Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Mea Culpa

Well if anyone has been paying attention, you’ve just gotten a great example of why I shouldn’t be allowed to have pets. I’m easily distracted by bright shiny objects which is pretty much the reason why I’ve not been posting.That and school. In fact here’s a story I had to write for a class, modified to the way I wanted to write it instead of how they made me do it.

When the Student is Ready, a Teacher will Come.

After High School and before college I joined the Marine Reserves. My job was “LAV Crewman”. This means I drove and operated armored vehicles. I had been in for a few years and had my own vehicle and crew. I had also taken on the position of trainer for new drivers. This is a job that requires patience and understanding, and the ability to find the best way to get the needed skills into the brains of people. I like to think I was pretty good at it.

A Marine that joins our unit comes out of school with a basic understanding of how everything works. He knows how to steer, shift, and maneuver the vehicles. But they don’t really know how to drive it.

An LAV is a 14 ton vehicle with a 25mm Chain gun. It’s designed for reconnaissance and scouting, which translates as driving around and seeing what’s going on. They have very little armor. Just about everything bigger then a machine gun will punch right through it, destroying the vehicle and killing everyone inside

The best defense of an LAV is that they are fast. They can travel up to 60 mph off road. This means that despite anything you might have heard about the Marines, we spent a lot of our time learning how to run away. Driving the vehicle is one of the most important skills on the vehicle. Everyone’s life depends on the driver to operate the vehicle safely and skillfully.

My Driver for our two week summer camp name was Green. And he lived up to his name. He was right out of LAV school, and he had come back to the unit two weeks before. He understood the vehicle, he knew the mechanics of it, but didn’t have a lot of time behind the wheel actually learning the skills. That’s why we have our two weeks to train.

Through out the two weeks my only complaint about Green was a lack of aggression. When we moved from position to position you need to move FAST. He drove like my Grandmother, crawling along on a Sunday drive to church.

For two weeks I worked with Green, trying everything I knew to get him more comfortable with driving. I kept trying to encourage him to learn the limits of the machine and himself. Even getting to the point where we were drag racing other vehicles and taking extra time to go out driving with just the two of us to test his skills. But what ever we did, nothing seemed to work.

After Two weeks I was getting pretty frustrated. Green was too, and he was getting sulky since I was hounding him so much. I was starting to think he’d do better in the Scouts and was considering getting him moved into that position.

On one of the last days, we were running an exercise. Green was having a hard time keeping position with the other vehicles, which resulted in a lot of radio calls from my platoon leader to keep up. Finally I lost it.

“Damn it Green! If you don’t move it I’ll rip you out of that seat and let one of the scouts drive!” is what I think I yelled. I probably cursed more. I do that.

For the first time all week, Green found the gas pedal and we went off like a shot, passing up the other vehicles in a cloud of dust. This was fine. What wasn’t fine was the fact we were headed right towards some rocks and ravines. Some of these were big enough to roll the vehicle.
”Slow Down Green”

No response.
”Green look out for the ravine”


“Green STOP!”

Now I know to this day, Green heard me, but he was going to show me something. And he had had enough of me griping about his driving and he was going to teach me a lesson. I know this because I was a smartass driver once myself.

BOOM we hit the first hill.WEEEE we went flying.

SLAM went the hatches on the Scout Compartment. ”STOP!” I screamed.

At this point I know I swore, but in the interest of keeping the story brief and family friendly I won’t use the language I used right then. ”UFFFF” the sound we all made when Green slammed on the breaks, throwing us againstvarious hard parts of the vehicle.
At this point I was probably the maddest I’ve ever been before in my life. I reached up and ripped my helmet off my head and threw it at Green.

The Crewman’s vehicle helmet differs from the military helmet you’re used to seeing on the news, by the fact that it has a headset and microphone built into it. This attaches to the communication system of a vehicle by the use of a Yo-yo cord, which is springy and bounces like its name. It also has a small connector on it that allows the cord to be removed from the helmet so people can get off the vehicle without taking their helmet off. I had forgotten all of this when I threw the helmet at Green. The helmet flew at the back of Green’s head like a lighting bolt from an angry god stretching the cord until the connecter gave way. And like any good Greek tragedy, my weapon became my downfall. The yo-yo cord reversed its direction and flew back at me, hitting me square in the Adam’s apple.

Now I was pissed.

I leaped out of the turret and jumped down to the driver’s compartment. I wound up above Green’s compartment on top of the vehicle, straddling the drivers hatch.I yelled at him, asked if he was stupid, if he wanted to get people killed. And that he was going to do just that if he didn’t learn to drive. I yelled at him that his job was the most important job on that vehicle. If he drove too slow we’d all die, and if he drove stupid, he’d roll the vehicle and we’d all die.

Calming down, I explained that every time he got behind that wheel, he was responsible for the other six people on the vehicle, and we depended on him to drive the vehicle well because we were a team. And the team is what keeps you alive. I could tell I said something that finally registered with him. I could see it in his eyes. It was no longer a sullen look I was so used to seeing from Green, but something else.

I recovered my helmet and got back into the turret and made him turn around and do it again, And again. And Again. This did not impress the rest of the people in the vehicle that much, but he did get better. By the end of the two weeks I had a driver.
Next year when we were out on our two week exercise, I drove by another vehicle. There was a Marine on top off the vehicle yelling at a new driver. Sure enough, it was Green.


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