iraq ten years ago

DO NOT TOUCH THE REMOTE! (May 30, 2003)

When we first moved into the company compound, I remember going out on guard duty at the front gate. We had a string of concertina to slow down traffic. My platoon sergeant went out with me and asked: “Gomez, what do we do when we’re in a fighting position?”

I knew where he was going and responded “Work to continuously improve it, Sergeant.”

“Right.”

We filled some sandbags and improved our position.

Our company 1SG took great pleasure in constantly improving the security and amenities of our compound. He made sure we had a gym. He had the XO make a run to the Battalion HQ to pick up “fresh” coffee from the cooks every morning. And he spent time and money building a day room, where paratroopers could go between missions to rest. He bought a television and hooked it up to a satellite – which were illegal during Saddam’s reign.

The day room had some couches and seating and a couple of fans. There we could watch terrible pirated European programming, usually music videos. He also got a DVD player so that we could do movie nights.

All very nice.

The 1SG had one, very important rule: Do not touch the remote! It was posted in bold black letters on a cutout of an MRE box right above the television.

You could go in the day room and watch television or a movie or whatever was playing. But only the 1SG controlled the programming. Apparently, to operate the system required significant training.

One morning I walked into the day room to find a boring infomercial playing. Three or four paratroopers sat watching with blank, dull faces. I looked at them and then to the television.

“Is this all that’s on?” I asked.

Just shrugs.

“Hm,” I miffed and walked up to the television, picking up the remote and looking at it closely. It was different from the ones back home, but I’ve always been technically savvy, and felt confident that I could change the channel and find something better to watch.

I took a step back and aimed the remote at the television and pressed ‘up’ on the channel button. Nothing happened.

I examined the remote again, and then pressed the ‘guide’ button.

The screen changed to blue. My face instantly flushed red and I got hot.

“Shit,” I thought to myself as I pressed ‘guide’ again, trying to get back to anything. Nothing.

I began to panic, pressing every button on the remote, trying furiously to get back to anything.

Just then, the 1SG walks in.

“Who the fuck touched the remote?” he barked.

Trembling, “I did first sergeant.”

“Gomez,” he asked quizzically, surprised. “Alright, go get your IBA, helmet and weapon. You’re guarding the remote today.”

Thinking I had an out, “1SG, I have a patrol at 1400.”

Straight-faced, “Not anymore you don’t.”

I spent the rest of my day sitting in the day room, watching European music videos, guarding the remote.

Do not touch the remote.

Do not touch the remote.

middle east

French paratroopers earn their mustard stains in Mali

Lots of action going on in Mali. Here’s the story behind the jump.

The ‘combat jump device‘ is one of the rarest awards in the US military. Right place, right time. I almost got one (not really).

I’m not sure if there is an equivalent award for the French. If anyone knows if they get any special recognition for participating in a combat jump, I’d love to know about it.