The grueling 10-day field exercise from FOB Tombstone is over and we’ve returned to civilization, such as it is.
WTF IS A FOB?
What is a FOB, you might ask? It’s a Forward Operating Base, designed to house anywhere from a single company (~150 people) to a whole brigade (3000+ people). Tombstone, our home away from home, housed four or five companies, with a total of about 500 soldiers. The landscape was positively martian – the ground within the compound was graded flat and was utterly barren. Luckily it didn’t rain during our stay, but if it had, our motor pool area would have looked like the Nazi advance on Stalingrad: a total quagmire of sucking mud.
The whole company lived in one giant air-conditioned tent, sleeping in our high-speed brand-new sleeping bags on cots. Our food was mediocre at best, with little variety and minimal flavor. Some days I would’ve taken another MRE for dinner – at least I knew what I was getting and I could make it hot. We were allowed to shower every other day in a semi trailer equipped with a bank of showers inside.
BIZARRO UNIVERSE PART 1
Within the bizarro universe of a training FOB (as opposed to a real one) there exist many contradictions, but most glaring among them was the notion of staying “tactical” in the confines of the FOB. Ostensibly, as a simulation of a base in a “hot” area, enemy personnel could be lurking anywhere around the compound, ready to pop a round into the back of some poor sap wandering out to take a piss without his body armor. Therefore, any time we went outside our tent, we had to do so in full “battle rattle” – forty pounds of body armor, load bearing vest (LBV), MILES (laser tag) harness, helmet, and rifle. This meant that the simple act of walking ten yards to urinate in one of the highly-tactical porta-potties became a twenty-minute ordeal of dressing and undressing (and even worse for the females, who usually had to remove all the crap again to sit down). The primary problem with this whole operation, though, was the fact that we were living in a series of gigantic white circus tents, which made the whole idea of being “tactical” rather ridiculous.
Actually, another contradiction was almost as severe: that of the weapons clearing barrel.
In front of each tent was a 55-gallon barrel, tilted at roughly a 45-degree angle and surrounded by sandbags. The idea is that you place the muzzle of your rifle in a hole in the barrel, check the chamber to be sure it’s clear, then dry-fire the weapon to make sure that it’s empty – the idea being that if it’s not, the round will fire harmlessly into the sand-packed barrel. Perfectly sensible – except that the unit running the FOB issued an order forbidding us from pulling the trigger in the barrel. So the new procedure was to simply put the muzzle in the barrel, pull the charging handle back to verify that the chamber was clear, and that was it. If that’s all you’re doing, you don’t need a barrel to do it – just yank the charging handle back and look in the chamber – yet I was admonished countless times about not clearing my weapon in the barrel, even though the purpose of the barrel had been eliminated.
That’s the summary of the FOB – tomorrow’s segment will cover our training mission, and this weekend will be miscellaneous essays about my random thoughts over the last ten days and the host of absurdities that we faced.