July 18, 2010

Sunday Night Bad Mood Rant...

..O.K., not really. I am only agitated because there's no good booze in the house.

Anyway, here's a caveat: I am one of those guys -- and I guess I got this from my mom -- who orders a really great steak with the trimmings and I pound down the broccoli or spinach or vegetables first (I refuse to use the word veggies) and save the steak (or at least part of it) for last. My mom told me that it was easier to eat the good-tasting stuff when you were less hungry than it was to eat the vegetables.

Accordingly, I had some massive fun this weekend; here comes the vegetables first.

Regularly, the Civil Air Patrol (USAF Auxiliary) schedules a Summer encampment for its junior contingent -- the cadets -- and usually in the California Wing it is held at the reserve base in San Luis Obispo. But this year, a returning Army unit from the Gulf commandeered the barracks there and we got blown out. gthings were looking grim until the USMC stepped in and offered us their Area 64 -- A.K.A., Camp Talega -- aboard Camp Pendleton this upcoming week. If any of you ever saw Heartbreak Ridge,well, that's where that movie was filmed. And even if you didn't see Heartbreak Ridge, it was still filmed there.

Long story short, we jumped at the chance and so, in turn your humble narrator tapped to assist with setting up the radio communications infrastructure for the encampment. Sure, it was for a bunch of kids and sure it's just play-soldier stuff, but comm has a serious role in our activities. For example, what if you dropped your kid off at the encampment for a week and the little knothead was running all over a Marine base (including their rifle ranges) and got hurt. Well, cell phones don't work all over the base and the only means of staying in touch with the encampment HQ is by VHF radio through a portable repeater. So who ya gonna call? No, those guys are busy keeping the streams from getting crossed.

Bottom line though, it was a chance for me to go down and see what kind of trouble my son -- The Good Lance Corporal -- gets into. He is a 2717 ("lense licker") with the 4th LAR, goes to reserve weekend there monthly, and gets to play soldier (he hates it when I call it that) and stuff.

So, The USMC was going to let his dad do that for a weekend.

We (the CAP) were billeted with a reserve artillery regiment doing their two weeks and it was kinda cool hanging out with those guys as they moseyed up to the soccer field to do their MCMAP (their hand-to-hand combat regime) or other exercises. It's also at once stirring and disconcerting to see these kids, muscled to the hilt and with an M4A1s and M16A4s slung over their shoulders at all times.

Even though I am sure they were laughing inside at the site of a (relatively) fat, old USAF major, never once did they show it. They were polite, respectful, and prompt to render appropriate military courtesy -- even though it was not strictly warranted. Also, I can tell you, there was not more than one ounce of body fat on all of them put together.

Which brings me to one of the more fun activities on base this weekend: bellying up to the feeding trough. Seems the Marines told CAP that we could dine with them and thus it was that I -- for the first time in decades -- entered a military mess hall, the facility adjacent to us over in Area 62.

The facility was pretty clean, light, and appealing. The food on offer was pretty decent. (But then again, you've never had to endure the 95-cent breakfasts at the Airmen's Open Mess at Offutt AFB.) Hell, they even had TV in the mess -- Hannity, Fox News, and ESPN only. Someone told me that they inadvertently switched over to -- gasp! -- MSNBC and the "Master Guns" (Master Gunnery Sergeant) who ran the mess had a meltdown.

Negotiating the steam tray line (they also had a fast food line) was an experience. You pointed to an item (green beans, squash, potatoes, etc.) and it instantly produced a 16-ounce pile of that on your plate. In my case, green beans and scalloped potatoes spoke for the lion's share and the final selection -- a beef stroganov -- occupied the remainder and covered the beans and potatoes. Then this sweet-faced, smiling black lady asked if I would like corn bread to which I assented. I was rewarded with a 5x5 slab on top of the whole mess. Then there was the salad bar, the desert bar, and the drink bar.

Oh yes; you could go back for seconds if you didn't explode first.

The food was actually pretty good. It was industrial-strength nourishment, to be sure. But tasteful and filling. Clearly, they ain't feeding no flouncing nancy, diet-conscious, bleeding-heart commie liberals. Nossir! They were in the business of keeping 23-year-old, 4,000-calorie-per-day kids topped up and ready to go.

Partially because my mom raised me this way and partially because I was afraid the "Master Guns" was going to get in my face big time, I cleaned and polished my plate. But when it settled, I gotta tell you, I felt like one of those boa constrictors who engulfs a goat and then sleeps it off for 30 days while the whole thing gets processed into snake crap.

I cannot imagine subsisting on that fare for a week and NOT looking like the Michelin tire man.

Seems the good Lance Corporal is the same way. He opts for small portions and is blessed with the talent gaining nourishment through perpetual snacking. He is every bit as impressive as the kids I saw in the artillery regiment but can do his duties on an MRE or crackers and jam or whatever he has stored in his field pack. He tells me this pays off big time for him because he can keep going when the chow hounds need one of those double-dips of stroganov and cornbread to fill their groaning void.

Furthermore, he is built like iron, an expert marksman, and misses perfect PFT scores by one or two sit-ups. Yessir, he is a real keeper and a great deal for the USMC in terms of miles-per-cornbread slabs or Klicks-per-stroganov-scoops.

..oh, and like George Bush I, I despise broccoli.


  1. You had good alcohol right around the corner - just a phone call away.

    Sometimes you commo guys, don't get ya....


  2. Isn't it amazing how mess halls keeps them in perfect shape with all that food.

  3. Supi,

    The mess halls don't do it; the Master Guns do; those guys were working out on the soccer field from dawn til dusk doing McMAP drills when they weren't PTing or going to the gym (there was one right there in one of those Quonset huts.

    But one thing certain sure: these kids can hack the grade and pack the groceries.

    LTB, yeah, I'll remember that. Mayby one day I'll show up at your back door and ask to borrow a cup of Scotch.