The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


November 26, 2008

Name: Cheese
Posting date: 11/26/08
Stationed in:Afghanistan
Hometown: Binghamton, NY
Milblog: Cheese's Milblog

On RRF* we are subjected to unholy amounts of AFN. AFN, or Armed Forces Network, is just like any collection of television stations who are programmed by field grade officers in a weird mishmash of what they think the soldiers want to see.

Framed Cheese PLUSES 1 Most notable, however, are the AFN commercials. Every one is a PSA, warning me about smokeless tobacco, alcohol and motorcycles. Based on how many soldiers partake of these vices, often in rapid succession, I'm starting to doubt their effectiveness.

Anyway, as part of an Army Pride campaign, they've started airing short segments about technological advances brought on by war. Now, they don't talk about the bombs, machine guns or even the brand-spanking-new combat knife, mostly because we are all giggily and intimately aware of such breakthroughs. Instead they focus on boring yet life-saving medical equipment, jacket insulation and the like.

The RRF shack, for all our progress thus far, has no bathroom facilities. So, when "To Tell The Truth" segued to a "Future Weapons"-like PSA about military research into Perma-loft, I grabbed my hat and  headed to the porta john that sits two speed bumps (read:10 feet) from the back door. As I shut the door, I began to think about the little things -- the technological advances -- that have made this tour different from the last. 


The reason why the porta-john triggered this thought process is simple. We have gone backwards in our development of porta-john blue-water. Standard blue-water smells like soap -- for a short time -- and is tolerable. Apparently someone decided that we might prefer a peppermint smell. Trust me; we do not. In the heat, the smell is the equivalent of a can of Altoids in your mouth, and if you happen to use the facilities just before they are emptied, the smell can forever ruin candy canes for you.


Really, Big Army? What the hell? There's so much velcro on these new uniforms (and yes, I can call them new; I wore my BDUs* until the day we reported for MOB*) that I lose my combat patch at least once a week onto someone else's uniform. The velcro on the pockets lasts for about a week and the camo blends into gravel -- and only gravel. I could go on, but anyone who cares already knows. BRING DCUs* BACK!


So long old, bulky, sweaty Gore-Tex! Hello new, lightweight, breathable hood-less Gore-Tex. They actually made a wet weather jacket that fits underneath my body armor. I had given up on this years ago, because if they could why wouldn't they have done it in the first place? I was just issued a softshell jacket and pants. I don't even know what that means, but it's comfortable, and the Army is gonna have a hard time getting it back.

As for the old Polypro long underwear, it was hard to say goodbye. I guess I didn't notice how much it bunched, made me sweat and gave me "layer claustrophobia" until we were issued the new stuff that does none of these things. It rocks, and the Army will never see it again.


The jury is still out on whether this is an improvement or not. It is much more comfortable under body armor, but I'm hoping that the next rotation will get a version that lacks the Army Pride "recruiting over retention" logo and has a higher tensile strength than crate paper.


These were in use when I deployed before, but were not yet everywhere. Now, "Hesco" is more a part of my vernacular than "woman" or "beer." Check the link if you aren't familiar with Hescos and prepare to be amazed. I have to warn you, if you ever spent more than a week filling sandbags, you may want to brace yourself. All I can say is there is a very rich former-Private Hesco out there who now has a hell of a lot of money and plenty of my admiration.


Rip-It is an energy drink, or so I've been told, that is free in chow halls throughout Afghanistan. Last time, we had free Red Bulls and Burn. My guess is that Rip-It is some new drug they're testing on us, because I've never consumed something that has to be so rapidly evacuated. I guess it keeps me awake, but only because of the concentration required to not soil my Humvee seats.


During my last tour, there were approximately three tolerable flavors of Crystal Light -- and they came in foil-topped tubs that had to be pierced with a pen, partially mixed into a water bottle, then resealed to use
later. There is now an obscene number of different flavors, two-thirds of which I estimate contain the new "it" fruit, pomegranate. The new uniform even has a calf pocket that I think was developed specifically for the new, delicious, single-serving packets.

Crystal light should be in charge of blue-water scents from now on.


RRF: Rapid Reaction Force

ACU: Army Combat Uniform

BDU: Battle Dress Uniform

MOB: mobilization

DCU: Desert Camouflage Uniform


Funny post, I chuckled all the way through-informative too.
Thanx, Cheese!


I laughed so hard, and learned so much, all the way through your post.

Great insights and prose.

Keep on rocking and come home soon!

Yeppo. ARN used to be AFRTS. And yes, programming was set by a committee of senior officers and censors at MACV. Results were typical and predictable. As was the creative rebellion you saw in the movie, 'Good Morning, VietNam!' I know. I aired the now infamous "Nixons' Balls" speech created by Adrian Cronauer.

MY reward? I was promptly promoted to petty-officer-in-charge, Sanitation, Chief Petty Officers Mess. Illegitimatae non Carborundum!

Thank You for your service.

Lmao..I am so damn happy that i got out before i had to wear the new uniforms.. forget that!

BTW.. happy holidays!

Cheese, U are one of the

funniest military blogger

dudes I have ever read.

U are as humorous as

Garry B Trudeau's Doonesbury

Man Im so glad Ive missed the 'rip it' craze, I was almost addicted to Red bull when it was free, what didnt help is how much I hated the stuff!

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