Friday, October 12, 2007

A little glimpse

Just for a moment, I want you to come and stand next to me. Yes, from the comfort of your side of the computer screen.

I want you to look around you, observe that it is 10p.m. and that you really should be preparing to sleep, not go out on a 4 day long series of missions. I want you to feel the tightness of my combat boots, the 30 kg load on my back, the humidity beneath my kevlar helmet and the increasingly cool air outside. I want you to bring your eyes up to high heaven, enjoy the stars for a second, before bringing them down to view a parade square of infantrymen checking their gear, waiting to move out.

You get to the start line. High kneel. Always have to high kneel. High kneel, high kneel, prone, prone. If not you'll get shot. Front man starts to get up and move. You wait a second or two then stand up to maintain tactical distance. Man, you really should be in bed sleeping now. Or at least wrapping up the day... no you're not. You've barely started.

Tread through the jungle trail. Cut through some thick vegetation some times. 1 hour, 2 hours, 3, 4. Man, when is this going to end? Sergeant tells you to ****ing hurry up. You feel like cursing the guy, but you really can't cuz you know God is watching. Boots keep clumping around on the ground. Sweat pours down your cheek. Wipe off the sweat... wait, don't. It'll spoil the camoflauge painted on your face. The load cuts deeper and deeper into your back. Get so tired you can't really think.

If you're fortunate and you reach the area early enough, perhaps you get to catch forty winks, while a third keeps guard. If you're not, you assault the stupid hill immediately. That would be about 6 in the early morning. Move up quick. Don't get shot. Not too slow. Not too fast. Don't cut in front of your buddy. Don't get killed. "OIH YOU!!! WHY SO SLOW? ####ing hurry up. ### ### ###. #### your #### legs and ####ing get up the #### hill. ## ### ####. "

Okay. Now you've got the hill. And in the same way that those sorry fellows who were killed did, you've got to dig in and prepare to be shot at. Dig your own grave, sort off. Once you die, you fall in anyway. So might as well dig a bit better. Dig dig dig dig. Set up defence. Ever tried digging from 10a.m. in the morning till 4:45 a.m. the next morning? Dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig. Raise the chungkol above your head, bring it down. Over and over again.

You come to get familiar with this sight of your buddy and you digging wordlessly through the night. So worn out you can hardly talk. Just a few brief mutual glances for speechless encouragement.

You become friends with this sour smell. You remember yourself sticky. That's the 2 days worth of sweat mixed with the soil in your trench. The sickly, sourish smell and the sticky, wet feeling.

... And then after about 2 hours of sleep, if you're fortunate enough to get it, that is, you defend your position. How many days over? 2 days, 2 nights. Well, cover back all the foxholes you dug. Your blood and sweat measured in hours, erased in minutes. March down the hill, get briefed and ready for your next mission.

March through the night. Morning comes, attack. This time it's a built up area. Many are supposed to die. Well, that's because we're infantry. The top brass always stresses that infantry is needed to hold ground. That we dominate the land. That no matter who starts the war, the last shot will come from the infantryman in the last bunker of the enemy. That's why we have so many infantrymen. They never did lie. Except that we all simultaenously know that a better reason is that the most casaulties will probably come from us.

One pilot gets shot down and they send a whole special forces team to go rescue him behind enemy lines. One infantryman gets shot and his buddy fireman-carries him away at the risk of his own life. Artillery fire from far away, never really understanding how the enemy feels. Infantrymen feel, see and hear the munitions, the deaths.

Of course, I'm only training. No deaths, no risk of loss of life. Only very tired and amazed at the high work output your body can churn out based on such small an amount of sleep. No images of dead bodies, only midnight hallucinations as you march. (E.g. hmmmm. what the heck is that soldier doing in the middle of the road? Eh wait, blink blink, nope, no soldier there. Or hmmm. Why is my buddy staring at me? Stare back. Oh, it's a leaf.)

That's the skinny of my week. Just hope you'll understand slightly better what we go through. Now that there are all the rules imposed on no cameras or camera phones, and I can only take out mental images of all these moments. Pity that I can't take pictures home. Big risk these days.

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