Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Can't Drive 55 5

About a two and a half months ago, one of my closest friends C---- (who I've known since we were about 10 years old) went back to Iraq for his second deployment. This one is supposed to last 12 months. Fortunately, he has relatively frequent access to the Internet and his email account so we've been able to stay in touch.

Actually, one of the great reliefs in my week is when I see an email from C---- in my inbox. It lets me know he's still alive and healthy, and after I finish reading, that his sense of humor remains intact. That's because most of his dispatches contain an account of some comical episode - like the first time he discharged his weapon this deployment (he fired in the air in order to dissuade and overly aggressive camel charging in his direction - don't think they covered that in basic).

Despite the fact that his life is in very real danger on a daily basis, I worry almost as much about his mental health as his physical well being because I've spoken to (and heard from) enough soldiers that have returned from Iraq to know how hard a time most have in re-adjusting.

So, for me, each joke makes me smile a little wider than I probably should. It doesn't hurt that I can hear his infectious laugh as I'm reading. Anyway, here is the latest (re-printed with permission):
Now for the funny moment of the month. You're going to need a little background info first. We mostly ride around in our gun trucks (up-armored humvees) all day, and these trucks have internal intercoms (head sets) that we use to talk to each other over the noise of the engine and guns. 65% of that talk is trying to get each other to laugh.

The other thing that you need to know is that on Post (Base) they have a thousand different safety rules that no one pays any attention to. The main rule is no speeding - the speed limit is 5mph which of course we have never followed. We don't tend to observe the speed laws because when we get back from patrol everyone is really tired and mostly just want to refuel the trucks and get to our CP (Command Post, HQ).

So the other day after we had been out for almost 36 hours straight, and upon returning and refueling the truck, we get to our CP and there is our Captain standing in front of the building with some other pretty high ranking officers. We get out of the trucks and they call us to attention. Everyone was a bit concerned, and our heads were still ringing from the headsets and the prolonged outing. You have to realize that when you wear those headsets you tend to talk really loud for about fifteen minutes after taking them off.

A full bird Colonel (very high ranking officer) comes storming over to us and says, "Are these the Troops that went speeding past me 15 minutes ago?" I'm standing in the back of everyone and say in a voice I think only the two guys next to me can hear, "Is this the man who RUINED the buffet?" (which is a line from Beverly hills cop). [ed note: also kind of an inside joke for us, so it may seem funnier to those involved]

But of course I said it in a big booming man voice and everyone starts laughing because they have heard me say that a hundred times over the intercom. Even my Captain was holding back a smile since he's heard me say that when he comes with us on patrol. Now the Colonel has no idea what I meant by that and gets really pissed and starts screaming at us so I jump out in front of everyone and say, "It's my fault" and, "I'm the one who should be yelled at." The Colonel just stares at me and I'm thinking this is it, I'm going to be busted down to Private and spend the rest of this deployment trying to get my rank back. So after about twenty seconds of the Colonel looking me up and down he says, "SLOW THE F@#K DOWN" - and that was it. It turns out that it was the Colonel's last day here and he was returning to the States the next morning so there was nothing he could really do.

So props to B---- and N--- for getting that line stuck in my head and almost getting me busted to Private!
Though he didn't admit it, I'm sure C---- is responsible, in no small part, for the speeding incident that got his boys in trouble as well. He's easily the craziest driver that I've ever had the hair-raising, near-death pleasure of riding with. It was not an uncommon occurrence to go up on two wheels in his jeep, or share paint with some overly cautious Sunday driver. But that was mostly in our younger days (mostly).

The thing is, though, that despite his wild ways (and he has calmed down a lot since our adolescence), he's also the best driver I know in terms of actual skill. He's never gotten into an accident. Not one. Yet I've seen his reflexes and instinct avoid potential mash ups caused by an unanticipated occurrence on the road. His ability to consistently and effortlessly defy the odds and cheat death earned him the well-deserved nickname Longshot.

For this reason, I told him before he left to take the wheel of the hummer whenever he could. I figured he'd have a better job of keeping his mates safe. The downside: some of the commanders might not appreciate his need for speed.

Stay safe C----, and godspeed.

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