Friday, March 21, 2003

The closest I ever got to war

Back when I was a fuck up in the Marines I was stationed with the fifth regiment of the 1st division. The battalion I was in was called 2/9 which means second battalion of the ninth regiment which was odd because we were in the fifth regiment. No one could ever tell me why the ninth regiment was divided up amongst other regiments. There was a rumor that it was because of some particularly bloodthirsty acts by members of the regiment during Vietnam. It was good rumor that satisfied us so we didn't bother to investigate its veracity.

I was with the communictions platoon of the headquarters company of this regiment and served with the most colorful group of screwballs I have ever been around. We were miserable a lot of the time because of a staff sergeant who we hated so much that a group of disparate kids drew close. He was our Captain Soble. God, we hated him. He tortured us within the rules and never stepped over the line which caused us to hate him more because we couldn't betray him and we sure tried.

In the fall of 1988 I, and a couple of others from my platoon, were sent on small detatchment to an navy air base in Yuma, AZ. It appears to be a marine air station now. We were sent under the command of a great staff sergeant to instruct the naval personnel how to defend their base against an attack. Actually this staff sergeant was the instructor, he just used this small group I was in as instructional tools. We dug fighting holes and demonstrated how to handle weaponry as he talked. I've had worse duty, believe me. I remember the best thing about being stationed there was eating navy chow. I had no idea how bad Marine Corps food was until I entered a navy mess hall. I almost cried. They had green lettuce. Green lettuce! Jesus Christ, it was like going from Iowa to Oz.

After a week of instruction a Marine infantry company was going to attack the air station and the squids were going to defend their turf. Both sides were wearing MILES gear which is glorified lasar tag. You've seen it used if you have seen that ass Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge. The infantry company was transported to the base in a C-130. It was just after dusk when the plan landed and I was laying on a pile of rubble outside the airfield. With my rifle, full of blanks and lasar equipped, at the ready. When that company of fellow marines poured out of that plane and formed up quickly to attack the air base I have never been more proud of my branch of the service. They looked good and performed with a sense of urgency that was palpable. I also remember feeling a small amount of fear and anxiety. These guys coming at us were professional warriors and if you've never seen a well disciplined company of marine infantryman taking an objective you've missed an intimidating thing of beauty. I could not follow the details of their movements since it was getting near to dark but in less than a minute they were threatening are well-prepared positions.

About five minutes later I had been shot and killed. I foolishly lifted my head over my cover and got nailed. What do you expect from a radio operator?

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