On mission…what of it?
For me, it still is a bit funny to get reactions of people in my unit when they see me gearing up for a mission.
Some hours before leaving, we attend all sorts of intelligence briefs, route briefs — all sorts. I keep my armor, ammo and all that rot at the office, partly because I don’t have crap for space in the room, but also since I get grabbed on occasion and I need it handy.
I’ll usually let out a sigh a few minutes around the time I should be heading out, walk around to my little storage bin in front of my desk and begin the process. Ammo? Check. Gas mask? Check. Med pack? Gotcha. Shoulder pads, inserts, side pads? Oh yeah.
I’ll get about halfway strapped into my battle raiment when someone will ask the question. The one that requires the same aptitude as the one someone asks when they see you with your spare tire and jack next to a flat.
“You going out?”
“Yuppers,” I’ll say. or “Yes, sir” if the interviewer is an officer.
“Like going outside the wire?”
I still wake up at night screaming, trying to discern why it’s such an odd thing that a soldier at war goes out to meet the war. My roommate usually just stops snoring for a second, shifts over to a side, and starts sawing again.
“Yes, out west,” or east, or whatever general direction we’re traveling. Operational security says not to give out too much specific info, and who knows how many of these uniformed jokers are actually genetically-altered, clean-cut, American-accented, uniformed insurgents; waiting to see where the journalist is off to. Be on guard, sons and daughters of liberty. Evil prowls around every corner!!!
It is at this point, when they’ve figured out you’re not bullshitting them — that you’re actually going out on a convoy, that you’ll get your responses.
Some will say the “be safe” lines and head back to their offices. Some will say they don’t want you to go and seem genuinely concerned, which is sweet, but the silence leaves us at a bit of an impasse. And some, my favorites, will use the occasion to go off about “You won’t get me out there, no sirree. I sure as hell ain’t going outside the wire. Wooohoo. I’m staying right here!”
You see for them, the privileged few, normally seniors, many of whom who have never deployed in their 20 years, who finally got tagged to head off to war like someone who had dodged jury duty for the better part of a lifetime but finally was snagged…they don’t realize that many of us whom have to head out to where things go boom would love a nice, quiet 0900-1600 job, collecting hazard pay all the while.
But they don’t think about it. They’ll still get their Bronze Star Medals just for being seniors. And good for them! God bless ’em! And God save the Queen!
It used to bother me, but you know? Everybody’s war is different. At least they came to the party. That’s more than most.
But it’s all good. I finish gearing up, sling my rifle, sling my camera bag, and go do my thing. Next stop wherever. It’s all road and IEDs kids. And the night leaves little for sights other than the few hundred yards to our forward as we scan feverishly to thwart explosive conduits to oblivion.