It occurred to me today that next year I'll be 26 . . . and that will be closer to 30 than to 20. A very sobering thought indeed. God, how my life is flying by.
Today was my birthday. Yay. The Big Two Five. The Last Meaningful Birthday in a Man's Life. Unless You Live in the State of North Carolina Where Car Insurance Rates Don't Go Down When You Turn Twenty-Five and the Birthday Is Entirely Meaningless.
You know you're loved when not a single person the entire day comes up to you to wish you a happy birthday. It's such a warm, comfortable feeling.
EDIT: It turns out someone did take the time to acknowledge my special day. My dear friend "Icy" came up to me late tonight with a big smile on her face and whispered "Happy Birthday" in my ear. She even gave me a couple of very nice, tight hugs.
And, um, that really did give me a warm and comfortable feeling . . . maybe too warm and comfortable . . .
To complete the idiocy of issuing us hundreds of gratuitous rounds, they've now mandated that those same rounds will be inspected by our squad leaders every night from now on. Oh, and all of our nuclear/chemical/biological (NBC) attack protective gear -- which we also never carry but instead keep under lock and key -- has to be inspected every week.
You know, I left home precisely because I was tired of being treated like a kid. I was hoping to stake it on my own and be regarded by the world as an adult. Instead, I ended up in a job where being treated like a kid is the norm. Unless, of course, you have a college degree and got commissioned. (Yeah, the snot-nosed lieutenants who are years younger than us and have a tiny fraction of our experience don't need to be inspected daily). Somehow that makes you trustworthy and knowledgeable, apparently.
Whatever. It's only 11 more months and then I'm out of it for good. I'm not going to stress over it. In fact, in many ways I rejoice over it because it's just one more brick in my wall of determination not to stay in. Every opportunity I have to steel my reserve to get out I regard as a good thing.
If the world needed any additional evidence that logic is not the army's strong suit, it was provided in abundance today.
This evening, more than five months into our deployment, we were all called to the company to receive our "full combat load" of 210 rounds in seven magazines. At first glance this seems to make sense. After all, every soldier should have the resources to defend himself, right? Unfortunately, the facts of the case render the decision completely absurd.
Let me provide some background.
Last year, we were issued the full combat load at the beginning of our deployment. After we got to our respective forward operating bases (FOB's), we were only required to carry one magazine (30 rounds) around normally. Like many others, I carried it in a special pouch strapped to the butt stock of my M-16A2 rifle. On convoys or during periods of alert when we had to "gear up" (i.e., put on our Kevlar armored vests and helmets), we'd carry the full complement of 210 rounds in pouches strapped to our vests. That made sense: During an attack, you need to be able to repel the enemy.
But this deployment is so different. For one thing, we almost never convoy and mortar attacks are much less frequent than they were last time. As a result, we rarely "gear up." For another, we're not allowed to take our weapons inside the detention facility, so they spend most of the time locked away in arms rooms. Furthermore, we're not allowed to carry any ammunition, not even in the butt stock pouches. To complete the farce, according to the base SOP, under conditions of red alert, we're not supposed to load our weapons -- just huddle in the bunkers and wait for the situation to calm down before emerging to treat any casualties that may have resulted from the incident. So essentially, there's no point in our carrying weapons at. They're nothing more than useless appendages strapped to our backs. As clubs, I guess. The fact that they went and issued us more rounds that we will never carry, much less fire, is mind-boggling to me. Especially at a time when more and more guys in the unit are snapping or showing other signs of mental and emotional stress.
More rounds. Crazy soldiers. Bad combination.