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Attribution: Robert J. Fisch-Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Veterans’ Tales by Allen Ness

I was an Observer/Controller at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Ft Polk, LA.  The Command took care of us, when we weren’t in the “box” we worked half days and three or four day weekends.  Ft Polk is the middle of nowhere but is within five hours of Houston, Shreveport, Baton Rouge and N’Orleans.  Talk about some places to party!  Party during the 90 odd days of the year you aren’t in the box.

Every month a Brigade from the US Army comes to train in the box at JRTC.  It is the premiere Light Infantry training site in the world.  The 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Geronimo) provides the Opposing Forces (OPFOR) and they are good at what they do.  I learned more by watching my peers fail at JRTC more than anywhere else in my career.  I must thank every one of them for sharing those lessons with me.  I suffered some shitty times with my Blue Force (BLUFOR) counterparts, wading thru Louisiana swamps chest deep, being lost like forty m*therf*ckers.  Having 10,000 mosquitoes bite and lift, threatening to carry you away.  Waking up with swollen lips from the nasty stagnant water the mosquito had been dragging it’s proboscis through.  We averaged 250 days in the field each year.  Way more than half, but we did trade in and out, we called it “refit” when we could go back home shower and be human for a day.

September eleventh, 2001 was my day for refit.  My partner came out to the box, relieved me and I drove my HUMVEE to the rear.  I parked, carried my dirty gear to my truck and drove home.  It was about 0800, Central Time.  I stopped and got a six pack on the way home.  My wife was already at work and the kids were at school.  I got home, cracked a beer and turned on the TV.  The first thing I saw was the first plane hit the tower.  The rest, the jumping bodies, the second plane, the collapsing buildings is all a blur.  A blur of outrage and growing anger.  I stared at the TV all day long, uncomprehending, lost in anger and the desire for vengeance.  Anger helped me hold back the tears.

The growing anger grew as I remained stuck in Louisiana and other units deployed to take vengeance.  I couldn’t participate but that was the one thing I wanted.  I helped train the 101st Division to go to Afghanistan but couldn’t go myself.  Finally in early 2003 I was re-assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division[…]

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