Amazing Days

Filed under: — lana @ 8:05 pm

If a tree fell in the forest and no one was around to hear it, would it make a sound?

Similarly, if my battalion support element ceased to operate on a day-to-day basis, would anyone notice the difference?

So my lieutenant tried to sneak me in to a levy brief today, despite the hard-fought efforts of the S1. I went to the brief and they said it was okay that I was there, but that I couldn’t stay because there was a security clearance issue. I looked at them with the blank look I have perfected by now, seeing it so regularly on the faces of others when I ask things like “Why are we laying out these tent systems for the third time in three weeks?” and “What happened to that paperwork that I submitted to you two weeks ago?” and sometimes, “What are you doing for lunch today?”

Then I called my S2. I got what I assume, being on the phone, was a blank look, given the lengthy “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” that happened before the “Lemme go check.” Turns out that when I was told two weeks ago, when I went there in person to ask them nicely to make a phone call, that when they said, “I’ll call tomorrow” it actually meant “I will forget about that until it comes back to bite someone else in the butt and ensures they have a more difficult time of starting their outprocessing.” Silly me and my misinterpretations. How could I have been so foolish?

The days, they get more amazing as they go on. I grow convinced that not a soul at battalion level actually works. My first sergeant said they would probably not show up if they thought no one ever went up there to ask for stuff. I asked him what the point was in asking anyway, because we never got anything we asked for, and usually whatever it was would be lost in transit anyway. He thought about that for a minute before sighing deeply, lowering his head in sorrow, and shuffling off to his office.

The Army. An amazing machine.


One Step at a Time

Filed under: — lana @ 5:14 pm

We live in a first world country. We have high-speed internet, every house (for the most part) has a flushing toilet, electricity is there all day every day, and life is for the most part easy. Now, some may disagree with me and tell me how hard their poor life is in the ghetto with their project housing and thug life, but most of those people I would like to dump on Haifa Street in Baghdad and remind them that they probably don’t want to get caught as they may lose their head, they are going to have massive quadraceps from squatting to use the bathroom, there is no internet and electricity is four hours a day whenever the lines haven’t been blown up. Good luck.

But this isn’t a dissertation on my irritation with people who complain their life is so hard in LA when they have never been to a country where waste runs down the middle of the road and a dead donkey is a cause to call an explosive disposal team. Instead, its a comment on fear.

Today we did drown-proofing. To those who say “Why do you need to train for water when you deploy to the desert,” I challenge them to get the door seat in a Blackhawk flying over Lake Thar-Thar when they have to make a turn. It’s almost as unnerving as Haifa Street.

Now I can’t get in the water these days, what with my Africa Toe still oozing and frightening small children, so I was the sidelines coach, having taken the class previously. Nothing more entertaining than watching a warrant officer wearing a full uniform plus a rucksack and a combat helmet drag a commissioned officer across a pool, paying little attention to the fact that the commissioned officer can’t seem to convince the warrant officer that his face is supposed to stay above water. I was coaching one of my team members who never learned to swim, and I never realized how hard it is to teach someone to overcome a fear. No matter what technology we have, what resources are available, if you are in the water, none of the flushing toilets in the world can help you, you have to help yourself.

The purpose of the class is to show soldiers that there are ways to survive with your equipment if you find yourself in a situation where you overturn a HMMWV, get dumped from a helicopter, or perhaps wade to the deep end of the waste canal. A rucksack will float. Most types of combat helmet will float. A human being will float, given the proper circumstances and training. And if you are having particular trouble, the pants of a uniform end up making an adequate life vest if you know how to do it properly.

The purpose of my lesson was to show someone that putting her face in the water did not mean that she was going to drown. Forget the rucksack. Forget the helmet. Lay on your back, hold onto my hand over by the wall, and breathe normally. Every time the water touched her chin, her feet would hit the bottom as she proclaimed she was sinking and that she was just not naturally bouyant. The fear was not of drowning, the fear was simply that once her face went under she would not find the surface again. Watching someone with a fear so pronounced she would not put her face into the water even with her feet solidly on the floor was a learning experience for everyone involved. For all the technology, for all the things that we have, there are still basic instincts the world over that will not be aided by a modem connection or the new mixed drink at Outback (which, for a quick note, is very tasty).

Though her confidence grew over the course of the hour and a half we spent at the shallow end of the pool, she never did get her face completely under. She knows how to use her rucksack to float, she used a kickboard for the first time and didn’t drown, and her pants made an excellent life vest. If she fell out of the blackhawk, she would be able to survive as long as she kept her head. I think I might have learned more from the experience than she did, about fear, persistence, and the ability to trust natural laws.

And I learned that I’m much happier sitting typing about it than I am holding onto a rucksack in the middle of an ocean, and that will probably never change.


Big Questions

Filed under: — lana @ 8:52 pm

Certain things in life are simply not meant to be understood. On that list are things like the meaning of life, how many stars are in the sky, and why female undergarments and bathing suits are so expensive and get more so the less fabric they have.

Another of life’s great mysteries is how exactly an entity (I refuse to use the term organization any longer, as that is clearly not in their vocabulary) like the US Army can actually win a war when they can’t seem to find one piece of paper on a given day.

I was called today, after attending a class sponsored by the Army, by my platoon sergeant. He asked how the first day of the two-day class went, and then proceeded to tell me that I may want to swing by the battalion because there appeared to be some sort of security clearance discrepency and, oh yes, I had missed two levy briefings and the company had gotten a nasty-gram from the battalion on my behalf.

Brief pause: a levy briefing is the brief several months before you are supposed to move to a new unit, in my case Germany, and get all of the information about transportation, reporting, outprocessing, and so on. Not something you want to miss.

To resume: I commented to my platoon sergeant that this was impossible, as I hadn’t been scheduled for a levy briefing, much less two. He said apparently this was not the case, though it was in fact the first he or my first sergeant had heard of either of them. I told him I would investigate and headed to the battalion headquarters.

I stopped in the S2, where they handle security clearances, and asked the sergeant there what the problem was. It was, of course, the first she had heard of it. She looked it up and there was no discrepency, so we puttered around in confusion for a few minutes until someone from the S1, Personnel, shop came in and said, “Hey someone in here needs to verify your clearance and make the phonecall up so it can get over to our people to cut your orders to leave.” I responded with, “And this involves me personally standing here… how?” to which there was of course no good answer. Please note that these two shops are down the hall from each other. Apparently this was the first time someone actually got up and wandered down the hall all day. Maybe ever. So while he was in there, I asked him about the levy briefings. He said that apparently I had been scheduled, and that no one had told me because their shop hadn’t called my company for reasons he didn’t know (he’s only a specialist, the poor guy). I told him that was evident, so I would go the following week. He said that I couldn’t do that, because once you miss two briefings you aren’t allowed to schedule another one. I counted to ten, started over, started over again, cursed, counted one more time, and gave up and asked him about awards instead. He forwarded me down the hall.

Upon going down the hall and finding the sergeant who was supposed to know about some awards that are now several months old, I made the discovery that two awards of mine are completely lost and one award had been “renovated” and downgraded without proper downgrade authority by someone, though no one seemed to know who. They also lost a submission for a badge for combat, as well as another soldier’s paperwork for a badge, and another NCO’s award paperwork. They also said that before I go to Germany I would need to do force protection training, which I said I did before I went to Africa and had attached the certificate to my leave form. They looked at me with the blank look that reminded me that oh yes, they had lost that particular leave form.

It amazed me so much that one office could lose so much paperwork, when their office is the paperwork mecca of the battalion, that I had to go outside and beat my head against the steering wheel of my car for five or ten minutes to try and understand. No luck. I must not have done enough damage to my brain. I need a hammer.

Some questions, I fear, may just never be answered. Ah well. I’m off to look at and not buy from the latest Victoria’s Secret catalogue.


Continuing Saga

Filed under: — lana @ 8:03 pm

So I went to the doctor. Last month (around 3 January). I point to my toe, which was green, and said, “I think that is bad.”

Doctor says, “Make an appointment and we will fix that right up for you.”

Appointment lady says, “The earliest appointment we have is on 3 February. Tough nuggets.”

I go back to the doctor. It is New Doctor. New Doctor says, “Can’t help get an appointment, but at least here’s an antibiotic for that green toe there.”

3 February I go to Surgery Doctor and Surgery Doctor (and his accomplice, Med Student) say in response to my green, black, red, and purple toe, “AHHH! Why didn’t you come in sooner?!”

Med Student gets hit in the face with toe juice. I promise it wasn’t on purpose, though I did laugh a little.

At least right now I get to wear a half moonboot for a week, take fun pills, and realize that in fact my ankle (which I went to the doctor for in December) still hurts.

And so the games continue! You know, these people get PAID for this…



Filed under: — lana @ 7:05 pm

Normally I like to avoid political discussion, because everyone has their own opinion and so on and so forth. My father told me never to talk politics or religion with friends if you expect to remain so.

However, something in the news is making me laugh. A lot. In that tragic way.

This international hooplah recently exploded over a political cartoon released in European newspapers. Mohammed with a bomb for a turban, for those who haven’t been keeping up on the news (can’t say I blame you). After the cartoon was released, Muslims were angry because it depicts not only an image of Mohammed, which is against their religion, but because it depicts Islam as a violent religion. They have now set fire to a Danish and a Norwegian embassy, one each, protested, beaten people, held signs that call for the extermination of those that slander Islam, and so on and so forth.

Okay okay okay. So let me get this straight. You are angry that your religion has been depicted as violent. So the proper response would be… SET FIRE TO THOSE CRAZY DANES! EVIL NORWEIGANS! Next I expect it to be DOWN WITH THE SWISS AND THOSE CLEVER YET SOMETIMES COMPLICATED KNIVES AND SUPERWATCHES! I mean, honestly. Let’s pick the most random European countries possible and burn their embassies to the ground? Who is in charge here? Who makes these arrangements? Who is making the calls here? Because that is a person in some serious need for guidance.

I know these idiots aren’t a representation of all Muslims, as most of the Muslims I am friends with are actually reasonable, intelligent, non-violent, happy people with real jobs and they don’t have an underground bomb lab. Maybe they can talk to some of their whacko bretheren. I mean, political cartoons are political cartoons. The Jews, the Christians, Bhuddists, Taoists, just about everyone has been made fun of by caricature with big chins and big noses. Get over it. Seriously. Not everything is a personal insult.

And oh yeah: proving the point of the cartoon is probably the wrong way to go about convincing people that it was wrong. I mean, call me crazy (goodness knows I’ve been called that before, even by people with advanced medical degrees), but one would think that maybe some letters to the editor would have done it. I didn’t see Bill Clinton burning down embassies whenever he got teased, nor the entire country of Canada, which usually has something said about them almost once a week. Exactly when did people get so stupid? Who’s watch was that on, because I know it wasn’t mine.

Now I understand why so many houses in the nations of at least Iraq and Afghanistan were made of mud: insult your neighbor and get your house torched.

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