The Rain God, BOB and the Infantryman’s Relationship With the Weather

By: Peter Sessum

Old school flak vest baby! Endex Hohenfels 1996. So many tracked vehicles maneuvers have made it a mudhole with sporadic patches of grass.

There is a saying in the Infantry, “If it ain’t raining, it ain’t training, if ain’t snowing, we ain’t going.” Okay not exactly profound I know and the only ones I have heard say it with any enthusiasm is my drill sergeants yelling at us privates.

This is not a celebration of the fact that the Infantry is an all weather job; it is a declaration that even when it sucks, there is a job to do. I admit, I dismissed it as basic training rhetoric, something that the drill sergeant just said to keep us moving. Or mock us; there are times when it is difficult to know the difference. I came face-to-face with the sad reality when I hit Airborne School.

It was raining hard, just pouring buckets. One of those Georgia spring downpours that come out of nowhere, drop a foot of water and disappear like it never happened. I ran into Lopez, a guy from my Infantry company and we smiled and ran downstairs all excited, ready for PT. When he hit the bottom floor we were stopped in our tracks. There was a huge group of people blocking the doors.

I didn’t understand, it was 0620, formation was in a few minutes. We had an entire company to form up, we needed to be getting out there. But the other soldiers blocked our path. I asked what was going on.

“It’s raining,” someone said.
“I know,” I said smiling, “It will cool us down while we run.”
“We don’t run in the rain.”

I had no response, but Lopez and I shared a look that said, “fucking POGs.” But it was true, PT was actually cancelled because it was raining too hard. That was the first, and last time I ever had PT cancelled due to rain. Because after that, I would be in Infantry units and we fucking do PT in the rain.

Back when the PT uniform was still grey sweats (still better than that new crap) you could tell the Infantry soldiers from the POGs in the chowhall. The grunts would look like drowned cats and the POGs would be dry. On really wet days, the Infantry would have to change into the duty uniform because they were too covered in mud to enter the chowhall. Despite how much it sucked, when you walk into the barracks in a wet and muddy uniform, there is a certain amount of satisfaction walking past a soldier in a clean PT uniform. And that shower never felt so good then coming in from the cold rain.

All military bases it seems are in the worst land the state had to give up. So no matter what, the weather sucks. Being Infantry, we train rain or shine. Mostly rain. POGs get to sit in their nice AC offices and even in the field they get large command tents. They are always close to real latrines and showers. I came out of the box in Hohenfels and when I took a shower a friend said I became four shades lighter.

That was the rotation where it was sunny, it rained, turned to sleet, became snow, then sleet again, rain and finally sunny. All within an hour! And it did that every hour all day. We were camped in perpetual mud so I had three pairs of boots. One pair I was wearing that was dry, the pair I just took off that was wet and a pair that was drying from my last trip outside the vehicle. Because of constantly being exposed to the weather, we develop an intimate relationship with the weather.

There are three deities that control the weather. There is the Rain God (singular, big G) the snow gods (plural, small g) and BOB, the Bright Orange Bulb in the sky. The snow gods are pretty weak and at the mercy of the Rain God who is vengeful, wrathful deity. He enjoys to watch you suffer and has no good side to appeal to. The only thing you can do is curse the Rain God until he realizes he can’t break you and moves on to enjoy the suffering of another.

Freezing my ass off in hohenfels. I remember that this rotation our platoon sergeant told us to put on our MOPP gear. Not because there was a chemical threat, but because it was so cold we needed the extra layers.

BOB, however, is your pal. He is always there, waiting for a change to brighten up your day. That is why when the clouds part you will hear Infantry guys yell, “Hey BOB, nice to see you man.”

If you think that people don’t believe this stuff, you should have seen an old squad leader of mine. Whenever there were dark ominous clouds in the distance he would look at me and say, “Don’t you dare.”

“Fuck you Rain God,” I would yell, “You ain’t got none. I can take everything you got.” (I admit, I used more colorful language than that.)

I swear, once when I did that, the clouds looked like they took a 90 degree turn and headed right for us. I laughed the entire time it rained while he cursed me out. You have to find ways to amuse yourself in the field. Otherwise you go crazy.

Now, no one seems to have a relationship with the weather. I watch reservist POGs hide from the rain like they are made of sugar while grunts stand there defiantly in their gortex. They also do not understand the ain’t training if it ain’t raining philosophy.

For civilians, the weather is at most, a mile annoyance. But when the sun peeks out through the clouds, I like to smile at BOB and silently thank him for popping by to visit. And when I need to go out and it rains, a little part of me thinks, “Fuck you Rain God, you ain’t shit, you can’t spoil my plans.”

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