Tuesday, September 30, 2003

I'm very sorry I have not written in so long. I have not had access to a computer, and have been all over the place working my butt off. I have taken some pictures, and promise to post for real very soon. Thank you all for your concern. It has really made me feel good, at a time when I needed it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

It was dark at a quarter to five this morning, but that’s normal. It usually is. I lazily rubbed the sleep from my eyes and blindly began to look for my Physical Training uniform. I found it and slowly began to put it on. Naturally I was not too excited about the prospect of being up that early, and especially not to do PT with a large group of soldiers showing false motivation.

That is the new plan from the Sergeant Major however. We work our normal twelve hour shift six to seven days a week from eight am to eight pm, then at five am we do an hour and a half of PT. For those of us that are working days that means we get to put in at least a fifteen hour day. It is usually more because our shift change briefing almost always lasts at least forty five minutes. I don’t know about you but I LOVE to sleep and this new arrangement really eliminates any chance of getting a decent amount of sleep. Don’t get me wrong I was getting up early to hit the gym so that I can get buff for Joyce, but I only managed that three to four times a week, so I still got a little bit of extra sleep every now and then, plus hitting the weights is fun, push ups, sit ups, run gets old after oh…two days.

I brought it up to my higher ups that I thought we should go to a three eight hour shift schedule instead of the current two twelves. I was told that it wouldn’t work. Of course I asked why it wouldn’t work and was told it just wouldn’t that’s why. If I was running a TacSat team like I used to I would just implement the change any way and cover it up very easily, but I’m not. I am running an Automations team and I am right under everybody’s nose all day.

I will say this however, PT was fun this morning. We didn’t do the normal push ups, sit ups, run routine. We did some calistenics and then we did relay races. The relays are always fun. The problem is when you try to do them enough to keep the routine fun you hear…We just did relays like three months ago…let’s just do…push ups, sit ups, run.

I am a horrible runner, and maybe that is why I don’t like the normal format. Because I am bad at it, and I know I will only get better with work, but I don’t want to. There do I sound like a big enough baby? I have several reasons for not running well though, other than just not liking it. I dislocated my left knee playing football, I had a hernia repair that went very wrong leaving me in pretty much constant pain (courtesy of the wonderful Army medical corps), and I weigh about 60 pounds more than when I joined the Army. I’ll get over it, and I am used to working long hours. I guess I will just look forward to a normal schedule feeling like I have too much free time.

P.S. I have had several requests for more pictures on my fotolog. Is there anything in particular you would like to see?

Monday, September 22, 2003

Today I wrote a letter that I have not yet decided to send. It could end up back firing and doing exactly the opposite of what I am hoping, but then again it could bring closure to the issue in precisely the manner I was looking for.

I am very torn by this decision. I desperately want what has been promised me, and not getting it could be interfering with other aspects of my life now that they have no business meddling with.

I was getting very numb as I have mentioned in an earlier post, but the events over the last couple of days have shattered my numbness completely. I almost wish that I could get it back as the emotional roller coaster I have been on the last twelve hours has been nearly enough to drive me over the edge. This morning during PT I almost lost my mind with a Staff Sergeant that out ranks me, and what I intended to say to him would more than likely have gotten me demoted, but I am finding it increasingly more difficult to deal with people�s smart assed remarks and blatent mistreatment of other soldiers, and this guy is truly a jewel when it comes to both of those things.

Recently I have had aspirations of becoming a Warrant Officer and I am sure that a demotion would severely degrade my chances of ever meeting that goal.

I am starting to crack under all of this. I am usually strong, but this is just different. If I hadn�t been promised to redeploy after 180 days none of this would have ever mattered. I would know that I was redeploying only after mission completion, but I was so it does and I don�t know how much more of being strung along I can take.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The last two days have been spent building floors for our work tents. This is pretty normal and would fall under site improvement…normally. However, our site is setting right smack in the middle of where the barracks are going to be built, and we were not told not even a week ago that we are going to have to move as early as the end of next month and no later than the beginning of December. Which will mean these floors are all going to be torn up so that we can break down and move our tents.

I’m not the smartest man, but does it make sense to any one else that our battalion spent at least a grand, maybe more buying the wood and nails to build these floors just to tear them up in about a month? Not to mention all the work we had to do to move everything out side, build the floors, which included smashing our thumbs with hammers, splinters the size of toothpicks and scraping our arms all up carrying wood, and then move everything back in tent by tent, for a total of five tents.

I am a big proponent of the work smarter not harder theory, so I am glad that I will probably be gone by the time they have to tear out these floors to move and build them again after we have moved. Sorry guys.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Last night I walked past a soldier in the sleep tent that was drawing a calendar on a piece of cardboard he had torn from a box. He was starting with last night and going all the way through March of next year. He also left room for a few months after that.

When I asked him about it, he said that he could start counting down days as soon as they told him when he was leaving. I asked him what he was going to do until they gave him a date and he said he would just continue to mark off days. He has been here nearly six months now and still has no idea when he is going home.

This is very frustrating to me. The Army is always talking about making soldiers lives as predictable as possible, yet here sits a young soldier who has been in the Army less than a year and he has spent more than half his career in Kuwait. He didn’t know he was coming out here until a month before he left, and he didn’t know the exact date of his departure until two days before. Now he is wondering when he is going to get to go home, and from past experience I am willing to bet he wont know until a week or so before he goes. So much for predictability.

As well I am feeling very frustrated today, because I have been told that I have not left yet because the military doesn’t want to pay to send soldiers back in onsies and twosies, but this morning as I was laying in my rack trying to get every last moment of “rest” before work I noticed one of the soldiers in my section of four was packing the last of his things into one of his duffel bags. When I asked him what was up, he said he was going home. “Who is going with you?” I asked. “As far as I know, it’s just me.” He replied. “Interesting”

So, another one is gone. He left today…by himself, and I sit waiting for my “couple of weeks” to come to an end.

Monday, September 15, 2003

I just finished reading one of the most moving accounts of a single man’s life I have ever read. With the term “hero” being too loosely used in my opinion these days it is refreshing to find a story of a man who truly emulates what a hero really is.

With the second anniversary of 911 recently past it is still easy to get caught up in the emotion of a day that will forever live on in our hearts and minds. The details of that day are burned into the memory of every true American for as long as each of us shall live. Where we were, what was happening in our lives, every little detail will stand out to me forever.

What will be forgotten however are the little known facts, and the names of the people that truly stood out in our countries greatest time of need. Of course the families of the loved ones lost will never forget, and the people whom these heroes saved will never forget. We owe it to them as well to do everything with in our power to remember too.

Until a couple of days ago I had never heard the name Rick Rescorla, and because of that my life was missing something I did not know. Rick Rescorla was one of the most profound men I have ever read about, and though I have read very little about him I am intrigued and intent on learning more about one of this generation’s greatest American heroes.

Greyhawk, the author of the Mudville Gazette has written a short synopsis of Mr. Rescorla’s life and gives many opportunities to learn more about this great man. He is also asking that we recognize Mr. Rescorla as a nation by having the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously awarded to him. Please go to this post on the Mudville Gazette and take the time to read about Rick Rescorla. I am sure you will be moved to sign the petition at the bottom of the post.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

This morning after I got off shift and was on my way back to the sleep tent, I found myself thinking about hw much nicer the weather had been the last couple of days. Little did I know how much of a rude awakening I was in for…Literally.

As I pulled back the tent flap to go inside I was hit full on by stale, hot air. The AC’s were out. There is no air flow through the tents. All of the window flaps are kept down, because everything quickly becomes covered with dust when they are up. Not sure what is worse, stale air or waking up covered with an inch of dirt all over, and I’m not exaggerating. It is a strange feeling to sit up and feel dirt run down your face. Not pleasant strange either.

I stripped down to my boxers and crawled onto my cot. I sleep on top of two parts of my three part sleeping bag. Using them kind of like a mattress and a sheet at the same time. Underneath them is my air mattress that I never deploy with out, and under that is my cot, which if used alone will assure you disability upon separation from the military. I use the third part of my sleeping bag as a blanket, but I knew that wasn’t going to be necessary today, so I pushed it to the end of my rack, half falling off into the chair that I keep at the foot of my rack to hang my uniform on. I fell asleep rather easily. It was still only 0830 and not too hot yet.

1000 and I am now awake and miserable! It is unbelievably hot. I had managed to throw every remaining piece of my sleeping bag on the floor and there is so much sweat between me and my plastic air mattress that I could have used it as a slip-n-slide! My pillow (encased in my Star Wars pillow case that has been everywhere in the world I have been) is soaked as well. I realized that the air mattress is holding in heat. All of the air in it is at least ten degrees hotter than the air around me. I’m sure it was absorbing heat from me. I have to do something different. I got up and removed the air mattress from my cot, threw my pillow back on my sleeping matt and laid back down. Wow now I am terribly uncomfortable, but at least I don’t feel like I am in slow bake mode.

See I hate being hot. I would much rather be cold. When it’s cold you can wear more clothes, or curl up in a blanket, maybe even have a fire. Cold is romantic. Hot SUCKS!!! The best you can do is take stuff off and once your naked that’s it! What else can you take off? I can’t even get naked out here. I’m sure my tent mates wouldn’t care much for that. So I just laid there and suffered for another three and a half hours until the AC came back on! YES! Thank the Lord. I can get in about six good hours of sleep, before I have to go to work! And that’s what I did.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Germany was a life changing experience. I grew more in the two years that I was stationed in Germany than in any other portion of my life. Who I am today was shaped in Germany.

C and I arrived in Germany on the same day. We knew each other better than most other soldiers. We had been room mates for the last nine months at AIT. We knew we were both going to Germany, but neither of us had any idea where we would ultimately end up. Rhein Main is a small in processing post in Frankfurt Germany. Like most days it was a cloudy had rained morning. We were here. This was the first day of our real Army careers. We waited in a small waiting room with about 30 other soldiers waiting to find out what their next destination was. No one would give us any information. Would we be in the same unit? Would we be in the same town? We didn’t know. We hoped so. The anxiety was getting to be too much. I was stressing. I’m in a strange country where I barely speak any of the language and I am scared. I could tell C was too.

Finally after sitting in the little waiting room a soldier came in and started reading off names and destinations and when and where to meet our bus. Azevedo…Hanau, Blake…Kitzingen, Campbell…Mannheim, C…Mannheim. You could have read a book at midnight by the light on our faces. We at least knew we were going to Mannheim Germany together

Some people had to wait over night for their buses. We had to catch ours in one hour. The ride was very long. We ended up being the last stop on the tour. When we arrived at Ben Franklin Village in Mannheim there was a sergeant there waiting to pick us up. We loaded all of our bags into the small white van, and headed to our company. Yes we were in the same company. It couldn’t have gotten any better. Sarge took us to the company where we met our new First Sergeant. He was a little intimidating, but that might have had more to do with the fact that we were in Germany, and our first unit and all. We had our interview so to speak. Apparently there was a maintainance job and an operator job available. Who got which depended on how we answered one question each. First he asked C what an M.D. 945 was. C had no idea and Top was not impressed he began to grill him about what he learned in AIT. We were tired I’m sure C knew what it was but we were both a little overwhelmed. Then he asked me what a T.S.S.P. was. I answered Tactical Satellite Signal Processor, and Top said very good you are our maintainence guy. What ever that meant.

Our next stop was our Barracks, Turley Barracks to be exact. Over my two years I had heard that this place was a Nazi training camp during the war to a Nazi prison for allied troops. I never found out if either was true, but regardless the place was old. It was neat though and very nostalgic. I am huge into history, though by the time we got there I was too tired to care.

The key to my third floor room opened the door to my new home. There was a bed, a desk of sorts and a wall locker. Or three sets of each I should say, and my set was closest to the door. H and E were my new room mates. Both of them were very nice and wanted to hear all about me, all I wanted to do however was go to bed. So I did.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It has been difficult finding time to write lately. Not that things have been too hectic or anything. It’s just that the job has managed to pull me away from my desk as of late. Not something I enjoy. I like sitting at my desk checking my e-mail a thousand times a day and looking over my fantasy football rosters 50 times a day. Those are the things that are getting me through this.

I heard tonight that I may be redeploying with another battalion from my brigade. They are supposed to be gone by the end of this month or the first week of next. I was hoping for something sooner and may still get it, but I at least have some idea of what the plan is, even if it isn’t definite. The Army does a great job of keeping soldiers in the dark as to what is going on in their own lives. We are always talking about getting the soldiers all the info they need, but we aren’t very good at practicing what we preach.

Moja will be beginning his journey back on the 14th and I was hoping to be accompanying him, but it is looking like that won’t happen. Oh well. I am beginning ot get numb again. That is my self defense mechanism. I don’t like it much but I can’t help it either. I tend to be a very emotional kind of guy. Not to say that I cry over little things like selling my first car. For me being emotional means I have extra active emotions. When I’m happy, I am REALLY happy and vise versa. So the numbness levels me out. I find when I begin to go numb that I am never really unhappy, but never happy either. I just kind of float through my day unaffected by… anything. It is sometimes very difficult to get out of this numbed state though. I will obviously be very happy to go home, but I am hoping that I show it. There have been several times when I have returned after being gone a long time that Joyce has noticed me seeming very detatched. Of course I love her and am happy to be home, but it takes me a while to get back to myself. It’s almost like being a stranger. I don’t even feel myself. Probably not healthy, but survivable.

I will be home soon. Hopefully before the numbness over takes me again, but it is coming, I can feel it.

Monday, September 08, 2003

AIT was largely a nine month party. Ya we had our normal weekly crap. Duties we had to perform, crap to clean and just your normal everyday military busy work.

You go through “phases” during training, and by that I mean actual stages of responsibility you are aloud to have. The first couple of weeks you are there you can’t really do anything and with school and all the busy work they keep you jumping. You can go to the mall and stuff if you ever get enough time but you have to wear your class B uniform. No body wants to do that. Of course the “resourceful” soldier goes to the mall in civies. The second phase allows you your civilian clothes any time you are not on duty. At this point you are getting close to real human rights, but not quite. Finally there is the last phase. This one is really great! Our training is so long that is considered a permanent change of station. You are allowed to have a car, live of post with your spouse if married and stay gone over the weekends if you live in the barracks.

Our class number was 009, and that name quickly became synonymous with trouble makers and all around pains in the butt. We were still in the first phase when we made our first big splash. The senior class always watched WWF on Monday night so we thought it would be funny to go into the TV room about twenty minutes before it started and watch nothing other than… The Little Mermaid!!! The look on these painted up crazies was priceless. Yes they painted up their faces and wore towels as capes and crap. That’s why it seemed like such a good idea to screw with them.

Things quickly became very heated as one of the biggest guys in their class decided to go straight for the smallest guy in our class and strong arm him into calling off the Little Mermaid joke. Well our biggest guy (who happened to be a big BIG guy) got right in the other’s face and it hit the fan. People started pushing furniture out of the way and it was on, when suddenly “AT EASE” The biggest craziest Drill we had was in the TV room demanding to know what was going on right now!!!

Picture this scene. Two guys apparently wrestling on the floor, another pair one holding the other in a head lock and about eight other guys standing around trying to look as much like killers as possible.

We all got HUGE lucky. All that happened was we had to straighten up the TV room and no one got to watch TV the rest of the night. But we had made our mark and believe it or not had attained our own portion of “AIT Fame”. Some achieved more, like none other than the Legendary BATMAN and his newbie paddle! But that guy is a whole nother story.

I have always liked to dance, but by the time I graduated AIT I was addicted. Dancing is a rush. No matter the music or who you are with you can have fun. Let go and just have a good time. I got pretty good to, which helped. I have never been shy either, though I know Joyce wishes I had been, but then I probably never would have asked her out either so take the good with the bad babe. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t do things I shouldn’t have done, but it is more fun to dance with a girl than by your self and it is always a big hit to introduce your big group of guy friends to the big group of girls you just met. Major cool points.

It happens to every class though. Some people take the graduated freedom too far. We lost two to drugs. They got caught by means of urinalysis and two of our twelve were gone. No more than a month before we were all to graduate no less. They were good guys, just made some bad decisions. I often think about them and don’t think I will ever forget them. They were extended family for a long time. I slept on their floors and we told each other things people don’t tell just anyone. We were all close.

Shortly before we graduated we all received our orders. Talk about tense. These guys are like family and you know you will likely never see some of them again, and that’s rough. I got really lucky, I was going to Germany and so were two of my closest friends. Plus I had gotten really good at dancing and I had heard Techno was big over there.

I graduated AIT in October and headed home for a short month, before I went on to Germany for my next life experience. I am prepared for what ever they can send at me and I can’t wait to see Joyce.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Yesterday I got a surprise opportunity to go on a shopping trip to Kuwait City. I found out the night before the trip that there was an available seat on the trip so I took it. I love to buy things for my wife. A little too much maybe. I would make us destitute buying her things if she would let me.

The trip left at 0600 and returned at 2000, about six hours of that time would be eaten up by bus travel. We had to travel from where I am living to Doha, and then from Doha to Fahaheel in downtown Kuwait City.

Last year when I was here I made several trips there and enjoyed every one, so I was excited. I was also excited because I have only left the camp I live at four times in six months! Please break up the monotony!!!

We rolled out about 0615, fifteen minutes late! I was the NCOIC of the trip to Doha and back, so I was starting to get upset because I was having to hold up the trip waiting on a soldier that had not shown up. At 0615 we rolled out. The soldier missed the trip. It took us nearly two hours to get to Doha and the line at the gate was GINORMOUS!!! We were going to miss the trip, because I held up our bus for the absent soldier. I had the driver of the bus pull up as far as he could and I leaned out the window and asked if they would let us cut, we had to be on another bus at 0800. They let us in. I didn’t tell them we were going on an Moral Welfare and Recreation trip.

We got to the parking lot in front of the PX and the bus had not even gotten there yet, so we were ok. In fact the busses weren’t even going to be there until 0930. They were delayed. This was the first bad thing to happen on this trip. T is with me, but he was a good boy all day.

Finally the busses got there and we loaded up and got under way. The trip was a two part shopping trip. The first part at Fahaheel and the second at Sharg Mal. I had never heard of the second place. Soldiers were going to have to pull guard duty on the bus. T got slotted for the last shift before we moved on to Sharg Mal. That was only an hour and a half away, so we needed to shop fast. We wandered around and got sprayed with cologne, pulled into shop after shop by Kuwaiti nationals who want to sell you their “bling bling”. T ended up buying a “Nolex”. I bought some cologne, a present for Joyce (that I’m sure she is gonna be mad bout how much I spent when she gets the credit card bill, but I don’t care.) and an ID bracelet for Reid. I wanted to get them both something from my deployment this time. Joyce got something last time too.

We got back to the bus to pull guard. I chose to pull guard with T, because I was not entirely comfortable wandering around Kuwait city alone. Enter S. S is the girl T has to pull guard with. She is funny and it is nice to talk to someone with out saying hi I’m SGT Campbell, she was S and T was…well T because that’s what he goes by anyway. By the time everyone was back at the bus we had made a new friend.

Enter K. K is S’s friend and immediately we have another friend. Around 1300 it is time to roll to Sharg Mal. We are about to get under way when we are informed that we can’t go to Sharg Mal. We never got authorization to go there, so they take a vote. Go eat at T.G.I. Friday’s or go back to Doha and end the trip. Almost every one wants to go eat, and everyone was pretty let down about not going to the second place. A couple minutes go by and they tell us we can’t get authorization to go to T.G.I. Friday’s either. People are getting really mad now. We start on our way back to Doha and we all felt very let down.

About twenty minutes into our trip back the cell phone rings. We are going to go to Friday’s. This made the whole trip. T, K, S and I got a table together. Our table over looked the gulf in Kuwait City, you can see the towers that Kuwait is famous for. The next two or three hours we spent conversing like “normal” people. We all bought MUCH food that none of us ate all of. We couldn’t handle the rich food and dessert we had ordered, but we were pulled in by all the great sounding food that we didn’t have access to back “home”. It was great having these single serving friends, joking with them, sharing experiences, and just having a good time. Thanks for the day S and K. I wish you the best for your time out here and the rest of your lives!

Here are some pictures I took while rifing around Kuwait City. I promise I will pick up the soldier story tomorrow.

Friday, September 05, 2003

The next day it was back on a bus. This time the bus trip was much longer. Fort Leonard Wood Missouri to Fort Gordon Georgia is no pleasure road trip in a bus. It seemed like we were on the bus for days. In reality I guess we were, but it’s ok basic is over and from what I have heard this AIT is like college. I’ve been to college and that was a constant party. I was sure this wouldn’t be a constant party, but it still had to be better than basic because there were no more drill sergeants…WRONG!!! I remember my heart sank all the way down to my feet as we pulled up in front of a big multi-purpose room and there were two new Drill Sergeants standing there waiting for us.

Everyone is apprehensive as the first drill walks up unto the bus and tells us all that he could tell by our faces we thought there were no more drills. He was right, most of us barely made it eight weeks with these guys down our throats all day everyday and now I for one have to do it for another NINE MONTHS!!!

Things were different however. Yeah they did a little bit of yelling and making us do push ups, but it was different. They weren’t mean any more. There was a sharp wit to everything they said but they didn’t act like they hated all of us like the drills in basic did. It took about three hours to in-process my new home and then it was off to or new barracks to be divided up into our new groups and make totally new “single serving” friends.

After I was split into my platoon and moved my stuff up to my wall locker we had a meeting with our platoon’s drill sergeant. There were twelve of us in my class and we all sat around the big conference table in the drill sergeant’s meeting room. Silence…for like twenty minutes. Then, AT EASE!!! In walks the meanest looking man I have ever seen and he just stands there, all of us rigidly standing at parade rest as he stares at each and every one of us for what seems to be several minutes. He looks like he hates us. Dang it’s one of those drills.

“Sit down privates” he said. Then he commenced to threaten us like I have never been threatened. I was really scared. There was absolutely no room for screwing up with this guy. He said a lot and he meant every word. We have to be on top of it all the time or he’s gonna be pissed. After he thoroughly scared the crap out of all of us he released us to our rooms to put our stuff away and get some sleep, after all we had all been on a bus for two days.

No one really talked to each other more than introductions the first day. We still didn’t know where we really stood, or what was going to happen next. We all expected the roof to cave in on us and pour out screaming drill sergeants. It never did.

We started school that Monday, and everything instantly changed. Up at 0430 for Physical Training, that was no different, and then we were marched to chow and had personal hygiene time after that. All of that was the same as basic, but when we got to school there were no drill sergeants…none anywhere. We were free. Our instructors were all regular old sergeants, and most of them told us to leave the formalities with the drills outside. We could finally let our hair down, figuratively speaking of course. Now is when we really started to get to know each other. Twelve young men from all over the US. We ranged in age from 17 to 28. Some of the friends I made that day are still very close to me and some of them I haven’t seen or heard from since we graduated. I miss and think about them all sometimes, and wonder if our paths will ever cross again.

I will continue the AIT adventures of PVT Campbell tomorrow as I don’t want to write any entries that seem to never end. Besides I do actually have some work to do.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

The flight from Sacramento to St. Louis was only the third time I had ever been on a plane. The first time was a 14 hour non-stop flight from San Francisco to London. I was a little nervous. Not just about the flight, but also about the result of the flight. My life was going to change a lot. I really had no idea how much.

I landed in St. Louis and it was only a matter of about a half an hour before I saw my first “brown round”. The Drill Sergeant walked up to us. We were about 20 deep, standing outside the USO. I’m sure we were quite a site. Everything from pants saggin’ so much you could see the majority of the dudes underwear, to long hair pulled back in a pony tail and the underneath part of the head shaved. We encompassed the gambit.

The Drill Sergeant introduced himself. I don’t remember his name, but I remember he was very nice to all of us. It seemed strange. I had always heard these guys were supposed to be mean. What is going on? He proceeded to lead us out to our bus that would serve as the home for the last hours of our civilian lives.

I don’t remember exactly how long of a bus trip it was but I remember it was long! We didn’t get to Leonard Wood until the sun had set and as soon as we pulled up in front of this big building with a sign out front that said “Welcome to Fort Leonard Wood” there were three new Drill Sergeants on our bus breaking the nervous silence with compilations of words I had never even thought of putting together. Let the mind games begin. We were being screamed at that if we weren’t all off the bus and our bags stacked “dress right dress” in an ungodly short amount of time we would regret it. There was now way to even get off the bus as fast as they wanted and what the heck does dress right dress mean? We failed and we surely regretted it. They had us doing push ups for like fifteen minutes. Any one that has ever done any serious amount of push ups non-stop knows that is a long time to try to do push ups.

We filed inside the building and took seats in a bunch of folding chairs and began a series of briefings that would go on for like 4 hours. Some of us were separated (myself included) to take a DLAB test. Basically this was a test to determine how easy it would be for you to learn a foreign language. I found out later they separated us by one of the sub scores on our ASVAB. We finally finished with all that by around 2am.

0330 the following morning we were awoken, and promptly taken outside to begin our in-processing. Over the next week we spent nearly 20 hours a day learning the rank structure and all kinds of knowledge that was absolutely useless. Remember asking “when am I ever gonna use this in real life?” in school? This is much worse. I’m telling you I know so much crap that I have absolutely no use for now that I may not have room for something I need somewhere down the line.

The whole first week was dedicated to learning crap I will never need again and getting a hair cut (as close to bald as you can get with out a bic) and getting all of our basic issue. You are required to have all of your basic issue with you when you PCS for the rest of your Army life.

I realized very quickly that I am four years older than almost every one else here, and most of these “kids” were not handling the constant stress the Drills were hammering at them 24/7 very well. I am a pretty headstrong, smart mouthed young man. So much in fact that a few of my friends and family didn’t think I would make it through basic. I learned quickly to just blend in. I would be very surprised if any of my Drills would recognize me today. I certainly will never forget them however, or any of the friends I made over the next eight weeks.

Basic was all about breaking you down and building you back up. The break down part consisted of giving us impossible tasks, and then smoking us until we threw up for failing. You begin to feel like you really are a loser and you can’t get anything done. I was one of the ones who had it figured out early. Most of the older recruits did in fact, but after the constant smokings and being told you are worthless it starts to eat at you. There were more than a handful of times that I wanted to quit, but the friendships you make, Tyler Durden called them “single serving friends” don’t let you quit. They need you and you surely need them.

Graduating basic training happened for me in early January 1998. It was one of the most fulfilling days of my life. There were times when I didn’t think I could take another smoking, another hour and a half run up and down hills in backwoods Missouri, or being away from my family another minute, but I did it and it really felt good. I had accomplished something that the majority of Americans will never even attempt. I felt set apart from the average American. I was now a soldier.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

My life as a soldier began rather tentatively. I had been considering the military for a few weeks when one of my closest friends told me he went to the recruiter’s office. I was amazed, as I had never thought of him as military material, but then again I had never thought of myself as military material either.

If I remember correctly my friend and I started working out the details of what we wanted to do in late April early May of 1997. We are both pretty intelligent guys so we had our choice of Military Operational Specialties. We both knew we didn’t want to be ground pounders or bullet sponges so we went communications. Satellite Communications Systems Operator/Maintainer was the MOS we both chose. This job was a minimum enlistment of six years. That’s right I said six. The reasons for this were simple. Including basic training my training time would be over eleven months long. Over eighty percent of the people who choose this job get out after one tour because the civilian market is so attractive for satellite communicators. Because of this the Army keeps you a little bit longer than normal, but you are offered either a hefty enlistment bonus, I think mine would have been twelve grand or you can elect to take the college fund that gets bigger with time. I chose the college fund and now have sixty grand to spend on my education! Any way I digress.

Because our Advanced Individual Training was nine months and some change we had to wait a couple of months to join the Army. We were set to leave in August. The next couple of months went by too quickly and it was time to go. We got ourselves mentally ready to go and made the trip to Sacramento do in-process the Army. I had gotten a tattoo earlier that month and one of the doctors said it was infected (it wasn’t but they really don’t mess around. The Army doesn’t want damaged goods) so we were delayed a month and some change. My time rolled around again on October 25th 1997. The day before we were to go down to Sacramento again my recruiter called me and told me that my friend had broken his wrist and would have to wait again. He wanted to know if I still wanted to go tomorrow. I told him to let me call my friend and I would call him back. When I called my friend he almost sounded relieved. He said that in fact his wrist was broken and that he was not going to join any more. He had been thinking about it a lot and just didn’t think it was the best thing for him to do anymore. So I called my recruiter back and said “ya I’m in, pick me up in the morning”. He did. I went to Sacramento and passed my physical and was off to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. My friend remained in northern California pressure testing high pressure bottles, (you know fire extinguishers and gas bottles that sort) and going to school part time.

My life as a civilian ended and my life as a soldier began. I am not going to write my whole experience as a soldier in one sitting as it would be far too long. I will break it down into several segments over the next few days. Tomorrow will be Pvt Campbell’s basic training experience. I hope it helps answer some questions you may have about soldiering and that you enjoy it.

I took some pictures today on a trip to another camp. The first time I have left my “home” camp in almost three months. There is nothing spectacular, just some pictures of Kuwait. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

T was back the night I wrote about his search. The NCO that promised to bring him back succeeded. T subsequently got two pretty significant butt chewings before I even got to him, and mine was no less significant. Being the type of guy he is, he dug himself deeper right out of the gate.

“What is the big deal Sarge?”

I lost it. I knew the question was coming, but I thought I would react better than I did. I was still upset, mostly because he let me down and made me look bad as his NCO. As is usually the case with T when I explain to him what he did was wrong, why it was wrong, and what he should have done. He apologized.

I know he didn’t learn anything from this. He would go right back out and make the same mistake again if her were afforded the opportunity. All I can really hope for is that he won’t be given the opportunity again.

I enjoyed some of the suggestions for teaching T a lesson, but as I am not big on the idea of doing any jail time, or being the same rank as T I had to restrain myself from some of the more imaginative ideas. Thanks though. It was fun to imagine doing all of those things to T at least.

In the end T lost a lot his given responsibility, and now he knows that after I leave he will not be in charge of the section, like he thought he would be since he outranks the PFC. They will both be under another NCO’s wing in a different section. I think also that T has given up his thoughts about being ready to be an NCO, because obviously he isn’t.

Monday, September 01, 2003

I have found that the last couple of days (every since I was told I am going home in a couple of weeks), it has been very hard for me to concentrate on things. I really have little interest in what is going on around me. I have submersed myself in trying to figure out where Joyce, Reid and I will live when we return, and contemplating how long we will be there when we are there.

Football starts on Thursday, and I am as much of a football fiend as anyone I have ever met, so I find myself spending the rest of my time looking at news about the upcoming season. Behind my work tent is the “TV” tent. It is actually a tent that is used to do the daily commander’s briefings, but there is also a TV in there that is hooked to a Satellite dish that pulls in the Armed Forces Network for us, and yes AFN shows football!

The Washington Redskins take on the New York Jets at 8:30pm EST (3:30am local)time on Thursday. I am a die hard Raiders fan and I don’t have any Jets and only one Redskin (not starting) on any of my fantasy teams, but I still intend on being up to watch the game. I mean come on it is the opening game of the 2003 season!

I will occupy the next “couple weeks” trying to pound out details of what is going to happen when I come home and looking at football stats. These are by the way my two favorite subjects right now.

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