In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Talking to FNGs

When you walk around with a camera strapped to your left and an M-16 to your right and you work with seven females, you tend to get a lot of weird questions. “My, that’s a big camera you have there.” “So, that’s all you do is take pictures?” “You work with girls? Wow, I want your job.” “How do I get your job?” “You’re that guy off of Full Metal Jacket aren’t you?”

I’ve been asked about my military job more times than Charlie Sheen’s smoked weed, so I’m used to giving out the traditional answer of “well, I’m sent all over Iraq to tell the soldier’s story and to document combat operations.” Those words come out of my mouth like a pre-recorded message these days.

Today, I’m taking a shower and there are a few new kids in shower trailer number two. Being the neighborly fellow I am, I introduced myself and welcomed them to Iraq. Yes, I wore a towel.
I should have just kept my mouth shut, because all they wanted to do was ask questions when I was in no mood to talk.

“How long have you been here?”

Eleven months.

“Wow, so have you killed anybody?”

At this point, their title changed from new guys to FNGs (F#@king New Guys). I didn’t answer, but they continued to dig just like a reporter… “so you ever seen action?”

I felt like saying, no, none at all… I’ve been here a year, hidden from all the mortars, grenades, snipers and car bombs. In fact, you see that cave over there? That’s where I live… I never leave, especially when a colonel tells me to go cover a firefight at a mosque. Of course, I didn’t say that. I told them the truth: Yes.

“So, what’s it like?”

Good God, these FNGs never shut up. If you’re the new guy, there’s an unspoken rule: you don’t talk to the “seasoned” soldier about this stuff unless he volunteers it. It’s kind of like asking somebody how much money they make; it’s just personal. I was cornered, and I thought they might actually learn something from me, so I answered.

Well, for days, sometimes weeks, it will be quiet as you roam the city, but in just a split second, you’ll here the whistle of a mortar, the crack of an AK or feel the heat of an RPG whizzing by. It all happens so fast, you have no idea what’s going on. The only thing you have is the guy on your left and right, your training, gut instinct, and most importantly, your weapon. I say a short prayer every time I leave the wire. The only time I didn’t, I almost lost my life.

From their reaction, I could tell I just prompted another damn question.

“Really? Did you get a Purple Heart?”


“What do you do?”

I think since I was the one being interviewed here, I was thrown off guard by the question. Not to mention, I just stepped out of the shower and just wanted to brush my teeth. Needless to say, my typical one liner was gone from the memory bank, probably blocked by the frustrations this conversation was causing.

I'm an Army journalist. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Full….”

“Wait, you’re a journalist. Do you work with that red head ‘with the big camera’ who was with the general yesterday? Do ahh, you know, could you hook me up?”

I wanted to kick his scrawny ass! That girl is my soldier! She saved my life a couple years ago when I came down with Lyme Disease! She’s like my little sister. I think he saw my nice demeanor turn sour. He rephrased the question.

“I meant, I saw her the other day. She really seems like a nice girl. She you’re soldier?”

Yup. She’s a good soldier. Stay away from her. I’ll cut your balls off if you touch her.

Perhaps, I went a little too far, but I’m extremely protective of my female soldiers. There’s one girl per 100 males, and every one of them is considered a beauty queen. While they may enjoy the attention, I certainly worry.

“Oh, I didn’t mean. I mean, uhh, I didn’t mean I’d try anything.”

I smiled and started brushing my teeth. They left. Finally, I had some peace and quiet. Then another new guy walked in.

“How’s it going?”

Good, as I walked out the door. The FNG may have found it rude, but in a year, he’ll understand.


At 12:15 PM, Blogger Kim said...

I'm not sure I'd want your job, but I sure wouldn't mind being a girl over there ;) great story, thanks for sharing!

At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you tell em Sminkie! we love ya ... FOF

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Hey, glad your still ok, be easy with the New Guys, they will remain stupid for months.

It should be required (like it was back 30 some odd years ago) that the top or first, line up all the FNGs when they report to their unit, and give them the following speech. It is the one I got when I arrived in 68.

"From this moment, you are in danger of losing your life. The only thing that will save your scrawney asses is listening and learning from the ones that are already here. Do exactly what they say, nothing more, nothing less".

"You will not ask stupid questions, like " have you killed anybody". If you have a question as to what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Ask your squad leader or your platoon leader. Then listen and remember the answer, don't keep asking the same stupid questions".

"Clean your weapon twice a day, change your socks twice a day and learn to use your eyes,ears and common sense, to keep yourself from getting wasted".

By the way he gave the same speech to all the new officers. Substituting "your noncoms" as to who to ask and listen to.

Hang in and don't let it hang out.

This is my post

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 5:30 PM, Blogger FbL said...

Yikes! I can't believe New Guys are really that obtuse! I don't have a single military bone in my body, but even I instictively know better than to bring up that subject with the guys I write to.

Maybe it has something to do with the fearless ignorance of youth...

Ray's idea actually sounds like a pretty good remedy. :)

At 6:12 PM, Blogger DangerGirl said...

ROFLMFAO!'re hilarious. I just came across your blog. Is it possible to pull something in some weird part of my body from laughing so friggin hard at this post.

FNG's...gotta love 'em!

Like the brownies that taste .....soapy! LMAO! OMG...I'm in pain from laughing this hard....I swear I can't breathe!

Don't stop writing...and send me a kute medic!

BTW - Is that a camera in your pocket or are you just happy to see me :)

At 7:32 PM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

That kind of reminded me of CBWTF's post about FNG's. Good stuff. BTW, still laughing about Bad Grammar Guy and your cape. ;-)

At 7:39 AM, Blogger Travel Ohio and beyond said...

I might inject: I used to be a military (Air Force) journalist. One day I happened to be in Alaska working on a story about some engineers working in the hot sun (yes, it was summer) re-habbing some buildings. Anyway, there is this hot, sweaty guy pounding shingles on a roof. He looks down at me, and I'm wearing a nicely pressed blue Air Force shirt and pants, no sweat at all (my office was air conditioned), and I have a small camera on a strap over my shoulder.
He looks down at me and asks: "How do you get a job like you have?"
"Practice," I told him. "Practice."
I must admit, I did feel a little guilty.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Blair Heusdens said...

you'd really cut some guy's balls off for me???
awwww.... that's real nice, but I've got my own knife you know, just let me at em.

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At 4:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Full metal jacket?


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