During my years and years of deployments, training, and schools I learned to make due with very little and be very thankful for what little I had. I have eaten road kill unsure of what animal it was, dumpster dived, slept under tarps, taken whore baths in wells and rivers, stolen food from a VIP reception, and crapped in more holes than any man should have to in a hundred lifetimes.
When you are a soldier in the field, it’s the little things in life that bring happiness.
And when I say ‘the field,’ I don’t mean the Forward Operating Base where you have access to a hot shower, a computer, hot chow, and a PX. I mean the field, the boonies, Indian country, anything outside the wire where nothing separates you and the enemy but air and a faded, worn out, torn uniform that reeks of sweat, field nuts, and ass.
So what are some of these amenities that make us field soldiers so happy?
Here’s a list of seven things that brought me the most joy when forward deployed to whatever asscrackistan country I was in.
Anyone who has ever been to combat will tell you there are two things you must take care of: your weapon and your feet. People with bad feet typically do not make it into the Infantry and certainly don’t make it into Special Operations. Your feet get you where you are going, literally. When the rest of your body looks and smells like a bag of smashed assholes, nothing can raise your spirits like putting on a clean pair of socks.
The woobie or field blanket, also known as the poncho liner, is one of the Army’s greatest inventions. There is nothing more comforting when exhausted, soaking wet or freezing than crawling under the warmth of a woobie. I never paid much attention to the Linus character from Charlie Brown when I was growing up except to make fun of the guy for hauling around his favorite blanket. As soon as I went on my first field training exercise, I knew Linus was onto something (minus the thumb sucking). As a matter of fact, I found woobies so comfortable and comforting that I carried two in my ruck for years and even slept between the two for months after finishing Ranger school.
3. Baby wipes
These beautiful little inventions, originally meant for baby tushes, are the field soldier’s best friend. One of the most over-looked issues with being in the field is sanitation and hygiene. Nothing will knock out a soldier or an Army like disease. In many cases soldiers spend days, weeks or months in the field without showers. Baby wipes let you clean the cheese from between your toes, nut sweat, arm pits and then your hands before packing that glorious dip of snuff after a patrol.
Everyone remembers the first pair of Army boots. The kind you got in basic training. You know the ones that have been unchanged since World War 1. They were designed by some sadomasochist who gave them the comfort level of walking on plywood and ensured they did not break-in until near the end of training. Recently, the Army got a clue and started investing in good boots. I think it was because they were finally starting to see that forcing soldiers to wear 80 pounds of “lightweight” equipment was taking its toll on the force. I always deployed with four pairs of boots — yep, four. The first pair was what was issued to me and was the Army directed pair for wearing with BDU/ACU for ceremonies. The second was my favorite pair of extreme hot weather boots made by Merrell. I used them for light patrolling, going to the range and training. The third was a pair of Asolo’s for hot weather as well but for hiking and more sturdy for wearing full or assaulter’s kit. Finally, my most favorite was my winter boots made by Lowa. Putting them on was like putting on a pair of leather gloves. My feet would immediately break into a happy dance and thank me profusely.
5. Foot powder
It is not just for feet anymore. The next critical comfort item was foot powder, but not just any foot powder, Gold Bond. That stuff is divinely inspired and could turn any wet, cold, sweaty and aching feet or crotch into a place of immense happiness and joy. Combined with a clean pair of socks, and comfortable boots, we can simply label it “me time.”
There are many things in life you must become accustomed to when you are in the Infantry. Being hungry and tired are two of them. As an Infantryman you need to be alert at all times. Not much in life can help you get over being hungry or tired like tobacco. Smoking can be seen and smelled by the enemy. Is tobacco bad for you, yes; but so is getting shot or blown up. Snuff has always been my solution. I always felt the best thing about eating the putrid tasting MRE was the dip afterward. Nothing in life tastes better after a firefight than a dip of Copenhagen . . . nothing . . . except maybe beer and bourbon.
7. Toilet paper
No, I don’t mean those thin pieces of tissue someone put in the MRE’s as a joke. (Whatever bean counter that chose that cheap stuff to go in the rations should have his ass kicked.) I mean real, tickle-your-grommet-while-cleaning-all-the-shit-off-you, toilet paper – the stuff they advertise using cartoon bears on TV. There are essentially two kinds of toilet paper in this world, the good kind and the Army kind. The super cheap toilet paper the army buys is dubbed ‘John Wayne’ paper because it is tough as leather and won’t take any shit. (It can also be used as high grit sand paper.) If you’ve ever taken a shit in the field you know that things can literally be blowing up all around you, but if you have the right toilet paper when you need it all is truly right with the world.