Friday, November 6, 2009

Some thoughts

Everybody is talking about the tragedy on Ft Hood, and there are a few things I'd like to point out that I haven't seen mentioned.

First is that the public at large is entirely clueless as to how military bases work in regards to weapons possession. Despite what you may think, these bases are "Gun Free Zones" in every sense of the term. A news anchor asked a Senator or Congressman yesterday if all Soldiers just walked around armed, and was under the impression that that is policy. To clear things up, weapons are stored in armories that are very much secure, and ammunition is stored in fortified bunkers at a different location on the base. Personnel, which includes active duty uniformed individuals stationed on the base, are not allowed to carry any weapon -- personal or government owned -- on base in any way they please. The only time Soldiers or Marines will be wandering around with weapons is during training.

I stress though, that this policy will not stop a shooter from buying ammo at Wal-Mart, loading up their personal weapon, and bringing it on the base. To think so is fantasy.

If you live in base housing, sometimes you are allowed to register personal weapons with the base Provost Marshal's office and keep them in your residence, but I don't believe that every base allows this. If you live in the barracks, personal weapons must be stored in the armory, and cannot be carried about freely on post. There are procedures and regulations for bringing firearms onto base for shooting events or hunting, but again, the gun(s) cannot be carried around freely.

I'm not advocating these rules, mind you. It's just the way it is. I have engaged in conversation with many people over the years who defend these rules because, it is argued, that Soldiers or Marines cannot be trusted with firearms. Firefights will break out at the drop of a hat, and there will be negligent discharges every day in the chow halls. To anyone who has spent any time in combat, these arguments are largely false.

On forward operating bases (FOBs), civilian contractors and military personnel alike are armed and in possession of ammunition at all times, and shootings --negligent or intentional -- are rare. There is a high level of stress, exhaustion, and complacency on FOBs, and while many have seen some dumbass officer fire a live round into the clearing barrel at the chow hall, NDs are not an every day occurrence. The main thing missing from a FOB that would be present on a mainside post would be alcohol, and that would no doubt cause problems. I am convinced it is an American issue. Americans are stupid when it comes to the drink, but there are other nations that do not share in our stupidity. Alcohol is a constant safety issue on bases despite the weapons policy, and our culture is to blame for it.

For those who do not understand what a readiness center is, let me fill you in. These are large buildings that usually have some sort of gymnasium or other open space in them. Soldiers, Marines, and personnel are jammed into these buildings by the hundreds in order to do all of the administrative stuff that they need to complete before heading overseas into combat, or coming back from combat. There are processing stations/booths set up for all sorts of things, like, for instance, a dental booth where a Soldier's dental records will be looked at to see if their fangs are in good enough shape to not cause any problems while they kill people in a foreign land. There will be a station where medical records will be checked and shots will be given. The chaplain station will be where a Soldier can express their concerns about Susie cheating on them in their absence, and the legal station is where your will and power of attorney will be closely monitored to make sure the stripper that you just married will be able to access every dime you make while at war. Personnel going through this hell are stacked ass to nuts in a maze of hallways while they wait for their chance to get to the open area where all the stations are. These are not nice places to be to begin with. To be gunned down in one by a scumbag wannabe hajji is the epitome of shitty.

Now you know.

For closure, if you think that the weapons policy on bases will stop a killer, just look at the news this morning. It doesn't. I am not under the belief that my fellow man cannot be trusted with a personal weapon at all times. To have been where I have been, with every swinging dick on a FOB tired, pissed off, dirty, stressed beyond all belief, and homesick after a day of being shot at; armed with automatic weapons, handguns and live ammunition; heading into a long line of people that are waiting to get into the chow hall, with nothing eventful happening day after day - tends to make me think that it's no big deal to let them keep arms on a mainside base if they want to. The alcohol thing would have to be looked into, but it could be done, and events like mass shootings would be far less painful.
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