POGs, Chow and Leave
Ahh, great, the POGs (personnel other than grunt) next door are at it again -y’know, the cavalry pukes that have formation six inches from our barracks. They jabber in their obnoxiously loud voices as they stand in a cluster outside our barracks while they wait for their hut-hut 1st Sergeant to hold formation. When their 1st Sergeant calls them to attention, they sound off with something unintelligible. As best we can figure, they are saying “praise the lord.”

The funny thing about the non-infantry soldiers down here is that they are all in a contest to impress each other. They like to chant and count off in a loud, POGish manner while conducting PT and while having formations. They like to carry their weapons in the most high-speed (aka hut-hut) way they can think of. The thing they don’t seem to realize is that we, as infantrymen, don’t do they crap. We save our energy for the things that really matter.

It’s a good thing we’re going home on leave tomorrow for Christmas. I need a break from this game. I’m also growing increasingly tired of the slop they feed us and I certainly am not alone on this one.

Camp Shelby Army chow is fine dining at its best. It consists of: one small portion of meat –chicken, veal, fish or mystery meat, two starches -rice or potatoes and bread or bun, the overcooked vegetable of the day, the staple of the southern diet - gravy (which they like to smother everything in), and don't forget the 'salad bar' which is normally picked-over.

Field chow is about the same, except you get less of it, but they always seem to have plenty of little debbies to hand out, as if a little debbie makes up for the fact that chow sucks.

Lunch is the ever-popular MRE (meal ready-to-eat) aka Mr. E (pronounced mystery) or Mrrrrrrrr. There are 24 varieties of MRE, but they all have the same preservative-laden taste and smell. MREs consist of an entrée, crackers or ‘wheat snack bread’, a snack or two and some sort of beverage powder. They are loaded with fat and sugar and run about 1200 calories each. Personally, I don't think MREs are all that bad once and a while, but even I find them tough to choke down after a while. You get to the point where you will only eat enough so your stomach will stop growling at you.

Not only is our chow less than appetizing, it is fattening, devoid of vitamins and lacks protein. Basically, it’s everything you don’t want to eat in order to keep in excellent physical condition. How the hell are you supposed to build or maintain muscle without enough protein in your diet? You can’t. I’ve lost at least 5 pounds of muscle in the past two months. It’s a damn shame.

While other units spent the past few days doing whatever it is that POGs (personnel other than grunts) do, we were out in the field conducting MOUT (military operations in urban terrain). It was a three day “check the box” event –another Camp Shelbyism that we were required to complete before we deploy.

As an infantryman, it is obvious to me when we walk into training that is designed for POGs and REMFs (rear-echelon mother-f$@#&*s). Camp Shelby “check-the-box” training is very, very basic, and often a step (or two or three) back from what we have been doing on our own. Oftentimes I feel dumber after completing it. The exercises themselves are supposed to represent worst-case scenarios. They aren’t totally useless, but I would think they could think of something more challenging for infantry units such as Able Company.

All of our equipment and weapons have been cleaned and turned in. I’ve got a duffle packed full of equipment that I will have no use for in the desert that I’m planning on brining home. Hopefully the airport won’t lose it. My carry-on bag is packed with my civilian clothes. All the remains to do is our ACU patches draw.

We came back in from the field yesterday to see that most everyone in our Brigade is already wearing their new Army Combat Uniforms. Yeah, they look spiffy and stuff, but whatever. The uniform you wear and the badges and patches (aka scare-me’s) on it don’t make the warrior. Somehow, someone managed to screw up our name tapes. Instead of delivering them to our Company supply they were delivered to various other places within the Brigade. Someone spent last night collecting up our name tapes so they could be issued to us this morning. Someone in the chain wants all of us to fly home in our spiffy new uniforms.

There is some confusion as to what our proper uniform is for our one formation this morning. I’ve heard it’s going to be in ACUs. I’ve also heard it is going to be in BDUs and PTU (physical training uniform). It amazes me the amount of time and energy we expend on trying to figure out what the proper uniform is when there is no guidance from our chain of command. Here is one example from our RFI equipment draw and CIF equipment turn-in from a few days back:

“Don’t bring your weapons, don’t bring your weapons” was echoed through the barracks as we prepared to move out to yet another equipment draw. Wall lockers slammed shut as Joes locked up their weapons. Nobody seemed to know what the proper uniform was, or if we should bring our rucksacks full of equipment. Some decided they would bring them, while others decided it wasn’t a good idea. As the narrow walkway that runs through the center of our bay filled with bodies heading for the exit someone shouted, “don’t bring your rucksacks!” The command was echoed throughout the bay as two squads worth of Joes stopped in their tracks. Those without rucksacks on their backs stepped aside so those with them could make their way through the bay to ground their gear. Once again, the walkway filled with bodies as we filed to the front door. “Bring your weapons!” someone yelled. Again the command was echoed and forty Joes did an about face to go back to their wall lockers in order to secure their weapons. The clang of wall locker doors filled the bay as Joes unlocked their lockers and secured their weapons. “Bring your apathy!” someone yelled. Others echoed the command.

That’s no shit.

One thing that I have noticed in the past month is that change in morale. At the beginning of December, morael was very low. People were burning out from the lack of time off and the lack of an escape from the unreality we live in. The past few weeks people have been counting down the days to Christmas leave or “exodus” as some like to call it. It’s given the guys something to look forward to, rather than just another day in the Army. This break is much needed.


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