Demons and Service
by MA3, November 2006

Iím 23 years old and 5í2Ē 120 pounds. I joined the Navy a little over 9 months ago and had a laundry list of troubles starting with losing my law enforcement badge and getting kicked out of B.U.D.S. for a drinking incident. B.U.D.S. stands for Basic Underwater Demolition School, a prerequisite school leading to S.E.A.L. school.

I wound up on an aircraft carrier working in HAZMAT as basically a garbage man. It was difficult living on the ship and my old demons (drug use) got the better of me. I wound up going to Captains Mast, a form of Non-Judicial Punishment used instead of a Trial by Court Martial in minor cases of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The captain gave me an Other Than Honorable Discharge and 45 days of restriction and extra duty. Restriction means confinement to ship premises and mustering (forming ranks for inspection and accountability) five times day. It is maddening because I couldn't leave the ship and was always being watched, as if they expected me to get into more trouble. Extra Duty consists of working after normal working hours and doing jobs not preferred by higher ranking enlisted men. The jobs are usually for the security deptarement and involve cleaning toilets and sweeping or swabbing p-ways (hallways or passage ways in the ship).

A little over three months ago, while on restriction, my captain called me to his office and made an offer to me. An emergency billet for tunnel warfare experts with an E.O.D. (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) background came in. There was a catch. The candidates had to be less than 5í 5Ē and not weigh over 145 pounds. I of course accepted the deal which upgraded my discharge, cleared my drug use from my record and offered the opportunity to finish my enlistment in the navy.

Itís been two weeks now since arriving back from Baghdad and Iím doing fine except for a little suffering from some mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. One thing that stays in the back of my mind is how fortunate I was to be short as it saved my career and many soldiers, marines, and airmenís lives fighting in streets above me and my division. Sometimes being short is important and beneficial. I can tell you that the tunnels we were in were only 6½ feet wide by 5 feet high. At those dimensions, it was imperative that the members of each four member team (two on the sides, one in front and one in back) be small statured, quick to avoid cross fire and able to terminate enemy combatants with speed and accuracy. I also believe my height contributed to my marksmanship ability as well due to the fact Iíve scored as an expert in every weapons qualification Iíve ever undertaken. Maybe itís just a fluke.

Iím going back to Iraq in March of 2007 for 12 months this time. I am proud that my height has provided me with the opportunity to serve my country and help ensure my brothers and sisters above ground face less hostilities coming from the tunnels below Baghdad and surrounding areas.