Whatever we face, we're ready

Friday, September 3, 2004

In keeping with realism in the training, we trained for a week on the outskirts of San Diego at a TV/movie studio.

The training wasn't on as large of scale as the Air Force base, but the special effects and simulated injuries were convincing. Too convincing perhaps.

A San Diego chemical company had an acid spill on the Interstate. Now, our set only had a fence on one side. The backside of the set overlooked a steep, rocky decline down to the interstate. The chemical spill brought out state and federal officials, some reporters, and evidently some conspiracy theorists as well. When one curious reporter heard gunfire from the top of the hill overlooking the acid spill, he clambered up the hill to investigate.

At the top of the hill he saw U.S. Marines chasing down and exchanging fire with Arab men dressed in traditional robes and headscarves. The reporter didn't get any follow-up, however. When a Marine came charging toward the reporter's position firing a machine gun, the reporter tumbled head over heels back down the slope. Word must have spread fast. Before we knew there was any "suspicious" activity around, we had another reporter try to climb over the front fence. He got stuck on the concertina wire at the top of the fence, and we had to shake the fence until he fell loose. Before the debacle was over, a convoy of black SUV's was parked outside and a representative from D.C. was sharing the laugh with us.

We are now all current on every vaccination, including anthrax and smallpox. The blisters on our arms are festering, and within a week we will all have the scar worn by the previous generation. As I write, training has wound down. Most of our weapons and gear are boxed up, and all thoughts turn toward the movement to the sandbox. We're ready. No one can know exactly what we will face. Whatever it is, we are ready.

-- Sgt. Jeff Tidyman is on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps and has agreed to share occasional columns on his experience. A reservist with a Des Moines, Iowa, unit, he is the son of Larry and Carla Tidyman of Benkelman and a civil engineer in civilian life.

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