A few years ago I watched the movie Jarhead and while I’m sure there was drama and suspense, the thing I remember most was the waiting. Soldiers preparing and waiting. Training and waiting. Anticipating and waiting while nothing happened.
Here is a synopsis of the movie
Jarhead (the self-imposed moniker of the Marines) follows Swoff (Gyllenhaal) from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, where he sports a sniper rifle through Middle East deserts that provide no cover from the heat or Iraqi soldiers. Swoff and his fellow Marines sustain themselves with sardonic humanity and wicked comedy on blazing desert fields in a country they don’t understand against an enemy they can’t see for a cause they don’t fully grasp.
which doesn’t really give you a feel for that whole waiting thing, but offers a great segue into another good point. Often soldiers are trained to fight whatever. You know, “the enemy”.
James Brown’s diary transcript starts in January of 1862 and while it eventually chronicles his experiences on our Northcoast, the early entries describe his time in Santa Barbara training for the enemy. And waiting…
He chronicles days he spent “on guard”, doing “Inspection and drill” and “nothing of interest”.
More detailed entries include:
“Inspection in the afternoon”, “We get an abundance of drill now whenever the weather permits.”, “Weekly inspection of arms and clothing.”, “We only drill in forenoons of Saturday. The afternoon being devoted to cleaning and preparing for inspection.” And one more, “Nothing but drill stand guard eat & sleep.”
Though Brown did note at one point that “… those who were on guard together form what is called “police” that is they have to cut all the wood neat and clean up the camp.”
He arrived in Santa Barbara in January and this was still going on until April 12, 1862, when Brown finally embarked on a journey to San Francisco. Unfortunately Brown was chronically seasick and this trip was not an enjoyable one. He did note, however, that many of his companions passed the time by getting drunk. On April 14 they finally landed, and camped, on Alcatraz Island. And by April 17 Brown was happy to note that he could “eat now, you bet. The ‘spuing’ I get at sea gave me an appetite.”
To be continued…