Garrison Goodness

Filed under: — lana @ 10:31 pm

So while we have been doing the ever-essential Post Deployment Slack Off, which consists of a formation at 0630 in the cold, then run away before anyone makes you do anything resembling physical activity, and another formation at 0900 where their primary purpose seems to be those of higher ranks reminding us that we have to be at the field for formation at 0630, then allowing us to scatter, there are still people around that have to work. I feel for them, because it reminds me that while we were overseas, they got to deal with what I feel might be the true bane of the Army existence: Rear Detachment.

Rear-D, as it is known, is something I have luckily avoided thus far. It is when they take all of the people who didn’t deploy for one reason or another, lump them together, and spit them back out into jobs that they are not only probably not trained for, but jobs that no one in their right mind really wants to do anyway. They are the detail masters, becoming the errand boys for whomever is left in the brigade and, by proxy, whomever those left in the brigade want to impress. They get stuck doing personnel tasks when they have little idea of what form is used for what. They get stuck doing supply jobs and counting paper clips for a week. And, above and beyond, they get significant lawn mowing experience.

This week was Clean Sweep. For those of you not from the lovely Fort Bragg area, Clean Sweep is a formal, post-wide operation. We have yet to find another post that does anything even close to this operation. There are reasons for that. Above all, it’s not very bright. It is where the entire post, two weeks a year, takes all of its enlisted personnel and hands them a rake and says, “Go forth and do great… yardwork.” And so as you drive around the roads you are dodging soldiers in green uniforms and reflective belts with rakes, shovels, and the occasional lawn mower. I saw the Special Forces guys, as usual, were doing things the smarter way. They had a leaf blower out this morning. As I got to the area cared for by our fearless Rear-D guys, I saw a line of dejected and rather chilly people with neat little rake piles and a lot of fine words about the battalion and Fort Bragg in general.

Thankfully, I think, two deployments in as many years has gotten me out of every Clean Sweep on Fort Bragg. I did, however, take a picture of a fun hand signal a friend in Rear-D gave me when I asked him if he was going to re-enlist. I don’t think it will be used for a motivational poster anytime soon, but it might serve as a training aid for when people start asking me about my military career…


Home Lessons

Filed under: — lana @ 10:26 am

Several lessons were learned over this four-day weekend. These are key points, so I hope that everyone is taking notes.

First: Never, ever, for any reason, try to fix a plumbing problem yourself. Quite frankly, those people are paid seventy dollars an hour or so for a good reason, that reason being that they have at least a general idea of the way your plumbing works. I, on the other hand, don’t even know where the main water valve on the house is. The internet can only tell you how to identify the problem, not necessarily to fix it. My bathroom is a little damp at present and the plumber is on his way.

Second: No matter how old you get, the college bar scene will forever be the same. This unfortunate truth was experienced over the weekend when we thought to escape the fun and excitement of the Fayetteville strip clubs and biker bars in exchange for the Raleigh area bars. At said bars, I was introduced to a charming girl who has been following a general studies degree for the past six and a half years at the only college that accepted her in the first place. Upon asking if it was simply because she kept switching majors or something equally plausible, I was informed that no, it was because she kept failing. She then stared blank-faced at nothing as my friend and I wondered how long it was going to take her before she threw up everywhere. Thankfully, she wandered off to find her equally inebriated boyfriend prior to any such occurrence.

Third: Deployments result in desperation. Being married, I don’t have the same panic upon my return from a year overseas to hurry up and find my soulmate in a bar an hour away from where I live. However, many of my barracks-bound friends do not share my situation, and my weekends are rapidly beginning to focus on the entertaining quest to watch them in the hunt. Deployment has significantly lowered standards and the Army has dulled their minds substantially enough for them to find whomever in the bar is polite enough to entertain their conversation for a few minutes, and I am resigned to providing rescue operations when I notice that they are beginning to run out of air and are floundering helplessly in the sea of college-aged, trendy, moderately upscale bar flies who are only interested on whether or not they saw a camel overseas, not what procedures you had to take when the mortars were hitting the base for fifteen straight minutes. I try to head off some of the attacks before they take place, taking measures such as refusing to let one of my friends depart the barracks wearing a unit tee-shirt, to include our unit insignia blazing upon his chest and a map of Iraq on the back. The same was not done for some Marine in the bar that evening, sporting his own unit tee-shirt, but I am not responsible for the silliness of the Corps, nor am I responsible for the snickers coming from behind the hands of the Army folk at the expense of the Marine. Of course, no open comments were made, as we are fully aware of the Marines, as well as the fact that we aren’t even Army infantry and had no urge to take on the high-and-tight haircuts floating around the bar, but at least pointless Army conversations (and possible altercations) were avoided by our quick reactions back in the barracks. Last thing I heard from the Marine was some grunting to some fraternity guys about his battle days, the girls having long since wandered off.

So a fun, educational experience was shared by most this weekend, with a few friends trying to remember how to talk to non-military people, fashion lessons for all, and of course, wet towels on the bathroom floor.


Working Hard

Filed under: — lana @ 5:25 pm

Or is it hardly working? Funny thing about the Army is that they are a little slow on the ideas circut, so they can run out of things to do pretty quickly. Unfortunately, that usually means cleaning. Luckily, my new company doesn’t have a taste for that so much, and I think we may have spent about fifteen cumulative minutes at work this past week. Next week should be even more productive. We have no equipment since it is all slowly making its way back from far-off lands of smelly canals and a lot of dirt, so we have a formation when we find out when the next formation will be and then get a four-day weekend. Not a bad deal.

But of course, there is plenty to do. The cats overeat and then throw up. The toilet leaks. I have no idea where my landlord is but someone is still collecting my rent. My car was not inspected, not registered, and I had no idea of the location of something resembling an insurance card. Half the lights were burned out. Funny thing about all of this is that I had someone watching my house and my cats while I was gone, and yet as soon as I got home nothing worked.

But I still have time to plan further adventures. This time, it is a two-week trip to Tanzania, where I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro. At significant expense, naturally. I was puttering around doing the research for my adventure today, and found that it is more money to climb a mountain for, say, a month, than it is to buy a car. Mount Vinson, for example, is averaged around 26,000 good American dollars for a trek (including flights from Argentina because oh yeah, Vinson is in Antarctica). My trip to Africa will be warmer and cheaper, at around 4000 USD with flights from the U.S. and probably a safari or something tacked on the end, beacuse it’s six days on the mountain. I just find it phenomenal that people have 26,000 dollars to spend on the side of a mountain in Antarctica. I would do it if I had the money. Tragically, the Army enjoys substituting my hard earned peanuts for things like “a new flash on that beret there” or “better put some polish on them boots there.”

And so I return to the underpaid and underappreciated life of a garrison soldier. Physical training formations at 0630 in freezing weather in shorts and a windbreaker, regular attempts to contact my branch manager to find a way to depart my station with as much of my original contract intact and not extended as possible, regular irritation at the fact that my branch manager seems to have conveniently forgotten that I exist, and 0900 and scattered other daily mill-around formations where they remember that there was little, if any, reason for us to put on our tan outfits (we don’t switch to green for a little bit yet) and show up to work.

The drudgery returns, and continues…



Filed under: — lana @ 10:08 am

So now comes the period of The Great Adjustment to Normal Life. All of the briefings they give you such as “Don’t beat your wife/dog/cat/goldfish” and “Please don’t get arrested over the long weekends” fall upon the deaf ears of the newly returned soldiers, who’s main concern it is at this point to reacquaint themselves with old friends such as Jim Bean, Jack Daniels, and Jose Cuerva.

But for those of us not living in the barracks, which in our absence have taken on the fun qualities of being 147 degrees in half the rooms and -580 in the other half, we have things to do. More appropriately, things to fix. I can actually hear my bank account sobbing quietly, wondering why the slow torture, as I fix my car, buy replacement items for things that have broken during my year hiatus, and pay electric and water bills from doing the seven months of laundry my husband was kind enough to welcome me home with, so I could think of him while he remains in Jihadistan for another few months.

Adjusting to the life back home is never easy. The feeling that you are forgetting something every time you walk out of your house without a rifle strapped to your back or 40 pounds of body armor and ammo across your chest permeates your life, causing you to live in perpetual fear that something important is missing. The feeling of being lost becauase you can’t remember where Wal-Mart is anymore or where it was that had the really good burgers on Thursday nights, and the desire to forget it all and just stay home on the couch with two fat cats and a book is stronger than going out looking for places to be. Every boom still races the heart a little, making you feel like you should be doing something if you are outside, such as getting under cover, as the pops of gunshots on the range nearby lulls you into sleep.

The Army machine saw fit to give me my stripes last week, accepting me grudgingly into the NCO corps and backdating my orders to September, so now I can have a supervisory position over the lawnmowing. Preparations are being made for the mass exodus from the unit of many of the people I have come to know and respect (and a few I won’t be sad to see leave), as many of my friends and co-sufferers have long passed the date that they were supposed to get from under the cold hand of The Military Man, so I sit and watch as another period of adjustment looms on the horizon.

Things change, and so we adapt. It’s part of the excitement of whatever it was my recruiter babbled about before I put my name on the line way back in the day, I suppose. I have more combat stripes than service stripes on my uniform, and my uniforms may always smell of desert dust. But we got home safely, now it is just a case of making sure no one gets alcohol poisoning for at least a few weeks…



Filed under: — lana @ 2:38 pm

Not just a great hair band with hits such as “I wanna know what love is,” but also what I feel like in my own hometown. We got home mid-day on the fourth of November, though we left Kuwait at four in the morning on the same day and flew for somewhere around 16 hours including a brief sojourn in Ireland at the lovely Shannon airport. It was a very long day, in particular a very long morning. The parades and pomp were everything you could expect and desire from a Fort Bragg welcome home, all of us with our bags on our backs wondering when we would get to put them down and all the O-6 and higher ranks wanting to get their battle time in by shaking hands with a brigade of soldiers.

It is strange to be back. I find I am not much in the mood to go out partying to celebrate, that I feel more worn-down here than I did out there. It’s strangely quiet, so quiet that I have trouble sleeping unless someone is out playing on the artillery range about a mile from my house. My cats are beyond fat into the realm of obese, my car battery was dead, and I have already spent a small fortune putting food and a random sundry of other supplies into the house. I feel that I should be out doing something, since life was non-stop for the past eleven months or so. I expected to fall back into the old patterns like I did upon return from Afghanistan, but it is not as easy this time, despite the fact that it was a little easier to leave this time than I found it before the previous deployment.

But things are not all bad. My bed is much more comfortable than the cot, and perhaps sooner or later my back will realign as I am not curled up in a tiny ball under my poncho liner because I packed my sleeping bag. My cats are two days into their new diet, and I am re-learning my way around town and remembering that I now have to share the road with other vehicles, and that I have a rearview mirror and don’t have to dodge any dark patch on the road. Cell phones are something of a contraption again, as I have forgotten things like how to access voice mail, but in a week or two I should be back into the old, fun life of trying to find ways to irk my chain without getting myself into excessive amounts of trouble. Unfortunately, I have figured out all too well how to do the former, but have had substantially less success with the latter. Tomorrow should see my promotion, hard fought and two months late (backpay is a glorious thing), so we will see how long I can retain the new rank. Should be a fun game.

Fun and excitement nonwithstanding, I suppose it is time to go and clean out the backyard. Amazingly enough, some of the weeds actually began to resemble small trees in my absence. I am thinking of decorating them for the holidays…


Bound for Home

Filed under: — lana @ 1:26 pm

So now we wait. And wait. And wait. You would think with a year to plan for our flights home, it would be a lot smoother of a transition and a movement, but for some weird reason it is like no one remembered that eventually we would have to leave so now they are running around in circles yelling about everything that must be done five minutes ago.

It’s fun. I get a newspaper, sit on a bench, and watch the show.

Last night, what was supposed to be (and was not) our last night at our present location, was a good time. Since about half of the people around here are from some Polynesian area, there was a mini-luau. No food, and no roasted pig in a Muslim nation, but they had hula dancers, singers, and other fun and entertainment. There are some amazingly talented people wandering around with tan suits on during the day. I saw my friends, we danced, we had a good time. I got to say goodbye to some of my buddies and make promises to visit everywhere in another ocean.

Yesterday was also a memorial service. Right before the memorial service something happened that will require two more services after I have gone. You would think you get used to it. You don’t. Instead it made me feel that I hadn’t done enough, that I have unfinished business in this country, and that I would be back. I know I will be… it’s sad but true, and I know I am not the only one who feels that way. Those of us who saw things, did things, got involved in our jobs, in the people, and in the lives of the fellow soldiers and civilians out here trying to accomplish something for a country that doesn’t want us here, we are all inexplicably tied to this country now, and may be forever.

My love to those I am leaving here, and my wishes for you all to be safe and to stay in touch. My love to those I will see who were in other places in this crazy country, and my happiness that we are coming home to each other. My love to those I have at home who have been patiently waiting for me, and I will see you soon. My love to the one now two countries away but soon to be half a world again, distance doesn’t stop me from sending you my love. My love to those who left us here, and my promise that you will not be forgotten.

For now, I will man my bench and wait. And when I have to go, it will be there, waiting for my eventual and inevitable return…

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