Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

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Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#1  Postby andyx1205 » Mar 17, 2010 8:51 am

This thread is not to discuss the politics behind war, or the morality of fighting in a war. This thread is not for criticizing the views of those who have served or are serving in the military.

This thread will be centralized on understanding/knowing the views of ex-military / current military rather than criticizing/defending the military.

I was wondering if any Ex-Military / Current-Military would be willing to answer the following questions. Feel free to discuss anything you want as long as we try to refrain from criticism (there's enough political threads).

1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?
2) Why did you serve/are you serving?
3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?
4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?
5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?

Thanks! Lets refrain from keeping the discussions political (feel free to explain your personal political views of the conflicts you had served in/are serving in, but try to refrain from attacking other's views, this isn't a thread on the politics of certain conflicts). Feel free to discuss the technical details of certain conflicts, however try to refrain from political debates please.

We haven't had a thread like this, so I thought it would be interesting to hear from some ex-military/current military.

Keep it civil!
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#2  Postby Ciarin » Mar 17, 2010 8:57 am

andyx1205 wrote:
1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?


I was in the Army Corps of Engineers, in Hawaii. I was in for 3 yrs.


2) Why did you serve/are you serving?


Because I wanted to be a soldier and defend my country and the constitution. I also wanted to shoot stuff and blow stuff up.


3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?


Yes, I'd like to re-enlist as soon as I can get in shape.


4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?


Yes. Yes.


5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?


Not really.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#3  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 17, 2010 9:15 am

andyx1205 wrote:1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?

25 years, US Air Force. Retired at the rank of Senior Master Sergeant. Held two career fields: Ground Radio Maintenance, and Comms-Computer Systems Control. Postings, in order: Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota; Camp Red Cloud, Republic of Korea; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Osan AB, Republic of Korea; Andrews AFB, Maryland; Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii; and finally another posting at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, Belgium.
andyx1205 wrote:2) Why did you serve/are you serving?

I was a cook in smalltown Wisconsin. That's just fine for an 18 year old kid, but there isn't much of a future in it. Prior experience with Civil Air Patrol a few years earlier gave me exposure to the USAF. I got the job I wanted and, because I initially enlisted for the full six year commitment for active duty instead of four years active duty and two years reserves, I got promoted to the grade of E-3 immediately on completing basic training. There were benefits at the time.
andyx1205 wrote:3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?

Probably not the way I did it. I should have looked harder into getting the USAF to pay for my college degree, then serving as an officer instead of enlisting. That may not have been likely, given my average academic performance in high school (I simply didn't give a shit about grades). But, I should've looked at it closer.
andyx1205 wrote:4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?

Tons and tons. Fun with nuclear weapons, fun with tactical weapons, some very good friends made. Hell, I could fill a book with anecdotes.
andyx1205 wrote:5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?

None. I have no service related complaints. I didn't bother to get a Veteran's Administration physical exam when I retired. There was absolutely nothing in my medical records beyond routine checkups. I have a couple ex-wives that probably wouldn't have happened except for military service, which is not an uncommon complaint. But, they weren't issued to me, so technically not the fault of the military.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#4  Postby Varangian » Mar 17, 2010 11:57 am

1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?

Swedish Army motorized rifle company headquarters squad leader, 1986-87, ended up as a corporal.

2) Why did you serve/are you serving?

Conscripted (national service).

3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?

With the severe downsizing of the army, I wouldn't do it, as one enlists now.

4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?

There were some, but I'll probably get back to that when I have the time.

5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?

No.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#5  Postby Orange Proximity » Mar 17, 2010 11:59 am

8 years, The Royal Australian Regiment (Infantry).

Australia (NSW and NT), East Timor, Solomon Is., Iraq, Afghanistan. Rifle and Support Companies (Mortars) Pte and NCO.
Did what grunts do.. Guards, walking, digging, more guards, walking, guards, walking some more, digging, guards, parade... ah.. did I mention guards, walking and digging.

I joined 'coz it was a good pay and it was something to do.
Also, being an immigrant to Australia I figured that if I join and serve, maybe get some medal, I can carry on like a pork chop and ask everyone what they did for the country... also, deserved an excuse to get pissed like an idiot on ANZAC day.
Plus, of course, you get to shoot and blow shit up.

I would do it again and I would recommend everyone to do it. There is a lot of crap, but it is a great experience.
I met some of the best guys that a man can meet (and some of the biggest assholes too, but fuck them).

And damn, had cooked meals too :-) (and contrary to popular belief army 'fitters and turners' (i.e. cooks, 'coz they fit the food into pots and turn it into shit, are quite good... better than anything I can do... :-) ). Also, learned how to iron like no woman can (actually when I met a female that can iron better than me, I'll marry her :-) ).

Finally, army helped me realise how fucking lucky I am to have a job that I have now.. and enjoy it. I am a bit older than people of my work grade, but fuck it.. I really did do some crazy shit most of people watch in movies (like being yelled at and doing lots of pushups coz the fat fucks cant run very fast :-) ).

Memorable experience - being charged (prosecuted) for "utilising service communication technology means, in an area of operations, to obtain information material for purposes other than those specified in Section xxx of the related rules of duty, unbecoming an NCO of the RAR (i.e I got sprang using military computer to download porn, whilst on operations, in Iraq - yes I jerked off in Iraq). I got charged but charges were dropped because the commanding officer thought it was hilarious and that (and all the concerned agreed) it was done "in order to maintain morale on the high operational level". I was shitting bricks at the time.

Also, one night in East Timor, now many years ago, the whole section was sleeping in this little hut and someone saw a scorpion running on the groung. We all run out like little girls and slept outside, in the rain. It was bloody hilarious. Here is a hard hitting infantry section of 9 guys, with enough ammo and weapons to start a bloody war, sleeping in the rain because of a 4 grams scorpion. Pussies.

Finally, during first tour in Timor, all we got for reading was fucking Woman's Day. Here you got 90 blokes in the rifle company sitting around and reading "10 secrets to the best make up" (but fuck we knew everything about who is fucking whom in Hollywood that year :-) ).

And lastly, my ankles, shins and knees are fucked because of bad weather on a few drops.

Apart from that, it was a good going.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#6  Postby Weaver » Mar 17, 2010 12:15 pm

1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?
Currently at 18.5+ years active service and counting. Been stationed in Hawaii, North Carolina, New York, and Louisiana. Deployed to Kosovo and Iraq, and preparing to deploy to Afghanistan within the month.

2) Why did you serve/are you serving?
Service, job skills (I first came in as a Medic), and a needed job.

3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?
Yes, absolutely - in fact, I got out of the Army and came back in after 3.5 years - I shouldn't have ever left. I plan to retire in December 2011 or so.

4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?
Yes, tons - and I'm happy to talk about my experiences. Just ask.

5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?
Well, I've had a major sprain on one ankle that gives me problems, and my knees hurt all the time - but, considering I've been running on hard pavement for over 20 years and jumped out of 58 aircraft, I guess it's not too bad.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#7  Postby DaveScriv » Mar 17, 2010 1:51 pm

I'd like to add another question to the list (if no one minds)

6) Do you have any particular thoughts/comments/memories about differences in military training/methods/culture between your own country's military and those of other countries?

This could apply to conflict or peacetime situations, and mainly refers to other countries on 'our side', but a few folks here may have been in the relatively unusual position of spending enough time with 'enemy' military to make similar comparisons. Perhaps in Iraq just after Saddam was toppled. Another comparable situation could have been contacts between NATO & Warsaw Pact people just after the fall of the Soviet system.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#8  Postby Weaver » Mar 17, 2010 1:59 pm

I'm continually impressed with the authority and responsibility granted to US Army non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Especially when compared with mid-East (or, more generally, miltaries modeled after the old Soviet form), we can do so much.

There's an excellent paper, published in Middle East Quarterly, entitled Why Arabs Lose Wars http://navlog.org/why_arabs_lose_wars.pdf. In it they compare the average responsibility, authority, and ability to deviate from "The Plan" - and find that a Sergeant First Class (such as me) has the same level of ability as a full Colonel in Arab armies (and this is fully supported by my own observations in Iraq.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#9  Postby Lucy Wiggin » Mar 17, 2010 2:01 pm

1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?

Half an hour away from home, Combat librarian

2) Why did you serve/are you serving?

They made me do it!

3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?

Nope.

4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?

Bathroom cleaning, flees in boot camp.

5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?

I always put my tray's content into the garbage in restaurants after eating, because in the army not doing so means being lynched by those in kitchen duty.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#10  Postby Goreth » Mar 17, 2010 2:47 pm

andyx1205 wrote:
1) What were/are the details of your service? Location? Specifics?

Austrian Armed Forces, PzAB9 (Artillery) in Baden, near Vienna. One month basic training, five months as a pencil pusher in the Command Post Office and two (winter) months guarding the austrian-hungarian border against illegal immigrants that had the audacity to not show up and alleviate my horrible horrible boredom.
(The borders were opened since, and now they are patrolling town/villages near the border, including mine, in an expensive but completely pointless exercise to make people there feel safe)

And the most important thing I learned in the army is to appreciate beer. :drunk:


2) Why did you serve/are you serving?

Conscript.


3) In retrospect, would you do it again? Or, for how much longer are you planning to serve?

No, especially not in that army. I hated the formalities and simply don't make a good soldier .


4) Have you had any memorable experiences, and if yes, would you mind sharing them?

Yes and yes. However they are mostly just tales of hilarious stupidity.


5) Has your service resulted in any sort of trauma or permanent damage?

No.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#11  Postby Orange Proximity » Mar 17, 2010 2:52 pm

Middle East and Eastern Europe, it would be unfair to compare I guess - these are conscript armies.

In general there is a massive difference between regular (professional) armies and conscript and reserve forces - in everything. Condition, morale, common-dog-fuck (common sense), military knowledge etc. Personally, from what I've seen, I wouldn't trust them (and that includes Australian reserve) as far as I can throw them.

As for the professional (Western) armies, from with whom I worked, I preferred to work with Kiwis and Pommies (NZ and UK) because of the background and similarities in training, attitude and tactics. Simply, culturally and in every other way, there is no difference between UK, NZ and Australia.

Americans and Canadians were very nice to work with too. Little bit of cultural difference, just enough to have lots of laugh when we used to talk and it would not compute... it is amazing that a same word can mean totally different things... hilarious trying to explain to a Yank or get them to explain what we all think, over a radio...
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#12  Postby DaveScriv » Mar 17, 2010 5:32 pm

Weaver wrote:I'm continually impressed with the authority and responsibility granted to US Army non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Especially when compared with mid-East (or, more generally, miltaries modeled after the old Soviet form), we can do so much.

There's an excellent paper, published in Middle East Quarterly, entitled Why Arabs Lose Wars http://navlog.org/why_arabs_lose_wars.pdf. In it they compare the average responsibility, authority, and ability to deviate from "The Plan" - and find that a Sergeant First Class (such as me) has the same level of ability as a full Colonel in Arab armies (and this is fully supported by my own observations in Iraq.


Fascinating paper. Thanks for posting the link. :thumbup:
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#13  Postby noncredo » Mar 17, 2010 8:56 pm

Location-Started in Great Lakes, we called it Great Mistakes, Illinois. After that California, but that was a big blur of rolling around a cold beach, swimming and very little sleep. After that I was stationed in Virginia and actually got to spend a few months there I think.

Why-Wanted to get out of small town S.C. and see the world.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

I had many memorable experiences, some good some bad.

Permanent damage, some. I have two nice scars and a piece of a 7.62 round in my leg. That was a memory I could do without.

Now I'm a military spouse. I miss the adventure and the adrenalin sometimes, but it is nice actually being home for more than a few months at a time and not having to cringe every time the phone rings.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#14  Postby andyx1205 » Mar 18, 2010 8:54 am

Weaver wrote:
Just ask.


I'm asking...! :smoke:
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#15  Postby Weaver » Mar 18, 2010 1:53 pm

OK, here's a story ... bit of a play on words, so it may not make much sense for those not fluent in American English and it's variants, but here goes.

Back in 2000 I was transferred to Ft Drum, NY for the first time. I took over a Fire Direction Center consisting of 4 junior enlisted Soldiers, all of whom had somewhat of an attitude problem. I was told by my First Sergeant that these guys were all problem children, and had discipline issues (in fact, he asked me whether it was true that "FDC" stood for Future Damn Criminals :shock: ).

I watched these guys for a couple days, and determined that they'd been treated poorly by previous leaders - they had very little self-confidince, and none at all in their leadership. One big indicator was that they used "Ebonics" slang constantly in their conversations, even stuff that should have been only in regular English because it was duty related. They were kind of challanging me with their use of Ebonics, watching to see if I would ban it's use like previous leaders had attempted.

I decided I wouldn't play their game - I'd try to make Ebonics the center of a group bonding exercise. I allowed them to insert Ebonics slang on three conditions - 1) they had to translate anything I wasn't familiar with; 2) they had to teach me at least one new phrase per week; and 3) they couldn't actually interfere with missions accomplishment.

It was a funny struggle at first - one guy in particular tried to mislead me with false translations (for example, the phrase "sippin' on the syrup" refers to drinking cough syrup to get drunk, but he tried to tell me it referred to performing cunnilingus). Most of the guys played along well, and it was very humorous some times when I would tell the guys something in regular English, then follow up by saying "Or, as I say in my new language ..." and some Ebonics phrase or other. About the only one who wasn't amused was my wife - she got really mad when I'd say "Word" in agreement by mistake at home (I'm somewhat of a grammer nazi in my home, and it really irked her that I was flaunting my own rules).

Fast forward about 2 years, when we were deployed to Kosovo. We had one newer Soldier whose use of excessive Ebonics made him a perfect fit for the section. He also had a bit of a graffiti issue - he'd write his name on damn near anything (and it's not like there are that many Soldiers named "Erin" (first name only, to protect his privacy) that he could claim it was someone else ;) ). He even pissed his name in the snow the day after I'd chewed everyone's ass for not walking the 50 meters to a latrine. So not the brightest of guys I'd ever had.

Well, one day we were finishing up some fire mission processing training, and our Lieutenant got a good one in. He said to me "I thought you were cracking down on PFC "Erin" and his graffiti shit?" I said I was, and asked if he'd seen another violation. The LT pointed at a map we had of real-world danger areas in our area, and said "Right there on the map!" I couldn't see an "Erin" anywhere, so asked the LT what he was talking about. LT said "Right there at the top of the map - it says MINES!"


(for those not familiar with Ebonics, "mines" is a common mis-speak of the word "mine").


We laughed for hours.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military Act 1

#16  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 18, 2010 2:17 pm

The entracte:

In September 1983, after the shootdown of KAL007 by the Soviet Union, tensions between the USSR and the US were quite high, as some may remember. At that time, I was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, assigned to the 2148 Communications Squadron, a tenant unit supporting the 28th Bomb Wing and the 44th Strategic Missile Wing. I was a ground radio maintenance technician, working in the Missile Radio shop.

We were responsible for maintaining three of the command and control radio systems in the Minutman I Launch Control Capsules. An HF (2-30 MHz) receive-only system (except at the three missile squadron command post LCFs, which also had 1.5 Kw HF transmitters), a UHF (225-400 MHz) transceiver, and an LF (14-60 KHz) data receive-only system.

We had to do quarterly, semiannual, and annual preventive maintenance inspections (PMIs) done on each of these systems. The annual PMI cycle was the most intensive, and usually took most of a day to do three radios at one Launch Control Facility. We had to do most of this work inside the accoustical enclosure of the LCC. It helps to understand how an LCC is built. Imagine a damned big, thick, concrete and steel egg, buried 90-120 feet down, with a long box suspended in the middle of that egg on four damn big shock isolators, with roughly a meter clearance between that box (the accoustical enclosure) and the walls of the capsule itself. This box is big enough to have a row of six foot tall equipment racks down each side, with an aisle down the middle maybe 4 feet wide. It's probably 20 feet long. If you know what you're looking at, the LCCs that are briefly shown in the movie Wargames are pretty accurate.

The door to the LCC is on one end of the capsule, and you walk over a hinged walkway to get to the accoustical enclosure. There is a small catwalk that is welded to the capsule wall to the right of the hinged walkway for access to a room that contains all the electrical surge arrestors for every wire coming into the capsule.

The missile crew commander's console is at the far end of the accoustical enclosure. The deputy's console is halfway down on the right hand side of the aisle. Here's a link to a picture of the inside of the launch control center, accoustical enclosure:

Image

You can see the HF reciever above the commander's head, it's a grey box with the five big black knobs. On the side of the accuostical enclosure, you can see the printer for the LF system is right in front of the deputy's face. It's the green box with the two black handles and the yellow cap over the alarm enounciator.

The stage is set...
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military Act II

#17  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 18, 2010 2:17 pm

One of the main ways of communication with the launch crews is via the Primary Alerting System (PAS). It's a hardened landline based system that announces the Emergency Action Messages (EAMs0 via a damned loud speaker that can't be turned off or down. A typical EAM from the PAS starts out with a few seconds of the PAS Warble tone (which I'll be damned if I can find a recording of), which is a quickly alternating attention getting alarm sound. DEEDLE DEEDLE DEEDLE DEEDLE. After the warble tone, a man's recorded voice will start reciting a phonetic alphabet coded message preamble: "ALPHA MIKE SEVEN SIX QUEBEC SIERRA. STAND BY. ALPHA MIKE SEVEN SIX QUEBEC SIERRA. STAND BY." The missile crew writes these EAMs down in grease pencil to decode them.

I probably have the exact format of the EAM remembered incompletely, but the sequence is pretty uniform. That preamble is then usually followed the coded text of the actual EAM. Obviously, the real EAM ording strategic missile launch has yet to be transmitted. EAMs come over the PAS pretty routinely throughout the day. I think a large oart of that is to maintain the automatic and crisp response of the missile crew to the EAMs.

There are other forms of EAMs that require the missile crew to actually get into the code books to see what that EAM tells them to do. Those code books are classified far beyond our secret security clearances, so whenever a PAS message comes in that doesn't start with "SKYBIRD SKYBIRD SKYBIRD, THIS IS LOOKING GLASS WITH A TEST OF THE PRIMARY ALERTING SYSTEM BACKDOOR CIRCUITRY", we radio maintenance guys have to leave the accoustical enclosure and face the blast door of the capsule while the missile crew decodes the EAM.

Up until one day in September 1983, this hardly ever took longer than a minute or two. Until one day when I was doing an annual PMI with my buddy Bishop.

Next, Act III...
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military Act III

#18  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 18, 2010 2:18 pm

DEEDLE DEEDLE DEEDLE DEEDLE. "ALPHA MIKE SEVEN SIX QUEBEC SIERRA. STAND BY. ALPHA MIKE SEVEN SIX QUEBEC SIERRA. STAND BY."

Shit. Interrupting our work again. Off Bishop and I go to the end of the capsule while the launch crew gets into their codebooks...

Then, the same message starts coming on on the HF radio. And the UHF radio. And the SATCOM printer, an impact printer. And the LF printer, which has a very characteristic line feed sound between lines. Chunk-chunk. chunk-chunk. And the SAC Automated Command and Control system printer. All at the same time. Repeatedly. Never saw THAT shit before.

The missile crew's chairs are on rails, and have six point harnesses in them. The deputy has buckled into his chair, and I could hear it rolling up and down his rail, which was nearly as long as the accoustical enclosure. I never saw that before, either.

That hinged walkway that bridges the gap between the accoustical enclosure and the capsule isn't really wide enough for two people to stand on, so I had walked a bit down the catwalk around the side of the capsule to wait until the crew gave us the all clear and called us back in to finish our work.

If you take another look at this picture,
Image
you can see half of the Launch Enable panel just to the right of my green printer. This is where the actual launch codes are entered via thumbwheels. Half of the required code is in a small safe above that launch enable panel. That safe is not visible in the first picture, but here's a photo of one:
Image
It's a red painted steel safe with two padlocks on it. One lock for each of the missile crewmembers. That safe contains half of the launch codes. The President has the other half, which will come over the PAS, and every other comms system they have, in the case of a real emergency.

Suffice to say, the missile crews do NOT open that red box, except when they take over the watch. Or if the president orders a nuclear strike.

Next, the Final Act...
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military, Act IV

#19  Postby The_Metatron » Mar 18, 2010 2:18 pm

There I was, no shit (which is what differentiates a fairy tale from a war story). Wondering why all the comms systems were repeating that same message simultaneously. Obviously, the National Command Authority wanted to be sure this particular message was received.

Bishop snuck a glance back into the accoustical enclosure. His face went a pale white and he hissed to me in a loud whisper, "Jess! They're getting into the red box!"

I thought I was going to shit myself. After I thought I was going to puke. Maybe before. I can't remember, I was so scared shitless. Scared enough to have a look for myself into the accoustical enclosure to see that the red box was locked securely.

It seemed we were not going to kill a hundred million people that day. How Bishop made his face seem to go white that day, I can't say. I can say that was the best injection of terror I've ever known.
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Re: Questions for Ex-Military / Current Military

#20  Postby Weaver » Mar 18, 2010 2:22 pm

Man, that's right up there with the photo of the guy about to pop an inflated paper bag behind the EOD tech in the bomb suit - fucked up.

Did you have a spare pair of shorts to change into before you completed your annuals on the radios? :lol:
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