Friday, May 29, 2009

Problem Solved

by 13 Stoploss

Here’s where I reveal the shitbaggery in my Army career: I have, on a couple occasions, failed a PT Test. In my five years in the Active Army, I worried about every PT Test. No one cared that I ran twelve flat, or that I worked my butt off to achieve 80% in pushups. Nope. 5’10” white guys who weigh 140 pounds and who have severely underdeveloped hip flexors ALWAYS worry about sit-ups.

Yep, I had that Squad Leader who made it his objective in life to smoke the living crap out of me everyday. Flutter kicks x1000. In the end, I always won, or lost, depending on how you see it. I sweated, fatigued, worked hard, and never saw an improvement. On any given day, I could score between 47 and 53 repetitions, where 53 for my age group was the minimum.

Automatic dirtbag, right?

That’s how I felt last night when I wrote about my classes, and waiting on one grade. I received the last grade this afternoon. My fingers trembled when I received the email alerting me that my grade had been posted. I was trying to calm myself as I navigated the links, expecting the worst and hoping for a “C.”

It was like that with PT Tests, too. You always start with the run. I could preserve some energy and still run a thirteen flat (100%). Pushups were difficult for me, but I was always able to knock out another ten once I hit fatigue. Two events down, no problem, but that was when the nervousness took over. The butterflies in my stomach, flitting and dancing about, would flutter for the ten minutes until the sit-up event.  

I was hoping for some grace, that if I were anywhere close to a “C,” that she would give it to me. It was a non-major class, taken for self-interest and elective requirements, but turned into more of an effort than I had anticipated.

In Iraq in 2006, as a FOBbit, I took four PT Tests. I take issue in having to take PT Tests during a deployment to a combat zone, especially when stop-lossed, but truthfully, had scored higher than I ever had previously. Aside from not caring, I don’t know what changed. How did I pull off 85% in sit-ups when I had never previously scored higher than 65%?

She gave me a “B!” 

I was worried about passing with a “C,” and she gave me a “B.” Perhaps the greater question is how a High School dropout could finish his Junior College career with a cumulative 3.58 GPA, and only a single “C?”

Thursday, May 28, 2009


by 13 Stoploss

On a deployment, you know that bitch is going to be twelve months long. There’s just no injury-free way out of it. As time flies, and you can’t believe you’ve “been in country” for three months already, which then becomes seven, and you remark about how time flies—you start to realize that as an adult, there is a HUGE discrepancy with the whole “time” issue. As a kid, the days are long, and the summers longer. In the Army, even in the ground hog day monotony of a deployment, time really moves. At the end of it, even though it seems like an eternity has elapsed since you have seen loved ones last, your picture of the last year, in events while deployed seems so rapid and uneventful, you can’t remember where the time went.

Well, time moves quickly until you know the end is in sight. Once you have a countdown, and you spend more time concentrating on time, then that shit just gets all sorts of backwards. Like when you were a kid, the days grow long, except now, as an adult, you don’t want long days in the Iraqi sun—you want that shit to hurry up and be done.

This is exactly how I have felt all semester. My LAST semester at the Junior College. And let me tell you, that big ‘ol University on the other side of the city is a bit intimidating; but since it is the goal, and I know it is approaching, things seem to sloooow down.

Nothing is more painfully slow than waiting on grades. I took my last final on Wednesday, May 21st. It was the class I was doing the worst in. And wouldn’t you know that it is the class I want to know the results for most? Well, my overthinking brain tells me that thirty-question ScanTron test could be done in an hour. And the twenty-point, handwritten essay attachment? Okay, that should take a few days also. No big deal.

Instead of filling out my final transcript papers to send to my University for the fall, I have to wait until my last grade is posted. By the way, I got an “A” in both my History and Photography classes, and a “B” in my Biology Lab, and Ancient Literature class. Just waiting on one grade, for Middle Eastern Politics.

Should I worry? I got a “D” on the Mid Term, 89% on the Research Presentation, and have an assortment of “A through F” on seven 5-point quizzes. How did I do on the non-cumulative final? Probably a “B” on the essay, and hopefully a “C” on the ScanTron portion. If it means anything, I missed two classes the whole semester. But, if it means anything, I also wrote this… And, regarding that... a lot has changed, and I have some updates on that situation, which is entirely more fair toward the instructor. Yes, she knows about 

So... the end is near. Last class, last semester at the JC. Grades are due. Should be posted. Tough class, tough semester... did I shoot myself in the foot? Maybe politics is not my game... if I don't get that "C," I imagine it will affect my standing for meeting requirements at the University. I know what stress is, and this doesn't compare. However, this IS pretty danged important, and it seems like an eternity in waiting for this grade to post...

"When you want it, it goes away too fast. Times you hate it always seem to last."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Guard Dogs

by The Usual Suspect

Reintegrating into the civilian world is clunky sometimes. There are things that stay with you. For example, when one of my dogs started spazzing out, growling and barking at something in the hallway bathroom, I noted that I'd left the front door open. The dog was completely flipping her shit, something I'd never seen her do, so I got a 7" KA-BAR (a motherfucking RAMBO knife) and another 3" one out of my car.

The dog was still baring fangs and taking an attack stance, so I flipped the hallway light on and listened for some sort of reaction. Nothing. So it's either a small animal trying not to make a peep, or someone who's very patient and not afraid of canines. I nudged the dog aside and stepped through the doorway, the "fatal funnel" as it's called.

The bathroom is dark, and as I come around the corner, a human figure is standing there, with a large grin. All I see is black clothes, wide eyes, and teeth. I lunged, and almost stabbed a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout.

Good dog though.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

....for the Summer! (NOW MORE INTERACTIVE!!!)

by 13 Stoploss

Back in the day when I was a lowly PV2/PFC, at my best, only half a “suspect,” my FIST platoon was constantly in the field. We knew trouble was a-brewing, and that war was inevitable. We trained hard, constantly, but that didn’t stop us from partying harder than we trained. And when I say train, I mean bend you over backwards (NSFW), sideways, and every other kArmy Sutra way imaginable. I know everyone feels their unit does the same, but it’s different for a FISTer (ANY fister in ANY unit). We had two-times the suckitude of everyone else…

(Why is it different?)

I’m glad you asked. You see, FISTers are, by nature, Artillerymen. Yes, they have more in common these days with the Infantry, but the Artillery can’t do shit without an observer. So, when the Artillery goes to the field for a week, so does the FISTer. Who else is going to call for fire?

Ah, but you see, when the Infantry goes to the field, who calls for fire? Probably no one; but some crusty Command Sergeant Major, in both the Infantry and Artillery, is advocating his FISTers get to know their Infantry line platoons. Since good ‘ol Rummy transitioned the Army into a leaner, meaner fighting force, FISTers have been moved to the Infantry, and now conduct more training with their Infantry than with their Artillery. But, that is beside the point. The real point is that FISTers spend 2x extra in the field! Usually, this is back-to-back, or separated by a week. Oh, and you have to love Brigade FTX’s, sandwiched in between a week with the Infantry, and a week with the Artillery—that’s 33% more field goodness for the FISTer, and that doesn’t even count Artillery Battalion, and Infantry Battalion training that comes before a Brigade FTX! That’s right bitches, we got used hard, real good like (NSFW).

So, back to partying. The night before the last day of a field problem is pretty relaxed. Wake up in the morning, then pack up, clean some gear, and head in. Get back, clean your weapon, stow all your gear, wash the Humvee, park it on the line, and then sit around for another five hours until the rest of the Company finishes, before heading out for a night of (fill in the blank).

Ye-hah! Seriously. That’s how I feel right now. I finished my last final on Wednesday, in my last semester at the Junior College. I now have a whole summer of (fill in the blank) before starting my major at the University in late September. So, while I promised I’d be doing lots’o writing for “teh blogs,” I’ve really spent a bunch of money on photo crap, and have been wreaking havoc on the Flickr. It feels like Thursday night of a four-day DONSA.

Yes, thas right. Alice Fucking Cooper. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Yeah, double-check the title. The lady in the liquor store swore up and down that yes, this shit is legal. I wasn't going to second guess this one opportunity, so I dropped sixty bones on a bottle and disappeared faster than O.J. in a Bronco, except I succeeded. The only downside? Well, I haven't hallucinated for SHIT, so that false advertising can burn in blackest hell.

As for creativity, I don't feel a damn bit of difference between this and a bit too much Vodka. I capitalize Vodka because as double-geared as that devil-mix is, it deserves its credit.

This shit is.... 69% alcohol by volume and nothing more impressive than that. Requires little more than a hashbrown breakfrast. Maybe I bought the wrong brand, but from what the shopkeep told me, this shit is LEGAL now. At this pace, I fucking believe it. I could eat for a week off of what I paid for this. Where are the leprechauns? Where are the trolls, gnomes, dwarved, gay elves, and other such fruity tripscape bullshit characters? I'd demand a refund if it weren't for the fact that half a bottle has me buzzing good and hard and ready to finish some movie about Brad Pitt being born OLD and slowly de-aging. The name? Eh, blow me, the case is ten feet away. Use google.

If you know of some Absinthe that causes a legit case of TRIPPIN' BALLS!!!!, let me know. Sixty bucks....FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU----

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Space Between

by The Usual Suspect

Yeah, I'm out and somewhat civilianized, still not trusting in it completely, like at any moment they'll pull the curtain back and yell, "Surprise! We fucking GOT you, man! HAHAHA, go get your gear and get on the bus!"

I'm still not where I need to be, lost in transit, timeline uncertain. Been crashing with some very awesome people, living out of a bag. The whole thing's got a Kerouac On The Road feel to it. Having a wonderful time, but essentially "homeless". Lost at sea without a map or a shred of responsibility. Hell, most people would kill to have what I have right now.

Hakuna matata. Cheers.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Burn

by 13 Stoploss

When I was younger, I used to collect baseball cards. In the Army, I collected bottles of Rum. Now, I collect cameras, and attractive people to photograph. Technically, I'm an advanced photo student; outside of school, I'm barely an amateur. I've found that this creative outlet acts as a buffer from being overloaded in more traditional classroom work. And, depending on how far my GI Bill goes, am planning to double-major in Literary Journalism, and Creative Photography.

Hold the "control" button, then click on the blue words. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Six and a Wake-up

by 13 Stoploss

In Basic Training, we all had a special countdown to graduation that went something like “eighteen and a wakeup.” Sure, it really meant nineteen, but the optimistic viewpoint was that the last day was really nothing more than waking up and getting the hell out.

An hour before our last formation, so many years ago, I was hanging around in my Class A’s, with the rest of my platoon in our bay, just waiting for the bus. Drill Sergeant Manley walked into the bay, and we just sat there. For some reason, we all hesitated to yell “AT EASE,” and instead of snapping up, into parade rest, I noticed everyone had hardly flinched.

Sensing our hesitancy, Drill Sergeant just stood there, staring at us, wondering whether a last-hour smoke-session to teach us some respect was worth the effort. At that moment, some kid asked him for some advice in our transition into the “real Army.”

He sighed, gave us a disgusted, half-interested look, and then spit into his dip cup before going into a long-winded rant on how, in his three years as a DI, we were the most fucked-up platoon he has ever had. Pretty standard, I suppose. Probably the same speech he gave to every rotation. But before heading out, there were a few moments in his speech where he softened up. It seemed like he was pressing. The man was generally well received, and often shat out nuggets of inspiration on a whim. But this one was different. It was a warning, and it was awkward.

Today felt a lot like that last hour in Basic Training. In History this morning, Professor W played the last half of a documentary on 9/11 called “Zero.” Afterward, there were the same “sighs,” and a few last words. It dragged on, but we sat silently in our seats, taking in the words of a man we all respected and had learned a great deal from.  It was the last day of lecture for the semester, but not a relief. I still have a lot hanging over my shoulders at the moment, with several finals next week, and a bachelor party and wedding to attend before Monday. From there, it’s smooth sailing until August, when a new addition to the 13 Family is birthed. But, I suppose the rambling point of this whole post is that, in my three semesters in school since leaving the greens, I often find myself relating current experiences to those I had while in the Army.

“It’s like this one time in the Army…”

And it goes like that often; enough so, that I feel like I have nothing else to offer.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Amniotic Shudders

by The Usual Suspect

Not even fully cleared out of the Army's grasp, I'm already fighting my own fight on two fronts. ETS and get set up for school.

It's time, it's been time for a long time, dammit. Ready to snatch every offer, hand-out, and opportunity, I've got a goal. Freedom. It's mine, I WANT it.

Phone calls, e-mails, classified ads. Who wants a roommate with some (supposedly) guaranteed GI Bill money, guaranteed rent? Hell, five years ago I would have completely and utterly blown it. Pissed it away like yesterday's gin. Not now, God no. I earned it, it's mine, GIVE IT TO ME and get out of the fucking way. Slap a yellow ribbon on my ass and point me towards a lecture.

Unemployment? Shit job? Delivering pizzas? Being an entry level bottom feeder again, well I gotta tell ya, sounds like a greasy pimply slice of Heaven. The kind of jobs where all your co-workers are like walking caricatures of minor characters from The Simpsons, I'm all right with that. It's freedom, that's what it means. It's a return to everything I stuffed into the darkest corner of a storage closet with one fell swoop of an electronic pen in some lifeless MEPS station.

Only now I know better, take it seriously. Close your eyes and see a place worse than any ghetto in this country, and it's all you should need to fuel the fire. Never to step foot in that place again, it's almost like I have to earn it. Earn the right to stay here by becoming smarter, more capable, sharper, stronger, desiring more, living hard and reaching maximum potential and raising the standard of what man should be. Fuck. Yes.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Events which led me to say Fuck Off to everything, I'll just go back to school Dammit!

by 13 Stoploss

When I came home, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to school right away. Mrs. 13 was in her last semester at Chapman University, finishing her teaching credential. As such, the priority was for her to finish her schooling, a product of VA Chapter 31 – Vocational Rehabilitation, and for me to get a job to keep us, and our $1500 a month rent, afloat.

It took me five weeks from the time I got home from the Army to find a job. Not much was available, and my skills and contacts were limited, to say the least. One of the jobs I had applied to asked me to a final interview. It was a driver/delivery position for the Orange County Department of Education, and the job description implied delivering mail and school supplies to various schools across the county. It paid well enough, and had attractive benefits—perfect for what I considered to be a relatively short-term job while the Missus finished her schooling. The other job was an inside sales position, selling travel incentives, working alongside one of my best friends from High School. On the job training was given, the atmosphere and coworkers were supposed to be wonderful, and while the benefits were not great, the pay had a base plus 10% commission structure.

The idea of reacquainting with a good friend was appealing, but I really wanted the security and benefits of the driver job. In the end, it appeared the OCDE hiring crew already had their stooge, and I was just an ancillary number in the process to meet their “fair hiring” regulations. A few days later, my buddy’s boss called me up to offer me the sales job. With nothing else on the horizon, I went to the Men’s Wearhouse for a suit, and prepared to translate my ASIP FM Radio Skills into cold-calling sales-monsterness.

I held onto that shitty job for close to nine months, becoming a person I was ashamed of. It was more of a testament to endurance, doing what I had to do for my family than anything else. I certainly didn’t enjoy my time there, and envisioned myself a modern version of the father in “Death of a Salesman.”

To cope with the stress of still getting up every morning to do something I hated, I registered with my local Community College, and began taking online classes. My breaks and lunches were spent devouring the required texts. I worked feverishly to master the given subjects, and earn the grade for work I was proud to turn in. Ok, so I was already an expert in my music class, “History of Rock,” but for once, I worked hard and felt rewarded for my effort—something neither the Army, nor a lousy sales job could give me. I similarly kicked ass in my Political Science and Geography courses, and relished in the fact that with my eArmyU credits, was now a quarter finished with my Community College transfer plan without ever having stepped foot into a classroom.

In October 2007, there was a pretty big fire across the street from where I lived, and more down near the border. In fact, it seemed all of Southern California was on fire. As a result, my Governator activated the National Guard, and I was alerted to duty to assist with the wildfires. I received the call while at work, and went into the office manager’s room with the news. My verbal orders stated I would be gone for approximately 10-21 days, and a paper order would come as soon as it was published. In the meantime, my unit was already forming and readying equipment; I was still fifty miles from duty location, and headed home early as I was assured that all was well, and I had to do as ordered.

The short version of the story is that very late that same evening, I was relieved from duty because of a previous medical condition. I figured I would, in the least, be a radio bitch, or work in the BN TOC; instead, I was sent home in the early AM hours. Having busted my one-armed ass helping PCC/PCI the Company’s working trucks, and COMMO equipment (that no one else seemed to know how to work), I decided not to go into my sales job work that morning, as I had just got home only hours previous.

Around ten that morning, I was in the Doctor’s office with my eighteen-month old son when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, and checked the voicemail a few minutes later. It was the Canadian CEO of my civilian job—he wanted me to call him back on his personal cell number when I got the chance.

Thirty minutes later, I call him up, and he fires me on the phone. I asked him why, and he fumbled around for a bit, saying that since I didn’t show up this morning, he didn’t want me back. I asked him if he knew that I had been activated by the National Guard, and he said he was told about it, but didn’t know what that was, and didn’t care. I was still fired.