The Fire Watch…

home-of-the-combat-medic-corpsman-and-pararescue_mousepad_LOGO-MPAD-1_larger_1378527981_largeThe walk home from the bleachers seemed to take longer than usual. I seemed to feel each step I took. Every time I passed a soldier I could feel their stare. My head was swollen, my face was bloody and I could barely see. I couldn’t breathe out of my nose and I was dizzy. When I finally arrived at my barracks I looked to see who was on fire watch. Always, throughout training, we had to pull fire watch. Fire watch was rotated amongst enlisted soldiers. Each watch was a 2 hour shift. Each soldier was then relieved by the following watch… so on and so on. Whomever was on fire watch could make my night worse. If they reported to C.Q. (charge of quarters) what I looked like I could be in for drama. C.Q. was a permanent party enlisted member, with a N.C.O. (non commissioned officer), who were responsible for all things relating to the barracks. They were not students. If C.Q. called the C.O. it would be a long night.

The fire watch was my buddy… The Apple.

The Apple stopped me. I had long since learned he spoke multiple languages, however  he was a man who didn’t speak much. He asked me, “who did this Angie?” I told him, “I will tell ya tomorrow Frank. I just want to take a shower and sleep.” After my shower, I returned to my bunk to find a bucket of ice and an ice pack. For a quiet little guy from Guam, he always knew where to get the stuff that no one else seemed to know how to get. I iced my face and head, laid down in the dark quiet barracks and was grateful the rest of the platoon was out on pass. I knew my buddy wouldn’t tell C.Q.. So I fell asleep.

The next morning I awoke to the noise of still drunk soldiers, parading around the barracks, bragging about the nights exploits. I looked down in the bucket and saw fresh new ice. I filled my pack and laid back down. Hours went by before I actually sat up. My head and face throbbed but the ice was refreshing. I got up to use the latrine and my bunk mate spotted me. Soon, the entire platoon was grilling me about the specifics. I just wanted the attention to go away so I said I was jumped by a group of soldiers. I didn’t think about the answer and it was the best I could come up with. It was a bad idea. I faked being aggravated and they left me be, for the moment. I knew there would be more to follow. Later, I felt good enough to study and kept ice on my face the entire day. It seemed I had an endless bucket of fresh ice.

I was worried about running. By this point, I was a strong runner. We all were. My endurance was noticeably the best it had ever been and I seemed to be able to knock out one hundred push ups and sit ups without even breaking a sweat. I walked different, saw the world around me different and often wondered if I could make it in Special Operation Forces.

At the end of week eight, our Cadre Sergeant asked for volunteers for Airborne School and R.I.P. (Ranger Indoctrination Program). We would have to have tested high enough on our P.T. test in order to qualify. My scores were high enough. I wanted more training and wondered if I had what it takes to make it at the next level. The way it was explained to us was, if we qualified, we could volunteer for Airborne School. If we graduated “Jump School”, we would move on to R.I.P.. If we graduated R.I.P., we would move on to serve in one of the three U.S. Army Ranger Battalions as a Ranger Medic. From there we could, if we so chose,  test for Special Forces. Qualification for S.F. Medic, or the Q course, would be the ultimate test/achievement for Medics. All S.O.F. units(Special Operations Forces) had the best training, best equipment and best chances for career advancement. S.O.F. units consisted of Rangers, S.F. aka Green Berets or Special Forces and Delta Force. Delta Operators were hand picked secretly, from what we were told. They are the Elite of the Elite. Regular leg units were for ‘potatoes’, according to our Cadre Sergeant, who had jump wings on his chest (a ‘leg’ was what paratroopers aka airborne soldiers called non airborne soldiers. Legs walked… paratroopers jumped).

Our Cadre gave us until Tuesday to volunteer. This week, our tenth week, was the last week. Our orders for permanent party station would be cut and handed to us by Thursday. Friday was an obstacle course followed by a mass casualty triage test. We would all be gone by the following Monday. I had a make up test to pass and now I had been beaten up.

When we met for morning P.T. formation my Cadre Sergeant seen me right away. He asked me, “what the Fuck happened to your face, potato?” I told him I had been “over served” Saturday and fell on the cement. He shook his head in disgust and we went running. After chow that morning, I was told to report to our X.O. (executive officer) by the C.Q.. I knew my story had made it through the platoon, but I didn’t expect this level of attention.  The X.O., my First Sergeant and my Cadre Sergeant tried all avenues to get me to cough up the names of the soldiers who jumped me. I saw they weren’t going to let it go so I told them the truth. I had been beaten up by one soldier. They seemed relieved, asked me if I needed medical attention, to which I said no, so they released me to class. I passed my re do test and looked to studying for my final test. That night, after chow, I was summoned to the day room by Sullivan and his crew. By this time everyone knew the specifics and I just wanted it to go away. I was struggling between going home on leave to eat my mamas cooking or go to Airborne School. I didn’t want to fight anymore and sought no revenge. I knew where I went wrong and was committed to never be caught off guard again. I went to the dayroom.

As I walked down the hall I heard a loud commotion and what seemed like furniture being thrown around. The closer I got to the day room the louder it got. About 3/4 of the way to the day room, the Apple emerged from it at a fast pace. As he neared me he snapped a walking salute that looked as professional as I had ever seen.

I would later find out that Frank Lifang, my battle buddy the Apple, had got to the day room before me, swept the feet out from under PFC Sullivan, and delivered a devastating punch to his nose so hard that his nose cartilage shattered on impact.

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