Upon returning from block leave, I found out this one guy on my floor was found dead in his room. (mentioned before) I don’t know what happened but he was one of the first people I met when I got to this unit and it’s weird to think that he’s dead. Also his truck’s still here. I’ve had my grandparents die but really that’s the closest I’ve ever been to directly knowing someone who’s died, which I guess must sound strange given my current profession.

Also, I was unceremoniously dumped in a two-week “train the trainer” class. The class’s goal is to teach urban combat skills to support soldiers. I did this class before I deployed last year so I knew what to expect: long days that start early and end late, being exposed to the weather for twelve hours a day with few breaks, and thousands upon thousands of shots fired.

We’re practicing how to maneuver, how to fire our weapons in any conceivable situation, all the basics we’ll need when the shit hits the fan. Right now I’m dehydrated (It’s pretty hot right now and in fact the barracks are extremely hot also, because in the military there’s central air and the military post is the only authority who decides when heat switches to A/C and vice versa. They always switch well past when it’s needed, so I’m sweating my balls off here!) and my face is quite red. I haven’t gotten much sun this winter. I have raccoon eyes from my Oakleys. My hands are also red. Everything else was covered up. Except for my neck, which doesn’t feel very good when my weapon sling rubs it. =P Plus after switching to “safe” on my weapon a couple thousand times and doing malfunction drills, my fingers feel numb. And then there’s sore back and feet from wearing body armor and standing all day.

But you see, I’ve sort of missed this. First of all I like the feeling of seeing when other people are definitely in a world of hurt deeper than mine when we train. A lot of the people are smoked right now.

Second, this reminds me of airborne school, which, while it was infuriatingly frustrating, had its nostalgic moments. Like when we’d get dismissed and I’d drive up to the shoppette and buy two Powerades (like I did today) and down them in no time flat, unwinding by sitting in my car and listening to music. All I had then was pretty much the music in my car, my cellphone, and the little privacy the interior of my car afforded.

Army training can be fun but not when it impedes on your personal time. I’ve probably fired more shots on my weapons than a huge percentage of the rest of the Army has. I get more training than I’ll ever need. And it’s fun to be outside of the office, popping off double taps.

I got the same sensation today as I have in the past. That sensation where you start fantasizing about downing a big, ice-cold Mountain Dew, or eating some food that’s really salty (like Sonic’s tater tots). It really becomes an obsession, something that makes you actually smile. In Ranger school, the combined sleep and food deprivation mean that soldiers start hallucinating, running off into the woods because a cheeseburger started to waddle away. Shit like that.

This training sucks because I have to get up early, and don’t get home until after 6PM, but it’s really one of those things I’ll enjoy looking back at. Firing over and over and over get you more comfortable with a weapon. You end up with black carbon on your face and sore fingers from speed-loading ammo and operating the weapon. But afterwards, you feel much more confident with it.

So after I indulged in the day’s daydreams, I thought of some others. I fantasized about the food Julie and I cooked when we were together, like the omelet we whipped up with prosciutto and cheese, and the garlic buttered steak we had with grilled pine nuts and crispy green beans. I thought about the yummy egg soup and bread sticks and crackers and cheese we had for lazy weekend lunches. I savor those moments more than I do the excellent food we had out. Not to take anything away from the restaurants, for Julie took me to some awesome ones and we had outstanding food (perfect for someone who was in Iraq for that long!). But love is in the details it seems.

I loved hearing Julie come up the steps when returning from work, knowing I was there waiting for her. I loved feeling Julie curl up onto me when we slept. I loved talking idly with her in the kitchen by the counters while she smoked. I loved watching Julie feed her fish, Sushi.

I thought about how I missed doing for real in Iraq the things we’re training for now. I enjoyed the time we spent staging at bases, waiting for the time to execute the mission, catching a nap or chatting with the Iraqi soldiers (who gave me food and drink constantly), messing around with my team. I’d have fun with my team, like when we were sitting in the middle of the desert (waiting of course) just bullshitting about which actors were in obscure movies while kicking up super-fine sand (so powdery and light you could kick up a mound and barely notice until your boot is full of sand) underneath our boots and looking up at a completely clear sky with millions of stars and the occasional overhead fighter jet support. I enjoyed driving down the streets of Iraq at high speed during the day, seeing how Iraqis lived and reacted to us. I did not (really) enjoy but I guess appreciated driving into the infamous Sadr City at night. I enjoyed sitting in with some Iraqis and asking them about Al-Sistani and the Shi’ites and what being in the Kuwait-invasion Iraqi Army era was like. The rest of the deployment, the time not spent seeing Iraq for real? Yeah, I could’ve done without that.

I also missed my H3O buddies from language school. My sunburns made me think of the ones I’d get going surfing in the frigid California Pacific, paddling like a frightened duck on my board. I thought of how the Prodigy would laugh hysterically at things, Monkey Pope would come in with some big new love for something cool that we’d all get into after that. I remembered about how we all went into the main office of our company to check our language scores, and how I showed up a little late so when I found out I passed, we all celebrated with hooting and hollering and then went and celebrated by turning in Monkey Pope’s car to the shop and going out to Chipotle.