Monday 23 June 2008

Preparing you for all the fun things in life

Yet another snippet from my days of wearing the part time soldier suit.

Join the Army - it'll make a man out of you.

Hmm, not sure if I agree with that statement. Especially since our regiment had a number of very gung-ho women in it, and at least one poof. Plus the odd sprinkling of wimps, dickheads and people who just had to be shot at the first hint of a contact.

I will say this about what it did for me:

I have never been so cold in my life. I have been skiing in Canada when the temperature hit -35, but I have never frozen as much as standing in a gun pit just before dawn during winter at some training ground like Bindoon or Northam. I have done a long swim down a gorge at Wittenoom that was so deep, the sun hit the water at the bottom for 5 minutes per day, resulting in unbelievably cold temperatures, but nothing beats being rained on in the middle of the night and having to lie still in an ambush position in a puddle of mud.

I have never been so hot in my life. I've done some outdoor and farm jobs in some sweltering summers, but I've only had heat stroke once, and that was in the Reserves whilst practicing assaults on a bare hill in the middle of summer. It's the only time I have ever flopped gratefully into a bathtub full of ice and stayed in it voluntarily for way longer than would normally be thought healthy.

I've never been so tired. Parenthood can be pretty exhausting as far as lack of sleep goes, but the infantry was the mother of all sleep deprivation experiences. I have only had one waking halucination in my life, and that was brought on by utter exhaustion in the middle of a two week exercise at Nannup.

I have never worked so hard physically. I was a rower in my youth, so I know all about pushing yourself out to that ragged edge of physical exhaustion and then pushing beyond it. I've pushed myself to the point of throwing up during exercise, but once again, infantry work took the cake.

It also provided me with some of the most mind-numbingly boring experiences that I can think of.

The pain at times was also something else. The feeling of one set of blisters on your feet popping during a route march, and then of another set forming beneath the raw and open blisters. The chafing of pack and webbing. The blisters on the hands from carrying a stretcher over miles of broken ground. The back pain, the shoulder pain... the knees and elbows rubbed raw from hitting the ground and crawling during contacts - and doing it again and again and again.

About the only horrible thing that I didn't have to do was sew myself up Rambo style, although burning ticks out must come a close second.

The end result is that not too many things bother me anymore, because in most cases, I have been through worse. Which is the whole idea of all that training - it's supposed to prepare one for combat, which is about as nasty and horrible and confronting as things get in this life. But I can say that I am usually able to keep my head whilst all about me are losing theirs.

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