Archive for the ‘Rockets Can Be Fun’ Category

Rockets Can Be Fun – Episode 3 (Officerensis foolishii)

November 6, 2009


October 2006

This afternoon we had more incoming, which is only news because we laughed ourselves sick while successive concussions rattled through camp:

When the first mortar hits, we’re all working away in the office, including IT Andy who’s trying to fix our stupid printers (there’s another story …). We all scramble into our armor and run to get to someone else’s cubicle, our typical strategy to avoid spending the next half hour in extreme boredom staring at the under side of a desk, or in excruciating pain having to listen to inane conversations between the weirder elements of the office staff.

Anna Lee ducks into my cubicle just as Andy hits the floor outside of it. He doesn’t have his battle gear with him, having left it in his own office which is located in another trailer about a hundred meters away from ours. Standard procedure: we don’t normally lug it around when we run errands around camp.

So he’s lying flat on the floor without armor when LTC Slasher comes striding down the aisle, self-importantly belaboring the obvious by shouting, “Everyone in battle gear? Get on the floor!” (Duh – and what are you doing upright you moron?). He gets as far as Andy and stops dead. “Where’s your gear?!”

“In my office,” Andy replies patiently.

Boom! another mortar. “Well get over to your office!” Slasher cries, “You have to get your gear on!”

Andy squeaks, “What, NOW??! There’s mortars coming in!”

“Yes! Yes! Hurry up!” Slasher yells. “We don’t want you getting injured or killed!”

Andy looks around the cubicle corner at Anna Lee and me, hidden from Slasher’s view by having our backs against my desk behind the office divider. We’ve processed Slasher’s idiocy a little more quickly than Andy has — we are, after all, not the ones being ordered to run around outside while the mortars are falling to keep from getting injured or killed — so we’re laughing hard enough that we’re shaking the desk. Within seconds, in our labored efforts not to make a sound because Slasher is still standing right outside the partition pointing Andy at the door, we’ve tipped over onto the floor and are silently twitching around like strangled cats …

Bam! Another mortar hits …

Andy turns his head to stare directly at us for a long moment, eyes huge and blank in his totally befuddled disbelief. Finally he stands up, very slowly, as if by drawing the action out he’ll give Slasher time to come to his senses (fall down laughing all over again here). Eventually we hear Andy’s footsteps trudging reluctantly toward the door … and another mortar hits – wham!

Anna Lee and I collapse in giggles all over again,

 Later we found out that as soon as Andy walked out the door he ran into the camp manager, who is, unlike Slasher, actually and truly in charge of making sure everyone complies with the security procedures, and is a sane and reasonable man. The moment he saw Andy he yelled, “What are you doing out here?! Get back in the building! Take cover!” Andy started to point and splutter something about Slasher, and the camp manager told him to shut up and get back inside the building!

 We just about died when we heard that – poor Andy, bless his heart!


As long as LTC Slasher’s stupidity hadn’t killed anyone, we laughed. It helped to maintain some semblance of sanity, productively contributing to our ability to avoid one of us shooting or strangling Slasher in a fit of self-preservation. It was obviously a dark humor, though, and one we hoped we’d never come to regret.



Rockets Can Be Fun – Episode 1

October 28, 2009

Two months had passed since I had written Rockets Can Be Boring: Episode 1… Reading back through these accounts in my journal, I’m surprised to find that I was still running for cover in October … I guess in my memory I’d quit doing that sooner than I actually did. Of course, I’m with Crowsie here – he was always a good influence. He had kids back home. That old boy could run.


October 2006

Colonel Corviday and I discovered that we hadn’t fully thought through the options available when caught outdoors during a rocket bombardment at this new camp. About half an hour ago we settled ourselves on lawn chairs at the scenic west end of camp – the Back Porch, as we call it – to enjoy a broad view of bare dirt scattered with discarded plastic water bottles, a distant road, and a few hulks of airfield hangars, all of that scenic beauty framed (!) by the little squares of a double layer of chain link fence and softly lit by a candlelight glow from burning oil and gas vents on the horizon.

This end is a little exposed, isn’t it, I observed absently as I lit a smoke.

What if a rocket came in, Crowsie mused. Right now.

The sandbagged hooch door behind us, I noted, glancing over my shoulder. I’m there.

Crowsie laughed. You might not get that far, he warned me. I’ll grab you and pull you down on top of me. I’ll be fine.

Rank has its privileges, I conceded.

Yes, Crowsie agreed with a mildly apologetic tone. Yes, it does.


Not five minutes later, as Crowsie was recounting intricate and hopeless details of a problem project in Maysan, I thought I heard or felt or sensed three far, far away thumps that might, just possibly, could barely have been artillery. Crowsie must have heard it as well, because he stopped talking for a moment, freezing in place to listen.

It sounded like artillery, I said. But was it? I wasn’t entirely sure I’d heard anything at all. I flicked my cigarette butt through the fence, staring off at the horizon as if I could spot a rocket arcing up from it. Un-hunh.

It might have sounded like artillery, Crowsie agreed. He grinned at me, white teeth showing up in the dark. Wouldn’t that be funny after we were just talking about what we’d do if rockets started flying?

Just as he finished speaking, all hell broke loose: sirens screamed at us from above and alarms from nearby camps wailed in competing keys, creating a deafening cacophony of mayhem.

We both leaped up, banged into each other once like a couple of cartoon characters, then took off running.

I went straight for that sandbagged doorway I’d identified earlier, yelling, Which way are you going Crowsie?!

For an answer he grabbed the collar of my armor, plucking me out of the doorway, lifting me right off the ground. He set me down in front of him and shoved me down the lane nearest us as a couple rockets exploded in the distance. We ran full-out down the pitch dark brick-paved lane between trailers, aiming for our hooches at the other end of camp.

I don’t know what Crowsie was thinking, but I was thinking that this was a really stupid thing to be doing, running all out and upright, when we could and should be hunkered down low, static behind sandbags. In the way of adrenaline-rush thinking, I was simultaneously deciding that, stupid as it might be, running toward an air-conditioned room with a soft bed was a welcome novelty and worth the very low risk of a rocket actually landing in camp, much less within shrapnel distance of me. And between those pragmatic thoughts I was laughing out loud (laughing hard!) as I ran, imagining Crowsie’s paw grabbing me from behind, tossing me to the ground, and big ol’ him burrowing beneath skinny little me for protection. Probably best that his instincts had led him to a different choice of action.

Things were pretty busy there for thirty seconds.

 All things considered, a few bunkers might be a pragmatic addition to the new camp.

back porch

The back porch in daylight ...

(As if we’d use them when we can just as well scramble off to the air conditioned hooches equipped with soft beds and a book or dvd player to help pass the time until the all clear sounds … right.)