There was a time when I found camping to be quite the enjoyable activity. Of course, that included a refrigerator, shower, cushy seats, and above all else, air conditioning (btw, this is another way of describing a hotel room). That was when I was much younger and far more adventurous. Then came the day that I supposedly grew up and decided it was time to get out and see the world, courtesy of the Army. I had seen all the advertisements regaling the military lifestyle as “Be All You Can Be” which I found to be distressingly vague and highly inaccurate. Permit me to pause here to insert a word, or several, the great outdoors……they make me appreciate the Great INDOORS all the more.
Let me be perfectly clear, I bear the military no ill will. We’re good. I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you, with a few minor exceptions, and would highly recommend the experience to anyone seeking a change. One of the aforementioned exceptions has to do with the military version of “camping.” I specifically signed up for a Communications assignment because of the fact that, in communications, the equipment needs to be kept cool which means…we don’t grunt it about on our backs, we drive it around in large trucks with air conditioning.
Perhaps, I should have realized there was something amiss when my recruiter didn’t even let the pen vacate the page at the end of my signature before snatching the enlistment contract away and, with a grin like Dracula about to feed, smiled and said “Welcome to the Army.” I will admit, Basic Training was tough. Lots of yelling, noise, and tossing of items about. Even more spitting on and polishing of everything that wasn’t breathing until the sparkle could be seen for miles, at which point we had to don camouflage to cover up anything that might sparkle so we couldn’t be seen.
We also learned that just because one can yell very loudly and possesses an incredible thesaurus of profanities, does in no way guarantee that said loud person is able to read a map. My Drill Sergeant, who is undoubtedly a wonderful human being, but is highly directionally challenged, marched us out into the wilderness for a few days of adventure. I must point out at this juncture, that the Army idea of “camping” means each soldier (aka “ground pounder”) carries half of everything while his buddy carries the other half. Yes, that means I had half of a tent on my back and my buddy had the other half; I had half the food in my pack and he had the other half; and you get the picture. Subsequently, upon arrival at, what we thought was our destination, since our Drill Sergeant told us to drop our packs and dig a large hole over which we assembled a long bench of sorts (which we discovered later the purpose).
There are several things I could, and probably should, point out in detail regarding this “adventure” for future reference, but I’ll stick to a few generalities instead:
- Should you opt for a hammock instead of a tent, it is wise not to keep any food in your pockets (gum, candy, chocolate, etc.) because the ants will not only enjoy dining on it, they will give a taste test to anything near it (let that sink in for a moment).
- Ticks find the oddest and most inconvenient places to hide, only a true friend will help remove them without comment.
- Bears are, indeed, very curious and don’t like it when you try to shoo them away from the peanut butter you were saving for later.
- Tents smell. Adding two sweaty soldiers who have not had the opportunity to use soap and/or water for several days does hot help with this in the least. When mosquitoes won’t even bite you anymore means either you have no more blood, or you should really walk through the carwash and get the under carriage treatment too.
- These boots may be made for walking, but these feet have had enough!
- Snakes do NOT find it the least bit humorous when you relieve your bladder on the tree they happen to be next to.
- And finally, when you go to sit on the bench over that large hole…check for spiders!
While I enjoyed my time in the military, I have reached the point in my life where I now have a recliner, a remote, indoor plumbing, and air conditioning so THERE!!!