And so the weary soldiers descended from the mountains to the billowing tents below. Faces scorched and hardened from a brutal campaign, crumpled heaps of leather trudged noisily, rhythmically down gravel-dappled trails from hell-on-high.
Two weeks getting fat in the front seat of an armoured personnel vehicle (from here-on referred to as "VAB") , nose sun-burnt to a crisp, Mount Blanc was lovely and all tha’ (forgot the fucking camera - typical). Managed to finish Wilde’s complete short fiction though - result!!!
Oh indeed the days of quill-stained letters from the front accompanied by fantastic, foggy photos in yellowy greens of baby-faced, Lucky-Strike-smoking youths are long gone, my friends. Nowadays, one makes do with sporadic, battery-conserving usage of mp3s and iPhones. Our latest (and last of 2010) outing into the field saw us spend a fortnight at the foot of Mt. Blanc on military maneuvers (could someone PLEASE spell that word correctly for me?!). The final furlong of the pre-Afghan gallop turned out to be nothing more than a lame canter interspersed with occasional moments of quirky combustion. Stress-induced and thus poorly articulated insubordination along with inter-army communication breakdowns were the big winners on the night, scooping a whopping 90% of all meal-time discussions before the return to snoozing in a green haze of night optics and icy toes once again took to the stage.
There were changes a plenty right from kick-off, as my function for the Afghanistan mission got turned inside-out and dumped on its head. Previously designated team-leader on the ground and in the ditches with my trusty metal-detector, I now find myself riding high(er) in the VAB and manning the trusty Browning 12.7, kinda like this guy only looking way cooler with my standard-issue beard and thousand-inch stare! A slight hiccup occurred when the previous gunner (now my replacement as Chef d’Equipe and running around hunting hidden pennies) wasn’t too happy with the shake-up. Having voiced his concerns, he was initially removed from the starting line-up for the Afghan mission altogether before later achieving re-instatement through a combination of apologies and claims of misunderstanding. Air cleared, and so the show must go on.
While undergoing military training, one must always keep an open mind as to how simulations, while well thought-out and sometimes spectacularly executed, are nevertheless mere simulations. Reality almost always plays out differently. At least that‘s what I‘ve been feverishly attempting to convince myself of since returning from this most recent "manipulation de merde". Take, for example, an incident which occurred during a 3 day non-stop exercise at the very end of our little field adventure. While posting guard in the VAB’s gun turret one chilly soir, my night vision found itself unceremoniously and automatically shut down due to blinding headlights approaching my position head-on!
"Bravo 2, this is Alpha 6, come-in."
"This is Bravo 2."
"Er, yeah! Bravo 2 I’ve got a 4-strong vehicle convoy approaching my position from due West. Demand confirmation of presence of friendlies. Over."
"Bravo 2 - be right with ya."
I wait ever more impatiently as the vehicles bear down on my little goggle-eyed trigger-finger-trembling self.
"Bravo 2 here. Well now, we don’t quite know who they are. Over."
"Bravo 2, so eh what should I do, like? Over."
"Bravo 2 here. Stop the convoy and ask who they are. Over."
"Er Bravo 2, the convoy has already passed my position and entered into our safe zone. Over."
"Bravo 2 here. Right so, no bother! Over and out."
"Alpha 6, er, over and out." (????)
To all my Taliban readers out there, take note. Go all McGyver on your pick-up truck’s ass so as to make it roughly resemble a coalition vehicle in the dark. Roll up to any NATO base about 11pm and sure see what happens. For a full list of the recipes on today’s show, click on to our website at www.whatthefuck???.com. (WARNING: Not real link).
Another questionable night-time occurrence involved a mobile guard detachment knocking on our VAB’s door about 10.15pm requesting we cut the interior light as it might give away our position. Our group sergeant’s response? Invite the sentinels in for a some melted cheese and biscuits washed down by a few bottles of Kronenbourg! Needless to say I didn’t get to nod off until all hours that night. Perhaps that had more to do with new-found uncertainty as to our combat-readiness as opposed to the fondu-fuelled gossiping in the back of the vehicle.
Ah sure once we touch down in Taliban Town, we’ll play it by ear! Hi ho!
PS. This Legion Alphabet WILL get finished before I fly out, I promise! In the meantime, a big congratulations to Mike and Guillemette - true soldiers of lurve baby!