Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Coffee

Just a quick observation-

If you consume massive amounts of caffeine throughout the day, hoping that a mere 24 ounces of coffee at midnight will wake you up is fruitless.

I drink so much coffee that the only thing it does to keep me awake is to ensure that I go and pee a lot.

Why?

Here is what I have heard so far:
"Why would you get out now?"
"You've been in almost 10 years, only 10 more until you can retire!"
"If you hated the Army, why did you stay in this long?"
"Are you SURE you want to get out?"
"If we were to pull out of Iraq next week, would you still get out? or would you come back in?"

And here is my reason.

I have liked everything I have done in the Army. I like what I do now. I have never had a job I didn't enjoy. It is incredibly rewarding and I sleep well knowing I have worked hard and for a purpose. But... as much as I like the jobs I have done, I would be dishonest if I remained in the Army. I am big on metaphors. Its like this: I like the practice, but I hate the games. If I stayed in, I would find myself not wanting to spend a third year away from my wife and kids. Even if we pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan next week, China became a peaceloving democratic society, Kim Jung-Il fell over dead and Jimmy Carter became the elected president of north Korea, and Syria and Iran... well, you get the point. No matter what wars are going on, I don't want to be there. Not because I suddenly shun violence; on the contrary, I believe that "the world does not become a better place through happy thoughts and wishful thinking. Peace does not arrive from paper or handing out money. Peace is the result of strength. The world improves through force of will from those who believe in freedom.*" But because I value the well being of my family more than the good I could do in the Army, I must, in order to sleep well at night, leave the Army.

That is a long answer, I hope that the truth of my reasoning can be extracted from it.

* the quote is directly attributed to a friend who said those words at his change of command ceremony in February 2007.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Journal

Like many things I have done, I started a journal on the way to Iraq. It didn't get very far. The next couple enties are some of my thoughts on the way over there.

19 OCT 05: Bangor, Maine

We landed here after leaving McChord AFB. After instructions from the flight attendant, I led the company off the plane. After going through a long walkway, I turned the corner. There were about 25 people lined up and started clapping as we came down the final ramp. I wasn't ready for that. I stopped and let about 20 Soldiers go first- I needed to make sure I could make it through without crying. After shaking hands and getting hugs, one of the men handed me a cell phone to call my family. I called Janey and felt like crying. I talked to Jonnie and felt like crying. After the last 36 hours, I think my emotions are just a little bit raw. I called Jessica because I didn't have a chance to talk to her before I left- she was surprised. She said that she is feeling better but doens't understand why someone would want to be pregnant more than once! We walked back on the plane after going through the emotional gauntlet of hugs and handshakes again. Another 8-10 hours and we wil be in Germany.
I realized this morning as we got on the plane that I have a huge responsibility. A couple of Colonels that came to see us off made the comment that I was the "only Daddy now- Take care of your kids." I worry about losing someone (or more) while we are there. I pray I can bring everyone home.


21 OCT 05: Camp Beurhing, Kuwait

Germany was nothing but a warehouse. The USO had a few tables set up that gave out free coffee and cookies. I tell ya': the USO is awesome. They were great in Maine and they helped out a lot in Germany. Oh yeah, we landed in Stuttgart. It was about 2 hours in a warehouse surrounded by a 10 foot fence topped with concertina wire. I will always donate money to the USO.
When we got back on the plane- nothing special happened. I have no idea how long the flight was, I guess about 5 hours. When we landed- the landscape wasn't much different than the Mojave desert. After getting off the plane, we loaded busses and went to the "staging area". I guess I should say that we landed in Kuwait City. After an hour in the staging area, SGT XXXX from the movement control team out of Fort Eustis told us to pick two shooters per bus and send them over to get their ammo. Each bus sent two Soldiers. They were briefed on when to shoot and what to expect from the drivers. Our driver was from Bangledesh. He started talking to one of the shooters from my bus and asked a lot of questions: "Who is the highest ranking officer"; "How many Soldiers"; "Where are we going in Iraq", etc. Sgt XXXX, the questionee, handled him excellently. He told him that we didn't have any officers. He pointed to me and told him that I was just a sergeant, not an officer. I slid out and reported the passive information gathering. I was told they do that all the time.
We finally left and spent the next two hours on the road to get here. It also sems a lot like Fort Irwin. So far, we have moved 223 Soldiers around the world, gotten into Kuwait and had no accidents. We are sleeping in four tents; 1 for females and two platoons in each of the otehr three. Cots and wooden floors keep us out of the sand. We have to do a couple of small things tomorrow, but in reality, tomorrow, Saturday, and maybe Sunday will be pretty slow. Its a little past 2 AM and I am finally getting tired and think I may go to sleep.
Feelings: I feel like my insides are shrivelled because my best friend is 1/2 way around the world. I miss Janey and the boys. Mainly I miss the company they provide and the love they show.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Growing Up

When I was doing the dishes and listening to good, wholesome radio tonight (country music, of course), I heard a song that reminded me of what I missed last year.

Life went on last year without me. I just missed most of it. Being in Iraq, I tended not to be affected by the tragedies that people faced here in the US. Even things like deaths in the family. One of my uncles died last year when I was gone. My reaction to the news wasn't too deep. I was busy and was focusing on staying alive myself. There was enough death around me that news of Mark's death was more of a blip on my radar.

When I was young (middle school age) I was a "gopher" at my grandfather's plumbing company during the summers. "Gopher"? It's like this... "Hey Seth. Go get the ladder.... go get the hammer... go get the plunger..." I was told to "go for" stuff a lot. And that was about all I was good for. Anyway- at the time Mark lived across the street from us. When I was over at his house one day, and I have no idea why I was at his house, he said something that I still remember. What he said caused a mix of emotions that I wasn't ready for. He told me that even though the couple guys I rode with complain about having to babysit the bosses grandson, they both said that they are glad I am there.

I am naive. It never occurred to my 12 year old mind that these plumbers would be anything but ecstatic about driving me around all day. So, at the same time that I find out that I am a chore to them, I also find out that they think of me, if nothing more, as at least a good worker. I always appreciated Mark telling me that. It also marked the first time in my memory that an adult talked to me as something more than a kid.

After I joined the Army, we always tried to make it back home for Christmas (at least before kids). We started doing the Christmas Eve thing at Mark's house. Mark, being the host of the evening, always asked me to say the blessing before we ate. I really appreciated that. He again made me feel like an adult. He would also always find time to talk to me about whatever Louis L'amour book he had just read, or about a military history book he was reading. I'll miss Mark when I go back to Knoxville.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"...and I yelled 'Smoke!' as I let it fly!"

On Friday, as mentioned in Gravity of Motion, I did three things... I was promoted, I relinquished the command of my company, and I "dropped my paperwork". At least, thats what they call it in the buisness. My signed resignation is awaiting the endorsement of my boss and his boss. Then it will just be a matter of waiting for someone to offer me more lots of money to work.
How long had I been in command? Longer than average. When I took command, a new lieutenant had just arrived at the company. Let's call him "Matt". "Matt" has since left my former company, commanded a unit of his own, and relinquished command of THAT unit to another former lieutenant of mine. I could go on and on about how many other Lieutenants have passed through my company, but it is too long a list.
So, what is next? I let the smoke grenade land, I start sending out my resume' and I get a job. In the mean time, I work... with considerably less stress than being a company commander.
My new job is a management position where I am managing five or six other officers (my former peers). On the staff that I am in charge of, every officer is also getting out of the Army. Form your own opinions as to whether there is a mass exodus of officers leaving the Army.