In March 2010, I deployed to Afghanistan as part of a female engagement team and promptly got the worst food poisoning of my life on Camp Dwyer.
Firing off a chow hall mortar in my cami pants and passing out was not how I’d wanted to kick things off. While recovering, I felt heartsick as the rest of my team was sent out to our assigned area of operations — Marjah in Helmand province — ahead of me.
A few days later, I hopped on a convoy to join them. I didn’t know anyone in my vehicle and my heart raced with excitement as we left the wire. It was my first deployment and as a Marine with both woman and POG characteristics, I realized I’d be under a microscope with the grunts.
“Oh, God, please don’t let me do anything stupid,” was my mantra as the MRAP creaked and groaned through Helmand’s moon dust.
Finally we made a pit-stop at a forward operating base, and I was relieved because I’d had to pee for hours. I could barely get to the plywood outhouses fast enough, and rushed to take off my gear. Right in front of me a PVC pipe stuck out of the ground at waist level, angled forward. “Perfect,” I thought, unclicking my kevlar and resting it on top of the pipe.
Upon emerging from the outhouse, wag-bag in hand, a group of grunts walked by and one of them pointed to my kevlar, wide eyed, exclaiming, “That’s our piss tube!”
As the rest of the group cracked up, I tried to act cavalier, shrugging my shoulders as I lifted it off the pipe.
Holy ammonia, Batman! How had I not noticed the stagnant urine smell before? Were these guys eating asparagus all day? I shuddered to think of the petri dish worth of germs the padding had absorbed.
When we got the call to mount back up I died a little inside. Looking to my left and right to make sure the coast was clear, I took a deep breath and put the kevlar back on my head, resisting the urge to throw up in my mouth. As we rocked along the dirt road I ditched the mantra and had to laugh at myself.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees
U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on January 20 for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the U.S. military's geographic combatant commands.
Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.