Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Thursday, December 21, 2006

We Pump You Up!

It's generally about 2 hours before a mission when the music starts. There's a lot of ways that guys here pump themselves up to get ready for a mission. Some get mad- mad at the Iraqis, mad at the Army for "screwing" them, mad at whatever makes them ready for whatever might be out there. Some guys become very quiet and focus on making sure that all of their gear is in exactly the right places. Some perform pre-mission rituals that they have established over the last few months in theater. Most of the guys, though, play music.

There's a little bit of everything floating through the air. Some bands are favorites for their hardcore, often angry lyrics: Dope, Metallica, Drowning Pool, Rage Against the Machine (ironically enough), and so forth. There's country music going somewhere in the back. The LT is off listening to some classic rock- ACDC, or maybe Guns&Roses. Light rock forms a melodic counterpoint to the bass of the heavier music: Nickel Creek, Jack Johnson and Iron&Wine. In my own ears it's Project 86:
High noon cometh, not a moment too soon
There's gonna be a firefight tonight
A reckoning to confront the residents of this tomb
A gunpowder party and it feels just right
A few nights ago, we were out on the line with only thirty minutes or so left until the mission start time, when the Buffalo, our vehicle with a giant robotic arm we use to disarm IEDs, shudders and dies. The alternator has died, and we don't have a replacement. Everyone is pumped, as usual, and now it looks like we may not have a mission after all. If you've ever seen a kid with ADHD running around and bouncing off of walls, just imagine 30 full grown men doing that. Add some mud and a lot of testosterone, and you'll pretty much have the picture. We considered a number of options for our mission: simply canceling, rolling without the Buffalo, or having one of our equipment operators take out a backhoe instead. In the end, we scrubbed the mission and had the part trucked in later.

There's an old joke about grunts that tells of the sergeant that left his squad in the barracks with a pair of bowling balls. Half an hour later, he returns, and one bowling ball is missing- the other is split in half. All the soldiers maintain innocence: "But sarge, it was like that when I got here!". As with so many jokes, this one has an underlying truth. Fortunately, we managed to make it through our unexpected vacation without breaking anything (and only having a few people wrestle in the mud) and eventually everyone settled down enough to go to sleep.


  1. Don

    Just like sailors: You give a sailor two ball bearings and lock him in a room, inside of five minutes one will lost and the other will be broke.

    Chief C.

  2. One song that a soldier has told me that they listen to before going out is Rooster by Alice N Chains.

  3. I went to Project 86's site and watched the video of that song you were listening too. Verry cool.

    Your stories about guys who prepare for missions ritually reminds me of the rituals bomber crews went through during WWII, when the chances of surviving your tour of duty was about 50%.

    When they were all pupmped and ready to roll and the mission was scrapped many of the crew members would vomit from the tension. They would rather get the bombing run over with.