February of 2009 saw America’s Battalion wintering at Camp Wilson in the scenic Mojave Desert. This was our final major training cycle before deployment to even more scenic Iraq. Generally, when people hear the word “desert” and “Mojave” in the same sentence they associate it with the word “furnace”. During our last Mojave Viper training cycle in 2007 Marines were shambling off the ranges at the end of the day resembling mummified corpses wrapped in smoldering body armor. Fortunately, a zealous approach to the consumption of water seemed to keep the incidents of spontaneous human combustion to a minimum.
This trip it appeared there was indeed such a thing as winter in the desert. I would never have believed it as our last adventure there drug us to the very lip of hellfire itself. During the day it wasn’t so bad. As soon as the giant heat tab set in the west, the temperature plummeted sending us all sprinting to our sleeping bags like wailing children. So intense was this daily cold snap we had decided to rename the training evolution Valley Forge Viper. To add to the discomfort military engineers devised various ingenious ways to maintain a proper level of misery in keeping with the highest traditions of U.S. Naval service.
For instance, all the Marines were housed in metal buildings known as K-Spans. The K stands for, “kill everyone who sleeps in here”. The diabolical mastermind who designed these buildings somehow engineered them so they retain heat in the summer and expel heat in the winter. It was actually colder inside the K-Span than the bitterly frigid outside. I suspect the purpose of this was to cheerfully drive us outside in an effort to get Marines to train. Twenty First Century technology is a marvel to behold.
Another clever device was the shower trailer. The shower trailer was a training tool designed to hone a Marine’s reflexes and situational awareness until they were razor sharp. Upon entering the shower trailer the Marine’s senses had to remain keen as he was never quite sure what was going to happen. As a matter of fact, no two experiences in the shower trailer were ever the same. The hot water faucet might actually be cold and the cold scalding hot. Upon turning on the water, it could shoot out of the pipes, the faucet, the walls, or even the drain. Occasionally it even came out of the shower head. Once, without our knowledge, all the shower heads were replaced with flame throwers. Who said personal hygiene had to be uneventful?
I suppose if it all came easy it wouldn’t be the Marine Corps. Sometimes it’s a hard life and others it’s the time of your life. There is a reason it is referred to as service and sacrifice. Wherever they are right now, Americans can be sure their Marines are meeting and exceeding expectations and continue to do those things others are unwilling or incapable of doing. They are the good guys. Rumors to the contrary are generated by lesser men who will never know or understand what it is to be part of our tribe.
Enduring the suck so you don’t have to