Doesn’t Anyone Listen?

Filed under: — lana @ 1:07 pm

I am beginning to think that brain tumor aside, I went crazy long ago and have been in fact having full conversations with brick walls instead of people on numerous occassions.

Issue number one: my combat action badge submittal was returned again. Despite the fact that several doctors have now established a connection to an explosion in Iraq affecting the general condition of whatever marbles were rolling around in my dome, there are simply those who prefer to believe what someone tells them instead of the paperwork in front of them, such as statements, manifests, and other proof. The nice thing is that the Veteran’s Administration might actually look at the paperwork one day, long after I am out of uniform. They will also be paying the tab on the brain problems that were exacerbated by the incident, so I suppose it is only fair to give them the honor of bestowing anything else that goes along with it.

Issue 2: I think someone, perhaps my First Sergeant, perhaps Xenu, perhaps whatever karma-punishing element there might be in the universe, has it in for me. For some reason, I just have trouble finding good help these days. Our unit has recently fallen into a little bit of a staffing problem as the Big Army figures out how to right itself from a little mess it made when it combined some jobs, got rid of a few others, and brought in civilians to make up for missing Soldier positions. The qualifications I hold have thus become a bit of a hot commodity in this little bubble in the market, but I appear to be federally controlled and not getting any pay raises for the things I get to deal with and the swapping around I get to do. I was just told yesterday that some of the things I have been chasing and in fact reenlisted for, such as deployments and courses, are now a liability because I can’t go away for too long without a backfill that the Army has yet to provide. While this should not affect my return at the end of the month to complete the course I was so rudely ripped from earlier in the summer, it does make the next two and a half years a little daunting. For the past two years I have been trying to weasel my way around staying in my current position, but the karma-gods have combined themselves with the brick walls until now it might be too late. I had better go to this course at the end of the month; it might be my last escape for awhile.

Issue 3: My Soldiers seem to have put their common sense into a lovely, carved, wooden chest, locked it, and then buried it somewhere, and now have apparently lost the treasure map. This isn’t that much of a surprise, actually, as I already knew this about them, but conversations in the past week have sometimes gone past trying to talk to the brick wall and resulted in my beating my head against it instead. I am starting to wonder if this isn’t part of some dastardly plan on the part of my command to get a few giggles at my expense as I try to figure out not only why, but how my Soldiers come up with some of the things that come out of their mouths and the things they do.

Luckily, I go in the middle of next month for the doctors to determine the status of my headaches. With a little luck, these experts will assess my situation and can perscribe me something helpful to deal with the still-present pain.

Like a nap.


Back in Moderate Action

Filed under: — lana @ 8:56 am

Back to Germany, to formally return to work at 0600 tomorrow after roughly four and a half months in the United States. My apartment smells like rotting mayonnaise and I think my landlord shut off my heat and then went on vacation. It is about 30 degrees cooler out here, and the spiders have developed clever traps in their rebellion against my stalled weekly cleanings.

I called the company to let them know I was back and stupidly called during lunch. If there is one thing the military takes seriously, it is lunch. 1130 to 1300 there is no chance of finding a human being near a phone, and if someone finds himself near a communication device of sorts, they steadfastly ignore it. We learn that at Basic, I think. I called anyway, and my commander answered, which implies that he is in fact a machine. Since he has taken up marathon running recently, I already knew he wasn’t quite human, so I was only moderately surprised when he answered. I told him I was back and he seemed most pleased, which I found to be a strange reaction, and then he told me that most of the senior non-commissioned officers were at an exercise and would be back Monday. He then mentioned that I should probably head up to see everyone Monday so they can figure out what they are doing with me. Naturally, he gave me no hints. I think they enjoy making me squirm.

Meanwhile, the doctors forgot to make my follow-up appointments, one of my Soldiers is about to be homeless because his barracks are condemned and housing gave away his new room while he was at a course, and I think my warrant officer has discovered a rather frightening combination of alcohol and arrows in some fashion, all among other things.

If I said it was good to be back, I would have to seriously consider my mental state. And work doesn’t even start until tomorrow.


Save Yourself

Filed under: — lana @ 10:49 pm

It is too late for some of us, but not all…

A friend contacted me recently, commenting that he is considering joining the Army. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do, but is leaning more and more towards the infantry.

I am not one to stop someone from joining the Army. I will tell it like it is, naturally, and point out that it isn’t all AK-47s and roses, but that I think it is a very beneficial experience for some people. I think that everyone, regardless of who (whom? I was never good at that), should have some sort of public service in their life in their formative late-teens to early-twenties. Be it military service, Peace Corps, Teach For America, USAID, Habitat for Humanity, or even a Save the Sea Lions campaign or local YMCA service. I strongly believe most Americans live out their lives in sheltered bubbles and that we would all be better off if everyone realized that they actually are not the only living things on the planet and that the world isn’t around just to please you and you alone. Serve someone else a little bit and then sit back and get an underpaid cabana boy to shave your bunions, because you will appreciate it more.

Digression aside, I still felt the need to ask my friend if he had recently lost his mind. Being in my age group, he is at or around 30 years old by now. I have a husband with one fully operational body part, largely because he joined the infantry at age 25. I maintain that he did it because he had something to prove, with his two brothers being Marines. Had they not done that, he might have done something a little less hard on the body and a little more developmental of the talents he already had. Joining the Army was not the silly thing; it was a 25 year old with back problems from construction trying to keep up with 18 year olds running around in soggy North Carolina woods while training for long days in 140 degree sand pits and 10 degree dirt heaps.

His response? He wants to serve his country, feels that infantry gives the most pride, it “feels right.”

Sure, and it’s going to feel just cozy in your knees, back, hips, and shoulders while you are realizing that you have very coherent memories from the day some of the Soldiers that outrank you were born. I am still entertained by my Soldier in his late 30’s who did his first Army stint when I was conquering long division, but who I now get to take out the trash when it needs it. And naturally, his knees are bad. He was smart enough this time around to stay away from going back into the infantry, and to serve his country instead by following my orders.

In the end, of course I support that my friend should join the Army. He feels it is best for him, he feels it would benefit him and his life, and I agree that it most likely would. But a 30 year old joining the infantry? Someone who has talents and brains and patriotism going into something that aside from security jobs has little future outside the military? That benefits no one. We need the infantry, in all shapes, sizes, ranks, and brains, and I need someone to kick down that door for me if someone I want is inside. They do a job I can’t, and I recognized that long ago. But it isn’t for everyone, and may not be the best way to benefit the Army, you, or the country. If you have talent, by all means use it in the Army. Build bridges, do finance, collect intelligence, analyze data, whatever. But remember that the Army isn’t forever, and that by 35 you should be setting a path, and that your body will have to accomodate and that an 18 year old body can do a lot more than even a 25 year old body. People forget that, particuarly as they get older but don’t want to admit it, and it’s scary to watch. I have had Soldiers that were a bad fit for my job, particularly in the more infantry-like parts of my job and also in the career aspects, and they were a nightmare and every day I wished for someone in admin or pharmacy or anywhere else in the Army to swoop in and offer them on-the-job training for anything outside of my proximity. It never happened, and instead the Soldier suffered and so did the Army.

I understand the overwhelming need for some people to go infantry. I married one. People feel that that is the “real” Army, that they do the “real” work and see the “real” deal. People forget that it is other people telling them where to go to find the bad guys, and where they can expect to find bombs along the way. People forget that you can serve your country by shooting bad guys but you can also serve it by finding the bad guys in the first place, or guarding those bad guys once they are caught, or serving eggs in the morning to the people doing the finance for the admin guys keeping the truck driver’s paperwork straight. I serve mine wandering through fields and poo-canals hoping to catch a glimpse of the jerk that woke me up with mortars the night before, right alongside the infantry guys who provide me with a secure escort to find that jerk relatively unimpeded. I also serve my country training other Soldiers how to avoid walking directly through a poo-canal by double-checking the map before a 2am departure. I have not had to fire my weapon in combat, despite having been fired upon, but I have locked up my share of threats and have not had one Soldier walk through poo to get to a village since I had the fortune. So I have done my part, and it is a part to which I have continued to commit for a few more years. I use my brain, whatever remains of it, to help the Army, myself, and my country, because quite frankly I am just no good at kicking down doors and would just get in the way.

I hope my friend makes the best choice for himself, because that is really the only way to make the best choice for the Army. Despite all of its faults, I have a perverse loyalty to the organization and a desire for it to change for the better, and as such hate to see potential wasted. Some of us made mistakes in our time, either by career move or just missing the turn while on patrol. Hopefully others can learn from those and save themselves from the same.


No Escape

Filed under: — lana @ 10:15 pm

Having been on leave about three weeks now, I have adjusted well without the military butting its head in periodically to remind me that it is there.

Well, not often anyway. Several things have nevertheless come to light as I try to relax and get my brain back in working order before I go back to Germany to get dumb again with Soldiers that toss things or themselves out windows and occasional questions about if Hugo Chavez is Russian. I can’t make things like that up, by the way, and can only report what happens in my sad, sad life.

Anyway, despite my best efforts to regain some sanity, yesterday I encountered a puzzle. Because I have been gone awhile and there was a significant debate on who would pay the bill, it turned out that for awhile in fact no one paid that bill. At least, not appropriately. My unit picked up the tab and helped me gain access to the system so I could file for partial payments, which they then paid at times designated I assume by the phase of the moon, whether Mars was in Aquarius, and who won the Rutgers football game last weekend.

Yesterday I got a nasty-gram from the government credit card company. It had been rerouted several times, having been dated approximately five to six weeks prior to my date of receipt. I decided, since I am in the process of purchasing a home, that it would be prudent to give them a call.

Despite my unit having given them several thousand dollars recently, it became apparent that the bank was just as absurd as the automated system cutting those checks. The bank, without practical information to the contrary and clearly without any form of common sense, happily applied the money to current dues owed and not to what they deemed my “overdue” account, which is probably monies owed from back in May when this whole shebang started. Apparently because it took the military a bit to start paying because I couldn’t access the system, I was delinquent on some money and instead of the logical (I think, anyway) process of paying off the oldest things first, the money was attributed to newer charges such as the Great Walter Reed Caper of 2008. So while those are being paid, I still am having my card shut off and getting nasty pieces of paper tracking me around the world because the money isn’t being routed right and my crystal ball, being in the shop, didn’t tell me that was the case for me to fix it prior.

The answer? Pay it myself, since I don’t have access to the system while on leave, and hope to get paid someday later. My answer to that? Well, it’s not terribly polite.

So it appears that even though I sit watching HGTV sipping an iced tea and all looks well, there are still ways for the stars (namely the Great Bank Constellation and the Army Nebula) to align in ways that confuse. There is simply no escape from the absurdities. Strangely, that is comforting, as I grow more and more unsure that I would know what to do with myself should life become suddenly “practical.”

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