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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Warning: War May Be Hazardous

The platoon has a new pre-mission sport now. We call it "Crete-put", or more simply "The Rock Toss". It's one of those activities that occasions a head shake and "I don't even want to know" from our platoon leader. It works something like this: Take a 15 pound chunk of discarded concrete, add some soldiers full of pre-mission energy, and a touch of lunacy, and you end up with guys running full tilt towards a line scratched in the dirt and hurling a big rock through the air. Eventually, someone will get hurt, I'm sure. We almost tagged an oblivious Marine tonight. Assuming we don't get bored before the inevitable happens, the Army will, also inevitably, release a safety brief warning us all not to throw big rocks.

The modern military combines part big brother society with part warfighter. We soldiers are considered almost mature enough to understand that war is dangerous, and the weapons we fight it with are just as dangerous as the enemies. The military seems to trust that we will understand that we can't be running around post like cowboys with loaded weapons or explosives. On the other hand, the most mundane and common-sense workplace safety practices often warrant a official warning. These warnings are usually accompanied by graphic photographs of the one idiot who managed to mutailate themselves in spectacular fashion.

Since I've come to Iraq, I've learned that you should not attempt to exit a moving vehicle or I may injure myself. I've been told that in the event of a rollover, I should not try to open the uparmored door that is now above my head lest I be crushed under it. I've seen pictures of what may happen to me if I hit my hand with a hammer, or get too close to a dirt auger. I now know that I shouldn't play with knives, and that opening the feed tray of a weapon while it is firing may be bad for my health. I have been warned on the dangers of cigarettes, and told that I shouldn't be drinking alcohol (not that doing so is allowed anyway). I know not to light fires inside tents, or any other enclosure, for that matter.

It's only a matter of time before we're not allowed to throw rocks.


  1. I so did not need to read this TD. Ah the hazards of Milbloging.

  2. Anonymous10/1/07 10:11

    So, Son, did it take you until now to KNOW that knives are dangerous? What happened to the nice, innocuous ball?

    Did you EVER learn not to light fires in tents?

  3. Just a random reader here, but surely the Army won't warn you not to throw rocks. I expect they'll warn you no to be hit by them :)

  4. Anonymous10/1/07 12:04

    We adult Boy Scout leaders joked that we took boys who had spent the last 11 years being told "Don't touch that knife. Don't touch that ax. And for darned sure don't touch that match." to the woods and told them "Grab that knife, pick up that ax, and use that match to start a fire." No wonder the kids thought we were having fun. Of course, there was the occasional impromptu lesson in first aid, but that just added to the fun.

    Too bad the Army doesn't have adult leadership.

  5. also do not play in empty appliances, eg: fridge, discarded ovens etc.

  6. Its the same way in the workplace TD. Every job I've had (including the current one) has to treat employees like pre-schoolers to avoid Edwards-like litigation lawyers :(

    Stay safe and keep up the great writing.

  7. Anonymous10/1/07 15:11

    funny thing is, that you KNOW the reason they even have to say "don't..." is because some, ahem, person (we all know some or at times have been this person) DID do a moronic thing and was injured.
    duh individuals :) they truly are

    Hilarious posting btw
    ~Amanda, Oregon

    ps...thank you and all your fellow soldiers for standing in the gap facing evil so we at home don't have to.

  8. As the mother of teens, boys will be boys! If they are throwing rocks in a well thought out way with rules and everything...then they are obviously mature!;)

  9. Anonymous10/1/07 17:51

    Do you think the photographic evidence is photoshopped? Nope. I'm sure it's evidence of my theory of young males between the ages of 14 and 26. Ya'll just can't help yourselves.

    Next time, holler out "FORE!!" when oblivious Marines are in the area....

  10. Anonymous11/1/07 10:26

    Add to the list: Don't eat flies,
    don't wear a nicotine patch if you don't smoke, don't soak your head in ice water and NEVER do a power sit-up.

  11. Anonymous11/1/07 17:31

    I always thought there were years and years between my seven year old (who loves all things military) and actual soldiers. Reading this post, it's very clear that my seven year old is totally prepared for military service, because he actually already gets some of these cause and effect things! Yours is a nice picture, by the way, of the camaraderie that makes military service, for some, a decent experience despite the actual war stuff. Certainly my Dad enjoyed tremendously his years in the RAF during WWII, despite the fact that he saw some of the worst combat the war had to offer.

  12. Have you seen the AFN commercial that warns you to watch your step?

  13. Anonymous12/1/07 14:27

    You can bet the officers will be puzzled? Oh the joys of being enlisted reminds me of the days of coke can mortars and lighter fluid, since smoking is now Taboo you guys will never know the joys of the Zippo lighter.What can one do if you cant go get hosed in a bar now and then?

  14. Anonymous14/1/07 19:54

    You think modern weaponry can be dangerous to the user? As a student of weapons history, I can tell you the modern stuff is nothing on that end!

    Civil War: firing paper cartridges filled with spark-sensitive black powder. Remember to hold the ramrod in your fingers, DO NOT push it home with your palm. That way if a spark ignites the powder you lose your fingertips, not the entire hand.

    Loading a cannon: same concern, even bigger. If it goes, loader WILL lose his hand. But if he faces away from the cannon and pulls the ramrod toward him, and gets behind the muzzle before it goes, at least he won't be blown to shreds by the muzzle blast. To reduce risks, swab the barrel with a sponge prior to loading, and have another guy plug the touch-hole with a leather thumb-stall while you ram, to prevent air rushing out of it and fanning any sparks. Doesn't work always, but...

    But even that was safe compared to the 17th century musketeer's role:

    You have one or two flasks of that VERY spark sensitive black powder at your waist. And a bandolier over your sholders carrying wooden cartridges full of more of that powder. And you're firing a matchlock, ignited by a long burning cord that smoulders like a cigarette. Oh, and you have the cord looped over your shoulder, and the other end burning too, just in case you have to re-light it. The match has to be adjusted and clamped for every shot, and if you don't clamp it tight enough the backblast from the touch-hole blows it out of the clamp and into your face ... and from there it trails sparks down your bandolier of powder.

    And for real fun... black powder absorbs moisture readily, so custom is to keep most of it in kegs, and then fill your flasks before battle. But in a surprise attack there's always some idiot who lights his match BEFORE going to the powder keg, and blows up half a company. (Once read a history of the period where a commander had that happen, with some damage to morale, then saw a big flash and mushroom cloud in the enemy position, and cheered his men by pointing out that it had happened to the enemy, too).

  15. Anonymous25/2/07 11:50

    LOL weren't you told not to throw rocks in elementary school? Not that I think you shouldn't, but just that you all heard it before! Good luck, what is your record?

  16. Anonymous5/7/07 16:23

    I recently heard a phrase that goes something along these lines(I'm paraphrasing here):

    The military has a profound way of growing its young men into mature and functioning adults; while somehow managing to maintain their adolescent sense of invulnerability.

    I think that pretty much sums up about every soldier or marine I have ever met.