We arrived a few days ago at beautiful Fort Riley, Kansas and were assimilated into the meat processor that is this particular part of the Army. There is a unit here whose whole job seems to be welcoming, processing, and forwarding human beings through to the Tactical Trainer roles in the combat theaters. There are a whole bunch of people here who are going to Iraq, and where I am there are only a few going to Afghanistan. That will change shortly, and so it will go. The program is adaptable, and it bends either way by design. It is an atmosphere of constant change and uncertainty, but it is run by people who do seem to care about what they are doing. It somehow seems to work.
I just relax and let myself be carried by the stream. I just do the next thing that’s put in front of me. So far, so good.
In the past few days we have done tons of paperwork (some for the third time) and have had our records gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Then there is the medical screening and the immunizations… what mirth! I received Hep B, Typhoid, and Smallpox. I also had a medic who apparently was in training to be a phlebotomist dig for veins in both arms and find nothing but a great way to create bruising in my elbows. Never had that happen before. They finally took the vial they needed from the vein on the back of my hand. It is disconcerting to see something being manipulated back and forth relatively vigorously while it is inserted a half inch into the crook of my arm. I was patient, though. He’s got to learn somehow, I suppose. I survived the assault.
We’ve also been issued a lot of equipment; probably two hundred pounds worth. Some of it is new and cool, and some of it is stuff I could have brought from home. The body armor is the same as that I left at home, but the ballistic plates are heavy, and the whole rig weighs around 35 pounds. That is without water, ammunition, grenades, and the medical kit. Never mind the rucksack. It rides well, though. It makes one feel a delusion of invulnerability and a certain amount of inflexibility. Inflexibly invulnerable is not a feeling I want to feed. I shall endeavor to remain vulnerable and find ways around the flexibility issue.
The team that is coming together is a good one. We are all Guardsmen, from about 8 states of the Union so far, and all volunteers. Good guys, all of them, with great senses of humor. We will get along well. I am honored to be one of them. I am honored to be permitted to serve.
Early next week we will be issued our weapons and will head down the hill for training. That program will give us a project for about two months or so and then we will be putting our boots on the ground in Afghanistan. That’s the real work part of this operation. That’s what we’re here to do. That’s what matters now. It has to be, because the focus has to be consistent. There’s too much at stake to be losing concentration. All of us have kids, I think. A lot at stake.
We are still in the honeymoon period, but I think it’s going to be alright. Team dynamics are so important. People can be killed for not working well together. It’s not a legal issue, it’s a life in a combat zone issue. I think we’ll be fine. It is amazing how the will of God works in our lives.
It’s not quite the beginning. It really started several weeks ago with a call to National Guard Bureau about a “job posting” on Guard Knowledge Online for ETT’s in Afghanistan. Then things took on a life of their own, and while I don’t have “hard copy” orders yet, I know that I’m to go to the mobe station to hook up with my team on January 2nd. I’ve had to jump through hoops to get here, too.
The first guy I talked to was a Sergeant Major who asked if I was the MP who had called him earlier. “No,” I said.
“What’s your MOS?” he asked.
“Well, my primary right now is 19K (armor crewman…)”
“I don’t need any of those,” he interjected flatly.
“I know. I’m also an 11B (infantry,)” I finished.
“What kind of a soldier are you?!” he demanded.
I was taken aback. He sounded stern, almost as if he were questioning my behavior at the moment. “What do you mean, Sergeant Major?”
“I mean, are you a sit-around soldier or a get-out-in-the-field soldier? I need some ETT’s, and it’s not a cushy job.”
“I don’t want to sit around, Sergeant Major. I’m calling you because of the E-7 11B positions on the spreadsheet with the 218th. I figured those were ETT’s.”
“They are. Do you have a BRB prepared?” he asked.
“What’s a BRB?”
That’s where it started. It turns out that a BRB is a short military resume, a Biographical Records Brief. Then it got better. What a journey… and I’ve never left the state. Probably more on that later, but it included a sit-down with a Colonel, lots of running around, and a couple of scares that I wasn’t going to get to go.
For those of you who know Bill and Bob, this journey is made partly in their honor. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be capable of performing this service for anyone. There’s a lot of redemption in this for me.
My children don’t know yet. I don’t want to ruin their Christmas. They will have time to adjust later. It won’t change their world, but it will make the pain shorter. The part of me that wants to tell them now is selfish. They will have a nice Christmas and then I will tell them, and we will have a week or so together before I leave for training. I have been a soldier since before any of them were born, so they are used to me leaving for periods of time… but not fifteen months.
I hope to document my journey through this blog. If anyone reads it and gets anything from it, so much the better. If no soul other than myself ever sees it, that will be okay, too. It is to help me see the changes and evolution as I go through this event. I feel like a child talking about what they will do when they grow up, because this is just that foreign to me. I have no idea what it will feel like, who I will meet, what I will face, if it will hurt, or if it is the beginning of the end of my life. I will probably laugh at this a year from now. I wanted to start as close to the beginning as possible. There’s a lot that has gone into this already, and I’m still at home.