Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just Another Day on the Job

This one is for Jake and Shamrock7 to give them the motivation to finish a tough road. The rest of you can just enjoy the story.

I managed to sleep late, a whole extra 30 minutes, and got up at 0630; being on the range the day before until midnight earned us that much. We skipped PT due to a lack of time but I didn’t feel like I was cheating myself ‘cause our previous evening wearing 35 pounds of body armor and gear snapping an M-4 up and transitioning to an M-9 is a pretty good workout. So, I drag my carcass into the shower and off to what they call breakfast in this run-down compound then load up for a final day on the ranges.

Today’s range is the automatic weapons range and we took half a dozen various machineguns. I tossed my M-24 in because I still had 100 rounds of M118LR match grade ammo for it. At the range we counted our ammo and we had 600 rounds of 5.56 link and 500 rounds of 7.62 link per person.

We had more people than machineguns so I started out with my M-24. I had to zero the PVS-10 night scope for it anyways. I lay down behind it, took aim at a 100 meter pop-up target and squeezed of a round. It impacted quite high so I dropped the elevation and fired another then another until the thing was dropping the target every time and the dirt was kicking up behind it right were I was aiming. By this time I’ve worked up quite a sweat lying in the sun in this hellacious humidity and have sweat dripping down my face and carrying sunscreen into my eyes. I returned to the vehicle to grab my drive-on rag but it was not there and I thought, “It must be lying next to my bed where I would have dropped it last night.” I looked around and found an ammo bandolier, folded it into a 1 inch strip and tied it around my head like a bandana to keep the sweat from dripping into my eyes. My team mates start calling me Col Braddock, a different twist from their recent activity – making up new Chuck Norris jokes but replacing his name with mine; apparently someone said I had a striking resemblance to the actor.

Back on the line and behind the M-24, I spin the elevation up to 300 meters and drop a target at that range; too easy. I look out in the distance and see targets out to 800 meters so I crank up the elevation again and take aim on the farthest target – I squeeze – it drops – I finally wake up for the day. There’s something very exhilarating about being able to lie down and touch something more than half a mile away. I cleaned up all the targets on the back row while giggling like an evil scientist then screamed at the tower to reset the targets.

Once I confirmed my complete dominance of a circle a full mile across it was time for a different kind of fun. I grabbed my 3 boxes of SAW ammo and got behind the nearest M-249, loaded it, and started dropping them again. “Wow! This thing shoots fast.” I kept knocking down targets; it’s pretty good out to 400 meters. At one time some smoke streams across my face while I inhale and it burns in my nostrils but I love the smell of burnt gunpowder and I’m loving life right now.

I finally loaded up an M-240 with a 300 round belt and lay a box containing my other 200 round belt next to me. I was one of the last ones to fire the M-240 so there was already a large pile of brass and links lying under the gun. The first burst threw some hot brass under my chest so I moved the gun left a foot. Subsequent bursts kept throwing burning hot brass under me and I had to keep thinking of ways to keep the brass from coming back at me. I ended up getting a couple of good burns before figuring out something that worked. The M-240 is a reliable weapon; it’s not as personal or as accurate as my M-24 but it gets peoples attention.

Once everything was fired we had to clean up the range; that meant picking up all that brass and links. The M240 was easy since it drops the brass directly below the gun but the M-249 SAW ejects the brass quite violently resulting in brass being scattered over a very large area.

We spent the remainder of the day cleaning a weeks worth of carbon off of 2 ½ dozen weapons of different sorts. I still enjoyed cleaning my M-24. She is old and hasn’t always been treated properly but she’s still a very accurate weapon. She needed a name so I christened her Athena, the goddess of war and guardian of the city.

It was just another day on the job.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Liberty and Justice for All

230 years ago it was commonly believed that the masses needed to be ruled and they wanted to be ruled. The French Revolution had failed with Emperor Napoleon filling the vacuum and Monarchs ruled throughout the known world. Meanwhile, many in England were appalled that, in the Americas, a handful of ungrateful antagonists had the audacity to rebel against the best form of government on Earth. These Nobles perceived themselves genetically and divinely superior to their subjects and considered it their god given right and responsibility to rule over them. They continually misunderstood this and the many previous rebellions that arose as ingratitude rather than the base desire of all men to have more control over their own lives.

Over the past couple of decades I have personally lived on five of our planets six populated continents. Almost every time I have traveled to another country I did not live on fortified military bases but among the local population. I lived in homes like theirs, walked their streets, ate their food, and frequently attended religious services with them. I have talked with them and made many friends among them. One thing was obvious within every person I talked with; they may have different customs but every one of them desired freedom.

In the fall of ’94 I flew into Gonaives, Haiti to stop crimes against the population there committed by the ruling body. I was on the fourth CH-47 of a flight of five into the city and stepped off the helicopter to a sea of black faces cheering our arrival. Many spoke English and they all expressed extreme gratitude for the freedoms they had just received when our first helicopter landed.

In Jinja, Uganda, I met Linda, a young woman crippled by polio. She owned a style of wheelchair common only in Africa. It was more a tricycle with peddles where the handlebars would have been. This device was her freedom. It allowed her to do things she normally would not have been able to do like attend services with a new-found Christian church; a new freedom many of her fellow countrymen enjoyed since recently emerging from decades of dictators like Idi Amin.

In Brazzaville, Congo I was spending a day at the U.S. Embassy helping install a new communications system and needed some additional parts. The embassy official I was working with could not leave at the time but he gave me directions to a local shop and I violated the two man rule and began the walk. The directions he gave me were not nearly as good as they should have been and I made a turn into the wrong part of town. I found myself walking along the docks of the Congo River facing a crowd of disgruntled looking young men. The Congo, at the time, still had its own internal strives and, since I was wearing the distinct uniform of an American soldier, I felt like I was wearing a Klan outfit in the Watts neighborhood. While I was formulating by strategic withdraw the most amazing thing happened; the crowd began to cheer. I have had many years to contemplate the event and can thing of nothing that would have elicited that response other than the freedoms my uniform represented.

I served my first Afghan tour in Western Afghanistan along the Iranian border. A great deal of trade is conducted along a single border crossing and consequently the first city on the Afghan side had many Iranian citizens. Of the many we talked with, they all asked the same question, “When will you do for Iran what you did for Afghanistan?”

Of the countless people I have met from dozens of different countries one thing has always been there; the basic desire for freedom. Why then do we allow dictators and despots to rule over and terrorize their people? I understand that we cannot invade every dictatorship and have no desire to do so. What we can do and should do is to promote and support the many people in these countries who advocate freedom. This support, however, must go well beyond the support we gave the Kurds in Iraq and the Cubans at the Bay of Pigs.

If history has taught us anything, it is that freedom only comes at the cost of blood and it has to come primarily from those who want it. Freedom cannot be given as a gift but we must help pay the price since no insurgency ever succeeded without external support.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Things that make you go hmmm?

I am relatively young, athletic, and –here’s the big one – I have not even seen my wife for 39 days, but someone thinks I need a good deal on Viagra and Cialis desperately enough to circumvent Hotmail’s spam filters. Maybe we are fighting the wrong enemy; perhaps we should declare a Global War on Spammers.

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