Table of Contents

Military Life: Blood and Duty

by Dominic


This lecture was delivered on Saturday, September 17th, 1994.


Ptah: Welcome to the first event of the Legend Lecture Series such as it is. :) Dominic has consented to speak to us tonight on military life. He brings to the talk 6 years of experience as a combat medic. He has asked that his real name remain confidential due to the classified nature of some of his duties. His military experience includes service in Desert Storm, and he holds the rank of Sergeant.

Ptah looks at Dominic questioningly.

Ptah: Right?

Dominic: Good so far. :)

Ptah: So let's all give him a warm welcome, and I hope you continue to support more items in the Lecture Series.


Ptah gestures to Dominic to take the stand. Dominic moves up to the podium.

Dominic: Ok. I'm 32 years old, an originally signed for a 6 year hitch in the National Guards. I entered late, at 24 years of age. Wish I had gone in earlier, but..:) My family has a tradition of service, as we can trace back someone in the Revolutionary war. Approximately 1/2 of us serve in service in some manner.

I joined at the rank of PFC (Private First Class) due to college time. Went down to the most mis-named military post in existance (Fort Bliss) for basic training,

(chuckling from audience)

Dominic: and then went to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio for my first level medical training.

Sahib looks enviously at Dominic . Sahib thinks Dominic had too much fun at Ft. Sam.

Dominic: I then spent 1 year with the Guards drilling with a medical detachment, and pulling medical support. Was exposed to Officers Candidate School at that time, and made decision to stay enlisted. what they put those poor slobs thru...:(

(audience chuckles)

Lucas: officers or enlisted?

Dominic: I made the rank of Specialist at that time, and got lucky by being able to return to Ft. Sam for what is called the Super-B course, which is advanced level medical training for Non-commisioned Officers.

Dominic: the officers candidates, Lucas. I know, I had to patch them up.

Lucas: Just from training?

Dominic: yes, sahib, ft. sam was fun, but was also a pain

Sahib: Too many nurses?

Ptah suggests we leave the questions til after the presentation.

Dominic: yes. lessee...some broken fingers, lots of blisters,

Sahib: oops, sorry

Dominic: Half of the class came down with major cases of poison Ivy because the tac officer of the day insisted that they bivouac in a patch of it in the field.

(dismay and grimacing and chuckling from audience)

Dominic: we had a problem healing them of that one. we had them wrapped up like mummies, but as soon as we got them close to healed, the tac's would put them back in the field. they would get re-infected. one poor guy cycled 3 tiems. 3rd time, he came in, I looked at the angry red tracks on his arms, grabbed a keybook for a vehicle, told the duty nurse that I was headed for nearby hospital and call me on the vehicle radio. He had blood poisoning!

(eeks of distress, some cringing)

Lucas shakes his head in disgust at parts of the military.

Dominic: the guy eventually graduated as a 2nd Lt, but a permanant profile against field duty was entered into his file. which pretty much destroyed his career.

Anyway. life and times as a medic.

Sahib understands the contempt that training TACS have with future officers.

Dominic: a medic is in a peculiar position in the military. he actually wields a tremendous amount of power, but must be cautious in using it. this may sound weird, but a medic is happiest when he's bored. no one is hurt!

(smiles in audience)

Dominic: you get a lot of flak from all around about just sitting there doing nothing, but that's your job. you can't go gallivanting off doing things when you're needed. I wish someone could invent something that would tell you when accidents happen. Until then, you just wait....and wait...and wait..and TRAIN. a day doesn't go by without pulling out a skills text, or medical textbook, or something, and studying. The list of things that I have to know fills several bookcases.

And yes, ladies, that includes your 'problems' too.

Lirra shivers uncomfortably.

(some giggling)

Dominic: biggest giggle I had was taking out pads to the women in a OCS class, and they were too embarrased to take them from me. even the three that were medics from my unit!


Dominic: realize something, folks. you have to be understanding and circumspect in this job. I've seen a lot of skin, both sexes, but it doesn't matter to me. when I'm working, I'm working. Courtesy and professionalism are mandatory. you get to know the troops you work with and care for pretty well. kinda like a unit crying shoulder, sometimes. people try to act tough constantly in the military, but you gotta let it out sometimes.

ok. back to topic.... the power of a medic. your responsibility is the health and welfare of the troops. that includes the officers, altho most of the time they consider themselves above that.

Ptah rolls his eyes heavenward. Lirra grins.

Dominic: you make sure you have your ducks in a line when you recommend something. example points: I once was detailed to support a group of Air Defense Artilery troops. ADA troops are what is called light fighters. they don't have their own medics, or a lot of things, so they can move fast. I was detailed as the NCO in charge, so I pulled HQ battery. their first sargeant was a real work-aholic..all hours. he came to me one evening in the field with stomach problems. I asked him if he had been taking anything for it. he'd been drinking antacids for 3 days. On my authority, I sent him in from the field for an evening, so he could relax. he was on the edge of tearing his stomach apart!

(audience grimaces and nods)

Dominic: he bitched and moaned,

Lirra raises an eyebrow inquiringly.

Dominic: and tried to overrule me. this is where the senior NCO's who have been in service for a while and know the medics job real well stepped in and put their foot down. it was nice to get backing like that.

One other case I will mention. I was detailed one day to support a group of Engineers from Montana at a bridging training site. it got real warm that day. the military uses something called a wet-bulb to measure relative humidity, and such. the higher the correlated reading gets, the less work you're supposed to do, and the more water you drink. anyway, the medical clinic had taken a reading and advised the field medics out at the training sites that the wet-bulb was now category 3, which is getting up there. I advised the captain of the unit I was supporting of the status, and told him that he needed to reduce his work level and get his troops drinking. he refused, as they were behind, and wanted to catch up. I told him again, and he still refused. I called into the TMC, and got the officer in charge to write this down in the logbook.

Arkenstone: TMC?

Dominic: 10 minutes later, I had a friggin colonel show up, and ask me what was goin on.

Dominic: Troop medical clinic, arkenstone

Dominic: I explained what was happening, and what I was about to do. he concurred, and I then got the company commander (captain) and his XO (lt.) together. I told the Lt. that he was in charge of the company, and told the captain that the colonel wanted to see him.

Parrilyn ducks to the ground.

Dominic: effectively, I relieved the captain of his command!

(applause and smiles)

Dominic: I didn't want 60 guys out with heat exhaustion/ prostration/stroke. I had to support my actions later, but was supported. boy, was I nervous.


Dominic: enough of that.

Dominic: Life as a soldier is filled with lots of maintenance work, and training, and training, and training. the military thought about training is to drill it into the troops so hard,that they do it without thought when needed. which is what you need to do under fire.

(nods of agreement)

Dominic: yes, I have been shot at. but not in a combat situation.

Matrix raises his eyebrow at Dominic.

Dominic: I have worked on some classified stuff in relation to law enforcement. which is about all I can say about it, except that it was in a war...against drugs. if anyone here has been shot at, they can tell's one of the most frightening sounds you can hear... a bullet going by..or hitting something near you.

Lucas thinks only a slug would shoot at a medic.

Dominic: I'll admit it... first time, I crapped my pants. Didn't know it for 10 minutes until everything quieted down.

Dominic: I got news for you, Lucas. The medic is a primary target for enemy troops! commo first, then medic, then officers.

Lucas looks even more disillusioned.

Dominic: a medic is a soldier first. we all know how to shoot.

Matrix: do you carry a weapon?

Dominic: I'm a sharpshooter. an expert is higher skilled, but I'm working on gainin that.

Dominic: yes. medics these days are armed. and we NEVER wear those red crosses unless its in a training area. those crosses make real good targets, you know.


Dominic: same with the ambulances, and the medical tents, etc. Geneva Conventions require that we put red crosses over medical tents... well... sometimes... hmm...time to talk about Desert Storm. I was at the time attending a University, when desert started up. I volunteered for duty..twice.


Dominic: second time, I was picked up as a replacement medic to fill in holes. they gave me all the gear and crap, shot my arm full of needles, and sent me over. people may not have heard it much, but the idea of chemical warfare was in the back of everyones mind. with SCUD missiles landing at random locations, people worried. none of the scuds that landed had gas/germ warfare loads, but they could have. I know a troop that was in that warehouse/barricks that a scud slammed into. If that scud had nerve gas, or something, they ALL would have died. it was bad enough as it was, I was told.

Dominic: I had a disappointing time over there. I spent 3 days in repple-depple, which is what we call replacement depot. worked on 'every day casualties,' there to keep from dying of boredom in the heat, which was pretty stiff. and then they told me that I was headed back to the states!

Dominic: DS was an example of overwhelming firepower. the only Unit the bad-guys had that could have done a lot of damage was the Guards, and the airdales went to town on them. that is one of the things that has the military concerned about the current situation. the public got a taste of easy war. wait until we hit something that is going to cost a lot of blood. because that is what we trade in the military..blood for objectives. the military is the most peaceful group in the world. because when the sh*t hits the fan, it's the troops in uniform that pay the price. not that I'm complaining. I guess it's a mentality thing. I like working with people. a lot of the work we do is with the civilian sector, helping on projects and such.

Dominic: hmm...I'm getting maudlin...:)


Dominic stretches out...

Dominic: ok. enough rambling. anyone got questions?'


Q & A

Ptah: How do you feel about the reported Gulf War Syndrome?

Dominic: from my understanding, the GWS is a stress related problem. when you look at things, it has been a while since we have been involved in a military situation. people have forgotten what it's like. It's a lesson that has to be learned every time. it's real..we just don't understand it.

Matrix: I've heard reports of chem alarms going off in the vicinity of scud attacks. Have you heard anything like that?

Dominic: I work with some Viet vets, and they still react

Arkenstone: how do you mean react?

Dominic: remember the movie 'Platoon?' a bunch of us went to see it. And the first big firefight that broke out, a few of the vets went from seats to floor in an eyeblink. they still live there, in their minds. my first platoon sargeant was an ex-special forces man. I remember the two of us almost getting hit by a lightning bolt that came down close to us. the crack of the lightning had him go from vertical to horizontal almost instantaneously. fastest I have ever seen someone move.

Dominic: matrix asked about the chem alarms.

Matrix nods solemnly.

Dominic: yes, there were some trips reported.

Dominic: I have some training in the NBC field (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical). some of them were caused by people tripping them on purpose. most were false trips. dust, bug sprays, other things like that. we use a lot of chemicals in everyday use that detectors can trip on. I know, I once used bug juice to trip a units alarm in a training situation.


Dominic: chemical stuff had everyone on edge over there. it could have been real..anytime. real nerve wracking.

Warbird: It all looked kinda nasty on CNN.

Dominic: in some cases, it was.

Ptah: Any other questions?

Dominic: think of it this way. what would you feel like if you thought that your house could catch fire. you doubt it, but it could happen..and your fire alarm in the hallway keeps going off...

Ptah: and you're not allowed to take the battery out. :)

Dominic: on top of the alarm, you have a neighbor kid that is rumored to be a firebug. :) think of what your nerves would be like then.


Matrix: I'm in the reserves (supply) My unit was also in DS. (not I) One of the guys from my unit claims to have gulf wwar syndrome. He's on disability now. He thinks it is VERY real. Have you run into any cases as a medic?

Dominic: yup. I personally only have been exposed to CS gas.

(raised eyebrows and grimacing and knowing nods)

Dominic: every army troop has been exposed, it is part of the training in Basic. understood, Matrix! I've been gassed over 50 times now.

Matrix panics and attempts to flee.

Mana: cs?

Dominic: some few people in the world are actually immune to the stuff.

Matrix: why 50 times?

Dominic: CS...hmm...matrix, you wanna help on the description?

Dominic grins evilly.

Matrix: it's the most foul and noxious stuff you ever want to encounter.

Dominic: cs is pretty much crowd control gas...tear gas. wants you to cry/puke/cough all at the same time

Dominic: oh..and you can't breathe, either. :)

Mana shivers uncomfortably.

Matrix: They make you breathe it in this gas chamber then stand yelling at you as you puke.

Dominic: my alternate skill is as a NBC sargeant. I work with the stuff in training.

Ptah: What is your impression on the situation troops will be going into in Haiti? It would seem to be a difficult place from a medical standpoint, with humidity, diseases, high incidence of HIV, and poor facilities.

Dominic: haiti frightens me. people think of the haitians as low- skilled and un-armed. that's one of the most dangerous categories. the Afghans were untrained and unarmed. look at what they did/are doing.

Ptah: The army is poorly armed, but then the populace is roughly as well armed as they are.

Charity noticed that the guns they showed the hatians with, on Dan Rather last night, look 40 years old and unable to fire in that sort of humidity... propaganda?

Arkady: Does the Military acknowledge the possibilty or warfare similar to the Vietnam conflict?

Dominic: haiti will be difficult if we go in.

Ptah to Charity: The police there carry brand new machine guns actually.

Dominic: no, I don't think so, arkady. not enough land mass.

Arkady: Or does the rumor mill say they have a different approach in mind?'

Dominic: Vietnam had a lot of area to move around in. Haiti is only so big.

Ptah wonders if maybe a separate lecture series item on Haiti itself might be in order. :)

Dominic: Charity, a gun doesn't care how old it is when it shoots you.

Arkady: Hmm... I was thinking the terrain would make things equally difficult.

Dominic: actually, there is no such thing as a dangerous weapon. the most dangerous thing is MAN.

Matrix: I would think that instead of fighting for land as in vietnam they'll drop right in on the palace with the generals in it.

Dominic: I can kill with empty hands, or a pen, or whatever. weapons just extend your reach. ask can do a lot with a bayonette

Ptah: Well, if there are no further specific questions, I'd like to thank Dominic for giving this talk, before we all get embroiled in a free-for-all.

(audience stands and applauds)

Dominic: sorry if I'm rambling alot. not used to lecturing.

Ptah: And thanks to all of you who showed up...