Jack, as a former army dude yourself, how well can you find yourself in Garth Ennis' portrayals of soldiers? You know, the bitching about incompetent superiors, bullshit calls, crappy weaponry, comradery, etc.?
Jack, as a former army dude yourself, how well can you find yourself in Garth Ennis' portrayals of soldiers? You know, the bitching about incompetent superiors, bullshit calls, crappy weaponry, comradery, etc.?
About superiors, you have non-commissioned officers (NCO's (Sergeants)) and commissioned officers (Lieutenant to General). You become an NCO at your fifth rank. It isn't automatic. You have to go through training and you are tested. But before that you obviously have to start out at the bottom as an enlisted soldier and work your way up.
Officers go to either ROTC or one of the fancy military academies like VMI or West Point (some go "Green to Gold" and become officer after being enlisted though). A lot of these guys come out of their school and think their shit doesn't stink. And it does. They're cherry. They're new. They went to school and when they come out they technically outrank Sergeant Majors (it takes well over a decade to make that rank and usually closer to twenty years than ten). This seems asinine to a lot of soldiers because it is.
The first rank of an officer is 2nd Lieutenant. Their rank insignia is a gold bar. So they are often referred to as "butter bars." Some of them are cool. They learn as they go. Some of them feel they have something to prove and overdo shit. And some of them think they're King Shit already and nobody fucking likes them. So bottom line, if they're in charge at a certain point and don't listen to the advice of people that have been in ten to fifteen years then yeah, it ruffles some feathers.
One of my favorite leaders was this guy that was a Staff Sergeant (six ranks up) that either just clearly didn't give a shit about the dog and pony show aspect of the army or had contempt for it. His uniform was never ironed, was obviously worn out, and he was missing his two front teeth. He did shit that made sense though. For instance he would go around in the field and tell people shit they might have missed in training. I learned about "running passwords" from him. Anyways, the officers and other NCO's hated him. They thought he was bad for the unit because he didn't look pretty. The army can be that gay.
Also this kid there was pretty big. In the civilian world not many people would call him fat but in the army he was one of the fattest for sure. But he would be the first person to finish his 12 mile ruck march every time. So everyone there runs at least 12 miles a week and does pushups and situps on the off days. Everyone is in shape. But this "fat" guy would jog back to the battery area with his 45 pound ruck sack first every time. They gave him an honorable discharge but it was an early one - because he was overweight.
Also one of the best medics in my section, definitely one of the smartest and perhaps the most competent, was kicked out for smoking weed.
I don't have any personal bullshit call stories from a conflict because I was never in one. My experience was very similar to the movie Jarhead. I heard stories of these but refrain from sharing them because rumors are everywhere in the army and you never know what is true. But there are so many stories of officers getting people lost that some have to be true. And I have to say I did experience their map reading fuckups in training now and then and we were on an American military base.
Crappy weaponry? Fuck yeah. The M-16A2 is/was a piece of shit and they kept it in the army for way too long. I can't imagine the M-4 is much better. That they would have such a rickety piece of shit and then decide they just needed to make a smaller one... Fuck. Definitely corporate shenanigans. The thing comes apart very easily to clean. And there are several pieces to it. So it looks way cool to take it apart really fast and put it back together. But seriously, fuck that. Having so many parts means it rattles when it's shooting and dirt gets in it from everywhere. And having so many parts means you would have times where you have to clean it in the woods and hope you don't lose a part or that nothing happens while you clean it. I have no idea how that shit EVER got the green light. And the NCO's - some were drinking the Kool-Aid and said it just needed to be cleaned properly and it wouldn't jam (which is bullshit but it helps obviously) and some just told people that because if it was dirty it would be worse. When at an obstacle course in San Antonio a retired Sergeant Major told us to grab an AK-47 the first chance we got and to throw our piece of shit weapon away. The reliability of the AK isn't exaggerated and that we don't use it just... fuck.
Beyond the weaponry, our vehicles were old pieces of shit that needed constant maintenance just to be ready for training, let alone war.
On comradery, I hated Fort Bragg. I hated being in the army. I hated being treated like a dipshit day in and day out, doing manual labor, being assigned jobs because other people feigned stupidity or were just flat out lazy, going days or weeks without seeing a female. But I still miss it at times because of the friends I had. My best friend is a dude from Cleveland and I know his family well. I'm making a trip to go out there this year. We worked hard in the army but everyone played hard too (save for the bible beaters). Guys would beat the shit out of each other one night and laugh about it during their hangovers the next day. There are a lot of liars and thieves in the military but you'll also meet some of the best friends you'll ever have too.
So when we got off the bus in Missouri they walked us into this lobby and let us know how it was going to be. All the people that were yelling at us were young and I got the idea that the others were sleeping and not worrying about us. After their shitty intro they took us to our barracks and gave us our bedding. We didn't bullshit much that night because we were tired from traveling there.
The next day they marched us back to the replacement building. There were older Sergeants there - one in particular that seemed to be in charge. They taught us basics - how to march, to face right, face left, etc. And they made us drink copious amounts of water. It was August in Missouri and it was muggy as shit.
I didn't get too attached to people in replacement. We weren't all going to the same basic training company. But there were some people that stuck out. This tall, huge (overweight), black kid named Johnson kept telling us what was going to happen. He could have told us anything and we would have believed it. His family was all military. And because he was big, people called him "Tiny" (lame, I know). Beyond him though other people had all this information about what was going to happen in basic training. At that time we took it as gospel, but later on I would find out it was complete bullshit. This big, hairy Italian kid named Zingarelli told us that after lights out one of the guys in the barracks would yell "GREASE!" and everyone would jack off right away at the same time so they didn't get caught. Another dipshit told us that if you got caught jacking off they made you wear your hat backwards around the post. There were other dumbass rumors I've forgot but this bullshit sticks out in my head for some reason.
We spend the day getting various immunizations, our haircuts, shitty meals, and then we go back to our barracks. This black dude named Jackson that has the bunk under "Tiny" Johnson really starts running his mouth. He has shit all figured out. He starts shaving his head and we all ask him what the hell he's doing but he knows what he's doing.
The next day we get back to replacement and the first thing the Sergeant notices is Jackson's shaved head. After asking him what the fuck he was thinking he starts calling him "Slick" and says he has something for him later. But in the meantime he makes Slick do some pushups. He's the first person that he makes do physical training in the replacement area but he's not the last.
There's this white kid that has glasses - looks like Brainy Smurf. His name is Private Bacon. Word is he got a perfect score on his ASVAB. And he looks like he's in love with himself. I don't even know how people knew he got that test score because I never saw him talk to anyone - I just saw him looking off into space thinking about how awesome he was - this sickly kid with glasses. Like I said though, in replacement they were teaching us the beginnings of marching, right face, left face, and so on. And this fucker could not do a right face. He would fidget and go the wrong way, then right, then wrong, and the sergeant in charge would tell him "Beat your face Bacon!" At that time Bacon would do some ugly ass pushups. I think everyone loved it.
At the end of the day we would go back to the barracks and more rumors would fly and we fucked off as much as we could. More people would get nicknames. An extremely short guy was dubbed "Hightower." Yes, we were very original in replacement. And the whole time there, we knew that this was summer camp, and the minute that the replacement soldiers handed us over to the drill sergeants we had no fucking idea what was going to happen. We tried not to think about it.
Our last night in replacement we didn't fuck around as much as usual. We all tried to sleep earlier that night. And I can't be sure but I think the rest of the boys there didn't sleep worth a shit either.
In the morning the replacement sergeant woke us up and told us to grab our sheets, blanket, and pillow, along with all our things. We grabbed everything and could barely move with it all. We had a dufflebag completely full along with our bedding as we walked out into the dark. It was foggy that morning. This was the morning we were going to basic. It was around 4 or 5 am, we didn't know. Nobody had a watch. They had us in formation holding everything and then out of the fog we saw men walk up with the round brown drill sergeant hats on. Tiny whispered to everyone "This is the real thing." And as if we didn't all fucking know already I was glad he said something in case some knucklehead didn't. We were completely quiet for the first time since we got there. The drill sergeants were far off in the fog and talking quiet enough that we couldn't understand them. This shit didn't seem real.
Then a couple of cattle trucks showed up and they started screaming at us. We all ran into each other. We dropped all of our shit, picked it up, ran into each other again. A few unlucky bastards had drill sergeants right on their ass screaming at them to get on a truck. Soon we were all on though and they didn't seem to drive at a speed where they were worried about people crammed onto the trailers while standing up. After we were on we had a couple of drill sergeants on screaming out orders. They were telling us to pick up our duffle bags. "PICK EM UP!!! PUT EM DOWN!!! PICK EM UP!!! PUT EM DOWN!!!" It went that way the entire ride.
When the truck stop they yelled at us to get out. I didn't have to be told twice. I hopped off and started running my ass off with that stuffed duffle bag. A drill sergeant was waiting on the long sidewalk to guide us in there and screaming at me to hurry up. He looked a little like Jack Dempsey. I sprinted my ass off, I was first off the bus and all alone. When I got near him he grabbed me by the shirt like he wanted to kick my ass. I was told they couldn't touch me at all. So much for that shit. He told me "SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!!!" He lets go of me and I start walking the sidewalk towards the front of the building. He runs up, grabs me, and almost throws me to the ground yelling "HURRY THE FUCK UP!!!! GET UP THERE!!!!" - pointing to an area in front of the building. I take off running and by that time people are getting off the bus so I have some time to breathe while they all get there.
As soon as everyone got in front of the building they got us in formation and did an inventory of all our items. They checked for every last thing in our duffle bags and if we didn't find it soon enough they fucked with us. There were twelve of them constantly going from one person to another and screwing with them as much as possible.
I didn't go out for wrestling my senior year and genetics had kicked in so I started to get big. Seeing me as not fit, they fucked with me right away. They had me put my shit aside while one drill sergeant yelled for me to hit the ground while the other kept screaming for me to stand up. "GET DOWN!" "GET UP!" "I TOLD YOU TO GET DOWN!" "YOU DON'T FUCKING LISTEN! GET UP!!!" "GET DOWN!" "GET UP!" "GET DOWN!" "GET UP!" "GET DOWN!" "GET UP!"
After a while they stopped. Jack Dempsey was one of them but he left. This black drill sergeant that looked like Eddie Winslow, the evil version, got in my face and said "You can stop now. Drink some water. You look like a pure D hog." As I drank water he stopped yelling and whispered "How much do you think you weigh?" Although we had been told from replacement to yell our answers, I was tricked into whispering back "about 190 drill sergeaaant." He started sputtering and made me do more pushups, cursing me the whole time.
I felt fine though. I could hear across the whole formation that people were being fucked with. I heard high pitched sounds coming from grown men - pure misery. And for some reason that kept me going.
About that time Private Bacon seemed to have been fucked with too much. This asshole that tested perfectly couldn't seem to find anything that was in his bag and he was at his breaking point. He was about to pass out. Four drill sergeants broke character and dragged him in front of formation and poured their full canteens on him to cool him down in case of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. At about the fourth canteen being poured, Bacon opened one of his eyes to see what was going on. The asshole was faking everything. Jack Dempsey caught him and the four of them started screaming their asses off, making him put his feet on the wall of the building to do elevated pushups. The rest of us had gone through the same shit and had made to run laps about 200 meters around the water tower in front of the building a few times. This was entertainment.
After inventory was over they had us split up into four groups that would be our platoons and started picking out our drill sergeants. We had all noticed a few of them not using curse words - telling people "You better doggone hurry it up." We all hoped we had those guys - especially after we saw they were drill sergeants for the same platoon. They went to one of the other four crowds though. A white one came in front of us - one of the assholes that really gave us a problem that day - and said "All y'all foolios are with me." I watched the whole line of people in front of me lose their posture like they wanted to give up.
After all that was over we were marched around the building to the supply building. There they had us sit in the shade and they all left while a female told us how to fill out our laundry slips. It was hard to stay awake and it seemed to be almost night time (they fucked with us for hours before this). Since it wasn't a drill sergeant telling us how to do laundry it was very relaxing - at least to me. About ten minutes into the talk, when I was about to zone out, Private Bacon jumped up and screamed "I'm gonna DIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" and ran off throwing his clothes off. I was too tired to give a shit. I guess that was the same for everyone else too. We didn't talk much that night. We slept like babies.
The first two weeks of basic training was called "red phase." We didn't go anywhere without a drill sergeant and they were constantly fucking with us. We seemed to get little sleep at all and when we were awake it seemed we were either marching somewhere or getting smoked (made to do pushups, situps, run, etc as punishment). So when they gave us instruction it was a welcome break even though it was usually terribly fucking boring.
The best was when we had classes in the classroom. It was good and bad though. It was air conditioned so that was good, but it wasn't until you hit the air conditioning that you realized how nasty you were - sweat dripping all over and your uniform soaked in it. And it was nice to sit down for once in a chair but once you did you had to strain to keep your eyes open so you wouldn't sleep. The only truly great thing for me was that Private Bacon kept sitting down with the rest of the unit even though he had been told over and over by the Senior Drill Sergeant to just wait in the back away from the other recruits. So we'd all sit down and the Senior Drill - this huge grey-haired white guy from Tennessee - he'd yell "Bacon! Get the hell back here retard! Get back here you fucking muldoon! Elevate your feet!" Bacon would actually whimper before he got up and then you'd hear his boots hit the wall and more whimpering as he held his pose.
There were a lot of these classes. I've forgotten most of them. I remember one class they taught us how to write checks. They actually let us know that just because we had checks didn't mean we had money to back them up. This was just one of many times that I realized I was stuck with a bunch of retards for the next few years and regretted signing up. This class only stood out because of how ridiculous it was even though it was very mundane. But the class I remember most vividly wasn't boring at all. It was our first Equal Opportunity class. I had no idea what this class was going to be about. It seems neither did anyone else because we were all taken off guard.
Before the class, like all the other classes, they had us recite The Soldier's Creed at the top of our lungs. They were always coming up with bullshit reasons to smoke us and this was one way - they would say we weren't loud enough and then take us out and screw with us until they were tired of it. This time they said we weren't loud enough and instead of taking us outside, my platoon drill sergeant, a black guy from Baltimore named Spicer, and Eddie Winslow started to yell at the black kids. "All the N***ERS get your asses up front." "I want to hear the N***ERS show you how it's done!"
I think every one of us in that room had our mouths wide open. Besides the drill sergeants continuing to yell the n-word it was silent. It was a while before any of us took a breath. The drill sergeants kept it up. "I'll bet the n***ers can show how it's done! Get to the front of the class and use those darkie voices!" Then one of the black soldiers stood up and yelled "Let's represent!" He walked by Dempsey who smiled at the kid and growled "That's right. Represent." I was still confused as fuck when all the black recruits were in front of the class reciting the creed.
That's when Dempsey, and my white platoon sergeant, Rasmussen, started to scream for all the crackers to sound off. Again people looked around wondering if this shit was really going on. After the whites were done my platoon sergeant got back up to the front of the room and had us all sit down. He looked disappointed. He asked "Why did you guys come up front when I asked for the 'n***ers' to come up here?" Tiny raised his hand. "Because I thought it was an order." Sergeant Spicer then said "You should never take an order like that from anyone the rest of the time you're in the army."
So then it all made sense. We all felt a little foolish for not telling the drill sergeants to shove it - but only a little foolish. I mean who were we fucking kidding if we said we would ever tell them to fuck off at that point. So yeah, that was my first Equal Opportunity class. Spicer would later tell us that it was the brainchild of the Senior Drill Sergeant and that with how effective it was, he was going to keep using that model after the Senior Drill left the unit. I wonder if it's at all possible that it's still being taught that way by someone down there in Missouri. But I really fucking doubt it.
Last edited by Jack Roller; 04-14-2012 at 09:13 AM.
Last fall I went to my brother's college for their homecoming weekend. We're not much different. Anyways, I'm racing his friends doing shots and having a hell of a time getting drunk when I see my brother, a stong-looking but fat, bearded redhead, with three attractive women screaming his head off. Then they were all screaming like they were doing some pregame cheer. I couldn't catch everything, and I didn't want to mess up his game, but in between these cheers I get that he's told them he has some kind of terminal illness and he lives life to the fullest every day (which is half true about him - just no illness). Then he left with them.
About ten minutes later he comes back down into the basement bar we were at screaming "LIFETIME BAN! LIFETIME BAN!" Once he calms down a bit I catch in between his giggling that he went with the girls to a karaoke bar and when someone didn't go up for their song right away he stole it. Then he rocked out MMM-Bop while the girl that was supposed to sing it followed him around and pouted and then he spiked the mic like a football when he was finished.
So we get in line to take a piss and my brother is behind me. I notice a guy leaving the supply room as I go in the bathroom and as I'm shutting the door, I see my little brother grabbing the supply room door before it shut. It was like slow motion, I knew something bad was going to happen. I yelled "NOOOOOO." But the door shut behind him and I really had to piss so I forgot about it momentarily.
Then I hear that worker talking outside in the hallway to his boss.
"Someone's in the supply room."
"What do you mean someone's in the supply room?! How the hell did he get in there?!"
"... I don't know."
"Well what's he doing?!"
I knew what he was doing. It's what I would have been doing. He was pissing all over that supply room. I flush and get out of the bathroom, walk just out of the hallway, and hope for the best. And soon my brother runs out cackling and screaming "TWO LIFETIME BANS IN FIVE MINUTES!!! WE GOTTA GO!"