G.I. Joke

A real-life Yossarian on the comic efficiency of a soldier's life in Iraq

When your base camp has been attacked 60 times during the last 60 minutes by mortars and rockets, and the commander says, "Wear your helmets and your body armor until further notice," the natural thought of the trained iconoclast is "Why do I have to wear that stuff? Do they know how hot it is?"

One day in June, the temperature was edging toward 130 degrees—what am I saying? One day in June the temperature wasn't edging toward 130 degrees, and we reacted to the order to put on the stuff that made us more bullet-and-flying-exploding-thing resistant as if we were being told to write a book report. Soldiers never whine; we do, however, bitch quite a bit. The quality that makes us soldiers is that we go ahead and do the thousands of things that we don't want to do and that we find a way to make the silliest plan work. Then we bitch about it.

When we were coming home from Iraq, before we boarded the most beautiful airplane I have ever been on in my life, we received a briefing from an Air Force sergeant. "Federal regulations prohibit you from carrying certain dangerous items onto the aircraft. You may not transport knives or other cutting instruments, firearms, or explosives. Of course, this does not include your assault rifles, pistols, or bayonets." I stood and watched while a kid who was carrying an M-249 squad automatic weapon (a light machine gun) and a 9mm pistol put his pocketknife in a box. Let's think about this for a minute. If one of us were to hijack that plane, how would that have gone?

"Take this plane to America right now and no one gets hurt!"

"But we're already going to America."

"All right, then."


Craig A. McNeil is an attorney and Army reservist in Fort Worth, Texas. He served in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, Iraq, from January to December 2004.

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