I found smoking cigarettes incredibly valuable down range for two reasons. The first was that most Iraqis I came across smoked and sharing a smoke was a good way to build rapport.
I remember going on one mission where we ended up at a soft drink factory late one night. We sat around with the factory workers making jokes and drinking soda. The initial introduction was tense but as we all relaxed things smoothed over and we all had a enjoyable time.
Upon leaving the factory one of the workers handed our interpreter a note that said that there was an area of the factory that was off limits and that the rumor around the factory was that bad things were going on back there.
I wasn't a part of the mission that went back to the factory but I heard through the grape vine that they found some heavy shit.
The second reason smokes were useful, was for killing time in a way that Sergeant Majors would not fuck with you. Now I know that cursing is crude and I've had some comments to that effect but let me be clear......Whenever I or anyone got hassled by a SM for something stupid........the only way to describe it was......being "fucked-with".
Try to image it like this, you are in a War Zone and a SM starts jumping down your ass about putting you hand in your pocket, or not having a regulation towel for the shower. Now, I understand why the SM have to behave this way......but what a pain. (anyone got any funny SM stories?)
Anyway, if you were just standing somewhere on base you would get yelled at. If however you were standing somewhere on base and smoking a butt, you would be left alone. Smoking a cigarette was an acceptable use of the moment.
Smoke'm if you gott'em, HOOAH?
Hell there was even a time when smokes came in your rations.
My brand of choice was Marlboro lights.
Now, remember......part of the allure of the military is being bad ass. Take a look at this dude and tell me he isn't someone you'd want on your team?
I expanded my consumption to include Dip. Also invaluable down range. Great for battle update briefs and night time ops.
Anybody got any stories about being on an op and running out of tobacco? I won't go on a tangent but we ended up on a mission that lasted twice as long as everybody thought and we all started running out of dip and smokes. That poor LT almost had a mutiny on his hands. Haha
Anyway, I officially began quitting December 1st, 2006.
I say began quitting because I cheated a time or two.
My crowning moment of Will Power came the night of the EFP. During the ride back to FOB Loyalty, Doc handed me a fresh ........out the pack...... "American" ........Marlboro light.
I held it up to my nose, almost lit it.....but I thought about my mom and handed it back.
As much as smoking and dipping helped me out down range they hindered me at home.
Letting those two habits go was hard though.
One of my favorite things to do down range was pack a fatty and go wash the humvee. Or in the mornings, before the team woke up, I'd get a cup of coffee, sit outside the hootch and smoke a few butts before the day began.
Tobacco was my friend.
But let go I did.
Neither were useful anymore.
Down Range tobacco was a smoother.....in other words it smoothed out tense times and added a component of enjoyment to others.
At home however tobacco was a complication. I wasn't smoking but I was still dipping. I remember trying to find a tin one morning in Bethesda Maryland. I felt the hook.
I have since quit, but I still have a few dependencies. Things that I make an effort to keep in my life. The difference lies in the sustainability of the dependencies' utility.
Meaning, you gotta ask yourself two questions about the things that you hold on to:
1. Is it useful?
2. For how long?
I haven't had a lip in over a year. I was at the dentist yesterday and was told that my gums have receded a bit more than normal for my age.....
My advice: don't wait to long to ask yourself these questions.
The fundamental problem with a behavior that is unsustainable is that your energy is being depleted without being replenished.
Like running out of ammo with no hope of re-supply.
Congratulations! You now have the rest of your life.
Make your rounds count, HOOAH?
Becoming who you are after combat is a re-creation of your training not an absence of them.
Down range our goal was to maintain the integrity of our Duty.
At Home, it's simply your own.
The fourth stanza of the Art of Peace is : The Art of Peace is Medicine for a sick world. There is evil and disorder in the world because people have forgotten that everything comes from one source. Return to that source and leave behind all self-centered thoughts, petty desires, and Anger. Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything.