Another Weekend in the Trenches #2

Another drill weekend bites the dust.  The weekend actually didn’t start off as horribly as they usually do, despite the fact that we are now being subjected to the brutal MUTA-6 for the rest of the year.  This means that we will have THREE full drill days as opposed to the MUTA-4 that is only Saturday and Sunday.   All of this to be followed up by an unending drill weekend that will last approximately 12 whole months plus three extra months to make sure we haven’t turned psychotic.  Okay, you have no idea what I’m talking about, but I wouldn’t be too concerned.  It will become all too clear very soon.   

We got some new equipment this weekend and some instructors came to teach us how to use the crap.  It was another one of those senseless military classes where they instructors are loads smarter than you are, and they’re just talking at you with all these numbers and acronyms that are virtually meaningless.  In the military, civillian instructors are the equivalent of having your grandparents come to visit.  Not the grandparents that you adore, that let you eat sweets and stay up late when you go to visit, but the other set of grandparents that live very far away and you don’t know them that well.  They’re the ones that send you horrid sweaters at Christmas.  Because they are grandparents, you can’t be rude to them, even though you don’t really like them. 

Friday morning we had a memorial for the soldier that committed suicide.  The memorial was depressing, as memorials usually are, especially for someone who has committed suicide.  It was heartbreaking to listen to his wife and his parents talk about the man.  I would think that at a time like this, all they want is to be left alone.  Or maybe they really do appreciate the outpouring of concern and support.  We did a military roll call along with the playing of Taps.  Taps is so morose.  Every time I hear it I immediatley want to shoot myself because this dark cloud of misery just appears out of nowhere.  On military bases, they usually play it around 9PM, and when I was in Basic, we would get in bed around that time and I could hear Taps playing in the distance.  Basic training was so brutal for me that every time I heard that song I hoped that I wouldn’t wake up the next day to face whatever horror would present itself.

All of the females were crying and the males were trying hard to be tough.  Of course, me being the emotionless rock that I am, sat there dry eyed, fuming because they passed out little cards with the soldier’s name on it along with Psalm 23.  On the front of the card was a depiction of a VERY white Jesus.  This is just wrong on so many levels.  As a Muslim, I am opposed to the depiction of any of the prophets for this precise reason.  I am unsure of what Jesus might have looked like but I highly doubt that he had silken, flowing flaxen hair, perfectly coiffed like he just stepped out of the Hair Cuttery.  This wasn’t the regular white Jesus that you see in most churches, this Jesus was SUPER WHITE.  Frosted blonde hair, blue eyes and pale, pale white skin.  I found it offensive, but some guy’s memorial service is not the place to raise a hue and cry over Sweet Valley Jesus. 

The rest of Friday saw me trying to stay awake.  When I am not  interested in something, my brain just checks out of reality.  My eyes might be open, but inside I’m asleep or off on another planet.  After a coma-inducing Powerpoint presentation (all military presentations are conducted in Powerpoint.  I think it’s a regulation or something), I had to subject myself to another class of worthy of REM sleep, but this time in front of the computer, for one of those lame ass military courses that is absolutely mandatory.  This time it’s the Army Accident Avoidance Course. 

You know, I love the Army. I really do, but it is so dated and so … just… stupid… sometimes.  I must take an online class called the Army Accident Avoidance Course.  It’s basically the class you have to take in order to get your driver license in the real world.  It’s all about how you shouldn’t drink and drive, and doing proper maintenance on your vehicle before you go on a drive, and not speeding and stuff like that.  Seriously?  I mean seriously.  If you don’t know any of these things before you get behind the wheel of a car, well, I don’t know what to say to that.  I wonder if the Army actually considers how many lives it thinks it’s saving by forcing us to take an hour long online course about having a buddy driver.  I would be interested in knowing. 

Because we were feeling so good on Friday, a group of us ensigns from the Mafia decided to have dinner at Sakura’s afterwards.  The one thing I really like about the army is the camraderie and friendship you build up with your fellow soldiers. I know that sounds terribly gay, but I’m serious.  You meet so many random people, people from all different walks of life when you join the army.  These might not even be people that you would normally be friends with in the outside world, but because you have that tacky ass uniform bringing you together, somehow it just seems to work. 

I feel there are certain new alliances forming within the Mafia though.  Our youngest and newest member still has a lot to learn about the facts of life, but it seems the more we try to teach her, the harder her head gets.  My mother used to say that a hard head made a soft behind, and I think in her case, her ass must be very soft because she is on another planet sometimes.  I must remind myself often that I cannot control other people’s lives, no matter how much I want to.  I don’t want to disconnect myself from her like I did The Other One because unlike The Other One, this girl is not negative.  I just decided that I don’t want to have negative people around me.  Then sometimes it’s like I’m caught in the middle of these unusual dynamics.  Sometimes I think people try hard to be something they are not for no reason at all.  We don’t have to be bed buddies, but I think we should get along, especially since the differences we have are so petty, but I think this is the mark of maturity and many of us still have a lot of growing up to do, even those that think they are so mature.

Saturday saw me doing manual labour. I don’t know what it is about the army and this whole manual labour thing, but obviously someone didn’t get the memo that I am not a construction worker.  Along with this new equipment came a tent, and we had to put it up just so we could prove that we know how to put up a tent.  Why can’t we just hire a caterer for that?  (I so belong in the Army, don’t I?)  Then after we put up the tent, I had to stand around to listen to another boring, overly technical highly acronym-ed presentation.  It was about voltage and network cables, or something.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t paying much attention, not because I wasn’t interested (and I really wasn’t) but because I did not understand anything.  The instructor was going on so quickly about power supplies and infrared beams or whatever, that I just got lost and zoned out.

By the time Sunday rolled around, I was prepared to chalk this drill weekend up to a high note.  Some drill weekends can be rough, especially the long 3-day drills where  we sit around and stare at each other for 72 hours.  We had more of the extra boring highly technical presentations, and some of them involving standing outside in the cold behind a horrid smelling noisy generator while some guy rattled off voltage numbers and whatnot at us.  After the presentations, we had to break down all the crap that we put up, including that bloody tent.  Look, I’ll say it again, I’m just not in the mood for construction work.  I didn’t join the army to dig holes, put up tents or lay bricks. 

After that was complete, it’s time for the AAR, the After Action Review.  Basically, this is the army’s way of forcing you to go over what you just went through, but under the pretense that you’ll be offering suggestions to make the next time much better.  I find these things to be tedious and useless.  Nothing we have ever put in an AAR has ever come to fruition.  Then the army has regulations on how the AAR must be conducted, even regulated what comments can go in a report.  I guess the army has never heard of the First Amendment. 

The focus of the AAR was the instructors, but as I mentioned earlier civillian instructors are just like those annoying grandparents.  Our senior leaders, reminded us that we had to be polite.  Lo and behold, the instructors actually sat in the room with us, so if we had any valid complaints we had to carefully word them in a politically correct manner so that it doesn’t even actually sound like a complaint or criticism.  Every time anybody had a criticism, even a politcally correct one, the instructor chimed in with “why things had to be the way they were.”  It sounded like excuses to me.

For the most part, I found the instructors to be highly competent and informative; their method of instruction was not the best, in my opinion.  There, I said it.  The stuff they were attempting to teach me is only peripheral to the job I signed up to do in the army.  I am not technical.  I am not computer literate (other than iTunes and Facebook).  I’m not electrician.  I don’t even do math well.  These instructors came in with their fancy advanced technical degrees and tried to talk to me as if I’m on their level.  All I learned was how to sleep standing up with my eyes open. 

The only training I benefited from was the training I received that actually corresponds to the job I’m doing in the army.  The rest of that mumbo jumbo, was exactly that, mumbo jumbo.  Of course, I cannot say this in the AAR, so I said nothing.  That is usually how I choose to carry myself in the Army.  I know it’s all political and whatnot, but the politics of everything is not my concern.  I joined the Army for my own personal reasons and not for everyone else’s.  I feel that if I’m not able to communicate in the way I need to communicate, than I just don’t say anything at all.  Cleaning up my words so as not to offend someone’s precious feelings, well, that doesn’t sit well with me because I don’t want you to mistake what I’m actually trying to say.

But that’s not my biggest complaint about the AAR. 

Let’s just discuss how once again I find myself ensnared by the ever odious Zap Brannigan.  At the present moment, I do not know how precisely to describe this guy, only that he is incredibly annoying and difficult to work with.  The sad part is that I could have been friends with this guy but we have rank and his idiocy separating us.  You know I never tolerate well those I consider to be beneath me.  I was forced to become his “assistant” for the AAR.  His assistance meant that he wanted me to write everything on the chalkboard so that he could write it on paper later.

How moronic is that.  Why don’t you just have me write it on paper and forget the chalkboard?  I’ll write while you conduct the AAR.  He didn’t even so much as conduct the AAR as he tried to steer it and reign over it.  The army has a particular way in which it likes things to be done.  The Army does not like improvisation.  This guy wants to debate every single compliment and criticism, formally discuss each topic, commend random soldiers for doing the most inane tasks and laud the instructors for moving heaven and earth while doing a quadruple salchow.

No, he who conducts the AAR is supposed to make sure that you have three sustains and three improves.  You’re also supposed to make sure the soldiers stay on topic and politically correct.  There is no DISCUSSION.  This is not a seminar!  I’m also your assistant, she who records everything on the chalkboard.  I don’t need you to explain everything to me, even if I don’t understand.  All I need to know is what to write on the board so you can write it on your stupid little paper. 

I hate being linked with him.  He is a man of passable intelligence who tries to pump himself up to make it appear that he’s smarter than he actually is by using bloated 10 dollar words out of context.  Because he seems to have some random fixation on me, he always, always selects me for every passing task.  It’s not that I’m complaining about working, because I’ll do the work but I think he fails to realise that there are other soldiers of my rank who are also quite capable of getting the job done.  Then he tells me, “It’s because you’re such an outstanding soldier that I really want to highlight that.  I think you exemplify what the Army is trying to capture, a depiction of a soldier who really is going above and beyond the call of duty with your significant intelligence and expressive way of handling the situation.”

Did that make sense?

No, of course it didn’t, but this is how he talks.

But I must remember that when I put on the uniform, my age, experience and intelligence do not matter.  Nothing matters but rank.  So I am forced to swallow my own bile and jump to it.  I had to stand up there during his entire long-winded AAR, forcing myelf to remain placid even though my blood was on fire.  All I wanted to do was take that stupid piece of chalk and rub it into his face.  I am told that my face is very expressive and when I disdain something, you can really tell.  I couldn’t even look out into the audience because my friends’ expressions were making me even more upset because they were ALL LAUGHING AT ME BECAUSE THEY KNOW HOW MUCH I HATE THIS GUY!!!

Ugh.

And on that note, that is precisely how drill ended.  With my blood pressure up and my hair falling out.

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