Monday, July 27, 2009

My buddy and I were driving back home this weekend from our last "real" drill . We have one more drill in the chute but it will be dominated by a family readiness event. We were both sleep deprived and extremely exhausted. He was driving the first leg in route to Houston via I-10 while I tried to get some shut eye. The only thing I could think of was what the passengers of passing vehicles were thinking when they saw me wearing huge black ballistic goggles and ear plugs. The thought of it made me laugh a little; I had to block out the sunlight and music right?

As I shut my eyes I began to realize that the monkey that had been following me around all year had finally climbed onto my back. I occurred to me that we had one last road trip to and from drill. The unit will be hitting our second annual train-up soon with the mobilization immediately following that. Up until now, the thought of the upcoming mobilization has felt a little fake. There has been nothing that has given me any indication that the reality of the situation had finally caught up with the one constant in everyone lives, time. One minute, one hour, one day, one week; it doesn't matter what the measure of it is, it the same to us all. For the first time all year I realized that the monkey on my back was a biter; reality set its teeth deep into my back.

There were several other insignificant events that played out over the weekend that contributed to that bite mark on my back. One occurred when I was sitting outside the company orderly room waiting on another solider when one of the guys on the rear detachment came over to shoot the shit. He had been in the sandbox while on active duty and came into the Guard a few months back. He is on stabilization orders and cannot be deployed oversees until those orders expire.

"The operational tempo needs to slow the fuck down, this is the Guard," he said while swinging his arms and legs around as if he were playing the mythical drums of war.

"You guys are going to get there and end up guarding the chow hall."

We both started laughing our asses off. The one thing that I love about being with all the Joes is the amount of sarcasm, comedy and cursing that takes place. It is more than an art form, it is the signature of the personality. There was a little truth in what he said, we were so busy over those last four days that the guys in my section were averaging four hours of sleep a night.

I tried to sleep but the DVD player in my head replayed that moment and I knew that the operational tempo was what we should expect in country. Your always told to train like you fight.

The second came when I pulled a PFC in our section aside and had to play Daddy. He had failed to complete a task I had assigned. In addition to the failed task he had showed up late to our first formation. I was upset with him because he is a smart kid, very young, right out of high school,and very intelligent. Over the last few months I had come to the conclusion that some of the guys that hadn't been deployed to a combat zone were suffering from what I like to call Hollywood syndrome. These guys thought they were going to a Hollywood film shoot; reality hadn't set it. I've never been deployed but I didn't lose the 45 IQ points your required to lose when joining the ranks of the grunts. OK, so that was a joke that only a grunt will get, deal with it. Anyhow, I am aware of the situation we are putting ourselves into, he was not.

We began our conversation by talking about how the decisions he makes effects more people than he could ever imagine.

"When you first joined the army how many people did you think your decision affected," I asked.
"Me," he said as he shrugged his shoulders.

"Now that we are leaving, how many people has that decision touched."

"Everybody," he said as his smile faded and the severity of the situation set it.

I had burst his bubble, and that is an understatement. I could tell by the way he would look at the floor while he was thinking that I had flipped the right switch. That moment made me realize we were in this together. I had asked him those questions because I had struggled with them myself in one of those self analytical moments and I knew the effect they would have. He understood that soon his decisions could potentially have dire consequences.

The final moment came when I was standing out at the M-4 qualification range waiting to go through night qualification. I began to visit with an NCO that was in the same firing order as I when he mentioned the packing list for the deployment. I had never met the guy before but when I told him I had never deployed he began offering advice on what to pack.

"Bring your personal bed linens and pillows, maybe a laptop with some movies and books to keep you entertained while our gear catches up to us," he said.

Have a few hundred dollars at the ready when we get there because the guys we will be replacing will sell you all the stuff they can't pack. T.V., mini fridge, DVD player, video game consoles, if they cannot pack it and you want it, they'll sell it."

He went on explaining how some T.V. sets had changed hands four or five time because there is no point in bringing them back when you can help your replacement out by selling it to him dirt cheap. He said the army would not be happy if troops are bringing back large plasma televisions in army planes. I went on to ask him about smuggling my acoustic guitar into the combat zone.

"You can probably buy one too, if not have someone mail you yours. Make packages to yourself and number them. Keep a list of those numbered packages and their contents with you and when you call home you can ask to have a specific package sent to you."

I walk away form the conversation and went in sat in my Humvee and started making a list of items I would take and items I would have mailed to me. The only item I had on my mailing list; my guitar.

I was going to a far away land for a long time and all I want is my guitar. Playing guitar is my escape from life here, I am sure it will serve the same purpose overseas. It's the only thing that can remove me from time.

1 comment:

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