The Dangerous End

Filed under: — lana @ 4:15 am

Nothing says “Long Day” like trying to teach 18 people who don’t speak your language which end is dangerous on a rifle introduced in Vietnam. While I will grant that these people all fire rifles of their own, it is nonetheless a tiring adventure in futility particularly when your interpreter doesn’t much like to interpret.

The Bundeswehr, translating roughly to Federal Army, are a fun bunch. Their Sergeant Major, who runs a company similar to our First Sergeants, is a friendly and outgoing individual with whom we sometimes have cultural exchanges involving various forms of German and American alcohols. He is an expert marksman and a true company enlisted leader, yelling at his Soldiers when they tried to use a foam mat to lay on when firing from the plywood platform. He also found my frustration with some of his Soldiers mildly amusing, and told me that I was free to have them do push-ups should the need arise.

Since I happen to be one of the few people in the area qualified to run the electronic range trainer, these meetings with our German counterparts are fairly frequent. Both my office and his company enjoy getting out of the usual setting from time to time, and I am always happy to oblige with a day of weapons instead of a day figuring out why talking to one person suddenly necessitates five reports.

The hard part, it seems, is that the Germans can’t seem to get used to the concept of how to fire without a scope mounted on the weapon. We, as it turns out, are not allowed to qualify with scopes, so this always proves a challenge that involves a lot of me muttering under my breath and the person who is supposed to be my interpreter insisting that they already know when they clearly don’t because they are having trouble finding the broad side of a barn, much less hitting it. My muttering only increased as he refused to translate some things that I was saying, insisting that they knew when even the German Company Commander didn’t speak much English. He was very lucky on that day that he is a civilian. The Sergeant Major, who speaks English, was most entertained. I am glad someone got amusement out of it. I felt my brain throbbing, so perhaps Xenu was also having a lovely time.

Overall, however, the day went well. I gave up on the rifle after awhile, switching to the pistol which is much easier to train. My Soldier, meanwhile, was putting them in a mock HMMWV and then simulating attacks to teach them how we run convoy drills. Disaster imminent as they almost fell off the platform a few times and one somehow worked her way out of the vehicle backwards, we finally called it a day by putting the Sergeant Major, Commander, a Lieutenant who had a birthday that day, and a newly promoted Sergeant into the HMMWV and having the simulator operator give them rollover training, which involves at least one rotation of the vehicle to the delight of their subordinates.

Despite the possible swelling of the egg in my head as I tried to control myself from strangling various nationalities, it did beat a day in the office. There is something to be said for that. What that is, I leave up for interpretation.


Everyone’s Got an Opinion

Filed under: — lana @ 2:10 am

It’s a good thing that the doctors left at least some of my brain intact; if I had to rely only on the opinions and decision-making abilities of others at this point, I would be in serious trouble.

One doctor, an Air Force Major, thinks I have no business doing this Army thing anymore. Something about being extra salty. I reminded her that I am, after all, a non-commissioned officer and therefore supposed to be a little salty. She said it was the wrong kind and that comments like that made her want to send me back over to the neurologist, the Army Major.

I would not have minded heading back down the hall, as the neurologist is a little more accommodating. She maintains a full understanding that there are still a few things I would like to do in the Army before departing to the recession-filled civilian world, such as another course or two and maybe a last deployment. The endochronologist gave me the all too familiar “Are you out of your mind” look when I mentioned the deployment, but the neurologist thinks I could at least try out a six-month stint to see how it goes.

So back and forth they go again. Everyone has decided that I can return to the States to finish my course, and have promised to leave me alone for the duration this time. It gives them about two months to sit in their offices near the French border and argue about whether or not intergalactic battlelords are really grounds for dismissal. Meanwhile, other friends of mine who happen to be in the medical field are pointing out that perhaps I shouldn’t be considering new high-altitude climbs for awhile and keep asking questions like of what Xenu is made, and somehow disappointed in my response of “Two parts soul of Tom Cruise mixed with three parts tumor goo and a pinch of salt.”

So it appears that everyone has an opinion, and as usual few are interested in mine. Officers, particularly when they are from different branches of the military, tend to do that. I have enough medication to get me through another few months, so I don’t have to worry about it until after the new year.

That should give me enough time to decide if I want to side with endochronology, the paranoids, or neurology, the crazy. I’m not really sure how I can win either way, but I have been in the Army long enough that I am used to such conundrums by now.


Quick Question

Filed under: — lana @ 12:20 pm

Did it ever occur to Microsoft Windows Vista that someone might be in the middle of doing something when it decides to randomly restart because of random recent updates that probably only made things worse anyway?

The computer is about to follow my Soldier right out the window. I wonder which bounces higher…


Another Day, Another Week

Filed under: — lana @ 2:42 pm

A rough week, to say the least. One day left, to be spent on the road as most of the days have been this week. Not for saving the good of the nation or even for tasty enchiladas that I hear are somewhere on the other side of the country, but because of the usual examples of ineptitude in Army decision-making. As paraphrased from the Jewish Passover Seder, why should this week be different from any other week?

It was a short week, thanks to Columbus getting lost and finding the Carribean a few centuries back. I would like to point out that I am particularly grateful on that holiday, as they make very good rum on those islands. Moving along, Tuesday saw the Department of Public Works wandering into our office and blowing up half of our equipment, mumbling something that sounded like a German “Oopsie…” and then darting off again. Secure connections be damned, the telephones are finally working again two days later, and eventually the general magnitude of destruction will be discovered and hopefully remedied with some duct tape and a few paperclips.

Wednesday, after such a delightful time, I had to leave my house at an hour not usually seen by those accustomed to light in order to drive all the way across two or three German states in order to reach the only American hospital left in the region. Wednesday appeared to also be the day the Germans decided to rip up every road between the post upon which I work and the only American hospital left in the region. In order to mark the detours which sent me exploring far reaches of the country I never had a desire to see, the Germans put up signs which may be quite clear to them, but at 0545 in the morning I am not looking for a 6 inch by 6 inch sign directly at the turn I would have to make that tells me that I in fact want to go three miles out of my way because ahead the entire road has been ground into dust. My appointment was at 0930. My brain doesn’t hold much data these days so I thought it was at 1000, but knew I wasn’t going to make that, either. I almost threw the GPS out the window as she told me to turn around and go back to the blocked exit for the ninth time while I continued to yell at her. My Soldier, who was trying to get in touch with the hospital to tell them I would be late, had to remind me on more than one occasion that he was the one on the phone and the human and that yelling at the GPS probably wouldn’t do me much good, and that calling her those names really wasn’t very nice.

I get to the hospital. No surprise, they had cancelled my appointment. Roughly five hours in the car, no more need to be there. They could not reschedule before I left for the States. Try again in January. This is the only doctor in country that will do this type of analysis, sorry, better luck next time. There are OIF patients to see.

This is, actually, the real problem with hospitals such as the one to which I found myself all day Wednesday. It is woefully understaffed, having at last count one neuropsychologist, maybe three neurologists, one endochronologist, and that is just a rough sample. Then the Army, in it’s efforts to save money, closed every other major health facility in the country, so every Soldier that needs to be seen for something a clinic and the Germans can’t treat has to find an appointment. But they get bumped for anyone coming with an Iraq or Afghanistan injury. Schedules are usually full a month out or so, and the endochronologist is so busy even telephone consultations are not made.

I understand priority going to Soldiers coming from downrange, though I thought the hospital here was only supposed to be a staging ground to get the Soldier back to the States anyway. However, I do admit that it is much more difficult to understand when another Soldier feels penalized because even though at last count four doctors confirmed an injury was sustained in Iraq three years ago now, since the Soldier didn’t fly on the medical transport there they now get shuffled to the back of the line though they still have to drive anywhere from one to four hours without traffic to get treatment. Something about that is not fair to the tens of thousands of Soldiers in country who really just want to get someone to look at whatever malady was bad enough to get referred to arguably the most overworked hospital on the continent. It is not these Soldiers fault that the Army opted to close every major facility closer to their place of work, and then didn’t hire enough doctors to staff the one place it left open.

But tirade aside, I finally did get to see my neurologist, who was kind enough to squeeze me in since she knew I had driven several hundred kilometers to get turned around because of National German Road Work Day. She offered to take a needle, put some chemicals in it, and shove it directly into the back of my head to numb a stubborn nerve that she thinks might be bothering my brain. Having a nice, long drive back ahead of me, I declined her tempting offer and instead gathered two more perscriptions and instructions to see her Friday if the pills don’t work so I can get shot in the skull. Something tells me I will make those pills work.

Aside from all of that, I still have Soldiers, who are always just bundles of fun and joy in my life. I have now requested to relocate my office to a first floor setting just in case I decide to make good on my threats to toss subordiates out a window. I am not convinced that if they land on their heads it would do much damage, but a first floor option gives me more chances than upper stories to try my theory. Unfortunately, it is just too expensive to move the office. We will see how that works out for some people.

Tomorrow is another day back to the hospital, to see the one endochronologist in country. An honor, really. I should ask for an autograph. It will be an interesting visit, since they neglected to call me and tell me to get my lab work done a week or two back so I have a feeling tomorrow will consist of me wandering into an office to get the response of, “Hmm. Labs just went in. So… uh… how you feeling? Good? Not so Good? Gee. Too bad. Well, try to come again later so we can look at the labs! Have a fun drive home!”

The building doesn’t go higher than a few stories. If I can just find the roof access…


Wonder of Wonders

Filed under: — lana @ 1:16 pm

Miracle of miracles. My unit approved funding for me to return to complete the course I was so rudely removed from at the beginning of the summer. Not without some pushing and shoving from my command, surely, who are probably tired of my whining and complaining and might rather send me to the United States for seven weeks rather than listen to me.

I am not one to count my chickens before they hatch, however. I still have to wait on the course NCO to put me into the system so this elusive funding can be allocated and I can, say, get orders and a ticket. Then I have to wait for someone to realize that I am in the system and officially approve the funds. Then I have to wait for the travel office, operated by Germans, to be open to cut my tickets. It is holiday season in Germany… they can rival the Army for functionality this time of year.

But provided all goes smoothly, I should be able to head back and get at least a piece of what I reenlisted for, which would be nice. I have already informed the doctors that the stunt they pulled last time of waiting for me to get there and get settled before changing their minds will not work again, and that once I am there I hope they will leave me alone like they promised to do last time. I have no intention of seeing a doctor while there, not even for a headcold, to ensure they forget about me. I am still kicking myself for going to the clinic for some measly headache medication that didn’t even work last time. It is so easy to disappear in the Army, and I intend to do just that. Then I can return just in time to make sure my Soldiers don’t gain too much weight over the holidays and start pushing for the rest of my reenlistment drug deal.

With this miracle going through, I hope to be pleasantly surprised with future offers. Only time will tell… past experience has not increased confidence. But I am an effective whiner, and I have learned to save correspondence regarding what has been promised. I hold my trump cards close, ready for the game to begin again upon my return. Stakes are high, but it finally looks like the game is running in my favor, so hopefully I can ride out the streak before it comes crashing down like it usually does once someone realizes that they might actually be helping a Soldier.

It’s all part of living the Army dream, I suppose. With two and a half years until I can wake up, I will take whatever small wonders I can get.


Fest Time

Filed under: — lana @ 9:34 am

If there is a lesson to be learned at this year’s Oktoberfest celebrations down in Munich, it is that officers can make terrible, but terribly amusing, travel companions.

I don’t know what it was about going to a few more schools and getting put into positions that pay roughly twice as much as the people that do the actual work that made the officers I found myself consuming liter beers with feel the need to sleep on warehouses or fall between the subway and the platform. I don’t know what it is about flying helicopters or pushing papers from one end of a desk to the other that made them get lost between the bathroom and a table at the largest tent at the fest or almost get kidnapped by fake Polizei.

What I do know is that at least it was fabulously entertaining and no one is really the worse for it. They were, for all of their interesting behavior, better than the enlisted infantry troops on the train heading back that wanted to pick a fight with everyone and everything to include each other. A personal peeve of mine is when certain Soldiers seem to think that they are better than anyone else because of their job, particularly when those Soldiers haven’t even seen combat yet. There is no need to think that a finance Soldier is any less than anyone else, for instance, and in fact I tend to be much nicer to the people that control my paycheck or my paperwork or my supplies or the condition of my vehicles, because it is very hard to function without them. Infantry Soldiers are notorious for the obnoxious behavior of calling other Soldiers names like “POG” (pronounced like “powg,” long “o”), a term for “Person Other than Grunt” and meant to be deragatory to non-infantry personnel. I never saw a problem not being infantry; in my days of dismounted patrols, checkpoint operations, raids, and cordon searches, I have respect for but no desire to be in a field such as that. The Soldiers on the train, traveling in packs as they tend to do at that age and mental capacity, only reinforced my feeling that I would do poorly in a unit like that as my head might explode trying to examine the logic of their behaviors. They might make an excellent case study in GroupThink and pack dynamics, but nothing I want to get mixed up in.

And at fests, particularly one such as Oktoberfest, the Germans are not without their peculiarities as well. They insist on bringing small children into the beer tents, never mind the raucous mood of the general crowd. They don funny hats and shoot dirty looks at the Italians that venture up from warmer climates for the festivities. They wander around in togas and traditional German dress despite the cold weather and misty rain. They sing along to drinking songs the oompah band plays, and insist that you get on the table with them or risk having beer spilled all over your plate of half chicken and cabbage salad.

So overall, Oktoberfest was a Time. Good times sometime, not-as-good times during other times, but overall worth the experience at least once. I heard from my friend that he eventually made his way back here last night after missing the last train out, one of the group may have broken his foot, and the others slept their way through their post-deployment reintegration briefs at the back of the theater this morning, so at least all is well and good here.

Now I really should go and wash my jacket from the beer spills.



Filed under: — lana @ 12:36 pm

Today, I was confused.

This afternoon, as I gave instructions to a Soldier on a briefing I need him to give, he wrote down little notes about what needed to go into the briefing and nodded a lot. Then, when I paused, he interrupted with the statement, “Sergeant? You know I am an extreme introvert, right?”

Now, the job we do deals with people. Human interaction is part of the description. The word “Human” is somewhere in his job title, as a matter of fact, and was so when he enlisted.

After telling him I didn’t really care and he had better get over it before the briefing, I finished telling him what he needed to do and left for a meeting. On my way to the meeting, I pondered exactly what would make someone who dislikes talking to people look at the job description and say, “Sure! That sounds like something I would like!” It is not as though the description reads, “Sit alone in an office, surf the web, and eat free cookies,” or something of the like. It in fact mentions direct human interaction. But he apparently still thought it would be a lovely idea, the recruiter must have as well, and now he sits in my office worried about a five minute briefing where someone has already told him what he needs to say. He has effectively become My Problem.

I promptly gave myself a swift kick for reenlisting.

My First Sergeant always categorizes incidents like this, where I have to seclude myself in a room and allow my brain to bleed a little more into the tumor that claims squatter’s rights in my skull, as “Leadership Challenges.”

With this one, I think I am about all challenged out.

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