Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Free Agent

April 21st, 2008 Posted in Military

So, you want to volunteer to go to war huh? Crazy as that sounds, there are a lot of us out there who do this little trip over to the war and let me tell you something, that is why the Muslim insurgents will never defeat us. See, there are tons of former military guys who for many reasons decide to join back up for this fight.

Are you one of them? Well, let me fill you in on how to do this and what happens if you are a Marine. First of all, being a reservist is akin to being a “Free Agent” in the NFL. You can pick and choose what assignment you would like to fill in either theater. Active duty guys really get the short end of the straw and when told to report somewhere, they have to grin and bear it while we are sent a list of available billets to choose from. Making you the boss of your own destiny is sort of fun in a weird way. When I volunteered for Iraq, I was looking over the list of jobs (maybe fifty positions there) and I knew what some of them did, but there were others that made me say HHHMMMMmmmm? I was on the phone with the reserve manpower officer one day, “O.k., what is a Battle Captain?” He paused and said he didn’t know. Well that sounded cool, “Put that on my short list” followed by “What is the Air Boss job?” He hazarded a guess that they bossed planes around. This guy wasn’t much help. I knew what the Air Boss on the ship did, but how did that work in Iraq? I liked that title so I told him that I wanted that job. Turned out to be a busy job with lots of stuff to do and I found out it had little to do with bossing planes around except for the Russian contract planes that tried to cheat us out of gas and I could tell them a thing or two.

Three years ago, joining up for a tour was like that, you found a billet and then mobilized with a unit and off you went. Now that this war has been going for over five plus years, the Corps has found a way to make it a partial “red ass” (remember when you got spanked by your Dad’s big leather disco belt and it hurt to sit, well same thing) to serve. At least that is what I thought when I first showed up 31 March for my pre-deployment training in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. They have a program put together that includes some really good training, and some that I could just do without the pain. Because of the rollover deaths in the Humvee’s, they have built a trainer that spins around in circles to simulate your up armored Humvee taking a sharp turn or being blown up by an IED. Imagine a full size Humvee with the 240 lbs combat doors attached. They turn it on and spin it around and around. Kind of like being stuck in a couple of cycles of your clothes dryer. The dust and junk inside are floating in the air as you try to maintain a grip on your rubber M-16 or it will fly off and pop someone in the face. When it comes to rest, you practice egression out of one of the doors (they lock all the doors except one). Well, hanging upside down with your flack jacket and helmet on, and trying to get your seatbelt off is something that takes a bit of finesse or you will drop on your head. The Marines built this training up to be something that will make you sick. I loved it, a bit like the Helo dunker in our pool training only without the chlorine nasal injector as the pool water is forced up your sinuses.

They basically run you through all the stages to make you a fully qualified Marine again–go to the gas chamber and suck up some CS gas; do the swim quall; get all of your shots which hurt by the way, and they can give up to four shots a day including the dreaded smallpox shot. Remember that nice round scar you had on your left arm as a kid? Well, you get to walk around with this festering mess on your arm for about two weeks or so. Let’s not forget the shooting part of it. This made me laugh a bit. See, the weapon I carry is the M9 9mm pistol, unless I am in a billet that calls for the mighty M-4 5.56 rifle. But as an O-5, you have to shoot everything again. I haven’t shot the rifle in 14 years and just remember it being a pain-in-the-ass long drawn out week. First, we went to shoot the pistol. I like shooting guns and the pistol is my favorite, so getting Expert was a piece of cake. Plus, since they run a short course on that, three relays in a day, if you don’t like your score, you didn’t have to take it, but you do have to qualify on it–nothing like zero pressure on the qualification relay. Then the following week starts the pain. You show up each morning at 0445, drive a half hour over to Stone Bay to pick up your rifle and then sit around till 0630 when the sun starts to peek over the pine trees. Since we had three Marines in our group, we took the first relay each day, and no pulling of the “Butt’s” (that is what they call the area with the targets) in the afternoon. See, they have to send Marines down in the pits to pull the targets up and down to mark the bullet holes.
You start off at the two hundred-yard line, firing five rounds from the sitting, then from the kneeling and then from the standing position in a time limit of 20 minutes. Sounds easy till the wind starts blowing you back and forth just as you apply pressure on the trigger for that perfect bulls-eye. This is followed by a rapid-fire session of ten rounds- Moving back to three hundred-yard line, you shoot five rounds sitting and then in the prone position at a target that is about eight inches in diameter. To top off your training, you then move back to the five hundred-yard line and shoot ten rounds at a man-sized target. This goes on till about noon and then they switch places. We lucked out, for the weather was a bit chilly in the a.m., 40F but it warmed up nicely in the afternoon to about sixty or so. No rain, thank God. This goes on till you qualify on Wednesday. I told all my guys that they would be experts and six out of seven made it and the one Marine missed it by two points.

It’s one thing to be an Expert shooting at a still target, and quite another shooting at a moving one. So the Corps came up with the Table II shooting course where you shoot lots of bullets in various positions at a moving target. Now at a hundred yards, you don’t have to lead the target as much, so point of aim is still pretty much point of impact. What gives me a chuckle is how they do it. If it was the Army, they would spend hundreds of millions of dollars designing a super duper automated system. What system did the Corps buy? A two-dollar wooden pole that they staple a man-sized target to, and then have LCpl Jones pop this thing up into the air above the berm that protects him from getting shot as he walks along the ramp bobbing this thing up and down at a fast clip. Bullets are flying over his head zapping the target. Who ever came up with this simple solution was actually using his head!
This training is slated for twenty-one days and it is something all reservists have to go through. I will tell you that we had the finest coaches on hand, and that was proven when an old LtCol managed a 232 on the rifle after not shooting the M16A2 in 14 years… so if we get into a fire fight, I’m feeling pretty good that I can take a couple of the bad guys out. Just remember that all Marines are riflemen and our motto is “one shot, one kill.”

\"On the Range\"
Trigger, trigger, fire!!I’m going to be shipping over very soon and will be out of contact for a few weeks till I get set up. I’d like to thank all of you who have written me letters of support, and apologize ahead of time if I don’t respond back right away. Thanks again and hope this gives you a bit of insight into how they prepare us to fight. By the way, if you are retired and want to come back for some reason, call the separations branch and if you still in the five year window from retirement, then it’s pretty easy for you to come back and play with the boys again. The world’s best shooting club wants you to hang out again!!
S/F
Taco

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