Sunday, August 29, 2004

It's hard to play footsie when you're wearing combat boots

First of all, I have returned to the civilian world. I finished my Army training for this summer. Miraculously, the Army let me out about a week early. How it happened is weird, and it was a last minute thing that would not have happened if I had been informed a few hours later, but it happened. I wanted to leave a few hours early, but apparently the army does not do small favors, only big ones.

Second, I wanted to write a few things about the Army that I thought were worth mentioning. We were given a class on EO (equal opportunity) as the Army defines. I have to say I was impressed. Having spent my last ten years in universities, I have seen countless EO-type conferences, speeches, lectures, warnings, and admonitions. They were all stupid and boring, and made me want to physically harm the person who gave the talk. However, the Army has an interesting CD-Rom that was used, and I thought really made the point well. A drill instructor (hands-down the least popular one) led the discussion, and people came away with the point. It was also non-boring.

I remember last summer when I was in basic training, there was a film on the law of land warfare, and it had to be the cheesiest dumbest presentation I ever saw. It looks like it was made by soldiers-cum-actors in the early 70's when it was their duty to present it, regardless if anyone was supposed to take it seriously. Hopefully they are working on a better version of that. A few weeks ago, we had a pretty dumb class on how to deal with civilians in a combat zone. There was a powerpoint slide-show. That sucked. However, we did some actual practicing, where some of us were soldiers and others were angry Iraqis, and that part was OK.

The Army is getting a bit more practical in training soldiers. We did a few exercises that are brand new, but are designed to reflect the realities on today's battlefield. We learned about Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which are killing people all over Iraq (what every Israeli knows as a chefetz chashud). We also learned how to deal with convoys that are being attacked - especially when we are in them.

Third, the Army had all these rules about "fraternizing" between male and female trainees. There are all sorts of rules, most of which are useless because people do it all the time anyway. But I observed that given the way things were structured it is pretty hard "play footsie in combat boots". People tend to have these short intense flings on weekends. It is an interesting kind of relationship.

Fourth, The Army has been very in to voting. In theory the Drill Sergeants are supposd to encourage you to vote, though not influence them. I do remember though at one point a Drill Sergeant almost telling us to vote for Bush, and another a few days later almsot saying to vote against Bush. So that is that.

I also read three books this summer whihc I do not have time to comment on. 1) A More Elite Soldier: Pursuing a Life of Purpose by Chuck Holton, 2)A Time of Our Choosing: America's War in Iraq by Todd S. Purdum, and 3) Philosophy of Religion by William J. Wainwright.

That is all for now. I will get back to my civilian mode, and remind myself what the real world out here is like.

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