Another One Gone

Filed under: , — lana @ 7:43 am

I think I must have a cloud over my head this winter.

My boss and mentor died this week, making it something like the fifth or sixth death in recent weeks. The psychologists are going to have a field day in two weeks when I mention to them that I barely feel anything anymore. They have yet to realize that I won’t take their medications anyway. Ah, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes it’s an underestimated convenience, as it allows me to get work done despite the situation.

My boss was a fantastic man. Kind words, good heart, concern for everyone before himself, always did the proper thing. But what got me was the vast amount of knowledge in his head. He spoke something around five languages that I knew about, had a doctorate in psychology, held more than three duty titles in the Army which he was in for almost 45 years, designed many of the programs for my field, worked with some of the great names and on some of the great cases for Army intelligence, and was a legend in the flesh. He was an honor to work for and to work with, despite our occasional heated arguments over the fate of our job field and whether or not a scuff in the carpeting was as important as he seemed to believe.

The funeral was yesterday, and I was asked to present the flag to his wife, whom I have been helping along through the bereavement process. Apparently before his death my boss mentioned to his wife that should something happen to him that I would help her take care of everything with the American side, seeing as she is German. This is not as much of a task as it is an honor, just as handing her the folded flag in honor of her husband’s service will remain in my memory as something I am proud to have done.

Steve, my friend, you will be missed. There aren’t words for it, really, and only pleasant memories. My only regret is that I never got all that knowledge out of your head before you left, and now the rest of us are left to figure it out on our own.

A cherry pastry and beer in your honor.



Filed under: , — lana @ 2:27 pm

So it appears that I owe my dear husband a hearty “Thank You.”

Last weekend I went through my monthly conundrum of whether or not I should reenlist to get something or another from the Army. After some mild debate, I settled once again on a negative answer, mostly because of some wise words from my Army spousal counterpart. He pointed out that I have become one of those people I always made fun of: those that are scared to get out.

I got over my fear on Tuesday morning, bright and early off a four-day weekend. I wandered in and asked how the physical fitness assessment went that morning. I learned that one of the Soldiers failed. Again. And only lost about 20 seconds on her run, making her slightly slower than dirt. I then conducted a dress uniform inspection which had been on the schedule for, oh, let’s give it about six weeks. Two of them, to include the one who failed that morning, show up with blank uniforms. Not a single ribbon to be found upon them. The one who had failed that morning also had not brought all of the pieces with her, so when I instructed them to put their uniforms together in as polite of a fashion as I could muster through my gritted teeth and clenching my hands so as not to put them around the Privates’ little throats, she said “Whatever, I’ll go get ‘em during lunch or something.”

This is right around where I just about lost it for the first time that morning. I don’t know what they are doing at Basic Training or Advanced Training these days, but there is no way I would have ever done such things when I was still new to the Army. I went into my bemused boss’s office to cool off, then went back and wrote up some counseling statements for them. I handed the statements to their supervisor and took the third private to go get a missing item or two for his uniform. When I returned, the supervisor had sent them to lunch and told me how the counselings went.

One was upset because she said she didn’t know she was supposed to have her uniform put together for an inspection and that I would help her. I wondered whether she expected, if told there would be a weapons inspection, if I was supposed to clean her weapon for her as well, or if during a barracks inspection I would be rolling in with a broom and some trash bags. I spent that afternoon explaining just what an “Implied Task” is, such as if someone is going to look at your uniform, it is implied that you at least made some sort of effort to put it together.

The other was angry and wanted to talk to the First Sergeant. The supervisor couldn’t get her to tell him why, which amused me because what did she think, that the First Sergeant would just say, “Gee, Private So-And-So has an issue but no one knows what it is. Sure, I’ll talk to her! Send her in!” Chain of Command comes to mind, but whatever. I must be in a different Army. So I pulled her out and asked her what her deal was. She said, after about ten minutes of trying to dodge it and finally giving in to my prodding when I pointed out that there was no way the First Sergeant would acknowledge the request without her telling us what it was about, she said that it was her opinion that I had given the First Sergeant the wrong impression of her.

I did try not to laugh. I really did try.

This was the same Soldier who, in one morning, failed a physical fitness test, came to an inspection with nothing on her uniform, and then gave me an attitude about it all. She has also failed to meet body fat standards in recent weeks. She said that at a course she attended she did really well, so clearly she was actually an exceptional Soldier that I had misjudged. She then made the mistake of telling me she didn’t have enough to do and that was why she seemed so unmotivated in the office. She drastically underestimated my ability to find things for Soldiers to do.

I passed the message to the First Sergeant, who had some entertainment from the whole thing. He ended up meeting with her and I don’t believe she got quite the response she was looking for. He also responded to my question of whether or not I could choke Soldiers if I promised not to kill them with the comment that I appeared to be desiring combatives training for my office and he would see if he could accomodate my request.

Luckily for her, I was called back to my other office on the other side of Nuremberg that afternoon following the death of my boss and co-worker, which capped off an already wonderful day.

So I finished it out with a lovely thank you message to my husband for convincing me just the day prior that I shouldn’t reenlist. Now I think certain Soldiers’ safety might depend on it, so perhaps I should get them to send him notes as well.


Humdrum Life

Filed under: , — lana @ 8:11 am

Another week gone. A short week, no less, because USAREUR decided to give us a four-day for the President’s Day weekend. Nonetheless it still felt like the longest week of my life. Again.

Though I do recall Dunbar from Catch-22, who repeatedly stated that time passes more slowly when miserable, so he consistently remained miserable in an attempt to live forever.

I might well live to a ripe old age at this rate.

The week started out well, at least were I on Dunbar’s plan. I received notice that I did not get accepted to a job for which I had interviewed a month back. I didn’t much want the job to begin with, but was moderately annoyed because the employer had made several mentions to this element referred to as “formal training.”

Some of you might be in the military as well, and therefore as confounded as I was with this term. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that you received initial training for and completed a job in a combat zone to much acclaim. It doesn’t matter that in essence you qualify for this position because of the training you received and the extensive experience that was all a part of your job description and assigned duties, not just on-the-job training but what you are in the Army to do.

No, it matters only if you have this new “formal training.” It’s the same training you already have for the most part, but puts a qualifier or two at the end of your job description and gives you a pretty certificate to shove into a file someplace and pull out only when Personnel is trying to update your records and has once again discovered that they have lost everything that you have ever given them. Did the whole thing in combat? Who cares. Trained and trained others in advanced methods and techniques in both combat and strategic units? Meh. Where’s that certificate at?

Well, my friends and potential employers, we have this little problem called “consecutive deployments.” It turns out when you spend more of your time deployed than at your home station, your home station finds it difficult to send you off for weeks at a time for “formal training.” They prefer you to learn what you need to know while on hand for tasks like lawn mowing and post police calll. Then you move to another unit, but that unit is broke because some high ranking officer decided to take more personnel than necessary to combat with him and as such blew all of the unit funds on training those personnel who mostly sat around and played cards for a year because there was no need for them downrange. So that certificate? Make that out to someone else.

But I didn’t care much, because the job itself was less than appealing as it were, so I moved on. Next step was to help my Soldier. This was a task easier said than done, apparently.

Every Soldier who has poor eyesight is supposed to travel to any duty station or assignment with at least two pairs of glasses. When you depart a station, you are asked if you posess both pairs. Your answer is “Yes,” and you move on. Apparently, my Soldier said “Yes” when really she meant “What? Two? Army glasses? Huh?” because I now have a blind Soldier who fell asleep in her glasses, rolled over, they fell off, she rolled again, and the glasses snapped in half. They were civilian glasses, hence the shoddy workmanship, and she left the ugly but still useable glasses the Army had given her at home somewhere because they just weren’t classy enough to think of packing. So now she periodically bumps into walls and all of her reports are typed in 72 point font while I try to get her an expidited pair.

Easier said than done, again. I send her to the optometrist to order another pair. She has to wait until the optometrist shows up. Which is only about three days a week, not counting coffee breaks, it seems. She finds him and he tells her to talk to his NCO, who appears to reside about an hour away. She finds him and orders the glasses. She is told they take about a week or two because they can’t get them here, they have to process it through another base and they will mail them, but they only deliver on Tuesdays. Tuesday comes and goes, they say maybe next week. The next week the glasses are still not there, she remains blind, and they tell her to check her post mailbox. She finds that the glasses are sitting in the mailroom, but they are addressed to someone with a misspelling of her last name so the post office refuses delivery. She begs the post office. I call and beg the post office. I call the clinic and the optometry NCO (just in from coffee break) calls and begs the post office. But to no avail. The post office insists that the person to whom the glasses are addressed must come and get them, and if not they will return them to the mysterious base an hour or so away. Since there is no one in the army by the name to which the glasses were addressed, I can only assume they will send them back to the base. I called the NCO there and made arrangements to just go and pick them up next week with the Soldier in tow, because I am about to take this Soldier to a live fire range and would really rather not get shot because my Soldier thought I was a pop-up target because she can’t see more than five feet with any sort of clarity. I already have a list of Soldiers to be wary of for other reasons; a blind one is the last thing I need.

And on and on the week went. Each day only seeming longer than the last. Dunbar must have been onto something.

On that vein, I have again been considering reenlistment. While I say it is to get some of this “formal training” I have been hearing so much about, I really think it is just part of my unconscious effort to live forever.


No, Yes, Well… Let’s Go With Maybe

Filed under: , — lana @ 1:19 pm

I spent this week out in the field alternately dressed up like a detainee and dressed like a Staff Sergeant who repeatedly bangs her head on the wall in frustration.

Unfortunately, when I went home, I left the detainee suit and all I had left was some rank and a good wall upon which my head could make contact. Minor bruising has ensued since.

The field was the field. Because of my frostbite and the fact that I was doing the platoon a favor with my presence because it was not my platoon or my exercise they allowed me to stay in a spare barracks room instead of out in the bays they had set up for the platoon Soldiers and other role players. This turned out significantly in my favor, since the very first day someone noticed that the heaters in the buildings out at the field site weren’t turned on. They made a call to the Department of Public Works, who patiently informed the caller that their meters showed those buildings at a cozy 80 degrees, so to please leave them alone. On Thursday, someone at the Department of Public Works also noticed that their meters outside the buildings were reading 80 degrees, and upon resetting them realized both the internal and external meters had been doubling the temperature. They turned on the heaters, but turned them back off at night to save energy. I am sure the Soldiers were most appreciative of the environmental gesture. You just couldn’t tell because they were all too deeply hunkered down in their sleeping bags.

Regardless of shivering in a detainee suit, I spent my week trying to remind the platoon just what it was they had learned for five months or so out in their initial entry training, since most had not been through an organized exercise since. It was an interesting process, mostly ending with me swearing I would never in my life agree to work out at the initial entry training “schoolhouse” and only having me threaten the well-being of a few, usually because the Chief Warrant Officer out there kept sending them away from me before I could build up steam.

In the midst of all of this, my First Sergeant approached me and offered me a deployment. For a year. Starting in May. When I get out in November, with leave starting in September.

As we all know, I didn’t say no, at least not right away.

I thought about it, I tracked down my husband and had him think about it, I posed the question to the few present whom I could trust to give educated advice, I thought about it some more.

Then I called down to the unit to which I would be assigned and discovered that they might be the only unit downrange that actually gets out of work at 1700. I know this because I called them at 1703 their time and no one was there to answer my questions. My planning shop wanted an answer, but luckily they seem to leave work at about 1530 every day, so I held them off for another day. When I finally found the people I was looking for downrange the following morning, the one person who could answer my questions was at breakfast. My First Sergeant observed that of all the units to work for, this one seemed to be pick of the litter.

Finally, after hemming and hawing, I opted not to take the deployment. As much as I wanted it, as much as I felt the pull to head back to the place I feel I should be, I grudgingly acknowledged that it was a little stupid to extend my contract again for yet another deployment. Especially when I could get a higher paying job on the outside that would still send me to play in the sand.

Thinking this was well and done, I went about the rest of the exercise trying not to use my turban as a means of executing the supply guy who I continually caught napping.

Then today, on a weekend no less, I received an email from the unit downrange telling me I was on their gains roster, who I would replace, and a lovely welcome packet. This for the assignment I thought I had turned down a few days ago, and from a unit I figured would spend their Saturdays at the pool.

So another mess for the First Sergeant to straighten out. At this point, I don’t really care if I go or I don’t go; I can make things happen either way. My unit seems to love games like this, so I shall let them play. Whenever they make up their minds, they can go ahead and just let me know and I will pack my things. And then unpack them. And then repack them.

My main concern is that I have yet to figure out how I am going to fit the wall I have spent the past few days denting into my luggage.


More Good News

Filed under: , — lana @ 3:24 am

Well it seems no one got the message to the Taliban. A shame, really, because you would think they would talk to their friends more often and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

I found out late last week that another friend of mine, in the same task force as my friend killed earlier this month in Afghanistan, is now missing a limb or two. He survived, and is now back at Walter Reed getting whatever care it is they offer now that they have been through the government microscope.

It appears that no one is passing messages along from place to place, because the Taliban is going the opposite way of the Iraq insurgency. They seem to be moving from frontal assaults to the cowardly improvised explosive devices, thinking that the more of them they put in the road, the more scared we will be to come and find them. No one seems to have pointed out that this is backwards, as demonstrated by the mobilization of the Marines and the increasing interest in Trashcanistan. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the locals are rising up against the insurgency and as such there are whispers of bringing some of the troops back because of increased security. I say whispers because I trust most of those politicians about as much as I trust my cats to make foreign policy decisions. There are days when I think my cats might actually be a bit better informed.

It seems like a no-brainer: stop trying to kill people, no one will come to your country, set up shop, and bother you. Kill people, and more foreigners show up trying to get you to quit messing around. I could make them a very nice PowerPoint presentation with graphs and charts and all if I thought it would help, but I would keep getting blown up just trying to get to the presentation site, so what’s the use.

My quest to get down there to talk some sense into these people continues unabated. They aren’t the only ones that are thick-headed, apparently, since I appear convinced that someone can get through to them.

I’ll be working on that presentation, just in case.


To My Friend

Filed under: , — lana @ 2:16 pm

Major Michael Green. Sir Green. Sir Mike. Michael Sir. The Major. That Jerk of a Major From Fifth Corps. Sir?

Whatever I felt like calling him that day and whatever he would allow, since he hated it when his friends called him Sir.

My friend, US Army Major Michael Green, was killed about two weeks ago in eastern Afghanistan from an improvised explosive device. Though I only met him a few months ago while sitting around in Georgia, we became good friends immediately and stayed in regular contact once he left and I was still sitting and waiting on orders, for which his torment was endless. He taught me such great games as Spades and Cribbage. If ever sent to prison, I now can hold my own without getting shanked thanks to The Good Major. I hadn’t heard from him in a little while, and I just found out why.

Michael, you will be missed. I still owe you a beer (or three), I still owe you at least a phone call to my sister, and I now owe you a swift kick in the pants because you were supposed to be watching yourself because I couldn’t get to the area to watch out for you and your guys. I know I told you I would, and I couldn’t fulfill that promise.

I’ll get ‘em, my friend. Save a cold one for me, and I’ll save you a seat at the Spades game as long as you’ll still let me underbid…



Filed under: , — lana @ 8:55 am

The tedious nature of babysitting duties combined with the failing rate of the dollar against the euro has led me to sitting in pajamas on a blustery afternoon at the tail end of a four-day weekend wondering how to get myself to Iraq and why it is so hard to get someone to a combat zone who wishes to go and just how long that tomato has been sitting in the fridge.

Really, it’s turning out to be a rather tragic winter when I do a quick personal assessment.

I have yet to give up in my persistent requests to venture to Iraq, particularly once I figured out that the caliber of Soldiers being produced these days is enough to pull a good NCO’s hair out and they gave me three brand new privates to fill my days. In the best interest of my gradually thinning hair, I have taken to calling my company headquarters daily and asking whomever is unlucky enough to answer the phone just what they have done to get me to Iraq today. There was a brief halt in such activity when the question apparently thoroughly confused my orderly room clerk, at which point my first sergeant had to humbly request that I please stop flustering his Soldiers so he could get some work done around there. I think he is also regretting having me sign extension paperwork this last fall, having realized that had I not I could have cleared next month and his Soldiers could answer the phones in peace.

My own Soldiers, or the ones on loan until the Army finds me a new job, are also sore about the extension, it appears. That is probably because in my boredom during the evenings at the barracks during the week I have little better to do than come up with fun and exciting physical training for them. Since two of the three last polled abhor physical training, it only makes it more fun for me. Last week I explained to one of my civilian friends what iron mikes were (something of a walking lunge exercise), as well as my love for having Soldiers do them uphill while holding rifles over their heads, and she pointed out that she was in fact quite pleased with herself that at no time could she put herself in a position where I would be able to make her complete such an exercise. My Soldiers, however, are not so lucky. She only expressed sympathy for them until I explained the inordinate amount of whining and laziness that seems abundent with the new kids, and I reminded her that I am not allowed to fire them.

Somewhere along the line I became one of those NCOs that I never really understood, the cranky ones who always seem irritated with privates and who would rather be sitting in sand than anywhere else. It is something I never thought I would become, but I suppose it has become a neccessary evil. In about eight months I can give up this job for good, but until then suppose it’s at least enough to keep me busy.

Anyone have a sandbox I can play in for the meantime?


Adventures in Babysitting

Filed under: , — lana @ 12:13 pm

As previously mentioned, in order to kill time while my unit figures out what is going on with my orders to Iraq my first sergeant decided to send me on temporary duty to another location to clean up a little mess out there.

As it turns out, the mess wasn’t quite as little as I was led to believe.

Immediately after the first of the year I packed a few essentials and headed out to my beautiful barracks room on a base spitting distance from the Czech Republic. Not that I would spit on the Czech Republic, as I rather like Prague and there is a Vietnamese flea market across the border where I can get cheap boots. But I digress. I unloaded my belongings into a barracks room, noting the interesting fact that I appeared to be the only non-commissioned officer in the building, which was full of military police. Mentally ticking off a few violated regulations in my head, I wandered over to the office to see just what I would be dealing with for the upcoming weeks.

The new Soldiers, who got to Europe over a month prior, had not finished inprocessing. The person in charge of the office was about to go on temporary duty and had failed to leave much of anything behind in the way of specific details, only vague instructions. The specialist just getting back from leave was overly bitter about a promotion points problem and preferred to look at reclassification options rather than do any sort of work. The person I had been assigned to replace was present but embittered and usually off at some sort of forced therapy.

I don’t particularly want children. Nothing against them, but they smell funny and cost a lot. My experiences further east have only reaffirmed this, as this has become more of an adventure in babysitting than anything remotely pertaining to an operational position. And they indeed smell funny some days and cost me time, energy, and more than the three dollars and fifty cents extra per day that I am getting paid for this.

Inprocess the new kids. Find out several are unable to pass a physical fitness test. Find out several are overweight. Fix what is wrong with the promotion points for the specialist. Catch some random military police guy in one of the girl’s rooms. Deal with blaring music at odd hours for no reason because I know those military police aren’t on road shifts. None of the new kids have gotten European driver’s licenses. Two of the new kids don’t have stateside licenses so they can’t get them and therefore can’t drive. Make sure the person I replaced is making his appointments. Clean up the office. Find supplies from somewhere. Figure out whether or not we own certain pieces of equipment and if not, who does. Figure out what the office letterhead might be. Make sure the new kids aren’t eating at Burger King every night. Give everyone counseling statements, some for the first time in their military career though they have been in nearly three years. Realize half of them can’t shoot. Figure out where the boss left the packet for the work needed to be done. Figure out if requests went up for information needed to function. Get the old personnel to stop demotivating the new personnel. Motivate the new personnel.

The list goes on, and that was all in the first few days. My days are busy, but still feel as though nothing gets accomplished day to day and the things to do list grows exponentially faster than the things done list.

I keep asking my first sergeant to please send me to Iraq. It’s much easier.

I hear the going rate for a babysitter is about eight dollars an hour. I get three fifty a day. I think I might have been had somewhere…


Nightmare on My Street

Filed under: , — lana @ 8:44 am

The blissful days of my gainful unemployment back in Germany while the greater US Army figures out what, in fact, I am doing here, in addition to bringing along hours of moderate boredom and the occasional interesting article about tigers that escape from their cages only to head to a cafe to snack on a zoo patron have also brought along interesting conversations between myself and my employed-but-really-no-worse-off-because-of-it First Sergeant. It might be general lack of human or intelligent contact, but I have found that our conversations are getting stranger and stranger lately.

The conversation today began when we were discussing some habits of some Soldiers and extra-marital affiars. I mentioned that some of them even talk about starting families and then that evening head out to the clubs. He decided to break it down for me and pointed out that practice makes perfect. He then saw the further need to point out, “Well look at it this way: When you are heading out to qualify on a weapon, you don’t just go out to the range and start shooting, right? You go through basic marksmanship training first. That’s like what they figure they’re doing here. Basic marksmanship for the baby-making.” I stopped him at about the point he started talking about fundamentals like trigger squeeze and steady firing position. It was a birds-and-bees talk I thought I could probably do without. Not to mention the mental images of the Soldiers in question.

And now I can add firing ranges to the list of things that make me a little queasy and sleep a little less soundly at night. I had some PTSD from Iraq already. Last thing I needed was adding fuel to the fire from office time over the holidays… I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight.


Politicians (Real Ones, Sort Of)

Filed under: , — lana @ 7:57 am

So as I sit in Germany with no current job and no internet at home, I dilly dally about the workplace and frequently find news items of interest to share with my coworkers and friends.

One struck me as particularly interesting the other day regarding a recent speech from the ever delightful presidential campaign candidate John McCain.

I used to like McCain, finding him to be rather straight-forward and with ideas that didn’t sound, at least for the most part, completely ludicrous. Those being rather rare traits in politicos of any federal denomination, I conjured up something close to a rough tolerance I usually reserve for passing acquaintences and some vegetables.

The article I happened upon changed this somewhat, as it had me scratching my head and wondering just who was paying attention (and money) to the military these days anyway.

McCain came out in some sort of press gathering with a request to build a new interrogation Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). He wanted language training, small teams, and debriefing to be the focus of this MOS. Perhaps there would even be a rekindling of the old Office of Security Services, which was disbanded quietly some years ago amid some fanfare in the intelligence community because it never really worked as it was supposed to. All in all, it sounded like a wonderful idea in this age of torture and destroyed video tapes.

But I, perhaps slightly more involved by default with topics such as these, didn’t quite buy it. Instead I hemmed and hawed about it for a few moments, giggled a little, and happily passed it along to a few friends of mine. The question I attached to the article was “Now correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we already HAVE all of this?” The response, once the sarcasm and cynicism was filtered, was a general agreement that any attempt to figure all of this out was making our brains hurt.

In fact, we (being the Army) do have the aforementioned items. Until just recently we had an entire job function called interrogator (since renamed but the same training). We have debriefer courses for several job functions, we have multiple language schools, and we have multiple forms of small team operations. What our delightful White House candidate was therefore requesting was training items that the Army already spends a decent amount of money for, and coming up with fantastic ideas that, unfortunately for him, someone came up with sometime last century. One would think, given his rather decorated military background, that he might have known about these little hiccups in his plan prior to spouting it before the media.

I suppose I shouldn’t ask too much, however, with my opinion of political intelligence quotients ranking most candidates somewhere between where I have previously ranked the upper echelons of Army beuracracy and a cold noodle salad. Who am I to suggest that one of them might not research a topic, after all? I wouldn’t want to tax anyone’s time or general intellect.

I take comfort each day that I may not be the smartest person I know, but at least I am smart enough to not run this country…


Cleaning Lady

Filed under: , — lana @ 6:23 am

So I returned to sunny if frigidly cold Germany just in time for a cold snap. I am told the day I arrived was the coldest day so far this year. Funny enough, it’s been steadily colder ever since. I am thrilled.

In my absence from the humdrum life in Europe it appears that all has gone to hell. My meeting with the Commander and First Sergeant, which occurred within an hour of my getting off the plane and within 45 minutes of my discovery that the airline had once again lost all of my bags and were busy trying to track down in which country they were last seen, began with the Commander closing the door and asking me which bad news I wanted first. A lovely start, to be sure.

It seems that when I left it took a few weeks and then slowly everything began to unravel. In one office a private and a sergeant had a spat and it escalated to command involvement with the threat of taking rank away from the only non-commissioned officer left in the office. Something about a girl, a bar, a club, and an excessive amount of alcohol. I stopped listening about halfway through the various versions of the story and reminded the command I can only be in so many places at once anyway, so he should keep rank and we can all go about our happy lives with minimal bickering. The Commander agreed and went on to discuss another office, where the drama was continuing to unfold. Between more alcohol, not showing up for work, and a whole host of various offenses, the non-commissioned officer at that office was rapidly ruining his career before the eyes of all present. While it was rather amazing to watch, sort of like a slow-motion train wreck, something needed to be done to stop it.

That something, it was turning out, would be me.

The current plan is to try to send me to Iraq again in the next few weeks. In the interim, since I don’t have a job back in Germany having given it up a month and a half ago, I get to mosey around to the different field offices having Soldiering problems and fix them. For my trouble the battalion has agreed to give me an extra three dollars and fifty cents a day and a barracks room on a remote outpost and the means to travel out there for the work week. All that for being the company cleaning lady, it appears.

Someone else is helping me find a kitten for my trouble, at least.



Filed under: — lana @ 1:47 pm

The last confirmed win for the United States Army was back in the 1940’s in WWII. And thankfully, there we had some help. Frankly, at this point I am confused as to how the US even won the Civil War, and that entailed us fighting against ourselves.

The Army sent me from Germany to the States to prepare to deploy. Then they realized they had goofed and sent me to a different base to prepare to deploy. Then an officer from my pockmarked past reared up and complained, so I was sent back to the original base to prepare to deploy. Over one month later, I got word today that I am going back to Germany instead of Iraq.

I volunteered to deploy. I like deployment. I like my job when I am deployed. I had a perk this time that periodically I might get to see and perhaps even enjoy a chow hall meal with my currently deployed husband. I fought every time they moved me, asking them to please, someone, just send me to Iraq. It is not a request the Army often hears, one would assume. Apparently because the Army doesn’t like people that actually WANT to go to the Middle East. They prefer dragging close to 200,000 people there, most of whom wish they were anywhere but.

The excuse my unit gave was that US Army Europe (USAREUR) once upon a time was tasked to provide someone of my rank and job for a particular assignment. They passed that down to my unit, and I was tasked to go. Then someone in the system said, “Wait… what phase is the moon?” and promptly retracted the tasking from my unit. Chaos ensues, end result being the Army folks in the States see an open tasking on the computer because the unit in Iraq still needs it filled but my unit insists that USAREUR retracted the tasking from their job book so therefore I cannot fill the requirement and need to go back to Germany. It makes not an ounce of sense, because the tasking is still open so one would think a phone call or two from my unit up to USAREUR might fix the problem, but apparently anything even remotely close to easy in the Army borders on impossible.

It did firmly cement my decision to inform my First Sergeant where the Army could shove all reenlistment offers, and he remarked that it sounded a little painful. I am considering reserve assignments if only to get a little more schooling on the Army dollar, but something tells me even that would somehow end up biting me in the ass at a later date, if only because it all seems to make perfect sense on my end.

I intend to spend the next few days researching exactly how the US won the few wars in which it claimed victory in order to determine if I missed something somewhere. Luckily, the track record is pretty bad, so it shouldn’t take me very long at all.



Filed under: — lana @ 9:41 am

Were I a pool of water, mosquitos would be breeding upon me.

I moved from one base to another early this week, but have yet to find myself on a plane bound for adventure, danger, and fecal-matter-filled dust. Current estimates range anywhere from another week to another month stateside before everyone can finally get together and figure out exactly what is going on.

This is not to say, however, that there has been a total lack of activity upon my most recent arrival. As I wandered from counter to counter in the airport trying to find a rental car smaller than a freight vessel, I noticed that there were remarkably few bags circulating on the belt at the pick-up area. I wandered a little closer and discovered that the reason for such was because in the interest of bad weather the airline had only put a few bags on the plane, and since military bags tend to be heavy they had omitted anything that looked at all military-like. All four of my bags had failed to make the cut, and presumably were still sitting somewhere in Atlanta, or perhaps taking a nice Carribean vacation while they had some extra time. While I didn’t care much about the fact that all I had was the uniform I was wearing and a blanket crammed into a backpack, I was a bit concerned that the airline didn’t look at the rifle case in my luggage and think to themselves, “Gee. That sure does look like a firearm. Maybe we should try to squeeze that one on because the military really doesn’t appreciate it when their weapons go missing.” Apparently, that was beyond them, which made for a much more entertaning time of calling around to figure out where the rifle was, when it would arrive, and how I would be able to get it from the airline once it finally did show up. Made more interesting by the fact that upon arrival I had neither a hotel nor a telephone number.

Eventually, it all sorted out and I acquired all of my missing luggage, to include the weapon which I then had to lock up in an arms room in the middle of the night. A fantastic first impression on my gaining unit, to be sure.

The drama has since continued to follow me, as an officer I vaguely knew from my old unit where no love was lost upon my departure decided to tell tales from my days as a specialist, several of which I have little to no recollection of and one which I am pretty convinced may not have ever occurred, complicating things as he runs the exact unit to which I was supposed to be attached. It is a peer system in this unit, and so he has been very sulky about it and said that he doesn’t want me around. Myself having no real desire to work with him, I can’t say as I disagree, so now they are trying to figure out to which country they want to send me or if they simply want to reroute me back to my original assignment for the deployment. I am a little perplexed, as I never worked directly for this officer, but acknowledge that many officers tend to parrot what they hear from other officers and his boss and I really did not get along by the time I departed my previous unit, so the bridge I thought was crossed in fact was burned and now I am in another holding pattern while the drama works itself out. I mostly sit around doing soduku puzzles and waiting for someone to decide my fate.

It could be a few more days, it could be another month before I know to where I am bound and to what task I might be assigned, and certainly before I can get on a plane with my bucket and shovel for another fun tour of building castles atop the dunes. I am almost out of puzzles, but there is a bookstore next to my hotel. And of course, it is always fun watching mosquito larvae grow…


Center Ring

Filed under: — lana @ 3:56 pm

Word on the street is that nothing that is easy ends up being worth it in the end. I certainly hope that is the case, because this deployment has been drama after drama after drama. Certainly, I note, not anything close to “easy.”

Today someone somewhere finally decided where I need to be and when. Unfortunately, they happened to do so right as everyone was gearing up to leave for a long weekend. Everyone in the company to which I have been reporting had left or was on their way out the door, they couldn’t find transportation, transportation couldn’t find anyone else, and as it turned out someone had gotten a flight for me yesterday but no one had bothered to let me know or go pick up the ticket.

So the circus began, with everyone confused about how to get me out the door over a long weekend and running around and calling people and people ignoring other calls. I met people that didn’t exist and hung around offices deep in the annals of the processing center that hardly anyone can find. I had a process and a ticket and no one to sign for it and five minutes later had someone to sign for a ticket and a process that no one had. Mostly I just wandered around and said, “I don’t know, can you help me?” an awful lot.

I have a feeling that one or two people from the company to which I belong are going to hear about the three-ring extravaganza come Tuesday morning, but by then I hope to be on my way to my next stop on the journey. Once there, everything here officially becomes Someone Else’s Problem, with the exception of the fact that my orders are still not completely correct and I’m positive there is a long list of people with little to no idea of exactly what is going on.

And I would put myself very high up on that list of people, come to think of it.


On The Move to Nowhere

Filed under: — lana @ 12:31 pm

So I left Germany and flew back to the United States for a week of processing and general silliness that goes along with deploying as an individual instead of a unit roughly a week ago. Since then I have met some very nice people, learned absolutely nothing, and filled out multiple pieces of paper in triplicate. I also have enough copies of my orders to wallpaper an entire small home.

But apparently, those orders are the problem.

Yesterday they asked for volunteers for baggage detail. We don’t exactly get full service on our flights to and from our scenic locations, so we have to load our own bags onto the plane. I raised my hand to volunteer with the knowledge that usually the poor folks selected are repaid for their trouble with a first class seat. The Sergeant First Class organizing the operation stared at me for a few moments, thought a few seconds more, and then promptly announced to me and the 400 or so other personnel present that he didn’t think I was going anywhere and should see him after the formation.

This came as a bit of a shock, though was moderately amusing to many of those present, and after the formation I met with the NCO who then told me that he actually didn’t know exactly what the problem was, only that there was one and it stemmed somewhere in the annals of the orders system. The following morning a very friendly major who works with orders and personnel cheerfully explained that when my unit amended my orders changing my assignment, they accidentally forgot to change the location to which I needed to go for preparations. While the location was still stateside, it was not where I currently hung my hat. In addition, because my orders were only partially amended they need to get them modified again so the government will actually pay to send me where I needed to go in the first place.

So I get to wander around like a lost puppy for most of the day as everyone else prepares to depart for all points dusty and wait patiently for the new orders to get the new flights to go reprocess and then finally head out to the delightful dunes I call home. I would love to say I am surprised at how it all turned out, but I have long since come to realize that whatever seems simple in this lovely Army life is bound to go wrong anyway, so I may as well just accept my doom and try to sneak in a nap whenever I can to give my brain a rest from trying to logic things through.

Luckily, it looks like I will be able to get a decent amount of naptime in the next few days.

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