The 99 Zulu – Combat Ninja

(From 2016) – In Advanced Individual Training (AIT) after Basic Combat Training (BCT), my whole platoon was on the top floor (minus the females), and there were regular hijinx. The biggest guy (also the kindest), was my battle buddy. He became known as the barracks Rapist, because he would walk around with a blanket over himself and sort of, absorb people. You’d have to see it to really appreciate the talent behind his technique. Everyone had their own hobbies. I have a lot of hobbies, but I really like to play games, and of course we had no access to any, so I was forced to create my own. I would dress up in black at night, in silent clothing, and practice moving stealthily through the barracks, starting at one end of the hall, and working through each room all the way down one side of the hallway. I would choose the rooms with the lights off. It was best if people had their noses buried in their phones/laptops. I would low crawl past each bunk (8 in total), and touch the back wall (opposite the door), and then sneak back. There were a few times that I was seen, but only once that I was ‘captured alive’. I’d run out and people would chase. “Did you see a ninja run past,” I heard one ask, as I had slipped into the empty room and was on the floor behind the first bed. They looked in, but didn’t see me. After that they regularly hunted for me. Most people were too tired to care, but it was a fun game. They finally found out who I was. Then I found they wanted to dress in dark clothes too, but none of them were quite as tricky as I, for the fight is not in the body, but in the mind.

One day I told one of them my plan, to steal the mascots of the other companies. Every day we marched past those mascots. They stood as a symbol of pride. The gator had been chained, and the bear was too big to move, but the dog and the cobra sign were easy targets. My ninja minions thought one night they were going to steal my idea, and someone came and told me that they may do it. I had no idea that they were going to chicken out, because within one minute I was in my outfit, and running down the hallway, leaning forward, arms back, legs kicking as if up four stairs at a time, yet with precision so as to be silent, I slid down the stairs, and to the first floor side wing, which housed only one person, who was to be discharged soon. He was odd. Nobody liked him, but I make friends with everyone. I hoped he didn’t see me, but I ran past rather indiscriminately, betting that he wouldn’t tell on me. I happened to know, from his word to my ears, that the windows in this wing did not set off the buzzer at the desk of the SGT, like every entrance and exit did. I picked the back room, opened the window, and left it open. I was outside.

The air was crisp and fresh. I remember it being rather clear, lit mostly by street lights coming in from the other side of the building from me. I myself was in a dark patch of shadows. There were a few lights leading to the chow hall, and on to charlie company to the left. I chose to go right, using the darkness of my long building to make my way over to Delta for my Dog. I had to go across the open field, turn around Delta, and use the shadow of their building to work my way all the way around, to the door that looks into the SGT’s desk. The Dog would be outside of it, in my direction, having gone around, and as I turned the corner, there was no dog! I was confused, and I felt as if perhaps, the mission was a bust. Should I go back? I looked into the double doors, light streaming out over the single steps to a dimly lit path. I saw the dog, just inside the door. They had brought it in, for some unknown reason, that very day! I was floored. I could have easily given up and called it a night, but wait. I looked across the lit raised path leading at an upward slope to the door. There was a dog house. Then the wheels in my mind began turning.

To get across the light’s divide, I would have to slink under a step that is roughly, to my memory…9 or 10 inches tall maybe. The SGT was watching TV in the other room. I low crawled under that step. I don’t know if my butt stuck up, but hopefully it would have just seemed like shadow, to the corner of any eye. I got across to the shade of the other side, picked up the entire dog house (2 ft wide by 3 ft long by 3 ft tall, with A frame roof), and ran at a 45 degree angle to the door to delta, using the length of a wall between that and a door frame to the SGT’s desk, as cover. I made my way from tree to tree, until I finally got back to my open window. I put the dog house in the corner of the building’s T, and I rested, considering how to get over to Charlie. I chose to go across the field again, as the battalion was in a direct line behind me and across the street, my company’s barracks being my cover. I turned at the chow hall, made my way carefully forward, with no cover, and relaxed, realizing how easy this would be. I just had to walk across some crushed rock, and rip the sign off the wall. It had a snake on it, and said Charlie Cobras. What a pathetic mascot, I thought. I ran back with no further conflict, and when I returned, with the Charlie sign rolled up and stuffed down a leg of pants, I examined my dog house.

My plan was to fit the dog through the window, which opened less than I thought it would. It opened just enough for my body to squeeze flat through, and I didn’t have a dog. I had a dog house! I tried to fit it through, but it was nowhere near small enough. Just then, three female soldiers walked by. That was odd, since nobody was actually allowed to go outside after dark. I found out later that one of them had told the SGT about female issues, to convince him to let the three of them go smoke a cigarette. I watched them walked off past the chow hall, where the smoking area was. As they were gone, I had time to think. I considered my options. I first tried to go around and open the door (doghouse in hand), and it wouldn’t open! So there’s me, running back around the building, no cover from the front of Battalion, back to my shady corner. I was somewhat fatigued when I put it down.

Then came back the females, and I couldn’t contain myself. Don’t they know they shouldn’t be out at night, I thought to myself, as I approached the corner of the building. They were perhaps 15 feet away. I was at the edge of the shadow. I was playing a game, and games are supposed to be fun, so I waited for them to pass, and then began working my way at an angle towards them, trying to be as quiet as possible. One of them turned, and happened to see me silhouetted against the backdrop of the open field, and I dropped to the ground like a sneaky cat. She was watching me, and quite in shock, but almost giggling, so I sauntered forward on all fours, did a somersault, and sat back on my haunches. Then I beckoned her with my hands to follow me. I didn’t say a word. I just beckoned, and then retreated to my shadow. She told them, and they followed me. Now in other situations that would be a really bad idea, but these females decided to check it out. I just wanted to show them the doghouse, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to get it inside. I wanted someone to know. They were in my company. They thought it was funny. They made me take off my mask, so I did, because you know, I have this Batman complex going on. I want to hide my identity, but I go around telling people I’m batman. I can’t help it. Anyways so they went off giggling, and they refused to open the door for me. They didn’t want to get into trouble with the SGT.

I decided to turn a local for support. I knocked on the reject’s window. To my surprise, he was rather pleased to see me, and happy to hear about what I’d done. I convinced him to open the door and allow me to run through, even though I knew it would set off the alarm to the SGT’s desk. I just had to get my reward up to my safe zone, in order to say that I truly captured both flags. I ran around the building again, watching the door to Battalion once again, fearing that it would open and a Major would walk out, or one of their desk staff (can’t remember the rank). As promised, the guy opened the door. The alarm went off at the desk down the hall, and with leaps and bounds I was up three flights of stairs and most of the way down the hall, into my room, where my battles were waiting for me to return. Our room was very tight. We were all battles. Not one of us was hated on…well except for Nike, for always falling asleep when there is no time to sleep! Anyways they greeted me with jumping and hi fives, and everyone on the floor knew within about 20 seconds, and all the wannabe ninjas came rushing in to congratulate me. We made a video and took pictures with our phones, and then the next thing I knew it, someone was coming back into the room telling me that his roommates had told the desk SGT, and the desk SGT has ordered me to get that doghouse out of the barracks or it’s his ass the next morning!

So there I went, hood back in place, running down the stairs, out the door again, which set off the alarm again, but this time with unofficial permission. I went around my building, all the way down the shadow of it, across to Alpha, and pulled the best move I could have. I placed it directly beside the Alligator, so that when everyone walked by it in the morning it would appear as if Alpha stole the doghouse and displayed it for pride. The next morning I walked by Alpha’s barracks, and expected to smile large, but to my astonishment it was gone already. An Alpha SGT had brought it inside, I later found out, and was beginning to try to find out who did it. It couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it myself, which I didn’t! So that afternoon in the chow hall, I was sitting with random people from Charlie company. I plotted to spread a rumor, and it worked perfectly. I told the guys from Charlie that I heard, that someone in Alpha had stolen the doghouse and the Charlie Cobra sign. They hadn’t even noticed their silly sign was gone!

By that evening, the rumor had spread like wildfire. Nobody had any reason to suspect, that anyone from Bravo 3rd platoon had anything to do with the theft. At the chow hall that night, I saw the student first SGT of Alpha get reamed out by his leading SGT, in front of everyone eating. The SSG screamed at him, “You better find out, who in Alpha did this, or you’re going to be losing YOUR PERSONAL TIME!” Then he stormed off, clearly wanting to set an example of him, frustrated with the situation. How could they have known, that the Intel to tip them off came from the very thief himself?

Before I left Bravo, I put the Charlie Cobra sign on the back of my locker, firmly affixed with adhesive. I wanted someone to know, but I wanted them to find out after I left. Of course my platoon knew, but nobody told anyone else after that. They didn’t want to get into trouble. One of my peers came to me, on the day of graduation, and handed me a circular patch. On it read, ’99Z’. It stood for a 99 Zulu, which is the unofficial Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) code for a Combat Ninja. He explained that he planned to give it to one of the wannabe ninja guys, but it was clear that I had earned it. I smiled ear to ear when he gave it to me. In my eyes it was more precious than the coin I’d received from the 2 Star General of Fort Jackson. I wore it under my left unit patch, during my entire deployment overseas, where my ninja prowess would both endanger me and perhaps, keep me alive as well.

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