Eastern Block Party

Filed under: — lana @ 7:32 am

A few weeks back I received an email. The contents were cryptic, stating “Your orders have been sent to Battalion. Please book your flight as soon as possible.”

My response read, “Uh, am I going somewhere?”

After a few days, it was straightened out that I indeed was going somewhere, in fact to Romania for a two-week training stint attached to NATO.

Progress continued to fail to occur, as I requested a packing list and one could not be procured. I booked and rebooked flights three times as the dates, times, and requirements were ammended, each time with a suspense of right now. I asked what it was I was supposed to be doing at this exercise, and I would be presented with the operation order which only told me that I was on the list to go and that in all likelihood I did not need to pack a uniform. I figured I might be better off just packing a board to beat my head against.

As it turned out, it was a great time and a great experience. The training itself was productive though personally moderate, having to accomodate for people with limited english skills and people with limited investigative experience, but making up for it was the singing contests between drunk Brits and drunk Belgians, Canadians being reminded by Germans that you can sleep when you are dead, Bulgarians helping Norwegians onto the bus at 2:00 in the morning, and Estonians with a penchant for McDonalds. All of the teams in my little group successfully avoided being blown up or otherwise destroyed, we saved the world for this year, and I figure I now have a place to crash in a pinch in something like 26 nations.

And now it is time to give my liver a rest. After Oktoberfest, that is…


Papers Please

Filed under: — lana @ 7:16 am

So I decided that I should get a cat to keep me company here during my time in central europe, since the Army did not see fit to move my husband here. A quick scan of the local bullitens showed a free cat. How convenient, says I. I head out and pick up said cat (lucius annaeus seneca, but she answers to lucy when she feels like answering, which is not very often).

However, I was also Romania-bound at the time for a bit of a training exercise. A conundrum, solved by finding a cat boarding house a few kilometers outside of town.

So I have kitty for one night, then the next day it is to the boarding house. I drop her off and the kitty-madame gives me a look, Lucy a look, and asks if her papers are in order.

To those who are not familiar with pre-WWII history, this may not seem as funny to you as it did to me.

I assured her that Lucy’s papers were in order, and we promptly transfered Lucy from her small, enclosed, mesh transport to the caged in upper floor of the farmhouse in which this lady presumably lived, though the entire upper floor was caged in, had six cats running about, and various climbing, snacking, and eliminating mechanisms scattered in multiple rooms. The kitties could still feel free, but in reality they were still in a cage. Like a kitty ghetto, if you will.

Three more assurances that Lucy’s papers were in order and the requisite payment and I was on my way. Apparently, the German government checks up on the papers of animals. The papers MUST be in ORDER. It was best left unspoken what the punishment might be for a cat boarding home supporting cats without the proper papers.

Old habits die hard, perhaps…


Doing Time

Filed under: — lana @ 7:30 am

Sometimes as a non-commissioned officer your soldiers will ask you for advice on their career in the field, both inside and outside of the Army. Since I have had two excursions to two different sunny, sandy, beach-without-the-water locations and have met a substantial number of people from various countries doing our work in some form or another, periodically my soldier will quiz me on opportunities to be found outside of the Army.

What occurred to me during our most recent conversation is the change in thinking as you progress through your Army career.

When I first got in, I was a trainee. No real logic can be taken from anything I thought during this period of delerium.

When I got to my first unit, I was a Soldier in the Army. Other people not in the military were Civilians and they worked in Civilian Life. The main difference was if you called it a “vehicle” or a “truck” and a “weapon” or a “gun.”

Soon, while I stayed a Soldier in the Army, they became Civilians but they lived and worked in the Civilian World. Similar to the Matrix, this world was a foreign place where you actually tried to use the degree you received in college, or, for English majors, flipped burgers.

Eventually, this Civilian World became the Real World, as I realized that not everyone has to wear body armor to work or know the difference between mortars, rockets, and their different sizes. It is not foreign, it is a dream I remember from my days before the Army, in that brief glimpse of real life between college, which was obviously a feel-good fiction, and the Army, which is more of a twisted psychological thriller most days, and on others reminiscent of the Iliad, where an awful lot of stuff is said to happen but in actuality nothing ever does.

After a time, I underwent the metamorphosis to Soldier chained to the Army, meanwhile the Civilian status was something I could only see as being “On the Outside.” Their world was the “Outside World.” I could walk among them when permitted, communicate with them, but I could not join them. They were not foreign to me, but to them I was an anomoly, and all I could do was talk about it in that excited dream-talk. This is how I now describe jobs not within the military, for example, “On the Outside, you can make six times as much for doing the exact same thing! Don’t worry, buddy. Some day we will get back out there!”

It recently occurred to me that this terminology of “On the Outside” and the accompanying phrasing is similar to the language of prisoners who hope and dream one day of parole. When people not in the military ask me what it is like, it is reminiscent of sitting in a small cubby facing a plexiglass window talking to my loved ones and being reminded that I really shouldn’t drop the soap. How can you explain to someone who doesn’t know the forced exercise, being told when to eat and sleep, and occasionally picking up garbage off the side of the road wearing a silly uniform?

There is an end to the sentence in sight, but for now if you will excuse me, I have some license plates to stamp.


Slow Progress

Filed under: — lana @ 12:47 pm

On 4 August I had some poor friends of mine schlep me out to the main (and now, only) hospital for US soldiers in Germany at Landstuhl.

The piece of paper that resulted from that appointment needed to go upstairs to one office, walked down the hall to another office, obtain a signature, walked back to the first office, and then some guy in that office had to send me an email.

On 4 August the paper went to the first office.

On 14 August the paper mosey-ed its way down the hall to the other office.

On 1 September, the second office finally signed the paper.

On 5 September I called the first office, who wandered down the hall to the second office and got the paper.

I am still waiting for that email.

This medical evaluation board could take a bit of time. I am supposed to get out of the Army anyway in a year and a half. I suspect strongly that this date may come before my medical board.

In the meantime, I have been sanctioned to the physical therapy department, who I am convinced got their training somewhere within the fifth circle of hell. Today was the second attempt they made in their little basement office where no one can hear you scream to hook up little electric pads to my leg in an attempt to retrain muscles and figure out which nerves are misfiring. I had no idea that my foot could contort in such a fashion. This is after they had me stand on a board attached to a little ball and try not to fall off despite having no feeling in the ball of one foot. The poor therapist is a very nice lady for being a tool of Satan. She doesn’t have much hope of getting full function back into the foot or the ankle, but will give it her best shot. She said this as she turned up the power on the little electric machine that may be a left over bit from the second world war.

It will be a very long year and a half…

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