Saturday, August 14, 2004

Idle Hands

Todays Music: “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks

These last few days have been pretty lush. All of our systems have been in for awhile and all the training is over and done with. So, what might I do with all this spare time you ask? Burn music of course.

I put myself on a mission to burn as much music as possible today. While many people may frown upon this, because they say ripping CDs to MP3s is illegal. Well so is stealing CD’s. I think I speak for everyone when I say that everyone has had atleast one CD wallet stolen in their lifetime. Some of us have had more than a few stolen. I don’t even want to begin thinking about how much money I lost on all those stolen CDs.

One time it wasn’t even my fault. I was home on leave from AIT before I came to Europe, and I left my CDs in my brothers truck. Sure enough some “mean girls” who didn’t like my brothers red headed heathen of a girlfriend of the moment and ganked my innocent CDs. They also took some random things from my brother. They stole his smokes too. Now that’s low.

So no, I don’t feel bad for ripping CDs that I have lost or had stolen about 3 times over throughout my consumer lifetime.

Anyhow. I think I ripped like 3 gigs of music today. Including 5 Jay-Z albums, a surprisingly good Shakira Unplugged CD, and some Lil John….Yeaaaaaahhh!

I also made some calls to my friends back home. It was good to speak to them and see how they are doing. I was only able to speak to a few of them though. Its unfortunate, that I can only call while most of them are at work So I spoke to a lot of voicemail boxes today. I left the following message:

“Hi this is Xavier, I just called to say hello and see how you are doing. I hope you are doing well…actually…I’m just calling so you can remember me and buy me a beer when I get back home. So, I’ll try to call you again some other time, If you want you can still buy me a beer if you haven’t deleted this message yet.”

Hehe, I could never leave a message like that, It was actually like this:

“Pick up the phone bitch, this is Rick James in Bulgaria.”

We had a bird fly into the tent last night. It was hilarious. Grown men, soldiers even, running like girls from some poor lost sparrow.

“Rabies! They have Rabies!”

One of the guys said, jokingly as he watched the others cower before the diminutive thunderbird. He promptly exited the tent as the afore mentioned avian did a flyby on him. I think it was going for his eyes like in a Hitchcock movie.
Well we breakdown tomorrow, so this is my last blogg for awhile, or atleast till I get back to Mannheim. I’ll see you all on the flipside, beware the birds!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Whirlybird to the Rescue!

Well, another week has come and passed here in the Balkans. There is a clear sky tonight. Stars as far as the eye can see, and in a few hours the cosmos will show us just how amazing it is with a shower of stars for us to marvel at.

At times, when you are out here, away from everything, you learn to appreciate the subtle beauties that we often fail to witness in our day-to-day drudgery of work and toil. Tonight a few of us are going to kick back by the satellite dish and watch the show.

Earlier today I got to participate in Air Med-Evac training. Essentially, what that means, is we train on how to call in a Blackhawk helicopter to come and pick up our buddy who either:

a- Has suffered grievous wounds at the hands of the enemy.
b- Collapsed due to lack of physical capability.
c- Got shot in the ass by one of us for taking the last double stuffed Oreo.

Never take the last ANYTHING from another man you just don’t do it.

I digress. The training was great. All the soldiers broke up into teams and we carried people in on “litters” you call them “stretchers.” With great care, we placed them into the Blackhawks and got our ass away from the chopper as quickly as possible. There are a lot of details that have to be observed when doing this. You have to make sure your weapon is pointed away from the litter, make sure they are tied in properly and the knot is under the litter, just to name a few.

My group got to go for a ride in the Blackhawk during one of the runs. It was, how do I say, I think William Shakespeare said it best, it was,

“Totally Sweet, I almost crapped my pants.”

Bowel movements aside, it was a great time. The pilot made sure to bank really hard on one of the turns so that it was as if we were staring at the ground. Then he dropped really quickly so it was like we were falling! I managed to get some video of it on my digital camera. You can here me scream out,


I feel bad for my buddy Johnston though. He went up with us but on the litter. We put him face down like he was shot in the ass so he could get a good view out the window of the Blackhawk. Normally they fly with the doors open for quick mounts and dismounts. So there is Johnston, with a huge grin on his face, ready to see Bulgaria from a birds eye view, then,


They shut the door and Johnston is strapped down, unable to move staring at a big gray door for the entire ride! Oh man, we felt so bad, but laughed nonetheless. As a small consolation, he did say he felt like he was flying when we took that dip.

Good training, and great fun.

I love my job.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Battle Rattle and Cereal Box Wisdom

Full Battle Rattle: A Term used to describe the complete Army Standard combat ready uniform to be worn by the war fighter. This uniform consists of BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), LBV (Load Bearing Vest), Flak Vest (only stops shrapnel, not bullets), and Kevlar (Helmet that stops most bullets), Two canteens, Four magazines of twenty 5.56mm rounds, and a Field Dressing (Big Bandage).

Lastly, your weapon: the M16-A2 rifle. In our company every soldier has to have a name for their weapon. My weapons name is neatly applied to its stock using a simple label maker with black lettering on a white background. Just below my last name and weapon number it reads as follows in all caps:


In Latin, it translates to “Sword of God.” I’m not sure why I named it that, but it works for me, and I like the sound of it.

Now, I just had my birthday here in Bulgaria, which makes it by second spent away from Texas. Yet, I feel no true longing or regret from being away from home. I do miss my family, but I’m doing a lot to keep my body and mind occupied, so I tend not to dwell too much on those thoughts.

I do like being away though. In its own way it helps me find out more about myself. It is often said that we define ourselves by the people we interact with. We find ourselves stuck in a role that we play among the people we know. It becomes our identity. As long as we are with that group of people we constantly interact with, we begin to find our niche and remain there so long as we are with those people.

By setting out away from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I get the chance to better understand myself by leaving my old niche. Now, I find a new group of people with whom I will learn what kind of person I am.

A lot of times people say, that when people go away, they come back different or seem changed. In truth that person never changed. They have always been that person. The person you knew was one who filled a niche in your life or within the group of people with whom they associated. This person was engrained in this niche and in truth we never get to change that role. The people around us reinforce that role upon us. To change it would redefine us in the group, and at times that is not possible.

It’s not easy going from the funny guy to the smart guy, or the boring guy to the interesting one. The people who we are with constantly define our personalities and existence by how they react to us. If people laugh at what you say all the time, then you must be funny right? If members of the opposite sex frequently vie for your attentions, then you must be attractive right?

Many people say, “I don’t care what other people think.” While that is all well and good, what they fail to realize, what people think of us defines who we are. Humans are social animals. Like monkeys, wolves, and cats, we interact to survive.

I’m not sure why I wrote all of that…

I think maybe its because out here, away, and almost alone, I’m finally beginning to understand who I am. What kind of “man” I have become.

No longer do I react to the world around me…the world now reacts to me.

This is comforting.