Living Out Loud

What is Your Superpower?


I was chatting with fellow blogger Scott Jones on Mastodon, and I mentioned that I spent time napping on a recent car trip. Scott remarked that sleeping in cars or planes is a superpower he wished he had. His analysis of my sleeping skills is 100% on target. I told him that I could take a nap at an AC/DC concert, and it is true. Of all the things the Army ever did for me, and it is a mighty short list, teaching me to sleep whenever possible has proven to be the most valuable. 

In 1986 I was stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas when my unit rotated to the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. During the cold war, Ft. Irwin had a dedicated unit trained in Warsaw Pact tactics and equipped with captured Soviet vehicles to engage American units in the most life-like training possible. It was by far the most rugged exercise I ever took part in and lasted a little over three weeks. People die on every rotation from accidents and mishaps, usually related to heavy vehicles and fatigue. I still have a scar from sliding an M113 armored personnel carrier into the bottom of a wadi in the dark and slicing open my chin on the driver's hatch. It's not combat, not even close, but it has its own special brand of suck.

When we got to Ft. Irwin, the young second lieutenant in my team told all of us junior enlisted guys that our job when we had no other assignment was to sleep. The pace of training was such that there was no planned downtime. In order to function in that environment, we had to take advantage of every opportunity to get some shut eye, no matter what was going on around us. For the first few days the adrenaline and newness of the experience kept us from strictly following the LT's order but as time went on, we all started to catch Zs whenever we could, even if it were in the middle of an artillery fire mission where someone else was manning the radios or binoculars. 

My Dad and father-in-law are both Vietnam vets with multiple tours in combat and both of those guys can fall asleep in an instant. The two of my kids who have served in the military can sleep like it's their job too. So, there you have it folks. If you want to be able to nap on demand, jump in a time machine, go back to your 18th birthday and head for the recruiter's office. Most of the promises made to you about the benefits of military service are pure unadulterated horseshit, but you will learn how to sleep wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.