Thursday, February 28, 2008

So close, yet so far

Seriously. I feel like I am in quicksand and just cant get out of this trap. Leap year - just my luck. That extra day is like an entire other month has been tacked onto the deployment. Who invented leap year, anyway? What is its purpose? In any event, I cant complain. Some of my IRR brethren have been royally screwed by the plethora of bad leaders here. Me? I am still on schedule. If a schedule really exists.

I posted some new pictures of some of the trips I've taken recently, and . . . that's about it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not Much to Say

My life has come to a grinding halt. At least, that's how I feel right now. I can almost taste being home yet its impossibly far away. Adapting to the new job has had its trials, but I am just starting to get the hang of what I think they want me to do. If only they knew what they wanted to do, I'd be all set.

I have gained a different perspective on how the training of the Iraqi Army is going. Now that I have a birds eye view instead of a ground level view, it does appear that we are making some really good progress. The section I am in is responsible for generating the new Iraqi Army Brigades, training their Soldiers and Officers, and then making sure they have all the equipment they need to get into the fight. Once they are recruited, trained, and equipped, we turn them over to group of Military Training Teams (MiTTs) who supervise their entry into "the fight". I wont say everything is going smoothly, but I do think as far as generating an Army goes, there has been some good progress made in the past year. Michael Yon has a great article about all of this and his interview with LTG Dubik, who is the commander of the unit I fall under.

I've been able to travel to the one of the training complexes in Besmaya and see an Iraqi Brigade graduate, and it was a pretty interesting experience. I posted some pictures about it last week. Other than that, things are going fairly well. There is a pretty good group of Captains in the area I work in, a few of which have also spent the last year training Iraqi's, so we have a pretty unique perspective on alot of the operations underway. We're also really sarcastic and short-timers, so it's not that bad of a time. Except when we get yelled at. Which is alot.

Friday, February 15, 2008

New Job

Basically, I work on a staff in the IZ. I do staff work such as go to meetings, write orders for units like the one I used to be a part of, and go to meetings. They tell me that the logic behind bringing me down here was to get some experience from those of us who have been, as they say, "in the field". Ok, whatever. Its not real exciting, although I occasionally get to travel to some different locations and see some of the other training teams. At least that breaks up the 14 hour days they require me to work.

I wont be able to update much since our internet is limited and I dont have access to internet once I leave work. I will try and post the occasional update, though, and I have some new pictures to upload when I get a chance.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reassignment - Is it true?

"Yes, it's true. [slight pause] This man has no dick."

Ah, nothing like a quote from Bill Murray in Ghostbusters to lighten the mood.

Yes, I am being reassigned with under 40 days left in my deployment. No, I don't know what my new job for 30 days will entail. No, I don't have confirmation that my redeployment wont be delayed. On the bright side, I get to hang out with all my IRR buddies for the next month and I will be doing something different, which should make the clock race towards my finish.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Stay Tuned

"For who? For what?" No, this isn't Ricky Watters after the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Bucs in '95. It was me, after the latest episode of "but, Life's Not Fair!" In that episode, I learned that despite being about 40 days from going home, I am being reassigned to the IZ!

Apparently, my superhuman bitterness has not prevented people from thinking highly of me because I was supposedly requested by name. Go ahead and laugh - I did. You might ask what I'll be doing, or why they chose me so close to redeployment, or if this means I will get extended. You might even say "What could you possible get accomplished in 30-40 days?" I said all of those things and got the Army's equivalent of "because I said so" in return.

So stay tuned for the next episode of "but, Life's Not Fair!", where maybe some of these questions will get answered!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

unwanted feelings

I turned the radio up so that I couldn't possibly hear anything else and notched the speedometer to just a tick under 100 mph. I was on my way to work at around 9pm and upset about something; nothing calms me down quite like deafeningly loud music and driving fast.

It was about 9 months or so after I originally got out of the Army, and I still had these uneasy feelings of guilt that came crashing down over me. They were usually triggered by a news report or hearing from one of my buddies still deployed. It would start as a little pang of guilt and quickly work itself into a full storm of anger on top of guilt. I wasn't even sure what I felt so bad about, which is what brought the anger on. I served a year in Afghanistan, I did my time honorably. Why should I feel bad about not having to go through all that again?

My initial decision to leave the military was a tough one, but I never had any real doubt about what I wanted. The biggest, and most obvious reason for me to get out was to start a family, which would be pretty tough to do if I was deploying every other year. There were other reasons though, and plenty of them. Still, a ridiculous deployment schedule was far and away reason numero uno.

The hardest part, though, was leaving the people. There is nothing in the world like the bond that gets formed between people in the military. The collective act of embracing the suck together forms bonds that are nearly impossible in any other organization. Try spending 10 rainy days in the box (also know as the training area) with 20 guys in the swamp-like conditions at Ft Polk and you'll know what I mean.

Of course, breaking that bond can have some pretty tough consequences. Sure, Soldiers PCS (permanent change of station) and change units all the time, but your not really breaking the bond because you go on to form new ones. So when I left the military, and all of my military friends deployed again to either Iraq or Afghanistan, I felt like the biggest dirt ball on earth. How could I be happy with my new car and house and wife when my friends were 6000 miles away embracing the suck together, again?

So I stopped watching the news. Didn't even pick up a newspaper. Listened to alot of sports radio. I still kept in contact with my friends who were deployed, but kept it to once a month or so. Then my best friend, Mark, got recalled off the IRR and I almost lost it. At that point I had a pretty firm grip on my choice and was even starting to feel truly happy about it, but the news that he would have to go back into Active Duty after over a year of being out was tough to swallow. So the cycle started up for me again. The random feelings of guilt and anger that would cycle on and off, pissing me off even more when I couldn't just be happy for what I had.

Eventually, though, that subsided as well. It happened more toward the end of Mark's deployment, when all my other friends were home and had subsequently ETSd (Expiration of Term of Service) themselves. One day, though, I had this sudden realization that I not only accepted my decision to get out, I was happy about it. I mean, my job was going great, Rachael and I were as happy as a couple could be and were thinking about starting a family. I had a lot of hope that when Mark got home for good, I could finally be rid of the nagging guilt I seemed to carry around with me all the time.

I never got the chance to see if that was the case, though. Soon after I accepted happiness I got a letter in the mail. I guess I wouldn't have a choice about feeling guilty for anything. Looking back, I laugh at what I felt and even how I phrase it as "accepting happiness". I mean, seriously, did it really have to be that difficult?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

and now, for some news commentary

I was on my front porch, sipping my morning latte and reading my copy of The Washington Post, when I couldn't help but feel some annoying, gnawing uneasiness come over me. I tried to put my finger on it and couldn't; as I skimmed over the article I was reading again, it hit me - everyone has gone insane.

Or, quite possibly, I have gone insane, seeing as how there is no front porch, morning latte, or hard copy of the Post. I did, however, read some articles today that are just making me scratch my head in bewilderment.

I started with this piece* about some mythical debate on a pause in troop cuts. (*warning - link opens in a new tab or window) The article talks about military leaders assessing this and deciding that, and blah blah blah my ADD prevents me from reading for long periods of time when nothing important is said, and then we get to this, a quote from Gen. James Conway, Marine Corps Commandant:

"Admiral Fallon has a larger responsibility. He's fighting two fights in his area, and one is going pretty good, and one -- according to some sources -- not so good," he said, referring to Afghanistan.
So I guess what your trying to sell me is that Iraq is going pretty good and Afghanistan is going not-so-good. Sorry, I'm, not drinking that Kool-aid just yet. Another highlight:

Military leaders are debating whether to move forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, Conway said. "Now . . . the discussion is going to become: As things continue to improve in Iraq, at what point do we shift focus into Afghanistan to try to create the same margins of success there?"

But he said there is disagreement within the military over security trends in Afghanistan and the proper strategy there.
To that, I say - let things really improve in Iraq before trying to re-create our "success". January - not such a good month here. And how exciting is it that military leaders disagree with each other on strategy?

Ok, enough on that one. Soon after reading that, I stumbled across this little gem, which makes some surprising claims about our Reserve and National Guard readiness. Rather, their lack of readiness. Does it really surprise anyone that the NG and Reserves couldn't defend our home turf right now? IRR, anyone? Money quote from that article:
“We looked at their plan. It's totally unacceptable. You couldn't move a Girl Scout unit with the kind of planning they're doing now,” said Punaro, executive vice president for Science Applications International Corp. in San Diego.
Finally, to tie all these heart-warming articles together, I read this tear-jerker. McCain and Surge, in the same headline. As the wise Hans Solo once said, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

I'm not saying good things aren't happening in Iraq. I am saying a few good months don't a good strategy make. I guess this should be expected in an age of instant gratification, where we need to have our answers now, even when the answers might not always be right.