A view from a distance of soldiers on a highway in Southern Iraq. July 2008.
There are Humvees blocking either end of a highway as soldiers change a tire in the heat.
Iraqis in cars, buses and trucks wait patiently.
There is a berm on one side of the road and trackless desert on the other side.
It is burning hot-122 degrees.
Zoom in on one soldier pacing 5s and 25s alone into the desert and it is a Lieutenant Colonel in full gear, body armor, gloves eye-pro glasses sweating profusely. First at Five meters he scans around the vehicle, then he walks out cautiously to 25 meters and walks in a semi-circle around the vehicle.
He pulls a litre bottle of water out of his pocket and a billfold falls to the sand.
He picks in up and it is open to a picture of a tiny baby in a felt cap.
His eyes become moist. Although no-one could possibly see him at such a distance he looks around as if they could.
LTC OTSEGO TO SELF: “I’m sorry baby. It was Daddy’s fault that you died. I’m so sorry baby. I was not a good Daddy.”
Otsego looks up to the sky.
It was an odd group. Air Force air controllers and forward observers, but they were the only once who didn’t have a role during a breakdown. So Otsego was their leader, the heat was crushing. The odd crew looked over the berm for obvious bombs and threats. They did at least look like soldiers, big men with guns. Otsego liked it, it was what he was trained to do. He had the small team of fire controllers fan out, watch the traffic. Hour after hour went by it was one of several breakdowns. ‘Don’t be a pussy’ he kept repeating to himself. The Air Force FAC walked passed him and without looking up spoke quietly.
FAC TwoByFour: ‘I don’t think you’re a pussy, sir!’
They would be in the village soon. Routine patrol and KLE down near the Sugar Shack as they called Shu’uq Al Shu’uq. They saddled up and got back in the vehicles and they continued down the highway to the village. The Cav platoon set up security. The Lieutenant went into the meeting and Otsego and the air controllers and FOs spread out through the village. They sought good vantage points to control the odd array of Jet Fighters and UAVs that orbited overhead. It was an odd thing, like ballet, everyone did a weave to where they knew to be. Sugar Shack was a tiny hot little Sumerian village next to a long dirty, skinny canal filled with ugly black water.
LTC OTSEGO’S FLASHBACK: JANUARY 2003: A C-130 LANDS IN TUZLA, BOSNIA DAY 270:
From across the aircraft we see a view of an Army Liaison Officer in woodland-pattern Battle Dress Uniform (BDUs) wearing a helmet and IBAS ballistic armor vest. He is sitting on the last cargo seat of a C-130 Aircraft. An overweight, pretentious civilian in a goatee is sitting next to him. The officer notices the civilian is wearing a Special Forces ring.
Otsego glances at the civilian out of the corner of his eyes and then rolls his eyes.
Every now and then he looks out the little circular window behind him and sees a snowy scene. Every single house for mile after mile, even deep in the woods is destroyed, missing a roof withsnow inside.
The plane drops precipitously for several minutes, then he hears the landing gear come down and the plane bounces to a landing and taxis down the runway.
He removes his seatbelt as the rear door of the plane comes down. He looks out to see a snowy landscape of mountains not unlike Western Pennsylvania. He grabs his duffel bag and pack and he heads off of the plane down the ramp. We see on his right shoulder a red white and blue American flag patch. The camera pans around to his left shoulder and we see the Kelly’s Hero’s Patch of the 35th Infantry Division.
He walks across the cold airfield in Tuzla, Bosnia past a sign with a huge Red Keystone that says “Welcome to Eagle Base, 28th Infantry Division-Roll On!”
No-one is there to greet him. He goes to an outdoor terminal for in-processing where eventually he collects his remaining bags. As he returns from the terminal, he is greeted by an old friend driving an SUV.
CAPTAIN AL HAJJ (IN THICK BROOKLYN ACCENT): “What up blay? What the hell are you doing here?”
Al Hajj is strong and squat and looks like a cross between Indonesia’s Suharto and Mike Tyson.
MAJOR OTSEGO: “Wow, what freakin’ luck this is!”
CAPTAIN AL HAJJ: “Get in blay! Where you going?”
MAJOR OTSEGO: “I’m going to Mostar.”
CAPTAIN AL HAJJ: “Well, I have to take LTC Smith to Zenica, so we’ll all go together, man.”
The Captain jumps out, the men give each other a hug and they load the bags into the back of the SUV.
They pick up LTC Smith and put his bags into the back.
MAJOR OTSEGO: “Hey Sir!”
LTC SMITH: “Wow I’ve got my old section reunited here!”
CPT AL HAJJ: “Hey the old Division Artillery Fire Support Coordination Team back together.”
The SUV rolls out of the gate past civilian gate guards who carry themselves like soldiers of fortune.
They continue down a road, past donkey carts and past an endless series of destroyed homes and buildings. Every building they pass for miles is destroyed.
An endless stream of listless people walk down the road like zombies.
MAJ OTSEGO: “Did anyone see it?”
CPT AL HAJJ: “See what blay?”
MAJ OTSEGO: “The house that they didn’t blow up.”
CPT AL HAJJ: “Nah man, this filth is fouled up. They blew up everybody’s house.”
MAJ OTSEGO: “Who are these people walking everywhere?”
CPT AL HAJJ: “They walk day and night. They have no cars or transportation so they walk town to town.”
MAJ OTSEGO: “When you don’t have a R.A.F.O.V., you needs the Basic On Order Transportation System.”
LTC SMITH: “What?”
MAJ OTSEGO: “R.A.F.O.V.: Ride Around Filth Off Vehicle. Basic On Order Transportation System: B.O.O.T.S.!”
After a while it begins to snow very hard and they continue to the town of Doboj to the NORDPOL camp.
A Polish sentry checks IDs and lets them in.
They check into a weird series of triple stacked Conex boxes. It is like an indoor outdoor hotel with a roof and an empty dark interior space. They dump their belongs into ice cold dirty little rooms.
Otsego invites the Colonel and Captain out on the third story balcony, close to the shabby wooden roof. They sit in the bitter cold on lawn chairs and Otsego brings out three shot glasses and a large bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream TM(r)(c).
MAJ OTSEGO: “Here’s to General Order #1!”
LTC SMITH: “Hear, Hear!”
CPT AL HAJJ: “Dig it, man, dig it!”
The three of them drink it down.
CPT AL HAJJ: “You know we’re leaving in two weeks man, what are you going to do with this new unit? You should have been here with us man, not with these other jokers.”
MAJ OTSEGO: “Fate intervenes man, fate intervenes.”
LTC SMITH: “I’m sorry about the baby, You’ll have another one.”
MAJ OTSEGO: “Thanks, sir, but I’m afraid not. I guess the wife and I will never have children now. It’s too late. She would die if we tried again.”
CPT AL HAJJ: “I’m sorry man.”
LTC SMITH: “Aren’t you going to Mostar?”
MAJ OTSEGO: “Yes.”
LTC SMITH: “Hajj is dropping me off in Zenica tomorrow. Then we can get you a ride to Sarajevo.”
MAJ OTSEGO: “Wicked good, sir, wicked good.”
FADE TO BLACK
The three of them, after waking up at midnight, are back in the RAFOV, headed on snowy roads to Zenica.
Along the way they pass an endless series of destroyed buildings, minefields, desolate businesses. They see incongruous signs that say: “Sretan Put.” Or in English “Happy Trails!”
They stop at a small gas station.
Otsego has to use the bathroom. After studying Serbo-Croatian for two years, he realizes he doesn’t know one particular thing: The words for male and female. He tries to guess.
MAJ OTSEGO TO SELF: “Muski, Zhena, Muski, Zhena. Ah Moj Muzh, Moj Zena! It’s Muski!”
A man comes out of the Muski room. He looks at the Major.
MUSKI: Da, da, drugi, muski, muski! muski muski!
He goes into the bathroom. There is no toilet, but a hole in the floor with porcelain footprints.
MAJ OTSEGO TO SELF: “For the love of St. John of the Cross!, is there no civilization here?”
Outside the door he hears a muffled voice:
MUSKI: “Muski, muski! muski muski!”
MAJ OTSEGO TO SELF: “Will you get the hell…Idi kuci!”
MUSKI: “Da, da, idem, idem.”
Otsego comes out and enters into a little all-night diner.
The other two officers are seated at one table.
At another table are a thin man in a t-shirt with two well-dressed Russian prostitutes.
PIMP: Guten Tag Freunden? Sprechen-sie denn Deutsche.
Smith and Al-Hajj look up. Smith is wary and he caresses his pistol, still in the holster.
MAJ OTSEGO: Ja, Ich spreche Deutsche, was habst Du denn Freund?
They continue in German, but we hear the conversation in English.
PIMP: So friend, you have been in Germany?
MAJ OTSEGO: Ja, I’ve spent time in Germany.
PIMP: You speak good German. I spent 6 years in Germany, but I spent three of it in prison.
MAJ OTSEGO: Did you make any new friends?
PIMP: I got by, I ran a little business.
MAJ OTSEGO: Do you live here? And where is here.
Otsego glances outside and snow is falling heavily. He can’t even see the road.
The pimp pulls out three wads of cash one a roll of Euros, one a roll of Konvertible Marka and one a roll of dollars. He waives to the waiter, a young tall craggy Croat.
PIMP: You are in Kakanj my friend. I am buying you all a round of drinks.
MAJ OTSEGO: We never drink on duty.
PIMP: This is duty? You drink friend, this is Bosnia.
MAJ OTSEGO: I never turned down a drink.
The waiter silently brings three drinks to the soldiers. The pimp hands the waiter a small wad of KM.
MAJ OTSEGO: Gentleman the hell with General Order #1, we have a job to do.
AL HAJJ: When in Rome, baby, when in Rome.
LTC Smith: If duty requires that I drink then I drink.
The three men chug the shot, Otsego’s eyes are burning.
PIMP: You like the Sliwa, Ja? Is good, no?
MAJ OTSEGO: Sliwa?
PIMP: Ja, Slibovits a local plum brandy. It’s Bosanski Vodka!
LTC Smith: What were you talking about?
MAJ OTSEGO: He spent time in Germany. He spent time in prison in Germany.
CPT AL HAJJ: Nice fellow. Are those his whooahs?
MAJ OTSEGO: I’m guessing.
PIMP: (in German) I like America, I like Israel. I hate Bosniaks and Turks. They can eat my man-flesh.
MAJ OTSEGO: (in German) I’m glad you like America.
PIMP: (in German) There’s something about you friend. I like you. I think you are one of my kind, but you are keeping a big secret. probably a good idea in this country. if they find out who you are, what you are they are likely to kill you, you’re big trophy. But I am a brother, Ja? Here is my number you ever need anything, is good?
Otsego begins to sweat.
MAJ OTSEGO: (in German) What do you mean one of my kind?
PIMP: (in German) You are a Hebrew like me, I can tell.
MAJ OTSEGO: (in German) I won’t say. But that’s what you think? That doesn’t worry me so much.
PIMP: (in German) You have another secret then?
MAJ OTSEGO: (in German) We all have other secrets, bro’ we all have other secrets.
The men depart. Otsego looks one of the Russian girls up and down as he leaves. She winks at him.
PIMP: Auf Wiedersehen, mein Bruder. Auf Wiedersehen.
The men drive down the snowy road and a light truck is stuck in the snow. Otsego gets out to help.
MAJ OTSEGO: Sir can you call Zenica? Maybe they can tow this guy out and create some goodwill?
Smith takes out a cell phone and dials the base.
MAJ OTSEGO: To truck driver. Dobra Vece! Kako Ste Vi?
DRIVER: Ja Sam dobro, dobro.
MAJ OTSEGO: Do you speak English?
The driver looks at him puzzled?
MAJ OTSEGO: Deutsche?
DRIVER: Ja ich spreche Deutshce Ich lebe funf Jahre in Bayern!
MAJ OTSEGO: Mussen Sie denn ein Lastwagen?
DRIVER: Ja, wiriklich! Vielen Danken!
LTC Smith: Tell him a wrecker is coming about thirty minutes.
MAJ OTSEGO: Warten-Sie hier, kommt ein Lastwagen dreizehn minuten!
DRIVER: Vielen Danken! Dobro, Thanks you Amerikanac! Do widzjena!
The intrepid trio continue on towards Zenica.
Otsego now flashes forward to Iraq 2008. The day is one of searing heat. He is about to get on a helicopter when he sees three MPs under a see-through awning guarding two blindfolded detainees. He realizes they have been there about two hours waiting for their chopper. Otsego grabs an NCO.
LTC OTSEGO: Wilson, can you help me bring these guys some water? This is brutal. I wouldn’t leave Hitler out in this heat.
SFC WILSON: No problem sir, I agree.
The two men fetch about six water bottles and hand them to the MPs and the detainees.
MP #1: Thanks sir, we appreciate it.
LTC OTSEGO: You guys have been out here a long time. I don’t want to see you or your PIFWICs stroke out.
Otsego flashes back to the car in the snow as they ride from Kakanj to Zenica.
MAJ OTSEGO: I’ve got a good story for you.
LTC Smith: I’ve missed your stories, always very entertaining.
CPT AL HAJJ: You always got something crazy.
MAJ OTSEGO: This is a good one. So there we are, we land in Ramstein, and there is this civilian S.O.B. on the plane. He’s wearing a Special Forces Ring. Immediate sign he was never in SF.
Flashback to Ramstein.
Major Otsego is seated in a chair in a plastic airport row of chairs in what looks like a brand-new civilian airport. Three of the other four LNOs are seated on facing chairs.
MAJ HONDO: Hey man, Game Warden is going to get the rental car.
MAJ OTSEGO: How did he get a rental? I never get a vehicle.
MAJ McCOY: That reminds me of a story my pappy used to tell up in the holler when we was kids, now there was this fly setting on the banks of a river…
MAJ HATFIELD: Come on man, people are going to get a bad impression of Kentucky.
MAJ HONDO: I hate to break the news to you boys, but that is Kentucky.
MAJ OTSEGO: I’m going to get a drink of water.
Otsego goes to find a fountain and a chubby clean-shaven 30-something civilian in khakis and a gold shirt intercepts him.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Hey man. I overheard you got a vehicle.
MAJ OTSEGO: Why are you wearing a Special Forces Ring.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Oh you know I was in SF.
Otsego looks at the man suspiciously. He looks at the man’s physique and is skeptical.
MAJ OTSEGO: What do you need.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Hey can I catch a ride with you guys? I’m going to Frankfurt, going to Bosnia like you guys.
MAJ OTSEGO: Like us guys? Well we have five people in one vehicle doesn’t your company get you a ride?
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Well I’d have to wait four hours. I only have a couple of bags though. I won’t be in the way.
Fade to next scene, sneaky civilian is trying to load seven bags into the overcrowded mini-station wagon.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: So do you guys roak the Schmie? I have some pretty good stuff here.
MAJ OTSEGO: Are you nuts? We could all go to jail you asshole.
Montage of sneaky civilian taking them on various detours to places he wants to go as the five LNOs become more and more agitated. He stiffs them on a check at a restaurant and refuses to pay for gas. Eventually they drop him off at Frankfurt.
Flash Forward: Operating Base Custer Southern Iraq August 2008. LTC Otsego is waiting for a helicopter back to Brigade Headquarters. A well-fed, bearded civilian with a special forces ring is standing next to him.
LTC OTSEGO: Hey man you look familiar-Bosnia ’03?
The civilian does not recognize Otsego.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Uh yeah, I spent five years there, great gig.
LTC OTSEGO: We rode a C-130 into country together.
SNEAKY CIVILIAN: Oh well, maybe I remember, I don’t know.
Otsego shakes his head. They mill around and get on the chopper. It is intensely hot 123 degrees. As the helicopter gains speed, he is hit with a wall of hot air in his face. Through one open eye, he sees one of the pilots with a headphone, he flashes back to 2001.
He is seated in a large engineering center wearing headphones. He takes them off and picks up the telephone.
CINDY: I think there’ something wrong with the baby. Meet me at the hospital.
JIM OTSEGO: Oh for god’s sake, I’ll be right there.
Otsego runs out of the building to his car. He jumps in and speeds down the highway towards the city. He is going over 90 miles an hour as he speeds into city traffic. He pulls up at the hospital in a near-panic. He runs in to the infant ICU. Cindy runs up and hugs him crying.
DOCTOR: There’s something wrong with baby’s lungs. We’ve tried everything we can. We can’t intubate. All we can do is keep him comfortable until the end. We can try extraordinary means if you want but his quality of life will be poor even if he survives.
OTSEGO: Why is it you doctors always can do anything and fix anything until something goes wrong and then you give up? What in the hell is this?
Fade back to a view of Otsego in Iraq seated in the rear of the helicopter looking out into the desert.
The travelers pull up at an old steel factory in the City of Zenica. There is snow everywhere. There are signs in Turkish. The Soldier has them exit the vehicle and clear their weapons. They show IDs and are admitted to the plant. They drive around back and park. Just then a shot clangs off of the side of the Steel Factory and the Turks go running for cover.
LTC SMITH: That’s Midnight Charlie. He pings one off the factory about once a week. He sits on a mountaintop across the way. He is a lone Croat protestor against the man.
The soldiers get out. It is cold and yet a bit humid making it seem colder. It is now deathly quiet. They go into the building. On the wall is a painting of the Fati Mehmet ‘Always Victorious’ and his men dragging the ships overland at the Golden Horn to take Constantinople.
They sit around a table where the Kojiman greets them withcups of mint tea. LTC Smith drones on and on in Turkish as the Kojiman tries desperately to stay awake. Otsego and Al Hajj start to nod off. Soon every one in the room is asleep including the Turkish Colonel’s personal attendant and his Aide de Camp.
LTC SMITH: And that’s the end of the story!
Everyone wakes up and politely claps.
The trio go down to a little trailer. Next to the trailer is a parabolic Dish of the Phone company that provides communications for the Turkish base. Inside the trailer is a despondent looking man with dark rings around his eyes. The man shakes everyone’s hands in a manic fashion. He talks rapidly and non-stop.
BILL WILSON: Wow! It’s Good to see you again Smitty! My god it’s good to see anyone! You know, I’ve been working for Jogger on this antenna system since 1998! I’ve been here for five years! I go home two weeks every six months. Wow it’s good to hear English again! Are you here for a while Smitty?
LTC SMITH: Yes, I’m back. I brought you some supplies from the PX. This is Major Otsego, he’s going to be down in Mostar. Otsego, this is Bill, he’s the Network Engineer for Jogger telephone company.
The men shake hands. Wilson grabs Otsego’s hands with two hands.
BILL WILSON: Yeah, Mostar, that’s good I was down there once, but only for a day. You see I can;t get too far away. Too far away. I make 220,000 dollars a year tax free, tax free. My wife has put it away she has invested we have over a million, over a million. She got a Master’s back in Georgia while I’ve been here. I got a Master’s online and I’m working on my online PhD in telecommunications, telecommunications.
MAJ OTSEGO: Good to meet you Bill. So you’re here every day?
BILL WILSON: Every day every day, I have to be in the building 23 hours a day, 23 hours a day. 330 days a year. I replaced a guy, replaced a guy, he went insane, sad story sad story, something about isolation, isolation, isolation.
WHAPP! Smith slaps Wilson across the face.
BILL WILSON: Whew! Thank you, thank you, I needed that!
Otsego takes a backpack and goes to a shower trailer across the street. The trailer has two showers and two toilet stalls. Laundry and towels are hanging everywhere creating a maze in the tight space. The one toilet is a porcelain hole in the ground with foot pads. Otsego closes the door. He opens the other door to find a German toilet. The toilet has a raised platform at the back end and a space bit of water at the front. The back end is covered with filth.
MAJ OTSEGO-TO SELF Reading from the wall posting in German: “This is a water conserving Euro-Toilet-Only one liter of water per flush.”
Otsego flushed the toilet eleven times trying to clean the filth off the back raised area of the bowl. It is hopeless.
MAJ OTSEGO-TO SELF: So they designed this to save water, anyone in their right mind would flush it twenty three times to get rid of the filth. What kind of idiot invented this thing?
Otsego strips and puts on shower shoes. The water comes out in a bitter ice-cold trickle. The handle is spring loaded. He has to hold the other handle as well to get hot water. He keeps fumbling with the soap and shampoo as he tries to keep the water on. It takes him almost an hour to shower and shave. He tries to get dressed without getting his feet and socks wet.
TRAILER: The four men chat into the night watching bad VHS TV reruns. Otsego falls asleep and is woken up at 3AM.
AL HAJJ: Otsego, wake up man, I’m taking you to Sarajevo.
The two men get dressed and jump into an SUV with SFOR markings. The drive out of Zenica and onto the snowy dark roads towards Sarajevo. They arrive at Butmir base. Otsego checks into a rickety second story trailer room in a building made of stacked trailers. He doprs off all of his gear with the help of Al Hajj. Otsego notices that a Dutch Officer shares the room, but he sees no-one. Al Hajj bids him leave and Otsego goes down into a courtyard where there are a dozen foregin PXs set up a like an outdoor mini-mall. He hears shooting and he looks up.
MAJ OTSEGO: What the hell is that is there a shooting range around here?
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 1: Nay ya idiot, ’tis local Serbian Gangsters shooting at each other. Why are ye not ducking?
MAJ OTSEGO: Cause they ain’t shootin’ at me ya frickin’ morons!
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 2: Don’t be an imbecile me bye, just the other day a Spaniard got shot in his left buttock by a wild gangster shot.
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 1: It was his right buttock.
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 2: It was a left buttock if it ever was one.
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 1: Right buttock1
IRISH POLICE MONITOR 2: Left buttock!
The policeman start fighting and rolling on the ground. Otsego goes to an ATM. The ATM is in Croatian. He tries to withdraw 500KM about 250 dollars, he can’t tell which is withdraw and which is deposit or account balance. He guesses right and it is the first one. He gets 500km then he withdraws 200 Euros. He goes into the British PX and buys a huge Gallon sized Bailey’s Irish Cream for about 6 dollars. He buys a Toblerone and he goes back outside and sits at a table. An older gentleman comes up to the table.
SECRET SQUIRREL: Hello, I am the former Ambassador. I’ve been looking for you since we met at Hoenfels. You did that lady up there, didn’t you, the professor from Washington. You boinked her didn’t you. She’s 66 years old you know. How old are you? Like 35?
MAJ OTSEGO: No I’m 41.
SECRET SQUIRREL: Pervert. Share the Bailey’s?
MAJ OTSEGO: How did you know I got Bailey’s?
SECRET SQUIRREL: I’ve been following you. You know we’ve got a problem in Mostar. You need to find out what’s going on and fix it. We need to know what’s up. Someone down there is rotten. 100% rotten and it’s not that moron of an LNO we’ve got down there now.
MAJ OTSEGO: How do I know who I’m looking for?
SECRET SQUIRREL: For whom I am looking…
MAJ OTSEGO: Whatever.
SECRET SQUIRREL: He’s gathering intel and giving it to Al Qaeda or the Iranians or the Russians, we’re not sure. But you better find him. Here’s the deal. You find this sonofa-B and I’ll give you everything you ever wanted. A combat tour in Fire Support working with FA, Jet Fighters, whatever you want. I’ll get you Iraq or Afghan and then I’ll get you a Battalion Command.
MAJ OTSEGO: Who the hell are you with?
SECRET SQUIRREL: You don’t need to know that.
MAJ OTSEGO: Why me?
SECRET SQUIRREL: Because you’re a seeker, never got the combat patch, never got a real medal, never been in combat, you’ll rip out your own guts to get that patch. I’ve been watching you since Luxembourg in ’94 and before. You boinked that Dutch Police Chief’s Wife didn’t you.
MAJ OTSEGO: I don’t boink anyone.
SECRET SQUIRREL (Raises a palm towards Otsego) Please, I know you. You’re alwasy boinking, the old ones the married ones, the matronly ones. I’ve got photgraphs. That lady in Columbus, she was 62, you were 22-pervert. I’ve followed your career since day one you idiot. I was at Knox in ’81. I’ve groomed you for over 20 years but you didn’t know it. Every success, every failure, it was all me.
The Secret Squirrel pours from the Bailey’s bottle and fills his flask.
MAJ OTSEGO: How do I know you’re not insane?
Secret Squirrel holds out a black and white picture of a Lieutenant in Class Bs dancing with a woman at a country Western Bar in Columbus Georgia in 1985.
MAJ OTSEGO: Why me?
SECRET SQUIRREL: You are Sixth-generation Army. You’ll eat your own foot to get that patch and now they’re gonna invade Iraq and your gonna miss another War-how many have you missed now? Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghan and on and on and on. You would die for it you asshole.
MAJ OTSEGO (leaning back in chair flabbergasted): What do you need me to do?
FLASHBACK TO HOHENFELS CMTC, GERMANY 2002
Major Otsego is seated inside a wooden section in the far back corner of a building with training maps and schedules up on the wall. Army Radios are everywhere. It is a Headquarters mock-up. He is sitting on a table in a corner nestled with a short-haired tough-looking woman in her mid-60s. She is a college professor who lectures on the Balkans to American Officers about to deploy in-country.
PROFESSOR: You know you’re hot.
MAJ OTSEGO: Excuse me?
PROFESSOR: You heard me you sexy man, an Army Officer, a Major no less. Where did you find this booze?
MAJ OTSEGO: It’s a long story. But we’ve got time.
PROFESSOR: I bet you’ve got a lot of long stories. You know for a lady like me, with a little education, sometimes is hard to be around all of these soldiers and state department types. They’re idiots. At least you can carry on a conversation. I knew a guy like you back during Vietnam. I was about thirty-two, got my first associate professor position at a little school near Ft. Ord. He was a Major too. He never came back. He was very smart, very intellectual.
MAJ OTSEGO (Pouring the Professor another drink): I’m sorry.
PROFESSOR: That’s how the world turns. I was a young woman at the time, all against the war all that 60s radical crap. He didn’t believe in the War, but he believed in the Army. He said it was his only family. Now I know that all politics is bullshit, yet I teach Political Science. go figure.
MAJ OTSEGO: I’ve lost a few people I really cared about, but the truth is if they die in a war it’s a little more dramatic, but losing people is losing people no matter how it happens.
PROFESSOR: You’re not too young for me. I can still handle you.
MAJ OTSEGO (Pulling her close): I’m not so sure you can.
A man walks in and interrupts them. He is about early 70s, very distinguished.
SECRET SQUIRREL: “Aah Otsego, hard at work I see.”
MAJ OTSEGO (Startled): “WTF, Over?”
PROFESSOR: “Dave you’re fouling up my game here.”
SECRET SQUIRREL: I’ll only be a minute, if you share some of your Bailey’s.
Otsego pours him a canteen of Bailey’s The old man takes a swig. He looks at the canteen.
SECRET SQUIRREL: Good stuff, yeah, good stuff. Anyway, we have to talk you and I, business, not pleasure. I’ll find you tomorrow.
The old man takes another swig. He winks at the professor. Shirley good luck, I hope you can handle him.
PROFESSOR: “F off Dave.”
PROFESSOR (to Otsego): Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted.
FADE TO BLACK
FLASH FORWARD TO BAGHDAD, IRAQ OCTOBER 2008
Otsego is walking around an old tank that had been destroyed five years earlier in the initial invasion.
LTC OTSEGO (Picking up a human tibia): What the hell is this? Is this who we are? We leave someone’s bones on the battlefield to rot?
LTC GOHEEN: Whatever.
LTC OTSEGO: He was a soldier like us, not some stinking terrorist. Maybe he had a wife, kids, a father…
LTC GOHEEN: Take it easy dude, I’ll tell the Chaplain, maybe they can talk to somebody and figure out who this guy was.
FLASHBACK TO SARAJEVO: JANUARY 2003
Otsego wakes up at about 0900 hours in a small Conex Box room. There is no-one else in the room but at some point in the night the Dutchman had again come and gone. Otsego lies awake staring at the ceiling, then he decides to get up.
He enters the bathroom with a duffel bag loosely filled with clean clothes, a towel, a hygeine kit, keys. As he enters the stall and closes the door, he hears someone singing to himself in Dutch, but he cannot see the man. Then he hears the Dutchman leave the latrine and open the door of a room in the hallway. The toilet is a filthy European design toilet again. It is filthy. Otsego tries to clean the seat. The smell is overwhelming. He flushes the toilet seven times in a row trying to get rid of the filth collected on the toilet’s bizarre upper platform.
Otsego manages to shower in the filthy shower stall. He can’t find anywhere to hang or put his clean clothes. All of the surfaces are either wet, filthy or designed with a slope so everything falls off of them.
He puts on his uniform. He returns to the room to find that the Dutchman has come and gone without a trace except for a towl neatly folded on a chair. Otsego shrugs and gies outside. He walks to the PX.
At the PX everything is massively overpriced except for a digital camera which he purchases. Outside in a hallway there is a case filled with foreign coins.
ILYA: Good day to you sir, anything interest you?
OTSEGO: Well, I am looking for old silver, any Austria-Hungarian pieces from the 1800s?
ILYA: Yes several good pieces, here is one, silver-dollar sized from 1898.
OTSEGO: Aaah a Hungarian issue.
ILYA: Correct. You know your coins. I had a coin shop in Sarajevo, now I come up here from Mostar. I have a little shop there. I lost everything in the war. Now trying to rebuild.
OTSEGO: Any good Tito pieces in silver?
ILYA: Yes good sir, a 1958 I don’t have it but when I see you again I will have it for you.
OTSEGO: I will get this piece then and the little Crna Gora from 1902.
ILYA: Perceptive choice my friend.
Otsego pockets the coin and goes into the British PX. He grabs a large bottle of Bailey’s Irish Creme off the shelf. It is only Five Euros.
SCOTSMAN: Aye, sir, ’tis a very good buy. Not many Americans here at Butmir, sir.
OTSEGO: I am headed for Mostar.
SCOSTMAN: Aye, where abites are ye from in the States sir?
OTSEGO: New York, upstate, up in the mountains.
SCOTSMAN: Ye are nay from the City?
OTSEGO: No, but I went to high school there.
SCOTSMAN: Aye, we’re having a get together tonight at the British pub, it’s a Celtic gathering, Scots, Irish, English, even the shitty Welsh can come.
OTSEGO: Where is it.
SCOTSMAN: Look ou’side ’tis the balcony with the big Union Jack.
OTSEGO: What time?
SCOTSMAN: Arind 1900 hours, sir.