Wednesday, April 01, 2009

On the road again

SFC McG and I have moved about the battlespace in a variety of different ways, as I've mentioned. Since I'm often in the DFAC when "Orange County Choppers" is playing on AFN (Armed Forces Network), I've been thinking about my 'rides' lately. (OCC follows the story of a family of bikers who run a very, very, very up-scale motorcycle customizing shop, for the uninitiated.)

I thought I might share with you a few photos of one of my 'rides' so you can get some idea of what's going on over here.

Other than the fact that the seat I usually occupy has no back cushion, I actually like riding in HMMWVs (Humvees; High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles). Since there's not a whole lot of room inside, I'm glad to be wearing my kneepads as we bounce along on some pretty bumpy roads -- especially since there's a metal bar running across the back of the seat in front of my, right at patella level!

We wear all our body armor while moving outside the wire, so the back ceramic plate bounces off the back of the seat (no cushion, remember?), but it's not a big problem.

If I lean forward and contort my body significantly, I can look up the gunner's hatch. I've gotten to be pretty good friends with the guys in my vehicle; bringing them M&Ms (SGT H is allergic to peanuts, so none of them for him!) and Skittles probably doesn't hurt. I usually don't wear a headset on these trips, as there aren't enough that work, in that truck at least. On those occasions when I can wear one, it's been fun to listen to (and participate in) the banter as they're driving.

SFC McG will often (but not always) travel with me in the same vehicle; in this photo he's not yet wearing his helmet (aka Brian Bucket) since we've got a 20-minute wait for the Battalion Commander to show up. I don't go anywhere outside the wire without him (or a Rent-A-Chaplain-Assistant). I know of some Chaplains (all prior-service) who seem to think they're Rambo or something, and who not only go outside the wire without their Assistant, they'll even go out on patrols as if they were still carrying a weapon.

That's not *my* job, I can tell you!

If there's a good reason for me to be out with a patrol, I'd go (assuming my 'hired gun' is with me!), but otherwise, I'll leave that stuff to the professionals! They certainly don't need to be distracted by worrying about "Chappy" when they've got other, more important things to be doing.

Given that the weather has been cool for some time now (though it's beginning to warm up), it's not been bad at all riding around in HMMWVs. I'm grateful to the courageous and competent Soldiers who get me where I need to go when I'm traveling on the roads. The ride may not be as 'glamorous' as what the folks at OCC create, but I'm grateful to be with these guys, and figure I'm riding in style.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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