The role of the senior ranking member on a military team is to dictate the manner in which his team executes its mission.
“Hernandez! Take your team and cover me and the others from that sand dune two clicks due east. It’s the one with all the sand on it—you can’t miss it. We will engage the target, kick rocks and blaze forward . . . then we will all reconnoiter for scallops on the other side!”
Since our senior ranking official happens to be of the pudgy, food lusting variety, our missions sometimes fall in line with steak and lobster night at the nearest DFAC (dining facility for the acronym ignorant).
When on deployment, the best use of time, sometimes, is routine. Condense a day into a string of units of time that force one to follow the other in rapid succession. Your fully automatic, machine gun day is one of the better weapons to use against yourself and days with the potential to last years.
1630, End of the day reports are in, well now it’s fucking party time!
1631, Realize the serious lack of alcohol or any abusive substance and serious sausage saturation of the military, call party time over and now it’s time to get ready for working out.
1700, Arrive at the gym and wonder for five more minutes why . . . fucking why?!
1800, Stop the workout, survey the area for those two barrel-chested women, the Wundertwins, who put you to shame everyday, marvel at their masculinity and wonder which one wears the strap-on or if maybe they throw in change ups on Wild Wacky Wednesdays with a “My turn bitch!”
. . . And so on and so forth until it’s time to hit the rack, making the days wiz by until the beads are no more, signifying your last day of deployment.
Of course, this only works for so long before the monotony drives you to do something psychotic.
That something may take the shape of wearing only a gas mask and boxers, running around the barracks, knocking on people’s doors while banging empty water bottles against empty pizza boxes, yelling “GAS! GAS! GAS!” as friends run after, calling “He’s got the gas! It’s coming out his ass!!”
You know it’s spreading when people answer the door already wearing their own mask.
There’s much worse. I’ll save those stories for another day.
These routines were on my mind as I made my way back from Germany. With my patient escorting duties over (schizophrenia is the best reason to party), after being gone for a week of cheating on my deployment with drink, beautiful women and the real world of using the television to prophesize weather, it was time to get back to my Navy/Army world in the desert.
As the snow storms railed on, getting worse, laying down more snow and shutting down roads like the Autobahn, I contemplated the intelligence behind choosing the last flight out of Frankfurt on a night during one of Germany’s worst days this winter.
Northern European weather shat all over my itinerary.
The plane lifted itself from Frankfurt pavement an hour late and touched down in Qatar just as my plane to Kuwait left the tarmac. I added myself to the mob at the Transfers Desk looking left and right like a hunted animal desperate for a way out. This is going to take too long I told myself. Then I noticed a quiet little Middle Eastern woman off to the side trying to look busy by doing what front desk people do when they want to look busy—stare down at a computer and whatever happens, never look up and definitely never lock eyes with anyone.
I hurdled the ribbons placed there to signify Not This Way, ignored the angry stares from jealous mobgoers and plopped my ticket on the counter directly level with her face. She never looked up at me as she grabbed the ticket but I heard her sigh heavily as others lined up behind me while she loudly, rapidly typed.
I heard people crying, expressing shock at their airport fate. Managers came to my receptionist’s aid but no one spoke to me until it was time for me to “have a nice day, sir” in a very hurried 7-11 accent.
“Just so I’m sure. I missed my flight?”
“Yes sir, that is your new boarding pass and present that at the next airport for you next boarding pass.”
Then, I waited.
I slept sitting down, leaning on my sport bag like a school desk, which contained my laptop and survival gear (M&M’s and my PDA).
When I nodded off the first time, I was surrounded by Japanese business men. I woke up later in a gaggle of Egyptians and fell back asleep wondering about the science behind severing your sense of smell for certain situations. When next I woke up, I was surrounded by so many Pakistanis that I fought hard to contain my surprise at how many of them crowded my space. Most sat three to a chair and others filled the available air around the seating by standing in a gentle mosh-pit of Pakistani closeness. If only I had money to invest in that sensory manipulation thing, I’d make a fortune, I thought to myself before I made a hasty escape.
Two flights, much bull shit and seven hours later, once again in Kuwait trying to figure out a way back to my command. Eventually, I found and convinced some government spooks to lend me their cell phone so I could find a ride back to my encampment out in the desert, neighborhood of nowhere. Those guys are too easy to find.
I dialed the emergency cell, “What the shit? It’s me. I’m back and I need a ride out of here. Now would be good.”
“Ooooooo, sorry dude, we can’t get out there. Commander has the car and he’s at the HQ, Dining In ceremony.”
“Are you fucking serious?” I spat angrily, startling the government contractors standing close by. “You mean to tell me that after twenty six straight fucking hours of miserable travel through two different seasons and so many fucking languages, I’ve got to sit here and wait some more while Commander fills his fucking belly with food?!”
Once again, I was cast adrift by the winds of my Commander’s imperious appetite.
“Sorry man, but you know how the CDR gets when it’s catered Middle Eastern.”
“Fuck you! You guys knew I was coming. Don’t be around when I get back or I will piss in your eyes fuckface!” Sometimes, this exact eloquence of communication is reason enough to like the military.
“Well, did you at least have a good time? Did you get drunk for us all?”
“I could wait here in this airport for another week with Kuwaitis spitting on me and it would still be worth it. See you when I get back shitstain.”
It was all worth it and now that I’m back, I can’t wait for this deployment to be over and done. I’ve cheated on my deployment with the real world. Just a taste was enough to enlighten me of my addiction to everything civilian life has to offer.
I can’t wait to get home.