Finally Somehow Home - Chapter 7.3

In order to be in a Force Recon Platoon for Direct Action missions – what we called a “shooting platoon” - you had to pass a six-month shooting course before every deployment. It was called the shooting package. I could shoot a pistol pretty well up until then, but I wasn’t great and I wasn’t consistent. I had to re-learn afew things, but I started forming good habits and after afew months I was consistently driving tacks with my .45. Some people swear by the 45. Especially the 1911. As a work gun, I’d maybe pick another pistol, they are all just tools anyway. But I’m very glad that I learned on a 1911. It jumps around a lot more than a 9 mm does so it was a good pistol to learn on. For at least a month before we ever fired a round through our pistols we would spend a half an hour to an hour every day doing dry practice. Picking a spot on the wall in front of you, drawing your pistol, step by step, by the numbers, presenting the pistol and pulling the trigger once on target. The pistol is one of those things that there are no real advanced basics to. The more grounded in the basics you are, the more you do every little thing right every single little time. And the more you start doing every single little thing right every single little time, the more professional and fluid you become in the martial art of shooting. It’s just like a golf swing. It’s all just in the slightest nuance but you have to register those movements and check them and make sure that you don’t do anything unless you do it right. And the faster you can link them all together, the better and faster you shoot. However many thousands of repetitions it takes to develop a habit, that’s the number we were after. Because when you link them all together fluidly and then you make that function into a habit and it becomes second nature, then you’re starting to get somewhere.

I was our Lead Breacher. I had been to Breacher school along with a couple other guys and we started building breaching charges to blow the doors and windows and walls to make points of entry into buildings so we could flood through them and shoot the bad guys. Building breaching charges is like arts and crafts. It’s mostly cardboard and scissors and tape and explosives. It’s fun. The problem with it is that we always missed lunch because everyone goes to lunch to eat and you have to stay behind and build all the charges. So, it was my job was to identify breach points, work with the other breachers to build charges for targets and then delegate who was going to be in charge of blowing which breach point.

Direct Action shit looks all glam-glam in the movies. But once again…it ain’t. It took a lot of shooting to make it second nature and shooting is hard work. The ballistic plate carrier and all your magazines and your pistol belt and ammo hanging off of you all day in the heat. Your lower back feels like it’s going to explode with all the pressure from leaning forward on the firing line ready to raise your rifle or draw your pistol at the sound of the command or the whistle or the buzzer. And then it would happen and there would be a hellacious violence of gunfire and muzzle flashes and the shocks of all the small explosions and hot spent brass casings flying through the air. Sometimes the hot brass would make it down the back of your flight suit and burn the shit out of you. The constant cadence of “Shooters Ready…. Stand by…. UP!” pivoting one way, pivoting another, shooting with only the weak side, that is with the left hand if you’re right handed, shooting on the move, shooting with gas masks on, shooting in the rain, at night, shooting in the sun, shooting off the deck of ships at sea, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, motherfucking shooting. I broke 3 locking lugs off the bolt of my M4 and I broke countless pistols because of all the rounds I put through them. And the whole time learning how to flood into and flow through houses or ships or whatever needed the boots put to it. We were always changing missions. We’d do a “green side” patrol through the jungle and a raid, then the next night be Fast Roping in on another “black side” fully kinetic type mission.

We were always training or doing exercises or flying off somewhere to do it. That platoon was the most combat ready Force Recon Platoon in the world at the time. I have no doubt of that whatsoever and I’m damn proud to have been a part of it. I guess I was doing something to contribute to it, because I was nominated for a quite prestigious award. To this day, I’m still humbled and honored to have received it from the Force Recon Association on behalf of my unit: the Force Recon Team Leader of the Year, 2000. I was 23.

…Then I got fired. Must have been about six months or so after I got the award. We had flown to California to do some training because our range literally had so many bullets packed into the dirt berm behind the targets that rounds were bouncing back and hitting the shooters. They were pretty much spent by the time they’d smack you, but we had broken our range and they had to replace the berms. I had been going hard for almost 2 years of constant training and deployment from Oki, and I was starting to fray at the edges. We were finally back in the US for afew weeks and even then we were training through the weekends. The guys needed a rest and it was killing us all to finally be back in the States and not be able to enjoy it. I mentioned something about it, and it wasn’t received well. When I showed up 2 hours late for work the next day after a wild night out, they gave me the axe as a TL. It was everything bad. I had failed like a Fuck, and in front my team and of all of my peers. “Hero to Zero” someone told me. Thanks. I know. I languished in that platoon for another 6 months, still operating, but I no longer had my own team. Just tired of being alive, you know. I was very depressed. I was still doing all the cool guy shit, but after awhile it was just the same shit over and over again, which was necessary, but it had all become monotonous and dull to me. I don’t know where the mark is that you achieve whatever we were trying to get to as a platoon, and as shooters as a whole, but I think we got damned close to pretty fucking good. I don’t think you have to necessarily burn out to get there, but my whole platoon did. But we all learned it cold, and I know that none of us will ever forget how to draw and shoot fast and quick and accurate as fuck when your primary weapon goes down, or any of the thousands of other scenarios we lived and breathed through hundreds and thousands of times over. So, overall, in the grand scheme of things it was the experience of a lifetime. I learned, albeit at great expense, how to master an art, then I did it. Maybe for some, the price you pay for it is that you never even want to touch a pistol and rifle again, but you sure as fuck know how to use one. You see, achieving something is usually done at some cost. If you take on something truly great and truly hard as fuck to do well right…then get ready for that thing to try to break you in some way. I didn’t know. I wasn’t on my guard. And I ate shit.

I was at Military Freefall Jumpmaster School on 9/11. It was surreal knowing that all that we were doing was now going to be put into practice. It was a huge relief in some ways. It’s not that I wanted to have a stack of dead bodies to my name. What I really wanted to know was if I was really any good. I just wanted to take all the things that I had learned over the course of the past six years and see if I could do it in combat.

Maybe this is everyone, or maybe it’s just me, but it seems like my life has been marked by some tremendous and wonderful experiences interspersed with flurries of swift and vicious kicks to the nuts. I’m not at all saying that I’m some kind of innocent victim, but that’s just how it seems to play out whether I have it coming or not. But I usually do. I got fired AGAIN! I had finished out my time in the Direct Action Platoon and picked up a team in one of the R&S (Reconnaissance and Surveillance) platoons and right out the gate got busted for taking my ATL off base drinking when he was on restriction (he’d gotten in trouble for something and was restricted to base.) We would have gotten away with it, but he got into a fight with a bathroom stall and lost, cutting up his hand in the process, then ending up in the hospital on base to get it taken care of. Of course, I got the axe again as soon as the Platoon Sergeant found out. He didn’t like me much and was looking for an excuse, and I gave him one. I stayed on in the platoon as a gear queer (equipment NCO). Overall, it was a good platoon, all really young guys who I was happy to teach. I spent my spare time writing up a new SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) manual as well as a field guide, but my relationship with the Platoon Sergeant continued to deteriorate over the next year until I finally got the hell out of Oki and out from under the dark cloud that had been following me around. That was really the biggest problem with Oki. I did 3 years there. The island had a tendency to break people. Even with all the deployments one would tend to get alittle stir crazy, and given enough time, most guys would end up getting in trouble for some stupid shit that had nothing whatsoever to do with training and operating. We often joked that we should build a platoon out of all the guys that got busted down in rank or otherwise in trouble, because it would have been the best platoon in the unit. There was a lot of truth to that. For some reason, most of the guys who were the best in the “J” (jungle), or in the “house” (shooting house) were always in trouble when they were back in the rear with nothing to do.

Anyway, I finally got the fuck out of Dodge. I left there a young Sergeant with a sigh of relief and a smile on my face, and more than my fair share of experience. I was ready to get back to the US. I picked the East Coast and checked into 2d Force Recon shortly thereafter.

NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.

All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022

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