Installations of the Future: A Soldier’s Letter from the Garrison
Wilder Alejandro Sanchez and Samuel Casey
This “letter home” is presented as part of the TRADOC G2's "Soldier 2050" Call for Ideas. This material will form a compendium of thoughts and ideas that will support the exploration of future bio-convergence implications on the Army of 2050.
Originally published: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/installations-future-soldiers-letter-garrison
I really appreciate the whole care package, but next time could you perhaps send a few more cans of power drinks and sweets?
I really miss those from back home.
For the most part the food is alright, a bit bland but my metabolism has really kicked up a notch. You remember how I was a bit chunky in grade 10, well now I have a six pack! The training has gradually increased in difficulty, but thanks to the Flathat I’m now hitting all my marks a few weeks ahead of schedule. Man, if my old futbol coach could see me now, he would really be blown away. Oh, and using that X-1 smart helmet doesn’t give me headaches anymore. I can finally see in front of me while properly requesting the eagle’s eye view from my unit’s Hummingbird drone. I’m quite proud of it! It still is an odd feeling but seems like my brain has finally adapted to having so much info in front of my face.
The tactics and maneuvers training is fascinating, Uncle Kayce was saying back in the old days they used a lot of vehicles and artillery, you can tell him we bring a lot of portable heavy artillery with us now. Unfortunately, that’s all I can really say about that, after the ruckus with Russia in ’39, they don’t allow us to talk about classified operations.
I can tell you that I got my orders for my unit and it’s going to be the “Unlucky” 13th Lightfighter Regiment under the 201st. This means I am learning Spanish and Portuguese now, so that’s interesting. We have a couple Puerto Rican chaps here that are helping the rest of us along so it is going awesomely.
The 201st gets around a lot, they were deployed as part of that United Nations peacekeeping mission in Guyana and Haiti (didn’t grandpa go to Haiti back in the ‘10s?) and they do a lot of training abroad. Hopefully they send us to Trinidad so I can work on my tan, and snorkel!
I miss grandma’s chicken and dumplings by the by. The biggest complaint I have is the needles, we are tested daily for vitamin deficiencies and they tailor our food and workouts to weekly assessments. The Drill Sergeants are telling us that we should be grateful, as when they were coming up they fed everyone the same regardless of bloodwork. I can’t complain about that, but I just wish the food were tastier. Two years ago, someone in the Army’s Special Health Services Command… or Washington… it was someplace… hired an army of nutritionists (get it?!?) to come up with healthier food for us. From what I understand, they want soldiers, even rank-and-file infantry like me, to maximize our gains and recover faster, even while packing us chock full of muscles. And for that, our diets are under the microscope. Instead of power bars, when we are camping out in the field, we eat some toothpaste-like substance out of these tubes. It tastes horrible, but it’s full of proteins, minerals, vitamin C, and whatever else they can cram in there. I definitely feel very full and replenished afterwards. Tip top. The problem is that it is destroying my stomach! Whatever mad scientist came up with this stuff forgot about flavor! What I wouldn’t give for a pinch of salt to add to it. Or pepper. Or paprika.
Now and then the regiment’s nutritionists give us cheat meals with all the goodies, triple stuffed pizza and burgers with what I hope is animal meat, but otherwise everyone in my unit is shaving off fat very fast and getting muscular and lean.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain, since the gear we are using is pretty heavy so we might as well have more muscles so as to not get tired carrying it around. Grandpa Sebastian told me that back in his days, an M16 rifle weighed 8 pounds with the ammo clip locked in. I think the M35 is 12 pounds. It’s funny that those DARPA techs made the armor lighter, the helmet smarter... but the rifles just got heavier.
“We want our soldiers to have a rifle that is suitable for any situation… a true Swiss-army-knife-rifle” General McLovin said a few months ago when the new rifle started rolling out of production. The rumors are true, by the way (and no, I won’t get in trouble for telling you this!), the rifle carries different kinds of ammo and it has a button by the trigger that lets us select which type of round we want. 30 bullets for armor piercing, 20 of another for thick-structure piercing, and 30 for long distance. Switching correctly between types of bullet takes practice, but I think I got it. This one kid, McGuiver, nice kid but doesn’t follow directions, used the wrong kind of caliber during one VR target-shooting class, and the Sergeant smoked him until he puked, made him rehydrate, and then did it again!
Between you and me, I don’t get the point of having so many kinds of ammo in one magazine, when sometimes I just need more of one specific kind. I wonder if this rifle will go the way of the Air Force’s old F-35s… they tried to develop a multipurpose warplane and it didn’t work… I think Aunt Christine told me that the Navy also tried constructing these multipurpose ships and the tech wasn’t there yet... and now the Army gives us a multipurpose rifle. I don’t think they’ve been used in live combat yet so we’ll have to see if they work out well.
The thing looks like a rifle with a toolkit box beneath and a mini computer screen on top that shows you how many bullets you have left and it is attached to the infrared scope. It’s not exactly a “smart-rifle” but it’s certainly more advanced than what dad and grandpa used. I guess that’s why those special “brain drill sergeants” we have that constantly have us lay in the VR room, just practicing how to switch ammo clips and how to check the screen as well. Sometimes I feel I spend as much time running and doing pushups as I do just laying or sitting down trying to get my brain to soak up more info without delay.
And speaking of things working out… that guy Ian from DC is still here! I don’t get it. He’s not part of the “family” you know? Like, barely one of his uncles served, and a cousin or something, but neither of his parents or siblings did... or his grandparents as far as I can tell. They’re all civs. Why is he here then? He said that he wants to serve, do his duty and all that… but he’s pretty much a 100% legacy-civilian, not like us, so why is he here? I don’t think he’ll manage to keep himself together once the bullets start flying, you know? He doesn’t have the blood of a warrior. Anyways the platoon sergeant seems amused by him, and so do the trainers. I suppose he is a good guy, but I think he should transfer to something that is not front-line infantry type stuff… put him in the back with the logistics or planning people…. Leave the fighting to those who come from families that know how to fight.
OK, OK, OK, I’ll be nice to him. I promise. Maybe he’ll surprise me, and the rest of the unit too. Maybe non-family civs can actually fight. That would be quite the shock honestly.
Oh and I got my new armor finally! A shiny and comfortable Interceptor MIII. I can’t imagine what it was like for dad and the rest of the old guard of the family, carrying around 60 pounds of armor… and they were just big planks of metal in your front and back. Thankfully our unit finally got one of those 3D printers that can fabricate armor that is more fitting to each soldier’s body. It almost feels like I’m just wearing a slightly heavy t-shirt of sorts.
It’s funny, back in the day, them special forces guys would get all the state-of-the-art gadgets, the fancy multipurpose weapons and multipurpose uniforms etc. But now Washington keeps using those guys for clandestine-type work… I guess Grandpa Humberto was right and all those elite operators are now used for covert, hit-jobs more than the “usual” operations against the enemy. I don’t mind really, it means rank-and-file infantry people like me get some of the fancier, more high-tech equipment for our missions.
Honestly, don’t worry about me Mom, I’m doing well! It’s been a year already and, apart from the food, I’m enjoying myself! I really don't mind doing a full 10-year training-plus cycle here! I actually think the Army had a good idea, you know? Or maybe it wasn’t the Army, maybe it was one of those consulting companies or think tanks in DC that came up with it. Offering extra- training and family perks if you accept to longer services is actually a good idea now that they finally got the VA to work properly. I think after I finish the long cycle, I’ll get a position in the civilian world.
Ok I gotta cut this short, besides training and language classes, we take courses to learn more about our area of responsibilities. I guess enough mistakes have been made due to lack of cultural understanding and now we gotta be History majors apart from Soldiers. I actually kinda enjoy those interactive maps we get, click on a place and you get all sorts of historical and present-day info.
Next time I’ll send a video if I can find someplace quiet where to talk.
The authors would like to thank Brittney J. Figueroa for editorial assistance.
Samuel Casey is an enlisted soldier in the South Carolina Army National Guard and has been in for eight years. He has his undergraduate degree in Intelligence and National Security Studies from Coastal Carolina University and works as a Contractor in Charleston, SC. All views expressed or implied here belong to the author and do not reflect his affiliation with the US Army.
Wilder Alejandro Sanchez
Wilder Alejandro Sanchez is a researcher who focuses on geopolitical, military, and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez. This essay solely expresses the author's views and does not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated.