Tag Archive: training



I’ve seen the movie “Hunger Games”, me and my wife.  I wasn’t impressed.

I guess it’s hard to gain an impression of that lifestyle when you’ve lived one as a kid, courtesy of the United States Army and a few other folks.

I grew up in a wartime culture, as lot of my peers did: steeped in the consequences of Vietnam, our father’s fresh from the horror of Korea (and the PTSD symptoms that followed – at the time unrecognized, but visited upon their kids and immediate family sometimes).

I well remember the hunger games.  The real ones.  The ones that WE played – for real.

Kids, gathered or ganged, platooned or assigned, guardian and guerrilla – we came in all kinds, and all kinds of us had our own specialties.  We’d gather in squads or platoons in the woods under the guidance of some counselors, be they military men or civilian, it really didn’t matter.  I even had a Scout Master – Colonel R., from the time I was 14 or so until I grew up and went into the military myself.

We were all a bunch of Army kids – always ‘fighting’, often playing war.  Our Scouts skills consisted of learning a bunch of survival; our overseas training, even more.*

Often the ‘award’ from such a fight was a can of C-Rats – C-Rations, to you civilian folks.  The favorite was fruit cocktail, pound cake (in a can) fell behind as a distant second.

A stack of “Silver Bullets” co-offered by some counselor (gathered from us, of course!) – would be enough for a reward.

To the spoils goes the victor.

They would set the “goody” somewhere (perhaps), divide us into battle groups (divisions, platoons – squads).  Generally the ‘armies’ were divided evenly, but not always.  Sometimes the ‘smart’ kids would be given the little kids to fight with – and the other team would be a lot of big boys.

Very big boys indeed.

I remember laying curled face down in a ravine, knees against my chest as dozens of kids, charging, dove across the ravine, their heels hammering along my spine and ribs.  I served as kind of a footbridge for a lot of them, or so it seemed.  Not that I was there for that, mind you!  I was a spy, and these were my enemies.  They had come up the hill (stealthily, you know), but I had ‘a-spyed’ them, lurking through the bushes, taking little ‘rushes’ from cover to cover, and had sent my young ‘aid’ a runner, about an eight year old kid (I was 14) to go and fetch help, give warning, do something.  Assemble the troops or whatnot.  Set off the alarm.  For I wasn’t the commander – just an infiltrator into enemy territory seeking a few goals.

Often the rules were uneasy.  You were allowed to hurt other kids – but not too badly.  Nothing that needed first aid (and we’re talking here in the serious days, where a small burn or scratch would get you a look of contempt were you to bring it to their attention, much less whine about it.  Kids today are so ‘tender’ . . . but there again, I had such a high pain tolerance (gee, wonder where that came from?  LOL!)

We “played” hard for that little treat, that can of syrupy sweetness, all swathed in green . . . O.D. green, that is, the color of war and canvas.  (How I like the smell of fresh tinted canvas – that military ‘stuff’, thick, green, and sturdy . . . there’s something about it that says . . . something.  Like ‘welcome home’, somewhat . . .)

I remember (and now this was in my older days, when I was 16 and had learned a lot about survival – and torturing folks) – we caught a kid.

He was from the other team, and he knew where in these deep woods (bounded by a highway and stream on one side, a tremendous lake on the other, bordered by woods and mud, and cut-through with ravines like an old man’s face . . .)

So I had him – or rather my helpers – tie him up.

At the first they were amazed when I took his shoe laces and wrapped them tight around his thumbs.  I tied a noose-knot, one that wouldn’t come unbowed, and would tighten whenever he drew it.

And then I showed them how . . .

to tie him up (to a stump) – and then to torture him . . .

without ever leaving a mark.

(That’s kinda funny, seeing as his name INDEED was Mark; Mark T. is all I’ll say for his own protection here . . .)

He had been boggle eyed and incredulous when I had tied him by his thumbs, sneering and saying:  “I’ll get out in no time!”  He was sure of himself, and that he could break those shoe laces.

While he was struggling with his bounds, I turned to my ‘men’ and began telling them – rather, teaching them what to do.

“We’re gonna tickle him,” I said, glancing over my shoulder.  He was sweating now, and his thumbs were hurting – I could seem them turning blue.

He, overhearing that, stopped struggling (whilst I went over and loosen his thumb braces a bit there) – and laughed again.

“Tickle me?!!”  He barked a laugh again.  “That’ll never work!  You can’t hurt me, you know!  Not really.”  And he smiled with a show of self-satisfaction, and leaned back, confident.

I smiled grimly.

He knew little of what was coming.

Turning to my three or four young charges, I looked over my team and said:

“Like this.”

And we began.  We all took turns in tickling him – him bound against the rough bark of an old (and somewhat soggy) tree stump, and those kids taking turns tickling his ribs, and up under his chin – using every trick in the book, even leaves and soft branches.  We had his shoes off, so his foot soles were bared.  At first he couldn’t stop laughing.

Then he couldn’t stop crying.

Then he couldn’t stop himself from peeing himself.

While we all stood around laughing at him he gave us the information we need . . .

Such is the fate, and the victor’s spoils.

He was only a little younger than me, by a year or two.   After ‘extracting’ our information (and me having two swift young runners go back bearing the news, by different ways should one of them get caught) – we found their camp and made havoc on them, taking care not to snap any of their tent poles, but otherwise ‘destroying’ their tents, and pity he who left a bit of food laying out . . . we would take it, every last drop and crumb . . .

Hunger games.

Yeah.

I’ve played them.

.

.

*We were being ‘trained’ to be infiltrators and ‘helpful little hands’ (in some terms guerrillas) for NBC war.  Those skills included, but were not limited to, learning to fire the minigun from a Cobra’s co-pilot seat using a HUD.  Just in case too many Army pilots got wounded . . . during a nuclear war.

Tank


“Bring up Tank!  Come on, hurry up there!”

I hurried at a run, my two guys behind me, ignoring the flames running up and down my legs.  The squad leader, a youth of about fifteen, stood silhouetted in the darkness of the woods beyond which lay a street light on a road.

I was dressed in shorts – not a wise choice for this kind of mission, but it was what I had been given: shorts and a tee shirt.  My half torn old tennis shoes flopped, one sole half torn lose.  I was steaming hot yet soaked to the bone.

“Tank!  Hurry up!  We need you!”  The squad leader didn’t bother to hide his impatience to get going.

I redoubled my efforts, my girth hampering me some.  I had grown during my years here – mostly around.  The briars and nettles raked me – it was impossible to see them, except when we’d cross the occasional field under a spotlight moon half hidden most of the time by darting clouds.  It felt like it would storm again at any time.

“Where’ve you been?”, he asked, crouching as I came nearer.  A few other guys – kids my age – were crouched down around him.

“I had to pee – and we had to finish setting up the deadfall.  Remember?” I told him with a bit of anger in my voice.  We had set the latrine up as a trap – a pit someone might fall into if they came scrambling over a certain log, and if they missed that there was the deadfall to get them.  Or so we hoped.  Everyone was certain our camp would be raided again tonight; they always did, those raiders like us: other kids who were being trained in the guerrilla art-form of warfare.  But we wouldn’t be there – instead, we would be out raiding them, at their camp.  Or so we hoped.

Our fearless Leader had come up with this: the idea of an early offense, striking earlier than was anticipated, and thereby hopefully taking out their camp while they were there – beating up a few kids (maybe), striking many with the sticks we held in our hands.  Nobody was allowed to actually do anything – the use of knives or guns of any kind was strictly prohibited.  Injuries were to be kept to a minimum.  However, our boobytraps – some of those could be quite deadly, if you were foolish enough to get caught in them.

This was while we were overseas, at a camp – I don’t know, some military camp around there, over in the Eastern part of Bavaria.  We were always moving around, and this was a larger camp I’d found myself – there were plenty of amenities and plenty of woods for the G.I.’s – and us – to ‘play’ in.

“You, Tank – you take the lead,” the squad leader said, pointing his finger at me.  The other boys smiled and nodded vigorously while my heart sunk.  I hated going first sometime.  First was always a precarious position – and they were using me as their ‘Tank’ – someone to take the lead, pushing through all the nettles, briars, and bushes – busting a trail while running, not knowing when someone (or something) might take offense to your actions.  But that was what I was known for: my toughness, ability to stand pain.  I could pick a path out through the dark before I was ten and I never got lost.  If I knew where the target was (or home was) I could keep on going (albeit in a straight line) until I got there.

They depended a lot on this unfailing quality about me.  I could guide them to our campsite in the dark – and I could take them through the brush to the enemy.  (This quality was to come in quite handy – and profitably! – when I entered the Corps – escorting Marines through the brush to the theatres.)

We crept slowly up the hill – me sensing more than seeing the paths ahead.  I had been practicing my Indian walking for a long time – about two years, ever since I’d studied it at about age eleven.  My tennis shoes, worn as they were, offered a hope of feeling a branch before I crunched down on it.  I could ‘see’ in the dark rather well compared to some of my peers (a quality I regret to say has been going with age).  I was a good leader.

And I made a good tank in the woods.

Bursting forth with a run, I ran screaming and waving my club through the last dozen feet of woods.  There, in front of us (my legs still burning from the nettles) sat our startled enemy – sitting down, cans out, food half eaten by a small fire who’s light I’d seen.  Behind me, through the hole I’d carved – I’d intentionally went through the thickest set of bushes, figuring they wouldn’t set any boobytraps in there – poured the rest of my squad, the leader behind them, taking up the tail.  With a bunch of Indian screams we ran around, punching in the tents and snapping some of the poles with our clubs.  The kids, startled, jumped up screaming and ran helter-skelter through the woods – I watched as one of them got caught up in his own trap – a net that swung up from the ground and bore him aloft – all the while raising my club and screaming and shouting . . .

It was great, and it was fun

but I’ll never forget how my bare legs would burn and burn for hours to come . . . the deflation after victory, the long march back home . . .

marching through the nettles, to the place we called home
for now.


War Games: The European Theater

“They’re over there,” we said, squatting around the small campfire the G.I.’s had built to warm themselves and their rations. The woods were gray with snow, and the sky overcast. Tanks and APC’s (armored personnel carriers) sat around grumbling. Us kids eagerly spooned up pink slabs of greasy meat and yellow morsels of pound cake from the ubiquitous green C-ration cans, our bicycles parked in the brush at one side. Our ages ranged from twelve to an over-the-hill fourteen.

“What’d you see?” an officer asked, generously offering more C-rat cans. Most of the food we was older than us – you could tell by the packing date – but it was there, and we were more than willing to be bribed. The G.I.’s ate the same fair, though not with as much interest and gusto as us military kids. I reckon that comes with eating the same thing morning, noon and night for weeks. We’d be going home to our warm suppers and beds that night; they wouldn’t.

“There were about three tanks,” I lied, pointing to a thick tree line on the opposite side of the long field. “And a couple of those – .” I pointed at the APC’s. “With about thirty guys eating lunch.”

The officer’s eyebrows arched with interest as he turned, contemplating the far line. The G.I.’s had been separated into opposing groups, both given tanks and guns to ‘fight’ with. And us kids – dissemblers of misinformation, sometimes mixing a bit of reality with imaginative spice, were regarded as a source of military intelligence. How little they knew we often had a devious plan, and were playing a game within the game.

We weren’t the innocent young boys we pretended to be. We had wandered the woods extensively, passing through enemy and friendly lines with impunity. Such was the life of an overseas Army brat – mixing with the G.I.’s on maneuvers, and generally spreading chaos among the groups of training troops. It was what we called “entertaining ourselves” and it was a game we loved. Making plans in the woods or while listening to officers, we would go from camp to camp, spreading intentionally twisted versions of the truth, or the truth on a silver platter. We often attempted to mix up both sides, sending them charging in the wrong direction, or sometimes pitting one under-classed outfit against a well-armed ‘foe’. Sometimes it we succeeded. Sometimes we did not. Sometimes we just didn’t know if the results were just a typical military screwup, or the results of our disinformation to our foe. But we played a game within the game, entertaining ourselves, and playing with our “friends”. Everyone knew we weren’t supposed to be there, ourselves included. The regulation was something like “Dependents WILL NOT fraternize with Troops in the Field” and if you found yourself in a zone where the troops were training, you were supposed to get out. But us kids sought them out, relishing the sight of tanks and guns, rubbing shoulders with the troops in the field, and most of all, doing something we wanted to do – knew to do. And that was to train for war.


It wasn’t uncommon to be riding through the woods and come across G.I.’s infiltrating an area. You’d see their helmets and rifles moving through the brush, their packs bobbing across the landscape. And us being American kids, the G.I.’s often welcomed us into their camps, sharing their food and sometimes giving us a tour or ride in their vehicles in exchange for some conversation. They always seemed interested in what we knew about “the other side” – and we hoped that by controlling the information, we could control their direction, giving them unexpected results. The officers especially seemed interested in what we had to say, since this spared them (and their troops) the effort of collecting the information themselves. And what can I say? It was fun “playing” spy-counterspy with the soldiers .

I remember us kids sitting on our bicycles at the edge of a field. There was the rumbling of tanks to the left, rumbling to the right. There had been opposing companies parked on each side; we had run back and forth, telling each one where the other was. From the way they had talked and had acted surprised, neither knew of the other’s existence. In what we hoped was a stroke of luck or our own devious design, both sides had decided to attack the other’s position. I had enjoyed watching all the soldiers rushing towards their machines, climbing the tanks and starting them up. That’s when we had left.


The tanks to the left burst with a clanking roar from the woods, spraying leaves and crushing bushes on each side. A moment later another row of tanks burst from the other side. Sharing thrilled grins, we watched the huge metal dinosaurs lumbered towards each other, shaking the ground beneath our feet. Suddenly a tank on the right lurched to a stop, smoke billowing from its engine vents. The other tanks kept on coming. A second and a third tank lumbered to a stop – one throwing a tread, it’s sprockets spinning uselessly. Another began spouting thick smoke from its exhaust. I was amazed at how many of the mechanical beasts simply broke down under the effort. Some, I’m sure, were intentional – surely their operators had been informed that they were “dead” and had turned on their smoke generators to signify the fact. But others – ones such as the one with the thrown track – were pure mechanical breakdown.

The tanks roared past each other, turrets swiveling like long snouts, then continued on, attacking each others position. Men began yelling in the far woods; there was the rapid snap “ratatatat” of small arms and the bang!-bang!-bang! of heavy weapons – .30 caliber and .50 cows kicking in. Us kids, satisfied by the mayhem, watched as a couple tank crews emerged and wrestling with their hoods, began working on and cursing their machines. One stood by his tank’s side and futility kicked its sprocket, spouting curses, then taking a piss. Mounting our bikes once again, we faded into the woods, knowing our job was done. We had once more fouled up someone’s battle plan. Now it was time to look for some more victims – and some more fun.

In Deep Water


In Deep Water

The building echoed with whispers and wet laps. Every sound in the cavernous concrete room was accentuated a thousand times. Water chuckled behind me and the row of children, and I could smell damp concrete in the air. We stood in a tight row, our backs arched at attention, paying attention to our instructor.

“. . . and this is how you equalize your eardrums,” the instructor was a young strict looking woman. She was thin, dressed neck to ankle in some form fitting long sleeved outfit I did not recognize. I thought it was a bathing suit. She held her nose and pretended to blow, keeping her mouth shut while she raised one hand, pointing her index finger at the ceiling hidden by the glare from the metal coned steel housings hanging there. Then she stopped, dropping her hands, both from the finger and the nose.

“You’ll feel it going down,” she warned, looking at us kindly. “It’ll start hurting in your ears. When it does I want you to stop and do this.” She stopped to repeat the gesture, holding her nose, but keeping her other arm down. Her face changed from kind to stern in an instant. “And then you keep down down. Until you reach them.” She pointed at the dark bars lying on the floor. Each was about a foot long, and they had magnetic ends, color coded so you would know which was which, north end from south. We were supposed to build something with them; that or retrieve them from the bottom of the pool. I could feel my insides squirming with gleeful anticipation. This is going to be fun, I kept reminding myself, taking nervous glances over my bared shoulder at the pool. The water was dark at the bottom . . . they had warned us it would be deep. I just hoped I could hold enough air to carry out the mission.

Several adults – some of them G.I.’s, I suppose, stood around in relaxed poses. They were wearing black trunks, and alternated between studying us with what seemed a deep curiosity and looking at the water. I threw them nervous glances. They had been whispering behind cupped hands, and in some strange way I knew they were talking about us. “Us” was a small group of kids – about six or eight of us, not more. We were standing in front of the female instructor; behind us was “the pool”. This was on a base not long after we had arrived – both this base and this location in Germany. We moved around a lot.

This wasn’t the first pool we had went swimming in nor would it be the last – but it was by far the deepest and indoors. Because I have trouble believing what my memory tells me – I can’t believe how deep it felt – I tell myself: “Oh, it couldn’t have been more than sixteen feet deep.” But the truth of it was – I think it was a lot deeper. A whole lot deeper.

I know the water got a darker as you went down. A lot darker. So dark that you couldn’t hardly see those bars laying on the blue bottom; so dark that all of the colors had drained away – you could only tell the white end because it was gray (white was the ‘North’ side) and the red because it was a little bit darker. While as an adult I have trouble believing it, it felt more like thirty feet, the pressure was so bad. You could feel your chest crushing in. Of course we were kids; our ribs were thin – but still. It hurt to be down there a long time. And we were trained to hold our breath over a minute – hyperventilating until you were silly from dizziness before diving in . Twenty-four seems to a number I recall hearing, though the German measurements were based on meters. I think it might have been something the G.I.’s said, or we might have asked our instructor. I do know it was deep enough that despite the overhead lights the water got dark and I had to stop at least three or four times to equalize my ears against the growing pressure.

“Okay, everyone turn and face the pool!” As I recall, this class was an equal opportunity instruction – I seem to recall one, if not two or three girls in my class. Everyone, if I recall, wore black or dark colored swimsuits – the girls one piece ones that went from the crotch all the way to their shoulders. I think my mom had enrolled me in this class, though how she’d ever managed to find one on a base over there – one where I could be attending without the interruptions of school and moving – is beyond me. However, she knew my love of swimming – oddly enough, my brother was never there – and she was quite determined that I do it well. (I later went on to earn my Red Cross Advanced Life Saving Certificate, but that’s quite another story for another time.)

I turned; everyone turned, as if on a pivot, the way we’d trained to be.i We were near the far corner of the pool, away from the shallow end. You could hear the soft patter of bare feet as we shuffled on the wet cold concrete floor. It was rough. We weren’t shoulder to shoulder, but close enough you could reach out and grab someone. Everyone was pale, milk white from lack of sun. We almost glowed under those lights, except the little girls who stood at the very end. They had those tight fitting bathing suits on, strict little things fitting like skin covering their thin bodies. No one was fat in there. I hadn’t even gained the weight I would soon be packing on. I often glanced curiously at them as they made their way single file into the girl’s locker room, wondering what went on in there. What their pale little bodies looked like. If they were as pale as mine. I remembered my cousin Julie; how brown her body had been. I wished that I could be friends with them – anyone! – but in this group I knew not a single one. We were all kids thrust together at our parent’s whim, joined on an Army base by a Government order and whimsical fate.

None of our parents came to watch us, not that I recall. None of the kids parents were there. Maybe they were but I don’t remember it. The room was almost always empty except a few men standing around the pool when I walked in. It seems to me my mom dropped me off the very first time to show me where it was. From there I was on my own. She would tell me when it was time to go and that was it. Later I would just know when it was time to go – a little bit after dinner – grabbing my bathing suit and a warm towel. I guess she figured I was pretty good at finding my way around. That, and on the military bases it was pretty much safe. Of course if you want to take the ‘other side’ – it was preparatory to some training. (or at least that is my thought here.).

After that first visit we would walk to the pool on our own. It seemed I always went in the evening, and that I went two weeks, every day, for two or three hours a day, starting at twilight. I seem to remember seeing stars in the sky, walking – but I don’t trust every last detail of this memory, not for certain. And I’m almost certain it was in the late fall. The air of these memories (for there is another one about a young lover I found who found a friend in me) – is always cold; crisp and cold, generally with the wind blowing. Cold and windy days – those gray ones promising rain, snow, or thunder. And the shortening of days as the days go marching on until the next thing you know you are eating breakfast in the dark and supper in the dark. Five o’clock – that’s what time we had to be home for eating supper. Dinner was served at five-thirty – that’s when my dad would come home, though on the bases he would sometimes arrive for lunch or at odd times to either pick up some gear or drop something off. In those northern climes due to global tilt and angle, and especially during those cloudy days when the clouds would all stand still and pile up, five thirty becomes the twilight zone. At least seems that way. All the colors drain away into the shadows; ghosts haunt buildings, shining their light into your faces – until you turn around and realize it’s just the reflection of some streetlight ‘yonder’ – far off, in other words . . .

wandering those bases at night was a trip sometimes.ii

“Okay, you know what to do.” The woman walked to the edge of the pool. Her suit came down to her ankles. She had a load of those bars in her arms. “Everyone get in.”

She started throwing the bars in – half to a quarter of the way across, and about fifteen or twenty feet from the end – where it was the deepest (as I was about to learn). This was kind of a “final”. The bars made dull splashes. We had learned to swim starting ‘on shore’ – everyone laying on their belly on these little stools and feathering their feet, making swimming motions with their arms. We were also taught to dive from a high place – and speed dive. Surface dives were rough – we barely had enough legs to shove us under the surface, much less give us any acceleration to go down like the big men did – for they got in around us.

We all jumped in – freestyle, laughing out loud, preparing for a good time, but the water was cold, almost freezing. I know I was overjoyed to be in it– it seemed a natural environment, and I could hold my breath for over a minute. But that was without hyperventilating. I don’t know how long I could hold it hyperventilating. They never told us how long we were ‘down there’.

The G.I.’s – at least two or three of them (and I don’t think there were any more) jumped in with us as we paddled out to the middle of the deep end where the woman had thrown the bars. One or two of them went down and did some thing – or some things. And then we started diving.

As I said, the water was cold, but our bodies soon warmed to the task. It was hard work – diving down – and down and on down deeper – holding our noses and blowing from time to time. I learned to keep mine in check – blowing as I went down instead of stopping like some were – swimming on forward, kicking with desperate feet, trying to reach that dim bottom. From there it got even trickier. The G.I.’s had built structures out of these things – small pyramids and boxes for the most part. And in every one they would place a bar, usually at an angle, with one end hanging out. You would have to go and pull out the bar without disturbing the structure. It was harder than it sounds.

For one thing, you had those magnets going against you. Get too close to the structure and it would fall down, or the magnetic forces would go tearing it apart. I remember on my first one – a cube, I’m pretty sure – the end of the bar got too close to another magnet – it ‘sucked’ the end down – and I was left with this disentegrating box, a rod in one hand – those divers growing closer and me imagining that they were getting angry – as I desperately tried to rebuild the box on the bottom and retrieve the bar like I was supposed to do. Instead I ended up making a mess – the bars were scattered all over as I finally gave up my try and went surging from the bottom – running out of air and hoping I would make it in time to the surface.

That’s where I learned about diving – free lung, any style. You don’t want to wait until the last minute. You’ve got to learn just when to turn around – go up towards the surface. Otherwise you’re gonna run out of air on the way there. This was something they had warned us about – and not all the kids seemed to take it to heart. I recall the G.I.’s having to rescue several of them. “They” (the G.I.’s) would keep jumping in, always keeping someone near the bottom, keeping an eye on us. The woman never went in – she stayed on top, on the concrete, directing us.

“Time to go down again!” she would call to the class. “You, you, and you! I want you to go down there and do (fill in the blank).” And she would describe the task to us. And then we’d go diving down – bending, folding, thrusting our legs up – using their weight to drive us down – and we’d swim like dark fish, lemmings – swirling shadows on the edge of my vision as I used my arms and legs to pull myself down. All the while the water would be growing darker, duskier until it was almost night – and then you’d see that bottom swimming up. From there I’d go desperately darting in a serpentine pattern, keeping a distance from the other swimmers until the bars – sometimes scattered – came into view. From there it would be a matter of ‘diving’ down to them, and hoping you had enough air to ‘complete your mission’ – whether that was disassembling something, assembling something, or simply bringing the bars up one by one. (For some reason you weren’t allowed to bring up two – one in each hand.)

Meanwhile those G.I.’s kept an eye on us and pulling out a child from time to time. I can still see them in mind’s eye – hovering there in the dark water at the edge of our vision all the time. They’d take them over to the edge of the concrete pool where they would drag them out and over, pump ’em dry and start over again. They’d sit them down for a few minutes – the kid would choke it out, sometimes vomiting – and then he (or she) would get back in. And do it again. Retrieving some, leaving behind some . . . we got into building ‘structures’ for later on. Those were for the short kidsiii. But it was a short course, only two weeks (I think) though we stayed late into the evening. About nine or ten sometimes. Maybe even later. I remember always being a sleepy head going home. Swimming had wore me out for good reason . . . it was hard sometimes.

(later, sitting in the dark thinking, I try as I’ve tried to envision this place, the building. The lights, I’m sure, were set off to the sides, in the high corners where the wall joined the ceiling. And it was tall! But those lights set like that – I think they caste a shadow off the side of the concrete pool, adding to the impression of dark water. Kind of like in a swimming pool early in the morning – swimming in the shadow of a concrete wall, the water becomes a bit ‘darker’. “Dusky” is a good word for it.

As for this thing’s depth . . . well, the building.

Again we are relying on a faulty memory system; parts and glitches in the system; snapshots and feelings; the impressions of a twelve year old child who was (evidently) having some memory problems – or ‘switching’ – because we can’t remember one move – there’s a lot of holes in this thing. But sitting . . . I kept trying to look at it from the water’s edge – when I was treading water – my lungs giving out, chest sore, panting – going down for one more dive, doing this again and again. I don’t think they gave us one break for more than – well it felt like three hours, but probably was two. And truthfully, some of the kids came near drowning – they would stay down there too long, trying to build something or bring something up – forgetting that rule or pushing to the limit that which dictates how long you can stay down. And that’s approximately half the air that you breathed getting down there. There wasn’t much room for error, not if you were going to do this thing: go down and ‘fetch them’ – or worse and harder still, build something (typically a square cage) using the magnetic ends.

But I remember – or think I remember – seeing this number painted on one side. The end.

11”.

And as I mentally squinted over the choppy water towards the side (trying to force my attention on that and not the other little boys and job I was doing – because I was concentrating on that and not this number I was seeing) – I’m seeing a small “m”.

Which means the depth would have been 11 meters.

That’s quite a deep depth for a little boy to be climbing – up or down, water besides the point. That’s over three stories deep. If my somewhat faulty memory rings true. (And the numbers are painted white; that’s what I noticed right off; usually on a pool they’re black; here they are painted white, with that little serrif on top. And tall ones.)

The building itself – as I kinda remember it – wasn’t in the usual place for that kind of thing. Usually the Army tends to keep things together – amenities all in one section, PX, barber, ‘bought’ things in another – the tools of war and their trade stored in another, the soldiers bunking in some barracks grouped in a cluster – very organized.

This building (again, to the best of my faulty memory, for which you may have to excuse me – and again, to the depth perceptions of a twelve year old child) – sat on a low hill in the ‘industrial’ or ‘utility’ section on that base – not the normal one, which would mean not far from the PX, E-Club, Theater and things. No, this building stood off – and it was a tall one – and you had to climb some steps to get in. And it was echoey and dark inside; the lighting was (I think) perimeter lighting around the pool, nothing hanging over. Which again explains the darkness of the water I was seeing.

But if I’m getting it right – if that number means what I think it’s meaning – then that pool was over thirty foot deep. That would explain the pressure I was feeling. Because it was like a squeezing hand, a squeezing fist – you could feel it. It hurt my chest – for hours afterwards I would feel it. A soreness in the middle of the ribcage, and tender sometimes on the sides.

Eleven meters. Thirty-six feet. I know: I looked it up.

That’s a long way for a child to be diving.

Deep water.

Story of my life sometimes, LOL.


i ~ Oddly enough, this sentence has a DID symbology, though I didn’t realize it when I first wrote it. Might just be a case of seeing coincidences where there are none – but it’s almost as if it’s done quite deliberately. Which it may be. On behalf* or by some ‘part’ in me. *

“Behalf”, I’ve figured out (because it’s a phrase I sometimes use) means “for the ‘all’ of me in some way. “Pivoting” means “turning” – ‘switching’ from one phase/person/persona to another. As in to spin (in mind’s eye I see a flat round smooth brown table slowly turning . . . as if in the wind). From one personality to another in a flash or a turn.

ii ~ And for a child it could get scary. You had to avoid the MP’s in their jeeps – the grownups milling around – dodging around corners and behind bushes . . . making your way ever closer to ‘the system’ . . . usually the supply depot to meet someone, steal some supplies – sometimes for the soldiers out in the woods.

iii~ another odd phrase in my mind. “Short” in military terms means “soon to be transferred”. But it also could mean younger (smaller) children.

War In the Hood


War In the Hood

I stood next to the path, gritty sweat running down my face and bare chest. Overhead the sun shown like a molten rock in a diamond sky. I patiently waited, shifting restlessly from bare foot to another, feeling the gritty sand shifting beneath my feet.  A big bark covered log leaned across my shoulder, my hands gripping its rough gray surface like a baseball bat. It was pine, about two inches around, and much longer than me – about six feet tall. Beneath my bare feet the fine white sand was cool between my bare toes; a gentle summer breeze caressed my dust covered legs. All I wore was a set of short cutoffs made from a pair of pants; nothing else. I had no shirt or shoes on – just a firm brown tan carrying a scar or two.

I cocked my head, listening. Not just listening, but listening hard ­for that soft ‘pad-pad’ of feet striking soft sand. Thus far, nothing. The narrow path I was standing next to meandered down the hill in a more or less straight line, threading through thin pine and oak and around scrappy clumps of scrub. I had stationed myself somewhere in the middle, not far behind our house, and almost right behind the teenager’s place – hiding myself beside a thin screen of leaves and finding my weapon of choice.

We had been busy, my team and I, digging sporadically spaced shallow holes along the path. There was one every four or five feet from where I stood, stretching away for a good sixty or more foot in each direction. My team had disappeared – that was the plan – and I stood by to catch ‘them’, the enemy we had been given orders to harm. Even killing was an option, though I chose not to do so. I simply wanted to harm someone, do my part: take one out, or down.

In each hole we had placed stakes selected for the task. Unfortunately, none of us owned a shovel much less a knife, so we had to rely on our skills and intuition – digging holes with our bare hands and fashioning stakes by breaking dry branches so sharpened ends would form. Sometimes we sharpened them on rocks a bit. Then we would dig our shallow holes – odd how the land turned from stark white to a chocolate brown as soon as you scraped the earth. It was a painful task, packing dirt underneath our fingernails and almost ripping them off. Mine were kept short, courtesy of my nervous habit of biting them all the time, but still it hurt as the sand ate away at the skin on the end of your fingers.

I wanted our holes to be deeper, so I had encouraged my team to use the stakes as digging sticks where they could, but soon it became obvious. Looking up and down the path we could see the pine needle patchworks like frayed brown mats covering the holes scattered up and down the sandy white path.  None were much bigger than my foot.  I had measured mine to determine the size of the holes we must dig – and none were very deep. We had covered the holes with laced pine twigs to hold the pine straw mats, but there was no denying it: our traps stood out in the noontime sun like furry brown blisters on the fine white sand. I wiped sweat from my brow with the back of a dusty hand. Above the sun hung like a molten moon – small, distant, and hot. The sky, white-azure, was a leaded plate of glass radiating the heat down, only to suck it back up and send it back later on with more fury. It beat in a continuous wave – a hot July that left your breathless, like standing in blast furnace at noon, which would settle out to simply sweltering at night.

That was one thing about the Georgia sand hills, site of ancient seas – it was cool sometimes despite the rich Southern heat. Set above the Savannah river valley, the breezes carried wafts of ancient air, as cooling to the dinosaurs as it was to me. The settlers ‘down there’ in the valley would come up here in old times, seeking relief from the heat and diseases of the swampy south part of town – Augusta, Georgia it was, and we were not too far off the Tobacco road of fame and infamy.  Not that it had progressed much since that novel was written. Jeeter still lives there, with his mother-in-law and kids – many of them, for they have reproduced like rabbits down here in the south, and there’s no fox to kill them. So they just go on, generation after generation . . . drifting down into the earth like the fossils they are, and leaving only derelict buildings and old outhouses behind . . .

We had moved there some years before, and I was the one calling the shots. After all, I was an officer’s kid – or so they thought. In actuality my dad was but a Warrant Officer, W-1 – the earliest grade available. He was the one who had taught me to fight and showed me some pressure points and things – this was when I was about seven years old and was being matched up against the teenager and kids much older than me. He’d seen me come in bleeding but proud – I’d won another fight with my windmilling approach, but I had no sense of guard; I knew nothing about blocking any blows. Instead I’d just go ahead and suck them up while attacking the other kid – windmilling my arms, head down, feet a’charging. This, I later learned, was not the way to be doing things – and even while fighting like that I knew there had to be something better. So he spent a few hours one afternoon teaching me how to hold my arms up, make a guard – punching out instead of simply lashing out with those wide round houses kids often made. And I became a good fighter, practicing on my friend. He and I were into fighting all of the time; that’s part of what made us such good friends! We’d fight for awhile, determine who was the dominate one – and then with wide grins and big smiles we’d clasp each other around the shoulders and go walking down the road like two soldiers or best buddies, best friends until the end. There was never any animosity between us: we’d simply fight, settle it out, and go on about our play – no harm done.

But this time we were on a different kind of mission. The teenager may had set this one up, though I may be wrong. He often worked for his father as a mason and during the summer he was gone – off on some job site hauling some block, mixing some concrete, or doing some other kind of errand for his dad. That’s why he liked school so much, but it made him strong. The teenager was one of, but not the strongest in the ‘hood. That in part (I think) was due to his age: he was younger than some of them, but older than most of ‘my gang’ – who he hung around most often. Sometimes his attention was split between us – trying to seduce us kids while at the same time maintaining a somewhat normal relationship with the teenagers he in turn wanted to be like: the Fedrickson’s with their nice cars, or even the Stephensons, though he, like us and the rest of the hood hated their bullying ways. All of those kids were older than him – not by much, but enough, I suppose, to have that effect on him: him always ‘looking up’ and wanting to be like them (plus their families were ‘rich’ compared to him; they seemed to have everything, but his own family? Some of the poorest people in the ‘hood. Sometimes ‘we’, our family, came in at a close second. A very close second sometimes.)

This time we were in a war. My ‘team’ – a group of three of my friends and myself – had been selected to patrol – and set up and ‘mine’ – this part of the path. Then, after my friends were done, they were supposed to hightail it up to ‘the ridge’ (a hump in the ground further up on the hill) where our opponents, vastly outnumbering us (it was about twelve to one, including a teenager on their side) – were waiting for us to come up there, or us wait for them. Us little kids had immediately decided to take an alternative action. We had dug our traps – my team had gone up as described – and now I was waiting for something else. That’s why I had picked up this log.

Looking at this path it had occurred to us just how ineffective these traps were. For one reason: you could see them, scattered like the wind tossed mats of pine needle. Our team had discussed it after trying to top the needles with sand (it simply trickled through, burying the hole – or the weight would collapse it down). Not only that but the holes were too small – just big enough for a bare foot to get caught in, sparing a few inches. Due to our lack of construction tools, most of the holes were quite shallow – four to six inches deep, maybe a bit more, depending on the hardness of the sand we were digging in and the time we had allotted for ourselves to get this thing done.

We had brushed out most of the tracks on the path and fingermarks scarring the holes. Most of the kids knew about pit traps – or at least those who played war did. And this wasn’t the first time we had used pit traps. We’d even remarked how bad it was that we couldn’t get some feces to rub on them – that way the ‘enemy’ did – but in the end we had abandoned that idea. Everyone knew we’d get into trouble if we did – the grownups would get mad. Just the pit and the stakes were enough – all that was asked for. Injure some kid bad enough . . . it was enough to make the whole group of us shudder . . .

So we had discussed it, my team and I, before coming up with another plan of action – one that ran counter to what we had been told. I would stand beside the path and ambush somebody – taking them down – and then fading back, do it again – if anyone should come running down that path. We were all agreed I was the most capable of doing this thing: tackling somebody and bringing them down. Meanwhile my team would go ‘up there’ towards the other team’s home (which was behind the ridge) – and lead them down this merry path to my hell. And I was waiting for them to do it; exactly this kind of thing.

However it had occurred to me as my team dissipated along the sides of the path, scurrying through the low brush towards the top of the hill that I was unarmed and unable to do anything against a group of kids who might be coming down that hill. Critically scrutinizing the path, I thought about the games I played – the other games with my dad. A lot of them were ‘war’ games, meaning chess and things – but sometimes he brought equipment home. We had yet to get the missile launchers* – those would come later, when I was about ten or eleven – but they were unarmed. They were simply the collapsible tubes and aiming sights (as well as fold down hand grips, buttons, and instructions on how to use them) – which we would aim at each other when playing war.

So I looked at the path and thought about it – seeing ‘me’ running down the path and knowing what I would do when I saw ‘them’, the traps we had made. I could literally almost ‘see’ myself running towards me, head down, scrutinizing the path – dodging this way and that, avoiding this hole and jumping over another one. I looked up. There was yelling on the hill. Looking around I espied this stick of mine – a broken down tree laying on the ground. I picked it up and took my station, positioning myself behind the bushes . . .

because I knew – knew with an almost complete certainty how the kid would come. He would come like me – head down, concentrating on the path – looking where the next hole was and not where he was going. Already I could hear one running down the path. I knew it wasn’t one of my own – we had all agreed not to use this path; it was mined and ‘booby trapped’ from stem to stern – if not by one of our boys, then one of ‘their’ own. We would just wait here . . . waiting by this path until the enemy came . . . with this great big old stick braced against my shoulder, its end dug into the ground . . .

I heard the pitter-patter of feet coming a lot closer – and the yelling and shouting like mad Indians or wild hoodlums grew louder as the crashing of bushes came down the hill – and I tensed, bracing myself. Glancing around the thin screen of bush I could see him – a kid like me coming on down the path, his head down, hair crew cut like mine – maybe a spot or two thinner (all of our ribs were showing) – and a bit smaller in frame – and he was running, his head down as he concentrated on his path. He was hopping and dodging like a rabbit down the path, his feet skipping between the holes like it was a game, shooting little sand geysers like sparks and flame, leaving dust behind. As he came abreast of me, I stepped out and took my swing . . .

He barely saw me – barely had time to slow down, his face a slate of blank astonishment – but the motion of his body carried him on – and before he had time to turn around, I had taken that great big ‘log’ – that two inch wide stick in my hands – and cracked him in the back with it – right there, right above the middle section, just below his ‘blades (his shoulder blades, I mean) – and POW! – he goes down skidding across the sand on his belly, hands thrown out in front of him. And I had hit him so hard that that branch or log or stick in my hands broke right in half across his back – one end going spinning away into the brush somewhere while the other end stayed in my hand, flaking bark still from the force of my blow.

I looked at him. He looked like a beached fish in the sand; he lay there gasping, his hands making vague clawing motions in the sand. I could hear the yelling on the hill. It was no longer growing louder; indeed, it had settled down somewhat. Had my team taken them? Spinning in my heels I turned, looked up the path and then back down at the kid. He had stopped moving and was just laying there, his ribs going up and down. I felt a wave of contempt mixed with self-sympathy and sympathy for him. That, I knew deep down as I began running through the woods towards where my friends were battling the teenager and someone else, could have been me. That was the nature of our warfare. Grim and determined. And sometimes we kept it real.

Real wars in the ‘hood.

Battle and battle on . . .

Sometimes it seems it was the story of my life sometimes . . . in those days and days to come . . .




*I learned later those disposable rocket launchers were M72 LAW‘s , a Light Anti-Armor weapon which was developed after the Korean war in response to the expected threat of overwhelming masses of Soviet tanks and armor crossing into Western Europe – and perhaps America – in a war which was to come. One might think this, along with the training I had later overseas as an older kid would lead to something . . . but I think not, or do not know. It almost seems as though ‘they’ (the parents, the grownups, and the Army) were training kids for ‘that war’ (the one that never came). The expectation was a Soviet invasion in which our soldiers might die – and so maybe us kids were meant to fight as guerrilla fighter, individually or in groups – and fight hard – until we either died or succeeded in our mission – which was to overcome, overwhelm – and simply survive, if nothing else, in a forgotten and blasted land . . .

13 Training


“People are taught.  Animals are TRAINED.”  This is a phrase that was told to me by a friend this last July after I kept referring to what I’d been ‘taught’ during my childhood as training.  I’ve come to realize: as a child abuse survivor, I was both taught and trained.

This is an excerpt from a personality I’ve been Trailing (meaning trying to ‘dig up’) – me being DID and all (dissociative identity disorder).  The “missing one” – the one on my report on my main blog, “A Song of Life“.  We are trying to recover . . . well, ‘missing memories’ – it’s not that we FORGOT – it’s just there’s this ‘part’ of us that has gone missing – and we are trying to recover him – for if a part of you is missing, you certainly cannot be whole.     (Written after we’d written what lays below.)

Enjoy.


We were both taught and trained. We were trained by the military by the time we were 13.  By then the training had fell off some.

no that is not right

we were trained until we were 14.  That was when we got back here, in the United States.

I remember that thing

We were trained a lot with the Army men.  They were kind to us most times.  Except for our Scoutmasters.  They were okay.  They were big men and they drunk beer.  You could get it out of the vending machine in the barracks come sundown.

we were out in the field.  This was when we were 13.  we spent a lot of time out there.  we spent it with the men, the actual G.I.’s.  eating rations and things.  I liked the cans.  I liked the fruit cocktaile most of all.  It was rather yummy with the cherries and things but there never were enough cherries.

I liked the silver bullets most of all.  They were made out of toffee chips and chocolate – hard waxy chocolate, but it was good stuff.  Good stuff to be eating.

They taught us lots of things, like getting into making deadfalls and all.  Those are when those logs come crashing down on you .  they are hard were hard to lift it took several of us boys in doing that.  They were hard; some of them boys were very mean hard boys made us do things we’d rather not do.  Like running through nettles and scuh.  in our bare shorts and stuff.  things to cause pain.

we learned about making puji stick traps when we were young; we were young Mikie’s age; that’s when we learned about those things and claymore mines.  Those and shooting thse handgrenade things

We wanted to ride in tanks lots of times but only got to go in some of the times for a ride and all.  It was hard; you got bounced around a lot and there were all those metal and things.  It could hurt you if you were not strapped down.  And the apc’s and things were cool; those were where we met the colonel sometims and we were supposed to give him information about what the other side was doing only we lied a lot and got him into trouble.  We told him where to go and then he went and we told him again where they are and he went in to charge them and only ended up charging his own dam self ha ha and LOL,  Shot up a bunch of his own tanks that time.  Three of us were into doing it three of us children in all though sometimes there were five of them.

We used to go into the underground bunker left by the Germans by the end of WWII; this was on the Fleigerhorst Kaserern which was where the german army had left something.  they had left this area of underground bunkers – it was seven levels deep and some of them were filled with water and airplanes and things and they (the army, our army) had built an airfield on the top of this thing, only they knew, so the germans used to do it like this:

When the American bombers would fly in the Germans would flood their airbase with some water, so it looked like a lake.  Then they would drain it and tada!  It became an airfield with all those bombers and fighters beneath, which would come out and go after them.  come the end of the war, they closed those levels (some of them) and flooded them out.  Nobody could figure out where the water was coming from, so the Army just left them alone.  They are still there, to this day, flooded, with airplanes sitting in them.  But the thing is the Germans thought they were coming back, and so they left some of those rooms open.  And that’s where the Army came in.

We were a member of the Scouts; only it was like a platoon.  We had two G.I.’s overseeing us, and we went on a lot of ‘missions’.  Some of them were good; some of them were so-so (yawning and things).  But we were there.

We got used sometimes; us kids and our bicycles.  Using us to go from here to there.  Setting up traps and things.  Observing enemy equations.  Making judgements and things.  Deciding what to do; how to set up …

then there was the nighttime when we’d go on the prowl, me and my guys and I.  This means some others as well; two of my friends.  we’d go down to the ammo dump where they’d kill ya for just looking on – much less breaking in and stealing ammunition like we were doing – sneaking a rack of belts out; stripping some threads ….

we did a lot of things like that under the cover of darkness.

it’s surprising how often an adult will forgive a little kid for doing something an adult would NEVER do and we got off on that many a time.

making strangers of friends and friends in strangers proved a wonderful thing.  It proved we could control who we are.

we got off on lots of times lying to the commanders; fooling around.  we got in trouble and things

we did a lot of dangerous stunts, messing with explosives and things

this was all by the time we were 13 and things.

it made us who we are

hooray army sometimes

they made an honest soldier outta me.  (LOL’ing and giggling going on right here ..

(breif sidenote we have just been ‘zoning’ as best we can … figuring if we can damp all the basic personalities we can get on thinggs this one – if no one is left, then only the ‘missing’ will be there …. been working on this one called “13” (or Jeremy if you prefer) – so forgive my efforts . . . lol, pulling out of ‘the zone’, noting that I felt some severe anxiety and/or fear when I hit one subject (deleted, unfortunately – something about ‘digging too deep’ – into something – hit a real big fear level in this child of mine – this 13 year old…. 

So forgive us our online therapy.  Sometimes by zoning out and losing control – we can find some things.  Like our missing persons report right there . . . on our other blog.

Until later (headache and all)
Jeff & Friends