So how did I get to this point? Perhaps a review of my nightly log of events may help. Then again, it may just serve to chart my descent into the mud and mosquito choked misery that eventually landed me in the hospital. That last bit is technically unfounded, but for the life of me I can’t imagine where else I might have picked up Lyme’s disease especially considering that it corresponded with my return home from this debacle.
March 10: It’s a good thing we got here at three in the morning. Had we not, they wouldn’t have been able to get accountability of everyone so we could then sleep on the sidewalk for six hours, propped up on our bags while we waited for the bus. I’m showing up at nine in the morning next time.
March 11: I’ve calmed a bit since my last entry. I just wonder if we set the tone of this exercise by bringing everyone in six hours early. Turns out that every echelon below the Battalion Commander bumped up the time when we were supposed to be there. So basically, he said be there at seven a.m. and everyone under him moved that time to something 15 minutes earlier when they passed the message downstream but felt like jerks for their practical joke and showed up in a display of belated solidarity.
*So here is something to brighten up my day: A positive note to self. When the sun last set on me, I was in the Georgia low country. I was greeted this morning by a light drizzle, grey skies, and steam rising off of a Mississippi bayou. I do love the South.
March 14: It has been raining for the past fifty hours. As soon as my soul becomes slightly less water logged, I will resume recording events. I don’t love all of the South.
March 15: I told a counterpart that the mac-n-cheese at breakfast was nasty. He then informed me that it was actually scrambled eggs. I’m not sure where he got that idea unless it was the overwhelming odor of sulfur. Still, the texture and consistency was undeniably pasta-ish. There was also a nickel size hunk of a questionable meat product they claimed was steak. I’m pretty sure that if it did come from a terrestrial bovine that it was slices of unwashed boiled hoof. The highpoint of the meal was a lovely oatmeal/brown rice medley that only had a mild numbing effect on the tongue and throat.
March 16: Perhaps at this point considering this adventure to be something of a personal winter is a bit misguided as it gets uncomfortably warm at points. I’ve decided not to brave the dining facility for breakfast. Despite the delightful numbing effect of the oatmeal/brown rice thing during consumption, it provided a violent form of sensory overload on the downstream side.
*On an interesting note, I have saluted 4,357 and 1\2 times. The 1\2 salute was due to a hesitation while rendering the greeting of the day. I found myself unable to ascertain the gender of the Captain to whom I was rendering proper courtesies. Fortunately, he\she was note paying attention and I was able to drop the half salute.
March 17. Day three of my personal fall. I choose fall because despite the best efforts of the cooks, I am still alive. The days are starting to meld into an uninterrupted line of bad ideas punctuated only by more food. I’m only aware of the date at this point because of the well intentioned St. Patrick’s day greetings.
I stayed completely away from the dining facility today as a personal favor to my driver’s olfactory sensitivities. This proved a prudent move as the convoy took eight hours to traverse less than fifty miles.
I fear that mutiny is on the horizon stemming from the absence of hot meals. I shall need to make an example of someone in order to maintain discipline. Perhaps a plank walking at Alligator Lake. Look it up. Narrow your search to the Fort Polk area. It’s real.
March 18. Day four in my own personal fall. I’ve learned much despite my discomfort. For instance: I just learned that sleep apnea is not just dangerous to the sufferer, but risks the few meager hours of sleep all around the guy in the cot nearest the door. Had mutinous sedition still stalked our ranks, he would make a fine candidate for a disciplinary example. His counterpart on the other end of our “great hall” grinding out a higher pitched counterpoint might also serve should the need arise.
At some point during the night, the clothing I had become quite literally attached to became self-aware and had to be put down. I cannot abide menu request out of clothes despite our unbroken eight-day relationship. Call it what you will, but symbiotic relations with trousers makes me uncomfortable.
After two days of nothing but the digestible plastic mix with copious amounts of saturated fat that the Army jokingly refers to as “Meal Ready to Eat” or MRE, the cooks have returned to their playful shenanigans. Lasagna? Still not sure. And what were those oval-esque chunks of what I think were meat? My ex pants would have liked it I think.
MRE Chili with Beans (I think)
March 19. Day five. I asked for the corned beef hash at breakfast to which the server replied “Uh. That’s oatmeal, Chief”. I put my tray back and sought out pop tarts and granola bars. I am obviously at some entry level of gastrointestinal hell. I am not alone. The Company XO has reached an advanced stage of this yet unnamed malady. He doesn’t even exhale anymore. He simply inhales then levitates momentarily. I thought the engineers were running a vibe roller near our HQ at one point. I am sure he will explode soon and take out several Soldiers in the blast. Regrettably, I am convinced that I am not far behind him. On the bright side, if this new disease I have discovered does indeed kill me, I will be immortalized like Madame Curie. The down side is that our manners of demise may look similar once I’ve run down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should get a Geiger counter to the DFAC.
March 20. Day …… Six of the exercise? I could have sworn I left home on the10th. I just learned that it is Friday. Not sure how I was still on Tuesday. This very well may be the most elaborate ruse ever pulled by an entire unit on one person. The good news is that I am onto them. I refused all alleged victuals and seem to have entered a period of lucidity. It is plain to see that I have been being drugged at the chow hall. To what end, I cannot yet say. Maybe we stand on the cusp of perfecting MK Ultra and I am the guinea pig. Maybe I’m like Dolph Lungren (without all the muscle) in Universal Soldier. Being a Unisol looks like it sucked though. I don’t like this experiment anymore.
The XO is a lost cause. He persists in consuming mass quantities of all that the “cooks” put before him. He has yet to explode, but his voice is definitely two octaves higher. It’s quite reminiscent of inhaling helium and he seems perplexed by my reaction to him speaking. Coughing fits failed to cover my mirth during his brief so I gave up the pretense. Apparently this is frowned on in the Army. I would never have guessed that the service cherishes pretense.
March 21: Today we finished loading our equipment back onto rail cars and ourselves onto buses. Several cases of hypothermia later and at least one heat casualty all in the same day, the task force has learned a lot about Louisiana weather. Oh! And we also had one hydraulic excavator accidentally discover an underground stream, much to the operator’s chagrin, making this the most memorable training exercise in which I’ve taken part. All is not lost. Personally, I gained several valuable tidbits of good to know info from participating in this exercise.
Field training lessons learned:
- When your female commander is in your area of operations, lock the door to the porta-john. “Jesus peaches, Chief”! I swear she sounded like Pam from Archer when she said that.
- Hydraulic excavators are not ideal for subterranean amphibious operations.
- A three-day exercise takes ten days.
- Despite CDC protestations, Lyme’s disease IS TOO present in the South and probably transmitted to me when I got stabbed by the blind fish I caught by hand while standing in waist deep mud.