Bowmen recovered from his traumatizing and short lived stint as a welding apprentice and eventually began to emerge from his social shell. It wasn’t long before he started adding to the list of things in Iraq that nearly killed him.
Item 3: Truck Tire. We retained one of the old five-ton truck variants left by the unit we replaced. It was used by one of our NCOs to pick up and drop off people from the flight line or any sundry of miscellanies errands on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Taji. The NCO that owned the truck had to pick up some Soldiers from the flight line the night before he brought it in to us for a new dispatch. He’d changed one of the tires and needed a new spare. Once the tire had been lowered to the ground, he spotted Bowmen and told him to hold the tire upright until he could get down from the truck and take it from him. Bowmen was happy to comply and placed one hand on either side walls of the tire. Trying to be helpful, Bowmen tried to straighten the tire so that the NCO could simply take the tire and roll it straight out the door of the maintenance bay. The massive tire leaned slightly to one side and Bowmen hugged it closely to his chest in an attempt to right it. He didn’t, however, move himself to the tire. Rather, he muscled (a term I use loosely here) the tire over to him. The tire gained enough momentum by traversing the length of Bowmen’s arms to throw him off balance. Going for his now patented self-preservative posture, Bowmen threw himself flat on his back. Unfortunately, he did so in the path of the tire. I heard a yelp as I rounded the back bumper of the 5-ton just in time to see the tire leave its path. So basically, the tire rolled up Bowmen’s leg, traveled the short distance up the length of his torso, and regained contact with concrete shortly after crossing the left side of Bowmen’s face. The tire pattern was pristine. It left perfectly outlined black tread patterns all along its makeshift road surface. Bowmen bounced up, screamed at the tire, kicked it over Bruce Lee style, and hobbled across the street to the Battalion Aid Station. As it turns out, it rolled up the leg opposite his traditional complaint. He claimed from that point on that it compounded his pre-existing knee injury.
Item 4: ASV Door. The Battery Commander opted to incorporate some Armored Security Vehicles (ASV) into the mix of our other “up-armored” vehicles. They were beautiful. Bowmen was fascinated with them and made every attempt to be shown something new on them when they came in. A fellow Gun Bunny turned Mechanic, T-Diddy, had just come back from an external maintenance support facility and Bowmen wanted to show T-Diddy that he had learned how to seal the back hatch of this ASV. It was a two-part door that had a pneumatic cylinder preventing the bottom half from slamming to the ground when released. The upper half had a sturdy latch, but closed by gravity. The idea was to put your right hand on the upper door half and push up just the tiniest bit while hitting the latch with your left hand. You could then lower the door into place. It was at least as heavy as the gun box door that I mentioned earlier with an additional layer of Kevlar on both sides of the armor plating. He correctly explained the process while standing under the top half of the door. He was short enough that if it swung down it wouldn’t hit his head so we didn’t worry about it. When he reached the part in his explanation where you had to hit the release, he reached up with his right hand and punched the catch with his right forearm bisecting the space the door would travel: his hand was outside the vehicle and his arm was in. The heavy door swung down and pinned him to the vehicle spurring an immediate, explosive, and profanity laced reaction. As T-Diddy reached for the door, Bowmen did something he’d never been able to do during physical fitness training: A flawlessly executed one-armed pull-up. It was poorly timed though since the door was lifted off his arm at the pull-up’s apex. He dropped to the lower half of the hatch and rolled onto the bay floor holding his injured arm. He was picked up and escorted to the aid station where they determined that it was not actually broken. They put him in a half half-cast and gave him “Ranger Candy” (800 mg ibuprofen) in addition to some fairly potent pain meds.
Narcotics had a great calming effect on Bowmen and our days became a little less entertaining while he sat drooling in the tool room.
Item 5: Hammer. Bowmen was always trying to organize his tool room. He had shelving aplenty, but liked to hang things. So he scrounged some nails and picked up a 5-pound mallet. By the time he got done, the tool room looked like a medieval torture chamber and had the music to match. He tended to choke up on the hammer quite a bit. His hand just under the head of the tool that was overly large for the task at hand, and tapped lightly at each of the 200 plus nails he sank to a depth of about 1/8 of an inch. This worked fine for most things, but for heavier we had to show him how to wield a hammer. He politely declined, citing reasons of self-mistrust and general klutziness. One day a heavy bar with an eyelet in one end kept falling and he grew progressively angrier. He would gently tap the nail back into place without achieving any real penetration into the post. The bar fell a final time and startled him. Unable to take it any longer, Bowmen grabbed his mallet and wielded it the way we showed him. He held the nail firmly in his left hand and drew back as far as he could with the right, wielding this maul the way Thor wields Mjolnir (think of a very small Thor and very small Mjolnir). I think it goes without saying that this only ended well for everything except Bowmen. The hammer, nail, tanker bar, and wood came out on top, but he broke a finger this time and dropped the mallet on his previously good, (but bad since the tire incident) foot. The aid station placed him in a finger splint and wrapped his hand up. He returned to work with more pain meds. For the next week or so, he sat on a bar stool in the tool room and grinned at everything. It was the most calm any of us had ever seen out of him.