Thursday, November 13, 2008

Down Time, Clips, and a Doh!

I was cruising through the MC Times the other day, when I read this.

Pretty nifty, huh.

Especially nice when they talk about service members and loved ones being able to communicate about babies first steps, birthday parties, and the like.

Obviously, this memory isn't about such wholesome and family friendly things. Heck no, this one's about what they don't allow on the family friendly channel...

I might've mentioned before that some of the guys would take digital video and pictures out on patrol. I don't remember this ever being something that was officially sanctioned, but the fact was that it was eventually commonly accepted as part of the information gathering process. For the most part, all knew when it was appropriate to have a camera out and when it wasn't. Also, it was much, much easier to pass over a memory card at the debrief rather than try to describe familiar tattoos on bodies or suspicious drawings and arabic writings. We'd much rather take personally owned equipment rather than take what would have been the military issued, gen 1, 25 pound, rarely functioning, often assed-up, Camera: Picture, Polaroid, 1.

Heh, '... for the most part...'

I remember one stop we made to the guys up north. If I remember correctly, we were delivering misdirected mail and dropping off a repaired hummer. We pulled into the staging area, got all the vehicles topped off, and I sent the guys to grab some chow while I checked in with the CO. After a fairly uneventful debrief and a little chewing of the fat with some of the staff, I grabbed a bite and wandered the area looking for some buddies I hadn't seen in awhile. I poked my head into one of the squad rooms.

"Hey, anybody know where y'alls squad leader is?"

Their eyes were rooted to the tv show they were watching. One guy pointed vaguely 'upstairs', another grunted something sounding like 'farther back down this hallway', and one guy farted.

Good times.

As it turned out, they weren't really watching a tv show, but an episode of Combat's Funniest Videos. Not familiar with that program? Lemme 'splain...

When I mentioned that most guys knew when to have the camera in their hands and when to have a rifle, well, that was correct. See, after all the hoopla has passed is the time to bust out the cameras for the record. Angles of approach, maps, id, uniforms, weapons, vehicles, anything and everything that can possibly help the intel weenies should be noted, and in detail. When the enemy is attacking well, let's just say not the best time to record, unless...

Apparently one of the guys in the squad I visited had hit on an idea. He had a fairly lightweight camera and a number of spare batteries. He was a Lance Corporal, so he managed to 'acquire' an extra helmet cover and a bunch of zip ties. He trimmed some helmet cover material with his bayonet and used his sewing kit to fashion cammo covers for his camera. He then affixed his camera to his helmet. Other than taking a little extra care getting into and out of his vehicle, he was good to go. No hands necessary after pushing the record button.

What resulted was a little bit documentary, a bit of COPS, and a whole lotta funny.

There was a passable Aussie accent when recording a pair of mutts going at it, some shaky footage of a Marine taking a deuce, and a short while later, the ambush. It was pretty standard as far as ambushes went back then, a bunch of amateurs with beat-to-hell weapons and questionable tactics, but his voice during the attack was what made it memorable. While narrating the video, he was grinning and chuckling as well and trying to explain his thoughts during his hasty nose dive out of the vehicle (not tripped, 'hasty vehicular dismount'). His running commentary of, 'ohshitohshitohshitohshit' as he ran to a building (talking to himself whilst trying to keep attempting to gain personnel accountability, not freaking out), and his high-pitched "Aiiiieeee" was a rallying cry/way cry (and most definitely NOT a 9-year old girl shriek).

It was a 9 year-old little girl shriek - trust me, I kno... - er, I'm pretty sure...

Hey! Who's laughing in the Back? Rambo? Well, ok then... the rest of y'all, tell me how you do the first time downrange!

Anyways, fast forwarding to a half-dozen months in the future, and I was sitting in my parents living room, my assorted bags scattered around, and my mom's toy poodle humping my leg.

Ah, the good old days...

Dad was really keen on getting ahold of all of the pictures and clips that I had collected on my all expenses paid trip to fun in the sun for his collection and for distribution to family. I don't think I had yet confessed that the one collection of pictures I had sent of a hummer hit in an IED attack was actually my hummer, but it was coming, I'm sure. Anyways, we were both on the couch, his laptop on his lap, and mine on mine. I was pulling discs from the pouch, inserting them into my laptop, getting a rough idea what was on it, and handing it over to him for copying. My part of the process was quicker than his, so he had a nice pile of discs waiting to be copied. He still noted when I subtly slipped a few discs back into the pouch. "What're those discs?" "What discs?" "The ones you just put back." "Oh, those. Those're nothing, just some ah,... recreational stuff." "Recrea... sure...."

Eventually, I got kind of lazy and began relying on the label details of what was on one of the discs. During the deployment I had eventually gotten detailed about what was on the discs, dates, names, and all of that. The last two discs weren't actually even anything I had taken, but some discs that other Battalions had handed out. Our Battalion had approached the end of our tour at the same time as some others, and during the inevitable down time that always happened back in the rear, we managed to trade a number of discs back and forth. Gave each other a rough idea of what else was going on in the greater AO while we were each in town.

I asked Dad if he wanted 'em, he said 'sure', and I handed 'em over.

It was only a couple of hours later that I remembered what one of those discs contained. The Battalion Disc in question had compiled a bunch of video sources together on one disc, voted on by popularity by its Marines. There were the standard combat ops, down time funny stuff, and some miscellaneous stuff towards the end. There was no question in why one clip at the end was hugely popular; apparently, one lonely soldier (female type) had decided to make a clip of herself... er, dancing around to Marvin Gaye's 'Lets Get It On', I seem to remember. I guess it was pretty warm in the can, 'cause she was pretty scantily clad at the end of the clip, you could say.

Very nice.

Wonder if Dad ever got that far in the disc...?


Bob G. said...

Gotta admit that it beats the snot out of carrying around the old Brstnie Box cameras (with REAL film in 'em)...
Not to mention all those "watsed pics" and development costs (don't those photo-recon clerks up at IMINT owe me a favor or three?)

Carry On

Old NFO said...

Heh- The NEW Navy and Marine Corp... We were stuck with pictures and 8mm film (if you were lucky)... I'm not gonna say what my Mom found stuffed in my NATOPS one time coming off deployment!