Friday, March 28, 2008

There's no place like . . .Kansas?

I am back in the US.  Not quite home, but I am in the US and happier then I can describe.  We arrived at Fort Riley early in the morning a couple days ago, and haven't even really slept since then.  A combination of de-mobilization, equipment turn-in and jet-lag has prevented most of us from getting any sleep, but we really don't care.  Tomorrow I will be back in Philly and while it it will be sad to say goodbye to everyone, the sense of relief I feel about being home is overshadowing everything.  I am also praying for my friends still over in Iraq; times are tough right now, but they are leaving soon - I really hope it goes quickly and safely for them. 

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Back in Kuwait

The whine of the landing gear pulled me from a light sleep.  My butt was killing me, the dude next to me was snoring, and I couldn't feel my left foot.  I didn't care about any of these small annoyances, though - I was finally out of Iraq. 
We took a pretty circuitous route to get to Kuwait.  After leaving BIAP, we flew to Bahrain and stayed there for about 2 hours.  When we got off the C-130 in Bahrain, I could smell the sea immediately; that smell of the sea mixed with a faint suntan lotion smell inside terminal gave me a pretty sudden dose of nostalgia. (Jersey shore, anyone?)  From Bahrain we made a quick stop in Qatar, and then finally we arrived in Kuwait.  We were bused to Camp Virginia, and here I am, patiently awaiting my next flight, the one that will take me HOME! 
I still cant believe I am going home, but that's because its hot and dusty here in Kuwait and pretty much just more of the same.  Which is fine by me, because no one is trying to kill me in any fashion and I get to work out and sleep alot.  Not a bad deal!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 years

That's how the war in Iraq has been going on. When it started, I was on my way to Afghanistan, so I was a little preoccupied to fully understand why we were going there. After my past year here, I have seen some definite progress, and I have felt extreme frustration. I want to be proud of what we have done here, and I am, but at the same time, when our Prez says something like this, I want to puke. Romantic? Really? I guess it is, maybe, if being away from your family for years on end is romantic, and enduring situations that you never want to think about again is romantic. This summary of his comments says it all, and says it well.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

short timer

While my posting has been slow and infrequent, life has been pretty busy. In between trips to various Iraqi training bases, I have been packing and trying to out-process (complete the required paperwork to leave). This is a good dilemma to have, as nothing brings me more joy than out-processing.

I will write more and post a bunch of pictures once I am Kuwait, but for now I am happy knowing my time here is very, very limited!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

An Open Letter to an Army Human Resources Command spokesman

Dear Mr. Gall,

This letter is regarding your remarks in a recent Stars and Stripes article about the IRR, “Army mustering IRR members, reinvigorating force”. The article in itself is nothing surprising – the Army had no handle on its IRR system, more than half the recalls didn’t show, yadda yadda I’ve been bitching about those same things for over a year now. However, at the end of the article you are quoted as saying something that turned my face red and caused everyone in my section to laugh at the size of the vein in my forehead as it swelled to abnormally large status.

But to ensure fewer unpleasant surprises in future mobilizations — like call-ups
of dead IRR members — Army officials plan to physically muster no more than 20
percent of “their smiling little faces” each year, Gall said.
I am sure you think that was a cute, funny little quote, Mr. Gall. Probably got you a nice little laugh from co-workers at your plush office in HRC – St. Louis. “Oh Ray, that was really witty, especially because most of the IRR are really bitter, pissed off veterans, and a smile is the last thing we see on their faces!” That’s good; I get it, haha at me for being the idiot to show up. Here’s what you don’t seem to get in your ignorant joke. Most of the IRR are bitter and angry because we’ve served our country, at least once, and have tried to move on. In fact, I’d give a very educated guess that in my IRR recall class of about 300, at least 90% had at least one deployment. Several dozen had cases of PTSD so severe they were discharged, but the ones with mild problems were happily sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

I guess it’s funny though to you though, that we aren’t smiling and how angry we are. I guess it’s funny that despite years of honorable service, we were called up and treated like second class citizens for over a year. Yes, we are the dreaded IRR, and despite having a lifetime more experience than most of the people who thumb their noses at us, we’re still treated like second thoughts.

I guess it’s funny that we left families, school, jobs, homes; we left these things unfinished, we lost out on promotions, we put everything on hold. We tried to start a new life for ourselves, and despite being rudely interrupted, we answered the recall – we understand our obligation and we honored it.

Forget about the recruiter who told us the IRR only gets recalled in the event of WWIII; forget about a system so badly mismanaged that more than double the actual number of needed people were recalled; forget about the fact that our unit admitted it shouldn’t have recalled us but still wouldn’t send us home; we knew we signed a contract and we were obligated to it. So we reported as ordered. We just didn’t do it all that happily. And to make a joke at our expense, Mr. Gall, would really take a lot of - well - gall.

A pissed off and now very annoyed IRR recall