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Living just east of Crazy

Those Blasted Drill Sergeants

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Feb• 06•13

One thing I quickly learned in basic training is that drill sergeants aren’t the most friendly bunch. They yelled at us to get up. They yelled at us for being too grenade_throwslow. Being too fast. Looking at them. Not looking at them. Eating too slow. Not swinging our arms correctly. These moody guys were nit-picky about everything.

The drills were also opposed to sleep. If we got in bed before midnight, we were doing good. If we made it to 5 a.m., we were doing better. One night at about 2 a.m. the lights came on and the angry voice of a drill started screaming to get out of bed and go outside. There was no time to dress, just get to the parking lot. He rushed us out of our bunks and into formation in the cold night.

Was there a fire? A gas leak? Did they discover a problem with the building that put us all in danger? We had heard that they found a problem and we needed to rush out of the building quickly. Let him who is on the housetop flee and not return to grab a coat. Run for your lives!

The drill sergeant approached with something in his hand. We patiently waited as our skin prickled in the cold. “I found this in one of your lockers!” he announced as he held something in the air. Drugs? A weapon? No. It was a donut!

Oh, the humanity! One of our guys had been on KP duty (kitchen patrol) and had stolen a donut from the mess hall. My guess is that they put it out there as a temptation, and then plotted revenge when they discovered it missing. And they waited until the middle of our precious rest to launch the attack. Those sinister brutes made all of us burn off the calories, not just the guilty parties. Fortunate for the offenders, their names were never revealed. There were a few tired and grumpy men amongst the crew.

About a week later, another food incident occurred. We were on one of the training ranges and preparing to leave. We were putting on our rucksacks. In case you don’t know what that is, a rucksack is a backpack, but without all the features. It served to give us more weight for the march. And to make running more fun.

Rucksacks had adjustment straps on both sides. To make it easier to pull tight, we’d bend over and pull as the weight shifted to our shoulders. I tightened and stood up. The guy beside me bent over and pulled. As the weight shifted on his back, two oranges rolled out of the pockets. More mess hall contraband!

The oranges rolled over his shoulders and across the ground. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, for at that exact moment, the drill was walking by. The sergeant stopped, and one of the oranges rolled over his toes. Knowing that the boots stopped in front of him belonged to the drill sergeant, my comrade didn’t stand back up. He froze, stooped over with the rucksack on his shoulders and straps in both hands. Seconds ticked by. Neither man moved.

I started laughing. Knowing that this is basic training, and laughing was strictly forbidden, I looked like a mannequin having cardiac arrest. Not to worry though. I was soon resuscitated when our platoon had to do pushups and other heart benefiting exercises.

Then came the grenade range. We practiced with dummy grenades and had to prove we could throw them at least twenty meters. Being a sports nut, that wasn’t much of a problem for me. At least not until I tried to throw the real grenade.

After a few days of grenade and safety training, we reached the day for tossing a real fragmentation grenade. Just beyond a wall, the booms could be heard from other trainees tossing away. We stood in line to go into the building where we’d be issued two grenades. Once we received the two canisters holding our grenades, we had to hold the open end against our flak jackets. Our hands were unusable until the range sergeant secured our grenades. Anyone who flinched would be executed on the spot.

They had the sweetest little drill sergeant monitoring us during this phase. She was about three feet tall and had a voice like a mouse. She squeaked threats at us, like all drill sergeants do. As she walked by, she said, “Private! Where are your ear plugs?” I looked around to locate where the voice was coming from and finally looked down. Then I looked at my earplug case, dangling from my chest pocket. I had forgotten to put them in.

“Don’t you even think about moving your hands – or those canisters!” she chattered. Sgt. Chipmunk stood in front of me, shaking her finger upward, and she sounded like an angry Disney character. Her head was not even to my waist, and she was threatening to kick my behind. I tried to be serious, but then I wondered how far you could throw a chipmunk. I tried to think about something else, but a smirk slipped out before I could. I heard the sound of a record being played in fast forward with occasional words slipping through. I decided to look like I was at attention so I wouldn’t have to look at her. Her last words were, “I hope the grenade blows your eardrums out.”

Romance was in the air.

Soon I stepped on the range, handed over one of my grenades and prepared to throw the other one. The trainer raced down all the horrible scenarios that could happen and then had me pull the pin and throw. Only I didn’t throw. Knowing all the horrid things this device could do, I put an extra effort in my toss, but I ended up spiking it instead of throwing it.

Instinctively, I tried to locate the grenade wondering if I should throw it again. Then I heard, “Get down you fool!” I was yanked from my feet and shoved behind a small concrete wall. Apparently they had anticipated such things. I heard the boom and was delighted that we weren’t sprayed with shrapnel. When I spiked it, I hit the berm in front of me and it had enough momentum to roll over and down the hill in front of our bunker.

The instructor looked at my second grenade and looked at me. He had kind words of encouragement for me. He used happy words like, moron, idiot, and a few other words that made my ears sting. After our sweet counsel together, he felt confident that I had no intention of spiking the ball again. I looked at the grenade and remembered the affectionate words, “I hope you blow your eardrums out.”

I found new courage. “This is for you, my little chippette!” and I hurled the grenade. Victory at last.

Eddie Snipes 2013

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Bad Metaphors and Worse Similes

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Jan• 31•13

She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open again.

englishSamsung’s Monstrous TV Stand Is Like a Vampire Sorority Girl: Beautiful and Horrible at The Same Time.

A Suzuki Hayabusa, to be exact — a bike that is already as notoriously crazy as a bag full of wet cats.

Something shows up on a computer, a jet fires a missile at seemingly nothing and then, a few minutes later, something blows up somewhere that you cannot see. It’s less like “high-stakes plane jockeying” and more like “filing a request for death” that another department, miles away, might or might not grant.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Unable to contain his rage, he burst like a pimple of emotion, the pus of his fury streaking the mirror of calm in the bathroom of his life.

The concrete set quicker than mama’s grits at breakfast time.
Time moves slowly. He moved like the time-lapse footage of a pigeon decomposing.

Information poured in like pellets from a rabbit after a big meal. I sorted through them looking for one of value.

Bill tossed Tom the Star Trek movie like a soldier throwing a nerd grenade.

Then he kissed her, like a butterfly kisses the windshield of a Porsche on the Autobahn.

Fighting against it is like slogging through the Swamp of Sadness in The Never Ending Story: you can head into it as optimistically as you like, but by the end you will be so overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of unapologetic nastiness and disrespect that, at the very least, a horse somewhere will die from it, probably.

It’s like watching McDonald’s debate Burger King over whose fries are healthier.

Physicists hate the term. Higgs hates the term. It’s like discovering a vital new gene in neurology and calling it the Kardashian.

The boxer was all over him like a piranha on a corn dog.

Imagine you’re walking down the street and suddenly you see a sandwich hovering in front of you. Hovering sandwiches being your favorite kind, you reach out for it, and are instantly devoured by a nearby monster disguised as a minivan.

The horizon swallowed the setting sun like a dog sucking an egg, but not quite.

Her food looked good, but it was like eating a sugar coated Satan sandwich.

His hand, while firm and masculine, is as soft as a velour child.

Her blazing eyes dance like Astaire and Rogers, but since they were crossed, it was an ocular tango, and my eyes had to foxtrot just to maintain eye contact.

It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.

The zoo of carefully showcased remnants that never get up and walk around their cages; somber, sterile, impersonal, about as pointless as listening to a soundtrack of Bruce Lee action scenes while staring at a blank screen.

She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

Her parting words lingered heavily inside me like last night’s Taco Bell.

Editing is just like writing, except hateful, and in reverse. Instead of birthing words and ideas out of nothing, you’re murdering them in cold blood, culling them like sickly sheep weakening the flock.

The information imbedded on the stolen computer chip was like an explosive so explosive it could explode, creating a massive explosion.

She was like a refrigerator. Six feet tall, three hundred pounds, and full of ice.

His .38 barked fire, like John Goodman’s butt after a chili cook-off.

The situation had become topsy-turvy — like Christmas in the summer, if you’re in Australia.

From his vantage point in the balcony, the would-be assassin looked down on the debating candidates like a webhead looking down on an AOL user.

He sat like a wise old Buddha, only with hair.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.

Her voice had that tense, grating quality, like a first-generation thermal paper fax machine that needed a band tightened.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

Hi. It’s like hello, only shorter.

He slipped through traffic like a naked two-year-old covered with butter running from his mother.

His gambling addiction mugged him every week. But without the bruising.

He hung from his arms like a piñata, and Mary was the birthday-boy with the stick.

If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.

The A-Frame Structure stood like an inverted V.

Disease and deprivation stalked the land, like two giant stalking things.

With his surfer body and flowery shorts, to Jenn he looked like a Yeti that had raided someone’s underwear drawer.

He looked like a million dollars. Old, green, and wrinkly.

He crawled out of bed and looked in the mirror. 5 a.m. was not his color.

The surgeon felt like he was playing Space Invaders in someone else’s stomach.

His contagious smile spread like a disease.

Her baby was coming quicker than Dale Earnhardt Jr. at a championship race.

His ideas were flowing freely, like an open tap at a wedding party.

He had a heaping serving of belly fat, like someone was dishing out potatoes and the other person forgot to say, "When."

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Speaking of ballerinas….

His finger, weathered and rough from years on the ranch, danced in and out of his nose like a slimy ballerina.

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A Mom’s Meltdown

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Jan• 29•13

One advantage writers have is that every situation is viewed through the eyes of our internal writer. Mom's meltdownFrustrations, heartaches, joys, and all other events of daily life find their places on our ‘to write’ list. The truth is, smooth sailing doesn’t make for good reading. So when someone tells me a frustrating story, internally I’m wringing my hands and saying, “This is going to be great on paper!” Not that I don’t feel sympathy, but it quickly fades when my devious writer begins to emerge.

Such a story crossed my path the other day. A friend we’ll call Jane had a difficult day not long ago. Jane drove down the road in her brand new SUV. The new car smell still hung in the air. Her three boys were cutting up in the back – as boys often do. One was eating hard candy. Knowing hard candy and whooping and hollering don’t mix well, she said, “You need to calm down while eating that. Or you’ll get choked.” Her warning held his attention for about twenty-five seconds.

Less than a minute later, she heard a gagging sound, and sure enough, her little boy was choking on the candy. Before she could respond, his internal bodily functions solved the problem. The candy was dislodged when he threw up all over the back seat of her new car. A new smell hung in the air. The neighborhood was now in view, so she rushed to get home to clean out her brand new SUV.

Jane’s second son suffers from a very sensitive gag reflex. The sight of his brother puking had a spontaneous response. You can guess what happened next. Just as Jane turned into her neighborhood, boy number two began to spew. Oh, if she hadn’t fed them a kids meal on the way home. Now Jane rolled down all the windows. Partly to clear the smell, and partly to give her boiling rage a place to escape.

While she shouted at her son for not listening and causing all of this, her four year old notified her of his eminent eruption. The sights and odors made him sick and he started to gag. That was it! Jane slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop. Screaming like a woman possessed, she snatched her youngest from his car seat and deposited him on the curb. She reached in and jerked the other two out, shouting loud enough for the world to hear as she did. Then a wonderful idea hit Jane. She could just leave them where they stood.

Over the sound of her screeching tires, she could hear little voices crying, “Mommy, don’t leave me!”

The SUV whipped into the driveway, and she stepped out. Still screaming, she yanked open the doors of the vehicle to air it out. Then the world around her came back into view. Her husband was on the porch with a look that said, “Have you gone completely mad?” Curious neighbors stepped outside to see why three boys were wailing at the top of their lungs while running down the street toward her house. A house where mom stood outside of her car with two fists full of hair.

Well, there goes my Christian witness. This is how a real home school family works.

When I told this story to my wife, she laughed evilly. “At least it’s not just me,” she said. “And at least I’ve never left the kids on the side of the road.”

Yep, our nuclear meltdowns only happen indoors, and she just bangs their heads on the floor. Okay, not really. But I know she has thought it a time or two. And I just bang my own head on the floor. When the neighbors ask about that banging sound, I shake my hair out from between my fingers and say, “It’s just the sound of my Christian witness.”

If you have been moved with conviction by this testimony, feel free to confess in the comments below. We promise not to laugh. Okay, you’re right. We will laugh, but we promise to laugh with you.

Eddie Snipes 2010

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Home on the Range

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Jan• 22•13

While we are on the subject of Basic Training, I’ll share one of the more interesting training events. Not that being gassed wasn’t interesting.

 

One of the main focuses of basic training was learning to use the rifle. Never, under any circumstances were you to call your weapon a gun. Weapon – okay. Rifle – okay. Gun – prepare for pain. The first firingRangeorder of business was to learn how to take it apart, clean it, and get it back together. I knew we were in trouble when the drill walked in with a stop watch. He announced that by the end of the next day, we had to break the rifle down, get our work inspected, and then put it back together. Each part had a thirty second time limit. We had 1 minute to accomplish this feat.

 

“When you’re in combat,” the drill sergeant began while parading in front of us, “you’ll need to be fast.” I could almost hear music in the distance as he paced by with one hand at his back and the other extended like the great orator he had become. “When the enemy is shooting at you, you won’t have time to leisurely put your rifle together – like you’re playing jigsaw puzzles with grandma. You’ve got to be fast.”

 

I guess snatching your foxhole buddy’s rifle away from him wasn’t the more desirable technique. He was about to show us how easy the 1-minute disassembly-reassembly could be. The drill waltzed to a table where the M-16 autopsy was about to take place. The only slow part was when he checked the chamber to make sure it was empty. He made a point of emphasizing this important step. “You DO NOT want to shoot your buddy.” I had to agree with him on that one. You could lose a lot of friends that way. Once sure the gun- oops! I mean rifle was empty, he laid it down. A series of clinking and clanking sounds emitted from the operation, and about 15 seconds later, he stepped back from the table and placed both hands behind his back.

 

“By the time I’m through with you, I expect you to make me look slow.” He stepped forward again, and there was a few clinks and in another 15 seconds, the rifle was restored. We blinked in disbelief. We only had two days to learn this magic trick? You know, it’s amazing what sixteen hours of practice in two days can do. On the second day, any who felt they could meet the sixty second test lined up before the stopwatch of despair. Some folks took several tries, but we all made it through to the next part. It was time to learn to shoot.

 

“Squeeze, don’t pull,” the instructor barked. “You should be surprised when the trigger clicks.” To test our steadiness, they balanced a penny on the barrel. If it fell, he accused you of pulling. There were many other steps along the way, but one thing always emphasized was to put the rifle on safe, pull back the charging handle, and verify it was clear. Even though we had never even seen a bullet, we had to always follow this process for everything. This made my next story all the more interesting.

 

At last the day came when we stepped onto the firing range. We were all anxious to shoot some targets. They gave a few demonstrations to show the power of the round and what it can do, and the gentleness of the rifle for those afraid of the kick. The M16 is an amazing work of engineering. The recoil system is so effective that I’ve fired small weapons with more kick.

 

Once we reached the firing line, safety was again the most emphasized part. It took about thirty steps from the time we received our magazine of ammo until we pulled the trigger. We placed it on safety, pulled the charging handle back, locked it in place, and the drill checked every person’s weapon. Then they distributed the ammo, checked everyone’s weapons, and on and on the process went. I’ll spare you those details.

 

After about 15 safety checks, the drill in the tower said, “Now take your first thirty round magazine–”

 

BANG!

 

The world froze. A shot had rang out and we haven’t even picked up the ammo yet. We were still ten safety checks away from releasing the charging handle to chamber our first round.

 

To my left, Private Melso was looking around innocently. Let me digress for a moment. Melso was a tall man. He stood about nine inches higher than the next tallest person in our platoon. Melso could not resist looking around. When we were at attention, the rule was, head forward, eyes straight ahead. But Melso couldn’t resist sight-seeing. To make matters worse, his head always bobbed when he looked from side to side. It was like a neon sign beaconing for attention. Almost every day the drill was on him. “What’re you looking around for!” the drill would scream. Either he or all of us with him, were getting dogged out because he broke formation.

 

Now on the range, I could see his head bobbing suspiciously. Melso had become impatient with all the delays and boring safety checks and decided to speed up his training. The shocked look on the drill’s faces caused him to realize that this might have been a mistake. He now looked at the guy on his left as if to say, “Was that you?” Then to the right as if to say, “Did anyone notice?”

 

Yes, that bang was noticed. And it had not escaped any of the drill sergeants’ attention. And for a brief moment, the world froze into silence. Then the stillness shattered like glass.

 

“Get that *blankety blank* trainee off my range!” the voice from the tower boomed. In a flash, angry hands were lurching toward Melso. The drill kicked his rifle away, grabbed the back of his collar, and dragged him off. I watched two divots from his heels cut a path across the range and around the corner. We were sure we’d seen the last of poor Melso.

 

That evening we were surprised to see Melso walk through the barracks door. He wouldn’t say what punishment he received, but he began to get chapped hands and often had the smell of dish soap.

 

Eddie Snipes – 2013

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The March of Tears

Written By: Eddie Snipes - Jan• 18•13

The highlight of basic training was the dreaded twenty-mile road march. We would leave the barracks as trainees, but would return as soldiers. For six weeks we heard about the dreaded march of tears. roadmarchOnly the best could survive, we were told. Of course I knew this was just hype. By the end of basic training, anyone should be able to walk twenty miles. Sometimes we ran more than five miles. Regardless, it marked the end of basic training, and that was a delightful prospect.

 

They dropped hints at the threats that awaited us. An enemy was out there waiting to gas us and threaten our very existence. We knew what that meant. We were going to be CS gassed at some point during the hike.

 

One of the rules for marching and combat related movements is that every soldier must remain five meters away from any other soldier. That way if someone tossed a grenade on us, casualties would be limited. When we stopped for lunch, several guys naturally gathered in a circle and began to eat. The drill sergeant casually walked by and laid a flash-bang grenade in the circle and walked off. No one understood what he had done, but I happened to be walking by as he did this. I thought it odd that he strolled in their midst and then walked away without saying anything. I stood and watched, trying to figure out what he laid down.

 

A few seconds later, it became very clear what he had deposited. A bright flash and an earth-shattering bang concussed against our ears. Food flew everywhere and guys fled in a panic. The drill ran back screaming, “You’re all dead! That was a grenade and you weren’t five meters apart.”

 

Maybe I won’t join the dinner party after all.

 

We began marching again and were warned to be on the lookout for enemy attackers spotted in the woods. Ah. The gassers have arrived. At each sign of commotion, trainees grappled for their masks. Just as we fell back into a routine, a smoke grenade appeared, “Gas, gas, gas,” someone shouted, and all the masks went on. False alarm. It was just smoke. This happened a few times during the day.

 

About seventeen miles into the march, several smoke grenades landed. We donned our masks, but quickly realized it was just plain smoke again. Just as we removed our masks, the drill instructor ran through the smoke with a CS canister tied to a stick. He sprayed the noxious fumes directly at us through the haze of smoke. Before we realized what was going on, the CS was upon us. He had stuck the canister an inch from my face and I got a dose of the smoke in my eyes. I pulled my mask on as I turned from the smoke. The straps on my mask broke when I pulled it tight. Great.

 

I dropped everything, took two steps away and knelt down below the smoke while holding my mask on with one hand, and trying to rethread the elastic strap with the other. It was broken, so I resigned to just hold it on.

 

My eyes were on fire, but I fought to open them when I realized the mass of chaos going on among the troops. Panic had broken out. Everyone dropped their weapons and fled toward the woods. Realizing this, I turned to grab mine. There stood Ron, mask in place, holding my rifle. He handed it to me and I returned my gaze to the mass of confusion.

 

There was a gentle breeze in the air. Unfortunately, the breeze was going in the same direction as the fleeing troops. I watched one guy running and flailing. Staggering and flailing. Flailing. And then dropping into the leaves with great heaving. I know this might sound cruel, but I laughed. I laughed hard. I returned to my knees and laughed so hard I thought I would fall down with them. Everyone was running at the same pace as the wind, so they stayed in the gas while everything behind them was clear. All they had to do was stop.

 

Weapons were tossed haphazardly around the road, and bodies of gasping men were strolled across the woods. I looked back at the drill instructors. They had a look that said, “Six weeks of training for nothing!” One of the drills blasted us for the next three miles. We weren’t soldiers, we were sissies. True, but man-handling adversity wouldn’t have been funny.

 

After the march, we had the ceremony of passing from trainee status to soldierhood. For some reason, the drill sergeant gritted his teeth a lot each time he mentioned the words, “You are soldiers now.” It was a moment of true pride.

Eddie Snipes 2013

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