Saturday, October 2, 2010

The longest four days

Filling our largest pack with almost the entire contents of our locker, and wearing just about everything else we marched outside into a constant drizzle, a spitting rain which would last through the day and into tomorrow. We stood outside in the rain for a while smearing camo paint on our faces, with instructions to cover all visable skin. Then, leaving our packs outside to soak up the weather we were hearded into the basemen level of our dormatory building to collect and lug camping equipment back outside to the transport trucks. After loading everything into the trucks it was time for us to collect a meager packed lunch and cram into the APCs.
We spent most of the day moving equipment around the forrest in a bid to find a good vantage point to defend from. It seemed kind of stupid (read: stupid) to constantly change locations, things should be considered more so an educated decission is made without the need for great physical exersion. Needless to say I understand this is defence force training, and all the nonsence is for the sake of teaching discipline or somthing. Still, it is difficult to do somthing when another way makes more sense.
After finally finding our position, and with twilight quickly turning to night we spent a few hours digging fox holes. They must be knee deep. Every time I push my spade into the ground I hit a rock. I was not having fun.
At this point in the day I was tired, frustrated and just wanted to be warm.
We hauled the euipment to the campsite our leader had found us and with as little cooperation a seemingly possible attempted to errect the tent in complete darkness. I was not having fun.
The tent constructed we left to fetch our packs from the truck. With no moonlight and a muddy, often flooded road to contend with I'm suprised I managed not falling, gotta catch a break somewhere I guess.
A sleepless night of fire guarding and foxhole lookout ended with a 6 oclock wake up, pack up, and return to the trucks for repacking, regrouping, breakfast (rice porridge can be the best thing about a day), and changing locations.
As with all the small joys to be had while camping; food, rest, personal time, ways are found to impact on them to such an extent that it would be better you hadn't had them at all. Usually this is achieved by reducing the time you have to enjoy them. 3 minutes is not enough time to finish most of your breakfast, clean and pack your eating utensils and put all your gear back on. Fun was a concept, far far from reach.

The second day progressed slowly, much in the way of the first day, though perhaps easier.
Same lugging of equipment (though not as far, or as much), same shifting of positions (not so many times), same digging of foxholes (though they were already mostly made by previous training camps). The real show that things were on an up-swing was the building of the tent in broad daylight, things hit a notch when we were told to move the almost completed tent 50 metres to acomodate secondary defence positions, then another notch when we were told that our team would be sleeping in another tent, because, well I don't really know.
After filling the day with repeated exercises and uninteligible lectures the night was finally falling in again. I was told my partner and I were first up to sit in the freezing foxholes and give the silent alert if there were signs of movement or danger. We waited in silence, minutes passed slowly and became hours, no sign of movement. Then the crack of gunfire and my partner ran off to base to make the slent alarm. I waited for my team, no one came. I finally learned from another team that it was over and that it was safe to remove hearing protection. I stalked off to my camp wondering what happend, what possible reason was there for me to be waiting by myself in the cold for so long. Turns out my partner got lost on the way back to the camp.
Another sleepless night was made slightly better by the understanding that we would not be moving the next day. The next day would also bring free time and the mobile soldiers-home van, the idea of coffee and doughnuts is a powerful restorative.

The third day was once again more of the same, and once more easier than the day before. After lunch things when down hill, though the incline wasn't too steep. We had to do formation marching through the wilderness for most of the afternoon. Then it was over, free time had begun. I changed all my clothes, organised my equipment, then it was time for dinner, and then coffee and doughnuts. A lot of positivity can come from such small things and the leaders would do well to keep that in mind.

On the last day we had a 5am wakeup, and once again packed everthing up and carried it to the trucks. We were not leaving yet however, we had a war game first. It might sound like fun to go sneaking around, shooting wooden bullets, and it is, but not for long. Soon it becomes routine, then it becomes a chore. Nobody likes chores. Still, when the war games were done, ifwe still had rounds left we were given permission to empty our magazines. Fully automatic.

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