This particular shadow was doing just that walk, so I knew he was a Sergeant Major, and annoyed. What else to do? It was obvious that he was annoyed with ME, and hiding it would have only made it worse.

So, I REALLY got into my dance, adding twirls and little hops and everything. He storms up to my TL, who you may remember, had his back against the truck, and therefore to me.  He then does the whole Army point with all four fingers of one and says, “Sergeant, before I speak, put your cover  on and stand at parade rest! You,” here he turned to my TL’s friend and pointed at her. “Put your Gawt-Damn eye pro on!”

For the non-military readers “cover” is Army for “hat”.  “Eye pro” is Army for “Eye Protection”.  And “Parade Rest” is Army for “Brace yourself, here it comes!”

He turned back to the TL. “Now, tell me why in the f*** this soldier” he pointed up at me, now also at parade rest and rather fortunately with a cover and eye pro on, “is DANCING on top of this gawt-damn truck?!”

His voice was starting to crescendo. It had probably been a good while since he had issued a really GOOD ass-chewing. “Why does he not have three points of contact ?! Why….”

His voice trailed off as he noticed that both myself and the TL had very obvious EOD letters on our left arms, proclaiming to the world not to trust us with their daughters, but their lives were safe with us. It was like he had switched a button in his head that turned him from screaming maniac to Uncle Bob instantly.

“Shee-it, Son,” he put a hand on the TL’s shoulder. “You boys got that stressful job. You pick up that shee-it from the roadsides and take it apart, don’t’cha?  Shee-it, I know y’all are just blowin’ off some steam, just don’t let it go too far. Make sure he don’t fall.” then he turned and sauntered back to the chow line.

I was back inside the truck in record time. The TL took a minute to climb in. When he did, he just sighed. It took him a minute to speak. Finally, he said, “At least life is interesting.” And that’s the last I ever heard about the subject.