This weekend, in my ongoing efforts to make the German Weather Gods listen to me, I decided to complete Spring Cleaning. Seeing as I had yet to unpack from the field, and hadn’t cleaned terribly much before I left anyway, there was a good amount to do. Today, as it turned out, my plan worked and it has been mostly sunny and getting close to 60 degrees. It appears I have found the chink in the German Weather Armor: standing on my balcony in pyjamas sweeping cat hair from my rugs. My neighbors were most entertained. Hopefully they will leave their thanks in the form of baked goods on my doorstep.
Unfortunately, it all came about three weeks too late. There is a saying around these parts: no matter what the weather anywhere else, if someone is outside in the field at Grafenwohr it will rain there. I would like to amend that statement to include things like snow, hail, sleet, mixed cold precipitation, and so forth.
Let us take, for example, the day that I had to run the grenade launcher range. The M203 is a simple weapon. I haven’t fired one in a few years, but coincidentally nothing on it has changed: just don’t shoot the ground in front of you and you should be fine. It is very hard to shoot the ground in front of you. That, naturally, did not stop not one, not two, not three, but four people from hitting the ground remarkably close to them because they showed up to my range from other companies with absolutely no idea which part was dangerous. This was demonstrated in particular by one person, I think from our sister company which will remain nameless, who shot the sandbags he was leaning against. Twice. These were paint rounds for training, so no injuries were incurred, though he was a little more orange when he left my range than when he arrived.
But I digress. I got to the range and the weather was bleak. No surprise, since this was about day five in the field so far and each day we had been outside and each day it had done something nasty. It began to drizzle as I planned the range out with the warrant officer who was supposed to be in charge of the range who clearly wanted to be anywhere other than where he was at the moment. As soon as he went inside the small, unheated shack while I stayed outside to set a few things up it began to snow. Not little flurries, but outright snow in nearly the middle of March. I began to get cranky. Then my First Sergeant called. He called for no other reason than to giggle at me, asking how I was enjoying the weather. I have learned, somewhat, from mistakes made over the years to control my temper, but did offer to give him a grand tour of the range once he made it out there, but he should bring warm boots. He mentioned he might well get snowed in where he was, so I should just have fun. I hung up around then using the excuse of getting the Soldiers helping me run the range set up. He was kind enough to show up later, bring me soup, and order me indoors for twenty minutes around lunchtime so I could move my fingers again. I had been about to ask him to help hold up targets.
The snow did turn to rain later in the day, giving way to cold sunshine as we packed up to leave the range. That was how every day went. It rained if I was outside, perfectly fine if a bit cold the moment I stepped indoors. Because it was perpetually miserable, I did not get sick from the malicious weather patterns, only losing my voice a bit because three days in a row we had no voice projection system other than my loud mouth on two ranges. Much to my command’s dismay, I did not lose it enough to keep snide comments from escaping periodically. I tended to direct them in the general direction of the Soldiers, however, most of whom were kind enough to demonstrate the behavior that reminds me of all the reasons to get out of the Army.
The Soldiers had nothing to do with the weather. There are good ones, and there are bad ones. That is the same in every unit, just like every job. Some of these, however, were more like spoiled children. Somewhere along the line they turned into bratty pre-teens or some such, many of whom appeared to be in the middle of a growth spurt because they could not stop eating. One actually had the gumption to wander up to myself and the other staff sergeant as we stood on the machine gun range waiting for clearance to begin firing. She wanted to know if she had enough time to run to the “car” (We moved around in HMMWVs. She could have at least said “truck”) so she could get some food because she was “freaking starving.” It was approximately 1000. She had been on the range for about an hour. Furthermore, while asking us this question she was in the process of stuffing her face with gummy worms. She actually still had food in her mouth while telling us about her conundrum of how to in fact procure MORE sustenance to feed her. My comrade, who was in fact the Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge of that particular range, recovered himself quickly enough to tell her that in fact she did not have enough time so to go back to her weapon (which she did, pulling out her cell phone to send a quick text message as she did so, undoubtedly about how mean we were. Her cell phone made it two more days before I had it taken away from her). I, however, could not control myself for a good while and could not even imagine what my response to her would have been had I been able to speak. Between the ones like her, me having to put out standing orders as if they were brand new every day, listening (during the few times I couldn’t avoid it) to the Joes whine about everything under the non-existent sun, and assorted other “Joe” problems, I reminded my First Sergeant on a fairly regular basis that the unit has until Easter to get me into my May course because I was already kicking myself for having postponed the medical treatment that could spell freedom. I also regularly asked him about homicide prevention classes, but was told they were unavailable.
The field itself was the field. Ranges, a few well run and a few not-so-well run, exercises, training time, and spending a good amount of time reminding Soldiers that this unit gives it to them easy and requesting that they send me postcards when they get to the real Army to let me know how they are faring. I asked them this particularly since most of the complaints consisted of “But we might be late for chow!” and “What about breakfast?” and “But I am running out of clean uniforms and First Sergeant is too mean to let us do laundry!” The last one coming on day 5… with a packing list of 4 uniforms… I, I point out, used only 2 the whole time and that is because the first one finally got disgusting on the 20 kilometer ruck march I shouldn’t have been doing in the first place and got in trouble for convincing my First Sergeant to let me do.
So between it all, my shoulders suffered pretty badly, my ankle popped out only once, and I ran out of medication by accident so I was a little grumpy and spent more time drinking water and going to the bathroom towards the end, really it was nothing terribly new. The kids are all home safe still whining about their blisters, they all complained even though we got them the bays with beds this year and they had running water and two hot meals a day for free, and the cat is now back home to shed on the rug I just cleaned to appease the German Weather Gods.
Next year, maybe I’ll clean it off in late February. It may not stop the Joes from whining, but it might at least stop it from snowing.