20 March 2010

Count Down 0

First off, no amount of time spent with your family will be enough.  Time flies by and there is nothing you can do to stop it.  Amidst the last minute preparations, I can't help but regret all the times that I did other things other than spending time at home.  Today did not go at all as expected and a short day with the Army quickly turned into a logistical nightmare in attempting to arrange flights for people scattered throughout the country to pull this whole deployment off.

I fly out in a couple of hours and while I am in no way ready to say goodbye.  I know that 20 years from now when I'm vacationing on the warm beaches of Iraq enjoying the peaceful summers it will all have been worth it... that or we'll still be sorting through the ambiguity of the situation.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be in New Jersey for a dog and pony show (a special, official ceremony in which the Army tries to make us feel better about things and tells us how to say goodbye).  After that, I'll head to Wisconsin for training to complement the 21 days that we just ran through last month.  It should be an interesting time there considering WI and Iraq don't really experience parallel weather patterns.

At this point I expect we'll go on "lockdown" in Wisconsin where drinking and other forms of fun are banned. Internet access will also be spotty, so I'll have to save up my cynicism for larger blocks.

18 March 2010

Packing the Books...

As I continue to put off packing in favor of watching Julie and Julia, I am still struggling with the books that I want to take on the first leg of this trip (I've got a bookshelf of titles ready to be mailed as I move through titles). I have rather expansive taste (more honestly I lack any focus in selecting what I want to read) in books as you can see by my Amazon wishlist and the books I've reviewed on my other website (LocalPlan.org).

So far I've narrowed the list down to:

  • The Bully of Bentonville
  • Land Administration for Sustainable Development
  • Heavy Metal in Baghdad
  • The Triple Bottom Line
  • Rediscovering Black Conservatism
  • Sociology - Understanding a Diverse Society
I have also added significantly to my "must bring" gear.  Most of my recent additions include tactical gear (mine probing kit, rapid personnel recovery kit, poleless litter, IR strobe light, tourniquets, and Nalgene canteens).

We'll see how all the packing goes.  As for plans for actually getting out of Asheville, well that's a complete nightmare at this point, but I am sure it will all come together if the Army wants it to.  

In terms of my personal exit strategy, I'm trying to keep things on the calm side, but things I have forgotten today perpetually creep up.  Not to mention that I put off finishing every course I was taking until today so it's been a mad dash to try to get all that finalized before going full on Army on Saturday.


17 March 2010

Going Away...

I have a deeply complex love/hate relationship with the Army.  In terms of its organization and decision making capabilities, I think it needs a lot of improvement (I'm being nice).  I have somewhat of an authority problem, so it's true that my own personal perspective differs drastically to the system in which I exist thus prompting a healthy amount of discord.  Doing anything with the military is a frustrating experience in attempting to interact with a cold, calculating system rife with inefficiencies and devoid of logical skills.

On the other hand, the Army does have a tendency to bring out the best in people.  Both in soldiers and in the people that support them.  I hold the soldiers that I manage in the highest esteem.  Despite the fact that I sometimes have to come down harder on them than I want to, it's impossible not to value each of them as individuals because of their quirks and personalities.  As I make my transition yet again into Army life, I am struck by how generous people are in supporting us and how the network of civilians working quietly in the background makes whatever it is that we are doing possible.


As the time grows closer to moving out, I am forced to say goodbye to all the great people I know and even though I know, I'll have a great group of soldiers to lessen the void, goodbyes are always difficult.  I have to show off the basket full of goodies that the great folks at Buncombe County Planning put together for me.  I think they've all heard my assorted stream of consciousness rants getting ready for overseas and they've been really great about putting up with my incessant yammering about all things Army as my mind became consumed by the realization of going away.

Over the past few days, I've had to relinquish whatever sense of control I felt like I had over my own life and realize I have to turn over some of my autonomy and agency to the Army (if you know me, you know that this is unlikely to happen).  Even harder though, I've had to step back and realize that I won't be around to intervene and meddle in the daily lives of my wife and daughter.  I have to mentally deal with the idea that I won't be there to contribute my own amount of irrationality and emotion to any problems that creep up while I am away.  In all seriousness, as hard as it is to leave my family, I feel at ease with it simply because of the people that have come out of the woodwork to support us all.

14 March 2010

Jedi Tab

While deployments generally suck in terms of being away from home combined with the drudgery of everyday military life, there are still plenty of opportunities for entertainment.  Most of these opportunities are self-created, but soldiers have seemingly boundless capabilities for amusing themselves.  During our free time on my last deployment our common sources of fun included duct taping one another to chairs, rearranging the living areas of others, and the "Water Head" Olympics (a series of athletic events which revolved around Olympic like sports simulated with various vehicle parts).  

The surrealism of the military itself also serves as a source of entertainment.  Given the overly bureaucratic nature of today's Army, it's sometimes difficult not to take advantage of the humor.  As a junior enlisted, I often kept myself occupied by working to understand the complex quagmire of Army regulations and testing the very limits of those regulations.  During one such venture, I orchestrated the award of the "Jedi" to a number of my fellow soldiers.  The memo below was used in an attempt to dissuade any inquiring higher ups from making us remove it.  We found it to have about a 50% success rate.

12 March 2010

Preparations

So admittedly, I've slacked off quite a bit on blogging, but I am getting read to fire things back up so that I can give a little insight into my looming deployment to Iraq and hopefully keep up with the real world.

This being my second deployment, I am slightly more aware of how to prepare, not that it's really helping me prepare, I'm just aware of the things that I'm putting off. Instead of making sure I was well stocked on all sorts of highspeed military gear, I've focused more on making sure I have plenty of stuff to keep me entertained (which in my case is lots of books) and things to help record the experience. During the last deployment, I didn't take the time I should have to get as many pictures as possible, and for many reasons I regret not having the memories to refer back to.

I've been attempting to get as much information I can about what the conditions are like in Iraq (you know the important things like what the chows is like, how fast the internet is, and do they have a Post Exchange on base). Last deployment I spent a bulk of my time on a small base in Afghanistan and this time I am headed to Iraq and expect to be at a larger (and hopefully more built-up base).

Just in case it's interesting my current packing list includes (it's not all-inclusive yet):

  • Laptop
  • Webcam
  • Flip HD Ultra Video Camera
  • CDs and Flash Drives
  • Gameboy
  • Digital Camera
  • Military ID Card Reader (we use them to digitally sign documents)
  • IKEA Pillows and Sheets (nothing exciting but I know they're clean)
  • Books (list books)
  • Uniforms (2 regular, one PT)
  • Tourniquets
  • Flashlights
  • Knives (2x pocket, 1 K-Bar)
  • Dip
  • Drop-Leg Magazine Holster
  • Rack-Type Magazine Holster and Pouches
  • About 3 full 3 ring binders with records
In case you think the list looks slim, believe me it is (we are expecting to be away from home over a year).  At this point we are only allowed to carry two duffle bags and one large backpack on the plane ride overseas with us (we are also allowed to carry a personal item such as a laptop and a carry on).  Last time I went, I remember how difficult it was to fit just the Army issue items into the little packing space we had (we finally got all my stuff crammed into my bags by having one soldier hold the bag while I jumped up and down into it until things were compressed enough).  Currently, I have a full duffle bag full of cold weather gear waiting for me in Wisconsin and am expecting to get at least another bag worth of stuff issued before we head over.