Should’ve Could’ve

July 4, 2009

The more I think about my trip to the JRTC, the more I think about it as a series of opportunities missed.  These opportunities weere sometimes literal (a battalion formation I didn’t shoot ’cause I passed out from exhaustion and travel and heat and not eating) and other stuff I got too apathetic (in the heat) to do (take portraits of soldiers, or take photos of the FOB at night).

That said, on the whole I don’t have any regrets.  These kind of things are what they are.  And, as I was mostly stuck on the FOB while there, I have some interesting/compelling “domestic” photos.

zblogbarracks

The above pic is the barracks where I slept.  You’re seeing a deceptvely spacious arrangement, though, because mostly the cots were parked about 12″ apart from each other; my cot was in the center of the room (vs. touching the wall) and I could have rolled over and touched the far side of his cot, I was so close.  We never formally introduced ourselves, but that’s sort of how it goes in the Army, and anyway I didn’t want to spook people by taking down names.  What you’re seeing are the cots of the Captain and Sgt. Major of that paricular battalion.  The Sgt. Major snored like a fiend, but this was not as bad as my persistent cough, so no big deal.

zblogdfac

This pic is of the dining facility, or DFAC, pronounced “deefack.”  It took me a while to parse what “DFAC” meant but I didn’t want to ask.   The thing of interest here is in the background, though; it’s a large-scale floor map of the “province” where we were staying.  All those little cards you see sticking up are points of reference, and there were photos taped to the floor of the three major towns in the area.  It was very hard to get a good pic of this because it was so large and because I was to close to the ground and not about to stand on a rickety folding chair to get a better shot. 

zblogeggs

This, for better or worse, is what Army food generally looks like.  In this case, scrambled eggs.  To be fair, this pic was taken several hours after breakfast was over so the eggs are not at their best, but on the other hand the food in the DFAC was, except for the water/gatorade and hard to mess up things like single-serve Corn Pops and bananas, kind of nasty and greasy and just not appealing at all.  I had “chicken” one night with some other soldiers, and it took a real effort to try to gracefully wolf down the….food? that was on my tray as quickly as the soldiers I was with.  I actually prefer MREs (meals ready to eat, i.e. rations) because in there you get some choices and it’s hard to ruin stuff like vegetable crackers or M&Ms.  And you get stuff like iced tea or mocha mix to put in your water bottle.

zblogline

Finally, this is another reason I avoided the DFAC at dinner: the long lines and crowding.   You could scoop in early and get stuff or come late and pick stuff over, but going during peak hours gauranteed a wait plus being awkwardly seated among soldiers who are all ignoring you less in a high-school kind of way than in a “it’s not military, so it’s invisible” way which is a little hard to elucidate.  The military is such an insular culture that stuff off the radar (like a fat civilian with a camera) doesn’t even really register, especially with the heat (every day was over 100 degrees) and the stress the soldiers were under.  It took until my third day there for any of the soldiers in the barracks to get curious about who I was  or why I was there.

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