9 Line- a request for a medevac; this report contains nine sections of information to be transmitted over a radio
Advon- Advanced Party; a smaller detachment of military personnel sent ahead of the main party
Court Martial- punishment under the UCMJ that can result in loss of rank, loss of money, and imprisonment
HESCO- large structured barriers filled with sand and dirt to
HUMVEE- High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle
FLAK- a vested form of body armor that holds SAPI plates
FOBbit- a derogatory term for a person who never left the FOB; a play on words with J.R.R. Tolkien’s’ “hobbit”
Incoming- term shouted when mortars are possibly going to hit
Kevlar- the helmet issued to military members or the material with which the helmet is made of: para-aramid synthetic fiber
LT- short for lieutenant; pronounced L-T.
G-6- General Staff Level section of the United States Marine Corps for Signal and Communication (Command, Control, Communications, and Computer Systems)
Grunt- Military MOS with the first two delegators as 03 infantry that include rifleman, assaultman, scout sniper, reconnaissance, mortarman, machine gunner, baby killer, hardasses
Gunny- a fond name for a Gunnery Sergeant, or E-7, in the United States Marine Corps
Medevac- medical evacuation
POG- personnel other than grunt; pronounced “pogue”; typically a derogatory term
River City- a state of communications that requires the immediate shutdown of anything to be relayed out of the country; it is put in place in the event of a military member’s death until immediate family is notified, and in times of certain missions that the CO deems communication to be locked down.
Shoot the Shit- aka smoking and joking; to fuck off and not work; to converse with friends and other cohorts typically in a smoke pit and during the long moments of boredom
Wadi- an Arabic term for valley
White Line- an internet connection that is not affiliated with the Marine Corps’ network
Wook/Wookie- derogatory term for a female Marine
|AFN||Armed Forces Network|
|ANA||Afghan National Army|
|AOR||Area of Responsibility|
|AUP||Afghan Uniformed Police|
|BAS||Battalion Aid Station|
|CAR||Combat Action Ribbon|
|CENTRIXS||Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System|
|COC||Command Operations Center|
|ECP||Entry Control Point|
|FET||Female Engagement Team|
|FOB||Forward Operating Base|
|FROG||Flame Resistant Organizational Gear|
|GBOSS||Ground Based Operational Surveillance System|
|ICU||Intensive Care Unit|
|IED||Improvised Explosive Device|
|IFAK||Individual First Aid Kit|
|KIA||Killed In Action|
|LMST||Lightweight Multiband Satellite Communications Terminal|
|M-ATV||MRAP All Terrain Vehicle|
|MCI||Marine Corps Institute|
|MCMAP||Marine Corps Martial Arts Program|
|MCT||Marine Combat Training|
|MOS||Military Occupational Specialty|
|MRAP||Mine Resistant Ambush Protected|
|MRE||Meal-Ready to Eat|
|MTU||Maximum Transmission Unit|
|NATO||North Atlantic Treaty Organization|
|NCIS||Naval Criminal Investigative Service|
|NIPRnet||Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network|
|NVG||Night Vision Googles|
|OOD||Officer of the Day|
|PMT||Police Mentoring Team|
|POG||Personnel Other than Grunt|
|PTSD||Post Traumatic Stress Disorder|
|RAS||Rear Area Security|
|R&R||Rest and Relaxation|
|RCT||Regimental Combat Team|
|REM||Rapid Eye Movement|
|ROI||Return On Investment|
|SAPI||Small Arms Protective Inserts|
|SIPRnet||Secret Internet Protocol Router Network|
|SNCO||Staff Non-Commissioned Officer|
|TCF||Technical Control Facility|
|TCN||Third Country National|
|TTYL||Talk To You Later|
|UCMJ||Uniformed Code of Military Justice|
|USMC||United States Marine Corps|
|VLC||Video Lan Client|
|WPPL||Wireless Point to Point Link|
Shifting sleepily towards consciousness, desperately hanging onto the heavy fog, I climb upwards towards the brightness that forces itself to be felt.
As I begin to stir, my mind becomes aware of the touch of the sheets, laying lightly on my skin.
The warmth of him radiates through the space between our bodies. No words are spoken, no signals are exchanged. With eyes clasped shut, his arms envelope me tightly.
As I start to turn, his arms release me sharply and I feel their void. They hover over my moving body, patiently waiting. I can sense their desperate desire, awaiting my quiet.
The small distance in our bodies is filled with strands of humming connections, the electricity between us moving magnetically, conveying our locations to the other pole.
Without touching, without seeing, he knows where I will move, feeling the pull of our vibrating magnetism, and he flows around me, sliding perfectly to rest, lightly enveloping my new location.
His movements around me are not confined to physical touch, but transpose to every shift of my life, purpose, and sense of self. Ever fluid, ever charged, ever connected, the fog is dispelled.
I spent years saying that I shouldn’t have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I never rated a combat action ribbon (CAR) and I never engaged in a firefight. I ignored my mental health and allowed others to say I was fine because I was a girl and girls weren’t on the front lines, even if they didn’t know my story. My husband told me for many years to read a certain book that he thought would help me immensely. He became dedicated to understanding PTSD after experiencing my nightmares and stories and questions and after seeing so many of his Marines commit suicide and suffer daily. The book is called “On Killing” by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman of the United States Army. He was an Army ranger and a psychologist and used his experiences in both fields, as well as multiple scientific studies, to write about the way humans process killing and how America trains her military to kill.
I avoided reading the book until two years ago and read half of it rapidly before I couldn’t handle the ideas I had to think about when I read it. Now that I’m writing the Afghanistan story and coming to grips with my experiences, I was able to pick it back up and finish it. At the very end of the book, there is a section on “What Have We Done To Our Soldiers?” which has shone light, and almost a sense of validation, on why I, without the firefight and without the CAR, have PTSD. Comparing my story with the multiple points Lt. Col Grossman makes about current American warfare, I am blown away by what I realize wasn’t “normal” about
my the current American warfighter experiences. We are trained to kill, to normalize ending another human’s life. The human psyche is fragile and we, the warfighters, suffer immensely to become killers.
To those veterans who are reading this and are thinking “Stop being a fucking pussy about it. Those who suffer remorse and self-disgust are fucking pussies who shouldn’t be in the military. Our grandfathers stormed the beaches and didn’t come back complaining about their precious mental health.”, I give you this:
In World War II, only 15-20 percent of weapons were fired. By Vietnam, the figures rose to over 95 percent. America adapted their training to increase this number and did so successfully at the cost of our troops.
Why are today’s troops suffering so much PTSD? Here are some of the bullet points that I found EXTREMELY enlightening:
Troops are young.
Most of the American military is recruited at 18 and during the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, saw combat before their 19th birthday. This is an extremely vulnerable time in a human’s emotional and mental development and the experiences of war impact young adults more deeply than an older adult because their brain is still forming.
There is no decompression time.
In WWII and prior, troops spent months and years traveling back home by foot or on troop carrier ships. The war would be over and they could spend this time readapting to civilian lifestyle before seeing non-military friends and family. This transport time was typically filled with discussions with fellow troops that allowed time to process, decompress, mourn, and heal. In the current military wars, it takes less than 30 hours to go from being in a firefight to being back with non-military friends and family. Think about that for a second. Think about it. Fighting for your life one second and hugging a flag waving Susan hours later, if you even have someone there to welcome you back.
There is no training with the whole units before combat.
Of course we train. Of course. But AS A UNIT? No, the American military changes and adapts so rapidly that troops are typically sent to a new unit in combat with no prior training with new guys with no warning. As seen by my story, I knew no one and I had trained with none of my fellow Marines. Unlike prior to Vietnam, my story wasn’t atypical of an American troop. You enter a unit as the fucking new guy and have to work to integrate into the camaraderie and trust of the unit. This is lonesome in a combat zone.
Deployment rotations disintegrate the unit.
Deployment rotations of 7-14 months drastically reduces the number of psychotic injuries on the battlefield because the troops can count down to when they will leave the war. However, combine this with the troops entering and exiting the units at different times, this leads to a further breakdown in comradery and troop cohesion. The troops aren’t fighting to the end of the war like they did back in WWII, they are fighting for 45 days and a wake up while their fellow troops are fighting for 120, or 30 more. There is no common end goal.
There is no end of the war.
There can be no signed armistice of peace because there is no defined enemy on one side of a front line. When troops leave a combat zone, they leave with no resolution and sometimes see all of their hard work gone to shit, like when Ramadi fell to ISIS in 2015. They see their sacrifices and their friends’ deaths as not being worth it because we will never win the new warfront.
There is no front line.
Everywhere is a battlefield, including the American bases, which means there is no demarcation point of safety. No front line also means no forward movement or visible progress for troop morale. This also means the lines for possible enemy combatants are blurred. Women and children are dangerous now, which affects our troops more than they realize. When I aimed my weapon at a child, a part of my humanity broke.
The book discusses so much more than the points I’ve talked about here. The science and psyche of mental health and combat is a vastly understudied area, especially for a country that has been at war for 93% of its existence.