Sunday, August 31, 2003

I hope I wasn’t that dumb when I was a young troop. As far as I can remember though I was too scared one of my NCOs planting a boot in my hind quarters to do anything that would be considered too far outside the norm.

As I have mentioned before I have two soldiers out here, both of which I inherited, and would not ever have claimed if I had them for any serious amount of time. You see while they both have a lot of potential, I inherited them with massive problems. I enjoy working with soldiers however and was more than up to the challenge of bringing them around. Both of these guys are data geeks (not my job), but as I was moved to the Network Engineering section as the NCOIC upon returning from the birth of my son and the data section was comprised of a specialist and a private first class who had no leadership. So they were given to me…. Thanks.

The PFC is a bright kid, fresh out of AIT. This guy knows computers and routers like no one I have ever met, and he’s only 19! His biggest downfall is the last NCO he had let him do anything. This kid thinks he can do anything he wants and talk to anyone he wants any way he wants. As a section we have pumped this kid’s head up beyond belief so now he walks around acting like he is the stuff. He learned really quickly that he can’t talk to me any way he wants, but he has a bad habit of looking around to see if I am there before he just smarts off to any one else. People don’t seem to understand that they are encouraging him by not discouraging him. I guess I am training NCOs to. Anyway he is not the soldier that inspired this entry so let me get on to the true subject.

Specialist T….What a piece of work. This guy has an attitude problem, he is lazy and he thinks he knows it all. Unfortunately I like the guy, so sometimes even I am more lenient on this kid than I should be. He is a cable dog turned data, and anyone who knows army signal know what that means. He was taken from his normal job and given a 10 hour class on a bunch of equipment that took the soldiers who normally work on it almost a year to learn. T is the type of guy that takes advantage every chance he gets.

Last week it was decided he was going to a class on Monday. He was responsible for making his own travel arrangements to another camp and sleeping arrangements at the camp. The camp he is going to is a vacation spot compared to where we are at, and we actually send troops there for RnR on occasion. T in charge of himself, at this entertainment camp, and he is responsible for his own ride back? Bad choice. I wasn’t informed of all the details until after he was gone and didn’t even know about the class until the night before T left.

The class ended Saturday. It is Sunday. No one has heard from T. Is he dead? Is he hurt? We don’t know, but we doubt it. I have to start trying to track him down by phone, after catching a butt chewing from hell about my control over this soldier. Oh yes he is gonna get a better version when he gets back here, but why did I get it in the first place? I didn’t send him to the dang class…..by himself. If I had been asked about that I would have told them it was a bad idea.

After searching via phone for him for 35 minutes all I could find were rumors of his where abouts. I did however get a promise from another NCO that I know there who is coming out here that he would find him and bring him with him tonight. I asked him to drag him behind the truck by his boot laces and all he did was laugh….I wasn’t kidding.

Friday, August 29, 2003

It was your normal morning. I was sitting in front of my lap top browsing the internet for speakers for my car when I get home, studying dizzying amounts of football information in preparation for the upcoming fantasy football season, chatting with my wife with Yahoo instant messenger and talking on the phone (rather uninterestedly) listening to another soldier about some communications problem he was having, when I got the news. My NCOIC walked up to me holding up two fingers and smiling.

“What the heck does that mean?” I am thinking as I message my wife to hold on and tell the guy on the phone I’ll call him back.

“You’re going home in a couple of weeks.”

What is this feeling Happiness? No it’s more than that. In about two weeks I will get to hold my wife and son in my arms again. My son turned thee months old yesterday and he is just getting huge. Joyce tells me at his last doctor’s appointment he weighed over 17lbs! My little Raider linebacker in the making!

I quickly sat back down and messaged my wife the news. “WHAT!!!???” was her exact response if I remember correctly. She then asked me if I could call her. I told her to give me a few minutes and I would. With in five minutes we were talking on the phone. When she answered the phone I could tell she was crying. Crying because she is excited. Crying because she is scared. A lot is going to change in the next couple of months.

She moved home to Cali when I got deployed and now we have to move all of our stuff back. Around another grand to complete that endeavor. Hopefully we will be PCSing to Hawaii shortly after my return. I plan on taking the job offered to me by my friend there at a fixed station. My dream come true. The job I have been wanting since I came in and it is in a tropical paradise to boot. I can just see myself finishing my degree, and getting fat sitting on the beach drinking something with an umbrella in it and getting very brown.

Joyce is pretty worried about the change, because she doesn’t like change at all. I mean not at all. She had the same hair style for like 20 years and even now it isn’t that much different. I love her hair though and I don’t want her to change it so that probably has something to do with it.

If all goes well, I will be home two weekends from now, all our stuff will be back in Arizona by the end of September and I should know about my job in Hawaii shortly after that. Are things finally going to start going my way? It at least appears so.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Chow has gotten increasingly worse over the last month or so. I find I am spending more and more money at Subway because of the lack of anything decent or even enough of it in the chow hall.

Today my battle buddy and I walked down to the chow hall, to be served a (as in one) corn dog and a small half empty bag of chips. We were both instantly pissed off. If I were some malnourished child that might have been enough food to last me a week, but I am a 28 year old American over eater, and I want food!

We have been bringing this up to our NCO support channel for about a week or so now and they all just kind of laugh and say “ya sucks huh?”

Man just give us our MRE’s back at least I won’t be hungry all day. Oh well just another thing to pile on top of the beautiful surroundings, the fabulous weather, and the delightful conversation out here. I could use to lose a little around the middle any way. Now is a good chance… like I have a choice it seems.

Monday, August 25, 2003

My guard duty has come to an end. Now I will try to re-install some normalcy in my daily routine, if that is possible at all out here in the first place. Normally I get up with my soldiers every Monday through Saturday at 0430 to hit the gym for two hours or so before it gets too hot. I promised another one of the NCOs out here that has been working with us because he likes my workout system so much that we would begin again today. It didn’t happen. At 0300 when I got off of guard duty for the last time (this time) I was so tired I could barely see straight. I called my wife and slept through about an hour of phone time before I decided I wasn’t up to working out and went to bed. I wanted to start tomorrow, but now the NETCOM Sergeant Major is coming through tomorrow so we all have to be here at the crack of dawn to make sure everything looks in tip top shape. Even though he won’t even notice. This is always the case. After missing two days in my system the week is kind of shot, so we will just have to do filler stuff for the remainder of the week and start again next week where we left off before I started guard duty.

I didn’t set an alarm this morning so I could sleep until I woke up naturally. I got almost a whole five hours this way. I crashed out about 0440 and woke at 0915 (the same time I have been making myself get out of bed for the past week for guard duty), how nice. I forced my self to just lay there for another three hours. I know, lazy, but it sure felt good. I then got up and went to take a shower. There was no one in there so I started getting ideas like man I could just leave the water running the whole time and take as long as I want! That wasn’t the case. You would think that I would have learned after being out here for six months that you can barely stand the heat of the water after about 1100. Today was no different. I got in and rinsed and man it felt good. I shut off the water, because even though I wanted to leave it running I just couldn’t bring myself to waste any water. I get a little bit of shampoo in my hand and start to lather up. When I finished I turned the water back on and started to rinse. The water quickly became SOOOO hot I couldn’t stand it so I shut it off as quickly as I could. Now I am standing there with soap running all aver my body and I am refusing to turn the water back on. I get a good idea. When you first turn on the water you get a burst of cold water from the water that has been sitting in the pipes. You see the trailer has AC so the water not sitting in the huge tubs outside is being cooled for us. I quickly take my soapy, soaking naked self into the next stall to rinse and turn on the water. SWOOSH scalding hot water right in my face. Not expecting the heat I stumbled back wards falling on my rump right out of the stall and in the middle of the trailer, that thank goodness is empty. I quickly scrambled up and shut off the water. I stood up pulled my towel off the hook and began drying off. Yup soap and all. My face and head are on fire. I finished drying off feeling as if I got cheated out of a good shower and walked back to my tent.

I got my laundry from the laundry service and got my next turn in load ready to go. After I turned in my laundry and ate lunch I headed to work. Half way there a huge gust of wind with stinging dirt hit me in the face and blew my hat off. In disbelief I quickly look around for my hat. It is almost 20 feet away already and moving fast. I begin the chase. Luckily it didn’t take me too long to track it down. This time I wasn’t as lucky as in the shower, lots of people saw this and they are all laughing. “Yeah, yeah laugh it up jerks!” My hat never blows off man I’m always the one laughing. Not this time.

Well I have been at work like five hours now and have had no more major incidents. The skin on my face and head feel tight and still kind of hurt (yes I really scalded my face and head) and my rump and pride are about as bruised as they can be, hey guess what else it’s Monday. Can I go back to guard duty please?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

The “Ignorant American”, the “Blind Westerner”. Man I can not understand how I became so ignorant and blind, but I am glad that so many other blogs and articles have it all figured out for me so all I have to do is go read and become enlightened.

There is a problem with ignorance to real issues and the blindness comes from those who don’t want to see, but in reality these people are not truly involved in what is happening. There is ignorance and CHOSEN blindness everywhere. Of course it is unfortunate and it does nothing to further the healing process that is so necessary to further the rebuilding of this area. What also doesn’t help is to stop working towards rebuilding to say “look at how stupid that person is” or “can you believe that those people believe this?” Come on communication between our people has to be the foundation for solid relationship for the coming era. I know my communication skills go straight out the window when some one walks up to me and says “Hi I’m Bob and you are completely ignorant.”

How about we try to stop telling each other how stupid we all are and start trying to talk to each other as if we might understand each other. I know I for one am a lot more subjective listener if you don’t tell me I am a hopeless cause before you even begin to tell me what we are going to talk about.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Joyce put the crib together by herself yesterday. Not that I normally do all of that stuff, we are normally a team effort sort of couple. We would be pretty funny to watch I am sure. I am a by the instructions kind of guy, separating the nuts and bolts into their respective piles and going at the whole thing methodically. Joyce is the “this piece looks like it should go here” kind of put-er-to-gether-er. We almost always have fun putting things together though…almost.

I could just see her. She keeps telling me it’s hot back home, which means mid to upper nineties….WHOA!!! so she has her long brown hair up off her shoulders in one of her quick little not quite a bun not quite a pony tail… knots (I love those things). Sitting in the middle of the living room floor with pieces to this thing that she is building splayed all over the place around her. After several hours, at least one re-build, and I’m sure a couple of choice expletives (sorry to tell on you honey), it’s done. The thing that is gonna take her baby out of her room at night, because it simply isn’t going to fit.

I wanted to be there to help put the crib together and told her to order it while I was at home for Reid’s birth, but she “couldn’t”. See I got MONDO lucky here too. Joyce HATES spending money. It makes her physically sick. Reid is almost three months old and already over the 15lbs limit for his bassinet, so she was forced to break down and drop the three hundred bones for the crib we picked out like ten months ago (we weren’t excited about being parents or anything). I was on the phone with her when she entered the credit card number for the order and she got all quiet. Really, I am lucky. I have seen guys come home from deployments with no money in the bank, and his wife or girl friend has every variation of the new Fredricks of Hollywood push up bra, or some other ungodly amount of something no one really needs. I come home to lots of money for me to spend, cause I like to spend it. What the heck is it there for?

I actually heard Reid talk for the first time “Live” last night! Joyce has sent me little fifteen second videos from our digital camera plenty of times, but last night she put the phone up to his ear so I cold talk to him and he “talked” back. This has never happened before, normally he just gets very quiet and listens (hopefully that is habit forming), but tonight he started telling me all about his new crib and the wonderful little animals that play with him while he is in there! It was amazing and I nearly lost it. When Joyce came back on the phone, I could barely talk. I was so choked up.

You see, I never wanted to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a rock star (well actually I still want to be a rock star). I always wanted to be a dad and a husband, and now I am that. I have the best wife anyone could dream of having, and a beautiful baby boy who if he keeps going is gonna grow up to play Linebacker for my Raiders. I just wish I could be there to be part of it all.

There is very little ambient light where I am. This makes for amazing starlit nights. Last night was now exception and there was no moon to boot until about 1:30 am. As my partner and I were settling in for another four hours of boredom in our guard shack I saw the brightest shooting star I have ever seen! This thing had to shoot half way across the sky and made a bright blue line in the night sky. It was beautiful and took my breath away. As my shift went on I saw several more of these shooting stars, none as brilliant or as breathtaking as the first but still very cool. Even in this bland, nothing of a desert there is beauty. You just have to know when and where to look.

I have taken to drenching my hat during my daytime guard shifts and man has it helped! (thanks Alison) Still I have to soak it about every thirty minutes or so to keep it wet or it just gets bone dry and makes my head sweat. I added my own little piece of "art"to the walls of boredom yesterday, but today the SOG brought out spray paint to cover the graffiti. All gone, now it looks like some third rate elementary school that can’t afford to re-paint so they just cover the places with graffiti on them…Much tacky, oh well. There was far too much obscene crap on the walls any way and I debated not showing those pictures because of all the misspellings and such. I assure you not all soldiers only have a third grade reading and writing ability. (too many of them do however).

Other than that things have been very much the same. I have a lot of trouble trying to sleep during the day, because there is no other “hang out” for the soldiers who aren’t at work and idle soldiers are nothing if not loud! So yesterday I sat up and watched the wedding singer (one of my favorites) and then went to shift exhausted again. At least I only have seven more shifts and it will be back to doing…. Nothing really.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Tonight before going to the night time version of my guard shift, the much easier version (with no sun) I might add. I stopped in to read the comments on my last post and to quickly check my e-mail.

Right off the top it was implied that I am not an American and that I should quit my “bitchin’”. Normally I don’t let other people’s opinions and comments affect me, but at night on guard duty all you have to do is sit and think, and that’s what I did. As I thought it bothered me more and more that anyone would imply that I am not an American.

I am a twenty eight year old father of one. My son has been alive for eighty one days and I have been with him for four of them, because I am in the middle east with none other than the United States Army. I am a Husband. My wife and I have been married since June 24th 2000. Since then I spent July 20th 2000 to November 11th 2000 in Germany (with out her), Feb 14th 2001 to April 21st at Fort Bragg NC for War Fighter 2001 (with out her), June 6th 2001 to August 10th 2001 at Fort Bliss TX for Roving Sands (with out her), September 4th 2001 to November 23rd 2001 in Egypt for Bright Star (with out her), January 18th 2002 to April 29th 2002 in Kuwait for Operation Enduring Freedom (with out her), and finally February 25th 2003 to present in Kuwait for Operation Iraqi Freedom (with out her). I am a brother to two sisters and one brother and a son to my mother and father. I have managed to build up a modest savings (thanks in no small part to my numerous deployments) that I hope to buy a home for my young family with.

I am a Sergeant in the United States Army. I don’t always like my job, but I do it to the best of my ability EVERY DAY! I have two soldiers who I work with constantly, to make them better soldiers and stronger citizens for the country I love.

I miss my wife, my son, my mother, my father, my dog and my cats. If that makes me un-American, then by all means I am the least American person you have ever met!, but it doesn’t make me un-American, and I am 100% exactly that. All of the sacrifices I have made have been in the name of the United States of America and if I were asked to make them all over again I would!

I didn’t serve in the Vietnam war, I didn’t serve in the Korean war, and I didn’t serve in WWII, WWI, the Civil war or the Revolutionary war, you know why? Because I am twenty eight, but I damn well would have so don’t ever question me about being an American again.

It is 10:30 am and I am riding in the back of a truck on my way out to my guard tower (eating dirt again) where I will spend the next four hours trying not to die of dehydration. When I have breathed in enough dirt to kill a small child, (and by the way I am developing a pretty ugly cough and starting to worry about the brain swelling pneumonia that is going around out here but that’s another story) we have finally arrived at my guard tower.

The climb up the steel ladder that is welded to the outside is painful to say the least, and when I get to the top I am praying I don’t have to go to the bathroom until my shift is over, because I don’t think my poor little hands could handle going up and down that ladder more than is absolutely necessary!

So I sit….and I watch….dirt, lots of dirt as far as the eye can see. There are neat little berms of dirt that have been pushed up for some sort of defensive line between me and the oncoming assault. About half way between me and the very last berm I can see is a road, and that is my sole entertainment for the next four hours.

27 trucks went up and down that road in my four hour shift. 25 if you don’t count the poop sucking truck and the blue water truck that do their daily routine of emptying and refilling the portta-potties, because they came and went. I’m not sure if the other trucks might have been the same coming and going because they all look the same, so we’ll stick with 27.

About every fifteen to twenty minutes the specialist who is stuck out there with me asks what time it is, and I really don’t mind because at least having to look at my watch gives me something to do.

After about two and a half hours he says “dang!”

“What?” I asked, thinking something was wrong.

“I gotta pee!!” He looks like he is afraid for his hands.

After a second of building up the nerve to hurt himself, he goes for it. After several slappy, slappy, slappies of his hands and a few choice expletives, he is down and on his way to the plastic sweat box. Shortly he is on his way back and a few more slappy, slappy, slappies and some new expletives for color and he is back.

The last hour and a half went by much as the first two and a half……Boring! When the sergeant of the guard comes to pick us up he says, “man you guys were lucky today.”

“Why is that?” My partner asked as I was putting on my Kevlar to get in the truck.

“It only got up to 125 today!”

Here are some pictures of my exciting duty for the day!

Monday, August 18, 2003

I have been crazy buzy the last few days and have not even had a chance to organize my thoughts. I am on guard duty all of this week and just after getting off shift I had to make a very important phone call to a very close friend of mine who needed some moral support.

I promise to have my thoughts organized soon and write something worth reading!

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Wow! Yesterday’s post was about trying to envision a possible scenario and whether I am “totally wrong” or that I don’t understand the Iraqi people “even a teeny tiny bit” I’m trying to look at all of the possibilities.

I do understand that the picketers want us all home. We want to be home. My point was missed by a good many people who read and responded to my post. I don’t want to take peoples right to demonstrate away. I don’t want to take anyone’s freedom to do anything away, and as long as I am alive I will not do so to anyone. If you feel that that is what I am doing here, I’m sorry you feel that way, but anything I say isn’t going to change your opinion.

I am doing what I can to make the best of an extremely awful situation. If I could, I would walk right up to every picketer trying to get me home and thank them for their efforts, and then I would let them know what I think it is really accomplishing. If the picketers chose to continue picketing… fine. That’s their choice to make, not mine and I know that.

Closed mindedness and being unwilling to look at a situation from another’s perspective is truly a dangerous state of being. I for one will always strive to see the situation from every perspective I can think of. Some of them I will discard and some of them I will pursue, and some unfortunately I will not even think of. I thank some of you for opening my eyes to even more perspectives. I thank some of you for stopping and looking at the situation from my perspective. Finally I thank some of you for reading my post…Even if you didn’t really read it.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Another circle of events is beginning. Yesterday my wife told me that there are protests against America’s troops being in Iraq, being here for so long, not rotating. This really troubled me. You see I can understand the frustration that people are feeling at what is being done here. I wouldn’t want my son or daughter here fighting a war that could possibly kill them either.

Out of concern for their welfare I surely would not be picketing and drawing international attention to the unrest in the U.S. over all of this. The whole idea of these terror attacks is to disrupt your lifestyle. If I am a terrorist, I want you to be so afraid to start your car that you ride your bike. These are the effects I am looking for and as soon as I get you to change your routine out of fear I have won.

I think these protests are only going to be seen by the car bombers, suicide bombers, snipers, mortar lobbers as a success. They have managed to rile up the United States’ people to the point that they are vocally demonstrating against the government. Yes your opinion matters, but what are you really accomplishing by picketing and drawing negative attention back home? As the picketing increases so will the death rate of American soldiers. They are winning the game they want to play.

All of us here want to be with our families and our families want us with them. If more soldiers die because American’s are picketing for their return are they really doing any good? Now is the time to find ways to support your sons and daughters not put them in more danger.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Senseless acts of violence dominate Iraq. That is certain. They are not only being committed by the “Sadam Loyalists”, they are also being committed by American soldiers. The snowball effect has begun. Where did it begin is not what is important. What is important is that it has begun, and everyone who is involved who isn’t working to stop it is wrong.

If I was in danger of being blown up by some disgruntled local twenty four hours a day seven days a week I may begin to become very suspicious of every local national I saw. On the other hand, if someone I knew was beaten, and made to lie face down with a bag over his head by hostile occupying soldiers for doing his job, I would be upset with the occupying forces as well. Does this make any of this right? Absolutely not!

No one is having to answer for what they are doing out here it seems. The persons responsible for the attacks on coalition soldiers are not being brought to justice as they just blend back into their surroundings. As well the overzealous soldier who takes it too far and beats a photographer for trying to do his job is probably not being reprimanded for his actions either.

Obviously war is never a simple affair and this occupation is not easy on either side. Where we are falling short, from my perspective is in cooperation. Coalition forces need to be more accepting of the local people. They are not all trying to kill us. Locals need to realize we are here to help you. We came to throw down a tyrant and bring freedom to the land of Abraham. We are doing the best that we can given the situation. Atrocities are being committed on both sides, and I see no end to them until we find a way to work together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Reading the news has been very frustrating to me lately. Every day we hear more about soldier deaths in Iraq, and it makes me sad. I have friends up there. Friends that I would die for if they needed me to and I am sitting down here, a whole country away. There is no real threat where I am. I know I am only a signal guy and wouldn’t be directly involved in all of the operations that are happening that soldiers are dying in, but I could be shot in the back of the head while standing in line to buy a soda just like any other guy. I see memorials on the news about the soldiers who have died and they make me angry. 17 year old PFCs and 32 year old SSGs with a wife and two kids. Man, when is it going to end?

With no end in site and no dates being spoken about when units will be returning to their stations and families I still haven’t heard a word about finding weapons of mass destruction and this frustrates me. I spoke in a post a while ago about the greater good, and that even if we are here to serve the greed of a few men in power we are still liberating the oppressed people of Iraq. By and Large I still believe this to be true, and realize that this thing isn’t going to end before hundreds if not thousands more people on both sides are dead.

Is it that hard to accept people for who they are? I know some pretty dumb people who have no problem accepting a person for who they are. So why is it so difficult for the masses? People are not evil for believing something different than you believe. They are evil if they take the lives of those they disagree with!!! Aaargh!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

The weather here has been very strange the last few days. There have been major changes that seem to be directly related to the direction the wind is blowing. If the wind is blowing from the North or the South it is simply VERY hot wind. Even hotter than the sun beating down on us. The wind actually feels like it is burning you. As I was walking to chow today the only exposed parts of my body were my face and my hands and I couldn’t believe how much hotter those parts of my body were compared to the rest of the covered parts. I can deal with hot wind though.

If the wind is blowing out of the west (blowing towards the coast) it is a dust storm day. I still haven’t figured out why the wind doesn’t always pick up dust and fling it at us. It is always blowing and it is always blowing hard but it doesn’t always carry little stinging pieces of hot glass with it. These days at least don’t feel quite so hot.

When the wind is blowing in from the coast (to the East) it is HUMMID!!! More humid than I have ever felt. Maybe it feels so humid because of the heat. I’m not sure. The other day I got up at 4am as usual to go work out in the gym and after my roughly hour and a half workout I had to peal my PT shirt off of my body it was so soaked with sweat! I don’t handle the humidity very well. I don’t even want to breath because it is just that uncomfortable.

In the last two days it has topped 140 degrees both days and yesterday we actually think it was up to 150! The circular thermometer we have only goes up to 140 but it looks like there is ten degrees of gap left after that and it was pegged hard for about three hours so we are pretty sure it got to 150. That’s the hottest I’ve ever been. If I don’t get out of here soon I am never gonna want to see a beach again!

Monday, August 11, 2003

Yesterday I went to church. It was only the fourth time I have been to church out here, but it was four in a row so I am feeling pretty good about myself. I have only been about 14 or 15 times in the last 14 years not a very good record admittedly. I really enjoy going and I always feel good afterwards. Some how though there is always some reason why “I can’t go this week.” All the more reason why I just need to get in the habit of going.

What I remember of church meetings back home are large congregations of smiling people. Here it is very different. We have averaged about seven people each week since I have been going, and there aren’t as many smiles. It is very strange seeing people at church in DCUs (Desert Cammoflage Uniforms) and PTs (Physical Training uniforms) Yesterday one of the soldiers even had to bring her weapon. I couldn’t help feeling strange about there being a weapon in church even though our “church” is a circus tent with wooden makeshift benches and pulpit. It still feels really good to attend.

I volunteered to talk next week as being very few of us it is not fair to let the burden hang on any one member’s shoulders. I am thouroughly freaked out. Like I said I have not attended church services on any kind of regular basis since I was fourteen and I really have no idea what to talk about. I will make due and try to be interesting. We’ll see.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Today was a break through. My wife and I realized we were both making this harder on each other trying to make things easier. Confused? Me too. To a point. I have been trying to find the way I can spend the most time with her and she has been trying to find the way to stay as close to home as possible.

What I didn’t understand was that her underlying intent was to keep me home near my family and friends, thinking they would give me strength to get through any problems and I was trying to get the most stable job intending to spend as much time as possible with her and our son.

We were both getting so worked up instant messaging each other about our views, not really arguing but discussing very passionately that I actually began to have tears well up in my eyes and I know that if that is happening there are tears running down her soft cheeks. Nothing mean has been said, we really aren’t fighting but our feelings about what we are talking about are just that strong. It turns into “I love you so much it hurts!” conversation. We quickly realized we were both just trying to look out for each other’s best interests and that the bottom line is just that we love each other and no matter what our situation is we will be there together trying to make the best of it.

We still haven’t made a decision, but at least now we know what each other is trying to do.

Today was a break through. My wife and I realized we were both making this harder on each other trying to make things easier. Confused? Me too. To a point. I have been trying to find the way I can spend the most time with her and she has been trying to find the way to stay as close to home as possible.

What I didn’t understand was that her underlying intent was to keep me home near my family and friends, thinking they would give me strength to get through any problems and I was trying to get the most stable job intending to spend as much time as possible with her and our son.

We were both getting so worked up instant messaging each other about our views, not really arguing but discussing very passionately that I actually began to have tears well up in my eyes and I know that if that is happening there are tears running down her soft cheeks. Nothing mean has been said, we really aren’t fighting but our feelings about what we are talking about are just that strong. It turns into “I love you so much it hurts!” conversation. We quickly realized we were both just trying to look out for each other’s best interests and that the bottom line is just that we love each other and no matter what our situation is we will be there together trying to make the best of it.

We still haven’t made a decision, but at least now we know what each other is trying to do.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Beep…beep…beep………..beep…beep…beep. I slowly open my eyes and there is not the normal hew from the sun coming up in the tent. Beep…beep…beep……..beep…beep…beep.
What is that darn beeping? Oh it’s my alarm clock. Why is my alarm clock going off when it’s still dark outside? I begin to fumble around in the dark to find it knocking my discman loudly to the floor before I finally do. It’s 0230!!! Why is my alarm clock going off at 0230!? I sit up on the edge of my caught and try to remember why on earth I set my alarm for 0230. Then I do and I want to forget again. Today is our monthly task force run.

I hate running as it is. I have been too skinney all my life so now that I have developed a little gut (some would say it isn’t so little) I don’t want to run it off. Not only do I hate running, today I have to get in the back of a humvee and ride an hour and a half through the flying dirt to another camp to run with some other schmucks I don’t even know. It is already starting to get hot at 0315 by the time the convoy gets under way. By getting hot I mean it is already approaching 100 degrees. It topped 150 yesterday so 100 actually still feels kinda cool. Immediately the back of the truck begins to fill with flying dust from the trucks ahead of us in the convoy. One soldier coughs and this starts a conversation about another soldier out here who has gotten pneumonia and had to be medi-vaced back to Germany and from there the states. I have gotten no word on how he is but did here it was caused by breathing so much dirt. Then one of the other NCOs in the truck said his wife told him last night that CNN just said we all got briefed not to breath in the dirt…… Duh. Wouldn’t if we could help it but we can’t. “I must have been asleep during that brief, ‘cause I don’t remember it!” We all laughed but the funny thing was, there was no “Dust breathing briefing”. Not that we need it. The rest of the ride went pretty uneventfully, with the normal bobbin head soldier dolls, that we all pointed and laughed at.

We got to our destination about 0445, and low and behold, we are the only ones here yet and we came the farthest. Oh well. We are all formed up (in formation) by 0530 and getting our “you guys are doing great things out here” and “you are making history every day”. Shortly after all of the praise no one cares about is done we are under way. Breathing dirt again and trying to run. 30 minutes of torture. It is really getting hot now. The sun is up. Who is this guy to my left with no rhythm yelling stupid songs that don’t even make sense at us. Oh yeah we are supposed to yell back to show we are “motivated”. Shortly after I think this there is a soldier about three ranks ahead of me on the other side getting screamed at. “why aren’t you sounding off soldier? Do you have a problem? Do I have to motivate you?” Good job “Sarge”. If he wasn’t motivated before he sure is now!

After the 30 minutes of sheer dust breathing enjoyment the run comes to an end. Now I’m standing in formation with sweat running into my eyes and stinging like crazy. My legs are shaking because I admittedly don’t run enough out here, and my PT’s are drenched in sweat. Oh the battalion commander is saying something… Oh he is just mumbling about how great we all are again.

As we are dismissed to get back on the trucks to go “home” I am thinking “great” another hour and a half of baking and breathing dust!” When we all get back and sit around the table at breakfast we are all joking and laughing like we just had a great time. I don’t get it. I guess I never will.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Decisions, decisions. Too many things going on that I have to decide what route to take. As my stay in this wonderful desert paradise keeps seeming to be extending itself further and further into the future I am faced with several decisions. Do I press forward with my volunteer recruiter packet? Do I accept my supervisors recommendation to go to the promotion board? Do I try and get an assignment elsewhere?

All of these decisions are ultimately related. If I go to the promotion board and still submit a recruiter’s packet I will have to find a way to go to BNCOC in route to recruiter school. This more than likely will not leave me the required 36 months of time left in service after completion of my recruiter school. Is this something I want to extend to do? I decided when I re-enlisted that as this second enlistment will take me half way to my eligible retirement year that I would decide to be a lifer then. If I have made it to Sergeant First Class I will more than likely stay in as I have already made good headway towards a decent retirement, and if I am still a Staff Sergeant I will get out.

One of my friends is offering me the opportunity to take an assignment at a fixed station in Hawaii. I have wanted to work at a fixed station since I joined the Army and this one is in Hawaii!!!, but Joyce is less than thrilled with the idea of moving even farther away from home right after the birth of our son. She still wants me to try and get assigned to the fixed station in California. I have been trying to get stationed there as long as I have been in and to no avail.

Too many decisions adding to the stress of being deployed 7,000 miles away from home. I have faith that it will all work out for the best, though I don’t know why it should, nothing to do with the military has so far.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I recently rediscovered chatting using instant messengers. I had forgotten how easy it was to keep in touch with those friends that are on the internet with it and how utterly annoying it could be when you are trying to do something. I am a multi-tasker. I always have been, but wow. Three chats, writing a report, and talking to my wife on the phone, can make anyone go insane.

Over the last couple of days I have been in constant contact with a very good friend of mine that I met at my current duty station in Arizona. We started talking about old times and some of the stuff we have seen together. It really makes you appreciate what you have experienced when you start to think about that stuff. We were actually in down town Cairo when the planes struck the World Trace Center. Two stupid American tourists walking through the streets of this very Muslim city amongst police carrying automatic weapons and looking at us suspiciously. We must have looked pretty stupid walking around at 3am taking pictures of random things that these guys see every day.

We have all kinds of stories together that as he said seem almost “surreal”. Like the time we were in Germany waiting to catch a plane to Kuwait for my first trip out here. Myself and another friend of mine with us had left Mannheim a little more than a year prior so were VERY familiar with the workings of the city and Germany itself. Plus I learned to speak German nearly fluently while I was there so there was very little communication barrier. We decided to show everyone “our town” and took them all to a club. One of the girls that was on our team ended up getting very ill and threw up all over inside the cab we had gotten to go back to the train station. That was the most expensive cab trip I have ever taken.

All of these memories make me laugh, some make me cry, others I just want to forget, but they have made me who I am, and I have the Army to thank for every one of them. It’s easy to complain about the situation you are in and wish you weren’t there, but it is so much more fun to find the things you can enjoy and learn from. You will become a bigger person and at the very least easier to get along with. I hope I can apply this a little more to the situation I am in now, because right now, I complain so much sometimes I don’t even being around myself.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Holding patterns. A constant part of military life as we know it. One of my readers wrote asking advice on how to get through a long separation as I did in Germany, and in her second letter she referred to the holding pattern she was in, not knowing where they would be next and what was going to happen.

It is very true to say get used to not knowing. As I have said before I re-enlisted in March for four years. I re-enlisted “needs of the Army” so that I could put in a recruiter packet and possibly get some stabilization time with my wife and new son. As it turns out I am burning time that I need out here. To volunteer for recruiter duty you have to have 36 months of retainabillity after you complete the school. I am told that it can take up to six months to get a school date and the school is a month and a half long.

As this deployment drags on I am losing my retainability time, and there is no end in site. Right now we don’t know if I will get to go recruiter, we don’t know whether they will keep me in Arizona or send me somewhere else. Frankly we don’t know what is going to happen over the next four years of my career, and that is scarey, but it is the norm in the military. I am always told to be flexible, but jeeze I was never good at floor exercises in school and not only do you loose physical flexibility as you get older you would like to know what road you are headed down and less receptive to change and not knowing.

Things will work out. They always do, and I believe you are never given a problem you can not handle, no matter how hard it may seem right now.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Today was Joyce's birthday. She went up north to a small town on the boarder of Oregon and California to spend some time with her grandmother and since my grandparents live only twelve miles on the other side of the boarder it was a great chance for them to meet there newest great grandson for the first time! They don't get to travel much any more and there is a treacherous mountain pass between them and where Reid was born.

I have always loved being at my grandparents as has Joyce at her's. I always seem to be at peace there. It is my escape place, always quiet and serene. I sit and just talk with Grandad and Grandma for hours. Joyce's Grandparent's house has always been quite the opposite. It seems like grand central station sometimes. It always seems like there is some one coming and some one leaving, and though the foot traffic is high it is always a lot of fun over there.

I can imagine the scene today for Joyce. They were going to bar-b-que today, but the weather was bad so Joyce sat in her Poppo's chair holding Reid (when he wasn't being held by some one else in the family whom he hadn't met yet), smiling at the complements she received for Reid and the hugs she got from aunts and uncles even many great aunts and uncles that she hasn't seen at least since Christmas, some much longer. The whole time however was a struggle. To be strong, to put on a happy face, not to think about the fact that this is the second year in a row and the fourth in the last five that I wasn't with her on her birthday.

I fell asleep last night thinking about her. Knowing that people were arriving at the house and that she would be having a bitter sweet celebration of her birth soon. I was very melancholy as I drifted into slumber, and I remember making the hollow promise to myself that I would never put her through this again, but I know I can't be sure.

Tomorrow will be the next day in our lives and another day closer to me coming home and this will all be behind us. Happy birthday Joyce!

Friday, August 01, 2003

There seems to be one every deployment. Divorce. This time it is a very young girl who didn’t even see it coming. As far as she knew everything was fine back home, but obviously it wasn’t. She was even dual military at one point so you would think her spouse would be empathetic to her position.

Maybe they were too young when they got married, but regardless she is hurt and it is another marriage down the drain during a deployment. I have been on seven deployments and every single one has brought a divorce for someone I know. Some of them have been pretty good friends. Almost all of them have some underlying problems that began long before the soldier got deployed, but being deployed tied their hands and they had no real chance of working through it.

I can only imagine what it would be like to know your marriage was ending while you were thousands of miles away. I for one would be devastated. My wife is and has been everything to me for over ten years now. I find my mood to be low enough out here with out thinking of what my life would be without my warmth, my support, the love of my life!

Often these soldiers put up the “strong” front and act like it isn’t really affecting them. I don’t think I could be “strong”. I admire them for trying, and wish there were more I could do to help them through these hard times.

I love you Joyce. More than you could ever know. The support you have given me through all of this and my entire life has been invaluable! Stay strong and know that I will always love you and return for our family as long as the lord allows.

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