The army and life within are great for many things – recreating the allure of camping is not one of them! Despite what any recruiter may croon to you…
Sometime in the midway point of 2004 I found myself prone atop of an unkempt hill in the middle of nowhere. I was weighted by my FFO (Full Fighting Order), overlooking a flattened patch of grassland that was festooned with trailers and makeshift living huts. Living within that assorted mess of metal and wood, was the enemy. Well, kind of, this was all just training, but we were to act as though it really was the enemy. So much so, that we had been on our bellies, staring down upon the gaggle of OpFor (Opposition Force) for several hours now. If you’ve ever lain atop of the craggy metal of a fully loaded magazine, you will know just how unpleasant that can be…
We had arrived when the sun was still visible in the sky, we were to wait for the camouflage of night to kiss the landscape before making our descent into the makeshift village. Beside me, another soldier laying uncomfortably embraced within the tangled mess of metal, fabric and plastic that made up our gear. His name was Goss, or as we had affectionately named him, “Goose”.
Goose was a funny kid, Christ, we were all kids back then… Goose had been with me since basic training. I had the privilege and at times the incredulous horror of watching him get yelled at mercilessly for forgetting his gym socks for PT, or arriving late to formation and even for wandering the halls of the barracks while wearing his pristine, Nike Air Jordan’s instead of the military issued footwear. Goose didn’t care much for the rules. Not in a rebellious way, more so in an oblivious sort of manner. Some guys just don’t get it… None the less, he passed his basic training course and was now with me at PRETC, a holding platoon in southern Ontario where soldiers would be held until the start of their trades course. Goose and I had been there for a few months now. My course was not set to start for another several weeks or so, and Goose, well, Goose had been held back a few times for… corrective training purposes… basically he was in shit for sleeping in and missing room inspections, so, the army felt that some… reinforced training days were needed.
And now, here I was, lain atop of a dew-covered hill in the middle of a muggy summer’s night right beside Goose. We were in a formation known as: All around defence – essentially on our bellies, weapons pointed out in the shape of a circle, each of us with an arc of fire to observe and watch for. 360 degrees of defense when waiting for a potential enemy.
As I said, the sun had been up when we arrived, yet was now securely tucked away on the other side of the world. I don’t know exactly how long we had been there, but it had felt like too long, I recall that feeling just fine.
And Goose seemed to agree with me, as he kept nodding off and almost losing grip of his weapon – which would be a very bad thing! I had placed my right leg and foot atop of Goose’s left leg, and each time I felt him nod off, I would tug towards me sharply, causing a sudden jolt between us so as to encourage him to stay awake. It worked… for a while…
At one point during one of Goose’s micro-slumbers, he had become so relaxed that he must have unwittingly released the tension of his stomach muscles, because as we all lay in absolute reticence and anticipation of further orders, Goose let loose an uproarious and rather lengthy fart! I mean, this fucker scared birds from trees and critters from hiding holes!
Goose was now awake and fully rigid with concentrated gaze to his front. As a hushed snicker of laughter made its crescendo around the circle, Goose leaned in to whisper something in my ear;
“Psst, Henny… d’you hear that fart? Was it loud?”
I really had no idea what to say, and anything I did say was sure to come out steeped in laughter. I was able to compose myself for long enough to noiselessly reply;
“Goose, that fart was so fuckin loud that I’m still waiting for the echo!”
*slight laughter* “Shit, really?”
“Dude! It sounded like an arty-sim went off in your asshole!”
You know when you are trying to hold in your laughter because you are in a place where laughing is supremely inappropriate? Like a funeral or a wedding during the vows, so you clench your face and allow your chin to be swallowed by your neck in hopes that no sound will come out, but all that happens is your nose explodes with a projectile orated snort? Yeah? Well that’s what Goose did… and guess what, when he did… the fucker let loose another ass clapper. Now, our all-around defense had transformed into a rabble of cackling hyenas.
This did not please the Sgt. Not one bit. He wandered over towards Goose and I. Now, all I could see when peering out atop of my rifle sites, were two firmly planted feet that ascended through the dark and upwards until merging with the angry expression of an overlooking Sgt. He bent at the knees, lowering his massive frame to get proximal to the two of us.
Through a hushed baritone he spoke;
“Which one of you private’s is suffering from an inopportune Crohn’s outbreak?”
Goose and I remained still and non-verbal in hopes that this was a rhetorical query…
“So, you can shit but you can’t talk, huh?” He leaned in closer, close enough to know that he had just finished a cigarette not long before his arrival at our position. “Which one of you is compromising the integrity of this all-around defense with their ill-timed flatulence? I am expecting an answer, Private’s…”
I sent an ephemeral sideways gaze over towards Goose, in hopes that he would say something. It must have worked, because he did.
“Uh, Sgt, that – uh, that was me… I-uh, I farted, a bit…”
“A bit? A Bit?! Private, you farted so loud that Osama Bin Hidin’ just packed up and moved locations because he thought the yanks had zeroed in and were dropping bombs on his mountain side! A bit?!!”
*Slight laughter throughout the ranks* This of course was quickly muted when the troops could feel the trundling gaze of the vexed Sgt cast as shadow atop of each of us.
“Private Goose, I am not a doctor, nor am I like Henny here, a medic. What I am is, telling you that should you let another sound escape that erroneously loose rectum of yours, I will firmly cement my boot up your ass so far that should I wiggle my toes the roof of your mouth will start to tickle, understood?!”
“Good. As for the rest of you… you smell like shit, prepare to move.”
Goose looked at me and I at him… *hidden laughter*
We were given the order to make our way down towards the village. The mock scenario was that the village had been overrun by Taliban, and we were to engage with and eliminate the hostiles. The tips of our weapons were festooned with BFA’s (Blank firing attachments) This was used when firing blank rounds, to simulate real bullets and thus real magazine changes.
The clatter of battle began.
Pop, pop-pop, pop… pop-pop-pop, pop-pop!
Goose and I had made our way over to a detached semi-trailer and once again got into the prone position. This seemed as advantageous a firing position as any, Goose and I started firing arbitrarily towards the “enemy” while performing skilled magazine changes upon emptying the one in our respective rifles.
Firing! Covering! Reloading!! Was the song sung back and forth between us as we continued to partake in this virtual blood bath.
At some point, two non-combatants had joined us beneath the trailer. Two females that were playing the parts of villagers. I was in the middle of a magazine change when Goose halted me and said through a sickeningly zeal smirk;
“Henny, I have this!”
He slowly reached down to his side and withdrew a T-flash (A piece of pyrotechnics designed to simulate that of a grenade). His smirk had now transformed into an almost sexual ear to ear smile.
“Should I throw it?”
“Well, I doubt you’re supposed to get close to it, name and love it – yeah, throw the fuckin thing!”
In retrospect, I should have told him to hold, love and name it…
Goose removed the cap and struck it against itself to ignite the charge… he then became mesmerized by the glowing ambers of the now lit and live ordinance…
“Throw the fucking thing!”
“Oh, shit, yeah!”
Goose reared his arm back and in one motion flung his arm up and outward then releasing the flaming stick of death at the end of said motion. Sadly, he did not take into account the fact that the trailer that we were seeking cover beneath was overhead, and as such, the T-flash hit the trailer and fell precipitously to the grass in front of us. It rolled about a foot and a half away from our faces.
As if to be a scene from a movie, Goose threw a glance at me, and me to him, then the both of is looked back towards the proximal stick that sibilantly rocked back and forth on the spot. The two female villagers had seen this grievous toss and had joined in our incredulity and repudiation of our circumstance. And in one harmonious sync of our voices we exclaimed;
And with that, we tucked our heads and hoped for the best.
The blast went off and the sudden rush of air being violently blown outwards, inwards and upwards was felt against my hands and clothing. A deafening ring had now begun to play within my ears and when I opened my eyes and took inventory of myself to ensure that all was okay, I was met with Goose’s big dumb face smiling back at me.
I have never wanted to punch a friend so much more in my life…
The battle would end and all would be okay. The two villagers were forgiving of the incident also, one of them even gifting a new nickname to Goose – Pillow hands – “Nice toss, Pillow Hands!”
It was almost five in the morning by the time we had gathered our gear and picked up the spent brass. I had even picked up a piece of the T-flash and kept it as a keepsake of the near miss. Not sure where it is now though. The gaggle of tired troops all gathered into the back of the troop carry vehicle and readied to head back to the barracks.
If you have ever ridden in the back of one of the MLVW’s you will know just how loud and cantankerous a ride they are. Well, amidst the sharp ringing that still held onto my inner-ears, and the cacophonous rattling of the vehicle that could come apart any moment now, a new sound slapped the outer oracles of our ears… an uproarious and hefty fart!