“From the balcony I looked out on the big field/it opens like the cover of an
old brief/And out come the wolves/their plans trampling the snow the asphalt/
I stand on my head and watch it all go away, bootin’ up, shootin’ up bring
on the brightness.”
And Out Come the Wolves – Rancid
Spec. Joe Pavlansky from Campbell, Ohio with 3rd Platoon, Company D, 1st of the 148th Infantry Regiment, Ohio Army National Guard, sits atop the roof of house looking down at the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. Soldiers of the 1-148 Inf. Reg. are part of a massive effort to bring relief to individuals impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
The pummels of dust kicked up from the helicopter that had just dropped me off began to finally clear, and I slowly began taking in my surroundings. The abandoned mall I would be calling home for the next several weeks looked like something from a post apocalyptic nightmare.
Tracing the line of the building from right to left, the view got worse the further left you went – sections of roof strewn about on the ground in a haphazard pattern, walls with holes in them strained under the weight of support and the water, everywhere pools of standing, putrid water.
It was obvious before the storm had torn this building to shreds that it had been under construction, a new shopping complex for this poor neighborhood. Now it looked like someone would have to start over. But when they’d ever be able to, not a one of us really knew.
I grabbed up my gear and made my way to the place that looked like it might contain some answers. As I drew near, a young Soldier, his eyes covered by dark aviator glasses, stripped down to his t-shirt, sweat glistening off his forehead walked up.
“Who the fuck are you?” he challenged.
“I’m the combat camera guy,” I responded.
“Oh, great, a fuckin’ camera guy” he replied, an exasperated lift punctuating his voice. Tilting his head to an opening behind him, he announced my arrival, “Hey guys, check it out, we got a combat camera guy now!”
His call was met with disparaging remarks in the back. I’m not entirely sure, but I think I heard slurs against my mother, father and a few inquiries as to whether or not I had a sister, whether she cute and did she give up the goods easily.
The soldier standing before me turned back to face me, a chuckle escaping his lips, “Well camera guy, you want to head over there,” he said, pointing in the direction just behind me and to my left.
“Someone in there will know what to do with you,” he stated as he flipped around and disappeared into the darkened room.
“Some things never change,” I thought to myself as I made my way to the hole recently indicated. “Damn grunts.”
After several hours of working with the upper levels of command on where I would stay and what I’d be doing, I headed back to the location that was the location of my introduction to this group of Ohio infantry. I pushed through canvass covering that served as the door, found an empty cot and tossed my stuff on to it.
“Hey, the camera guy’s back!” came the voice I immediately recognized as belonging to the soldier I met earlier.
Only the removed sunglasses and increased sweat changed the man’s appearance.
“So they put you in here with us, huh?” he said.
“Looks like it,” I responded dryly and continued unpacking my gear. I was in no real mood to play silly infantry games, I knew I was the FNG but, really, I was in no mood.
Walking around to the other side of my cot, my antagonizer looked me up and down.
“So what’s you name camera guy,” he poked.
“Spec. Cossel, good to meet you,” I said as I extended my hand outwards.
“I’m Rinaldi,” he said looking down at my hand, not extending his, I immediately thought “ringleader.”
“Try not to get in our way, we wouldn’t want to have to pull your butt out of the water too,” he stated.