Saturday, February 28, 2009

Call It In The Air

This can go either way. Chew the fingers to the bone while waiting for further information. The decision for Suspect's soul apparently hangs in the balance. Keep ya posted.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My fellow short-timers are vanishing one by one, off to the mythical holy ground of civilian life, and new guys appear out of thin air to replace them. I meander from appointment to appointment, hoop to hoop, goose chase to goose chase with extreme pleasure.

Any time away from the unit is good time. The more hours that a uniform doesn't touch my body, the better. The thick medical records, the ETS to-do list, and a sense of bastardly determination are all that I need. Swimming upstream, clawing and fighting my way out, it's a very long process. I'm ready to be gone NOW.

Erase any evidence that I was ever here, turn in all my gear, wage paperwork war and take signatures as prisoners, make no mistake: this is a battle and it IS personal.

Load up the car with whatever material possessions I bother to collect while I Tasmanian Devil my way out, punch the gas and fly out the gate for the final time as nothing but a blur, rear view mirror detached and laying on the floor because we won't need it.

Heaps of uniforms piled in an ominous hill that we'll make reek of combustible fluids and chuck a cigar at the center and dance around the flames, temporarily insane from the rush of freedom I could never be prepared for.

If I were to be fired from a shitty job, I would hug my boss. Fired? That's it? That works out for BOTH OF US!

I gave more than I ever imagined I would, and no hard feelings as long as you just leave me alone and let me leave in peace. Great run, eh? Later homes.

No, now. Ticking down the days is making me lose my mind. Waiting for appointments and paperwork, waiting, always waiting, when it's right fucking there! I can see it, just down there a bit further, that's ETS, man! Fucking move it! Come on, faster faster faster, let's go, give me the leave form dammit, are my orders here yet? Why the fuck not?

Look at that guy, he got out, hasn't shaved in a week! That's so cool! I bet he doesn't even get up until two in the afternoon.

I heard an NCO tell a dude that he couldn't hear him because the dude wasn't standing at parade rest. I thought, yeah you can, that's stupid. All those little weird things that the army does that you learn to accept as being normal, you start to see that no, they aren't. Not at all. We're saluting because Reveille is playing? Why do we even salute? We aren't knights, we don't have to lift visors to show that we're recognizable dudes. Whatever, sure, I'll do it as long as it keeps them off my ass.

But this is good, my ability to think for myself is regenerating, like a starfish that was cleaved in half.

What's that man? You only have three weeks left? Fuck you man (envious verbal assault). But I'm not that far behind, am I? Sunday, that's the 1st of the month, another down. A month and a half as long as everything goes well, and for the love of GOD, please let it.

I need this with every ounce of my being. I have a FEVERISH NEED, ravenous hunger, vampiric compulsion, cannibalistic disregard for everyone else, this is for me, this is mine, GIVE IT TO ME. Dangling on a string above me and I'm reaching for it like a cat, leaping and swiping and growing more irritated. I'm going to get out, I am, really, that's what happens right? I am believing this, even though how can it be real? Guys don't get out, they just disappear, right? Ol' Suspect here sure will. Lost somewhere on the highway between Fort Lewis and Tacoma, trailing like ashes behind me, fading and collapsing on itself like a dying star, replaced with a dormant but wiser version of who I might have been at one point, and god bless and pass the gravy.

I'm going to get out, good God, yes I am. I've never been more sure of anything.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You Can't Make It Outside The Army

Suspect has been accepted into a certain university and will soon begin preparations to learn and be a normal person and shit.

Suck it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Eyes Dried Open

This brief dispatch comes to you after a 24 hour shift at a desk, watching my hair grow and thinking about all the things I could have been doing instead. Like painting a shitty picture in a park that wouldn't resemble anything other than a truck-stop bathroom stall. The splatters, I mean.

As far as that incident, I haven't heard anything new, probably never really will. Guess it didn't happen in our neck of the woods. But fuck, man. Death? I still try to wrap my mind around it sometimes. Spent a good portion of the last 24 hours thinking about what it must've felt like for my friends, when they got hit. Did they even know what hit them, or was it some instant confusion, blurry and discombobulated?

Thought about that Robin Williams movie, "What Dreams May Come". Caught myself wondering if I was going to run into those dudes again on some other plane. Shook the hand of a guy that was leaving for a different duty station, didn't even know him that well, and I actually thought to myself, "See you on the other side."

Almost feels like I'm dying too. Quietly, with a schedule, and appointments. But I don't think it'll work that way. Suspect won't just die when I'm out. I'm a collector, I pick things up.

Well that's ok.

With those long hours and too much time to talk, I found myself kind of wishing I was still back there, when our missions were all about kicking ass. But chill, man, that's over. Just mellow out and move forward to the next station.

I lucked out man, wow.

I still think about death a lot sometimes though. Just try to understand it. Gory images in my mind don't disturb me so much as they just scientifically show what went wrong and what isn't working the way it's supposed to (or where it's supposed to). I seriously don't think that the human mind can grasp the concept of no longer existing, in terms of the mind itself, not the brain, but the sequence of events that causes what we call the "mind". That's all we really are, I guess you could say that's our soul too, maybe?

You can't fully grasp NOT existing anymore.

Me, yeah I'm afraid of dying. I get nervous around strangers. I don't like it when they start conversations with me anymore, don't know if I can trust them, I WANT to, but I still haven't even figured life out, let alone taken a good bite out of it. A well-meaning stranger makes small-talk and I'm just a 16 year old kid in jeans and a sweatshirt again, my gun is missing, and my number is up at any moment.

Despite all that, I flushed all my klonopin down the toilet. Antegrade amnesia or something like that, you forget entire days. Like they never happened. Like you were benched and someone else played for you. Substituted and didn't even get to watch. Cryogenically frozen. But expected to know where things are. Fucking pills, man.

No one is trying to shoot me or blow me up now, I'm pretty sure. So these days, I'm mainly just afraid of car accidents. I don't know, I guess now, part of the animal in me is awake, and it's fully focused on survivalism. Crazy.

Well I've got some z's to catch, I'll join your world again in a few hours, and we'll mingle on the roads as total strangers, sneaking glances at each other in our mirrors, hoping you don't catch us singing along to our music. Stop at the designated signs and lights, take turns, shiny happy people, all of us. You going your way, me going my way. I'm passing hundreds of you going in the opposite direction and each whoosh is another story I'll probably never know. Outside my window, right now, more stories than you can count. If my eyelids didn't weigh eighty pounds each, I'd probably go out right now and look for an old person to listen to for a while.

But not righnow...ahm*hhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwnn* justreadyforbed.

Join you all in the Great Mosh in a while. Much love,
The Goddamn Suspect

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This Is Us? Really?

My roommate, my Tokyo partner in crime and self-discovery and altogether life-experience amazement was the one to fill me in on the pitifully brief details.

Two girls. Underage apparently. One dead on arrival, the other unresponsive. In some barracks on Fort Lewis. I was an hour drive away from all of this, and I still don't even know what day it happened on. I just showed up and there it was.

Too young to even BE in the fucking barracks. And whose barracks was it? We sure as shit don't know. I pray it wasn't the barracks of our brigade, not for our sake, but for theirs. No one deserves to live their final moments in these pisspoor laughable prison-like containment cells, regardless of the great company they may have had.

Shit, maybe it was one hell of a night, and they were into more than they could handle, chemicals to deviate and alter the mind, really Jackson Pollack the night with reckless abandon. I don't know the specifics. All I know is that it ended with someone's daughter dead, and the other supposedly incoherent. I'm not chasing the story. I'm not that guy. I don't have a future as a journalist because of things like this. Respect for privacy. Not that I'm even privy to confidential information. But if it were to happen to anyone I knew, on either side of the equation, you can bet your Patriot Acted-ass that you'd hear no more.

You haven't heard the specifics of the things that make me clench my teeth into cracked shards, so why would I talk about strangers?

Here's my take, ladies and gents. The Army is the fucking Jungle. This is where your sons and daughters go to become corrupted and disturbed and sent to foreign countries to either cause and bear witness to death, or fuck like stoned test bunnies. No one is innocent in a third world country and you would be fucking insane to think that a Porta-Shitter is a place that your kid would not fuck someone. After a while, you can't even SMELL shit. This species prevailed for a reason. We'll fuck ANYWHERE. If we had to, we'd fuck on the wreckage of Princess Di's car and JFK Jr's plane, and if we had the gear we'd dive down to the ruins of the Titanic to bone there harder than Leonadro DiCaprio ever could.

But two underage girls? I'm as baffled as the rest of you. I just shrug and think "drugs". As far as underage, I'm not surprised. Fuck, in my own hometown, some of the Airmen cruise our high school girls for tail. At the time, I thought the dudes that lived off post, I mean off BASE, threw decent parties. In retrospect, oh my fucking GOD are they laming it out.

I'm getting off subject. On an issue I've specifically chosen not to follow too closely, I've already learned more than I wanted to. Someone's daughter DIED here, and another was in critical condition. But they'll still call us soldiers, everyone but those families. See if they put those yellow magnets on their cars now. You remember me going off about how we are so different from the commercial bullshit? A repressed fraternity governed under psychotic inhumane rules that we no shit EAGERLY AGREED TO (myself included).

I talked to a cab driver on post about this, and these fellows are more connected than I, they are veterans AND they listen to the drunken drivel of wretched hyenas like me. This person said that even the POST COMMANDER would suffer because of this.

Now normally, I am all for fucking The Man right back for my reparations, wanting to trade a good friend for an opportunity-seeker, switch 'em out real quick and let the asshole take an explosion or gunshot wound, but this, this is out of control.

You can NOT punish a POST COMMANDER for the actions of one or two soldiers. At the platoon or company level, its bullshit, because they cannot control their soldiers 24/7, but if heads roll at the platoon and company and BATTALION AND BRIGADE AND DIVISION AND POST LEVEL, then my distaste for bureaucracy DOES have some level of merit, because that is wrong. WRONG.

"Heads will roll" is a statement that a yes-man issues to a superior to appease him, fuck the underlings to keep things on an even keel. That's bullshit. Down to the level of CQ (for those of military knowledge; the rest of you, just fucking google it), CQ should receive no more than a slap on the hand. No loss of rank or pay, maybe some bullshit extra duty to be a public spectacle as to how serious this is, but for fuck's sake, why compromise the career of an upcoming E5 or E4 because of something they had little control over.

CQ CANNOT watch over every room all 24 hours. And that's the small picture. You have CQ for one company. Now zoom out to one battalion. You quadruple the responsibility. Zoom out to brigade, you MORE than quadruple responsibility again. Zoom out some more, to EVERYTHING ON YOUR INSTALLATION, EVERYTHING THAT HAS THE NAME "FORT LEWIS" STAMPED TO IT. You want to punish this one man because of one infraction out of THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF SOLDIERS? A man who has built his life with this Army, who has seen this shit come and go time and time again, you want to bleed HIM out because of it?

I'm obviously no fan of the Army or its system and I want to depart from it as soon as humanly possible, but there is no fucking way I want to see a lifetime soldier who has become a General Officer be punished for the fuckup of some barracks-dwelling soldier.

Common fucking sense. You don't have to fuck the whole chain. Even the CQ had limited power. The individual(s) responsible can be dealt with. As for the rest, fuck, BRIEF them and leave it at that. Keep it out of the records. They can't walk the halls of the barracks every fucking night to try to prevent every possible travesty. Yes, they are accountable for all of us, but you cannot send the shitstorm that high when the incident comes from such a low level.

I don't even know what unit or brigade this happened it, but I'll still be sickened, offended, and enraged if it goes beyond the lowest level that it has to.

As for the families of the girls, there is not a single thing I can say to excuse what happened, I can't even successfully apologize on the guilty party(ies) behalf. But how would you handle this in a civilian event? You wouldn't attack the entire extended family. The parents, probably, but not everyone.

That's all I have to say about it. I am honestly hurt that it happened here, I want to be able to relate to every last beating heart in uniform on this post, but that's not the case. Just don't cast us all in the fire. Most of us, even the angst-ridden hate-filled short-timers are ok people.

I promise you all, we are ok people. Some of us may need some adjusting to say the least, but we are good and honest people. We have been waging a bullshit war for each other, for your sons and daughters, while the world forgets about Afghanistan, which was actually justified.

But then there was Baghdad, for some reason.

And Baqubah

Not counting the wounded, I can still find and shake their hands. Or the guys who had near misses. I don't even know everyone who did. Minor wounds. Next to death but what-the-fuck-saved-me moments.


From here I lose track. I haven't even scratched the surface. It's not that I've forgotten anywone, it's that after a while, you get flooded with how many people got fucked up during this weird ordeal we signed up with psychotic eagerness.

No one is punishing high ranking officers, and it isn't because of the contract we signed. Don't crucify someone who had nothing to do with something horrible.

Fuck You Very Much, World,

The Goddamn Suspect

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Call It A Night

The closer I get to getting out, the more I find myself thinking about why I'm getting out. And what I'll do if they call me back.

The way I look at getting out, it's like choosing NOT to bet on a fresh hand at the table. Like swallowing your pride, standing up and walking away from the table, ego bruised, cutting the losses and just walking. Just praying that the pit boss doesn't walk up behind me and give me one of those taps on the shoulder to let me know that I owe them more.

Nah, don't think I could do it again. Not after experiencing first-hand how restrained we are. Powerless. Armed to the teeth but tied up with red tape. Blindfolded, one arm tied behind the back. Lit cigarette dangling out of the mouth, waiting for the firing squad or the big angry bull. Blind and paranoid and expected to smile and wave and win over strangers that don't give a fuck about you, doing the bidding of powerful men who also don't give a fuck about you.

We fight someone else's fight...why don't these decision makers just have good ol' fashion duels?

I think about it plenty. I have a metric fuckton of respect for the people that choose to stay in. Not me though. I don't want to roll the dice anymore. Russian roulette for combat pay, and nowadays the odds aren't so bad, right? I don't care if it's for million dollar paychecks, because if it's you that ends up on the wrong end of the revolver, no amount of money is going to help you.

"We'll see you in six months," they say. They love to say that lately. And don't forget to mention the economy. Make us afraid to live outside the army. I'll choose a trash fire before I take another crack at this gig. No hard feelings, I'm just done. Rather not spin the wheel again and hit Bankrupt, Pat. No Deal. This is a good place to stop, Regis.

I'm not going to be a memory while the rest of the world rots anyway. Call me selfish, call me a coward, tell me I have no heart, whatever. But no one is going to put words in my mouth at my funeral, saying that I believed in the cause. If I were to be killed in another deployment, I wouldn't have any inspiring things to impart on everyone else, that's the shit that higher ups make up to try to make it all seem better, seem like there was some sort of purpose.

Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes the reason isn't that good, sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all. But all of this is going to continue anyway, and more people will die. Why would I choose to be a part of it? I didn't listen just like the new guys don't listen. You touch the plate after the waiter tells you it's hot, that kind of thing. Learn the hard way. Got it, got it WELL. I'm not even taking a political stance or harboring desires to soapbox my opinions to cause some sort of change. Just a personal decision.

That's it for me, dealer. I'm out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How To ETS Out Of The Army

Finding the answers and guidance to this is a bitch, moreso than one would expect. There isn't much information on the net, and what IS on there is tends to be written by gung-ho re-up types.

So here's the deal, this is what you future Short-Timers must do. For everyone else, this is boring jargon.

Keep all your hand receipts so you don't get fucked out of money. If you loaned a buddy gear, get that shit back. I haven't turned my shit into CIF yet, and I might be paying for a few things. They say its cheaper to pay the cost at CIF than it is to buy a replacement. Either way, keep track of your shit.

180 days from your ETS date, you can get your initial ACAP (Army Career and Alumni Program) brief. This is the beginning. You can choose to continue the ACAP process for one of two reasons:

1) It helps you line up a job as well as write a half-decent resume and how to bullshit your way into saying that the one week that you "were in charge" of your peers is leadership experience, and now you are qualified to bravely lead the mail room or the McGrill.

2) It gets you out of work. Just make sure you have an appointment slip. There's a lot of useful information at these sessions, and you get to wear civilian clothes.

You can get an optional medical exam through Tricare. Your "Final Physical" is a pen and paper session with your PA, and sadly, no, it does not mean you don't have to do PT anymore. But if your unit seems to believe that it does, keep your mouth shut and enjoy shamming.

Keep sick call slips, profiles, get injuries documented, all that. Fuck that Army mentality, "sick call ranger" bullshit. They prattle on about how great the healthcare system is, USE THE MOTHERFUCKER. You might catch shit for "riding a profile" but what is your unit going to do for you two years from now? You're already forgotten, flipping burgers or roofing or marrying your boyfriend or god knows what. The reason I stress the medical issue is...

DISABILITY CLAIM. If you even remotely have a chance to get disability, take it. I sure as hell am. I paid dearly for this enlistment. Extra money for it? Put that shit in my hand. Or, be "hard" and whatnot, and enjoy your aches and pains and inability to do the things you used to, and have nothing to show for it. And for fuck's sake, if you're seeing headshrinkers thanks to your adventures with this army, you know where I'm going with this. Take advantage or don't. It isn't a moral judgment, it's common sense.

90 days out you'll be able to go to an ETS briefing. You bring the packet that the ACAP people gave you at the first brief you had there. At this ETS brief, they will take that packet and wonder why you don't have a shitload of other forms. You'll get those as you can. On to that.

There's a mandatory one-on-one with a reserve career counselor. You have to go. Keep the paper he/she gives you that proves you went. You need that, a copy of your ERB (update it, fuckstick, and make sure your deployment(s) are on there), your life insurance forms, the first three pages of your contract (don't worry, no matter the case, you can get them), and your leave form if you're taking terminal leave.

Getting this leave packet done can be a pain in the ass. During this entire process, keep hitting up your S1 and training room desk dudes. No one is going to walk you through this, you gotta chase that chicken and choke it yourself.

There's much more to it, like having your shit sent back home to mom and dad, and let them worry about where to store it for two months while you dick off, not to mention cleaning and turning in your gear, and jumping through a billion hoops and God help you if you don't have the necessary paperwork or else you gotta come back later, son.

And they told me I was an idiot for starting early. There have and will be snags and hangups. Do it as soon as possible. And never, EVER forget the Short-Timers Code of Conduct. (Stand up at a halfassed version of Attention as you read, nay, SHOUT these sacred words)



Article I.
I am an American short-timer. I serve in the forces into which I was so carelessly drafted/enlisted/recalled/stop-lossed. I am prepared to leave them at the time so designated by the Department of the Army, or sooner if at all possible.

Article II.
I will never extend or re-enlist of my own free will. If I am in command, I will never allow my fellow short-timers to fraternize with the lifers.

Article III.
If I am called before the Commanding Officer, I will continue to resist his re-enlistment talks by all means available. I will make every effort to escape.

Article IV.
If I should become the victim of an involuntary extension, I will keep the faith with my fellow short-timers. If I am the shortest, I will assume command; if not, I will obey the shortest.

Article V.
When questioned, should I become the object of a re-enlistment interview, I am bound to give only my name, rank, service number, date of birth and date I am due to be discharged.

Article VI.
I will never forget that I am an American short-timer, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which have made carefree, happy civilians out of thousands of short-timers before me.

Fuck yeah.

I'm somewhere in the whole process, so there are things I still haven't learned the hard way. Any of you ETS-successful readers out there, feel free to add to this guide. This needs to be completed, edited, perfected, and widely distributed so that no short-timer go unseperated.