Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A Ray of Light in a Sea of Darkness

Last night my guys made me very proud of them. Nothing had been going right all day. We had been getting jerked around by our chain of command as usual as to what exactly we were supposed to be doing. When we finale got the word that we were supposed to roll all of our equipment back to our home camp one of our trucks kicked the bucket. We had to get the mechanics out to look at it and they were none too pleased.

When we finally got under way our first serial, including myself had been under way for about 30 minutes when the phone rang. Our platoon sergeant who was in the second serial had lost his ID card and was not going to be allowed to leave the camp we were on. He thought maybe one of my other NCOs would have it. So our serial stopped on the side of the freeway to check. No one had it. We were underway again.... At least for a moment.

When the Mitsubishi Pajero that was leading our serial of four military vehicles and itself had pulled off the freeway, it had damaged a tire causing it to go flat. We were immobile again. This is where my guys impressed me. The convoy was stopping again and word quickly spread as to what was up. They sprang to action. Soldiers locked and loaded and took up very good defensive positions to ensure our convoys safety, all of this with no prior coordination. It was the first time I had really seen my guys come together as a team so well. Some of them pulled security while the others worked on getting the Pajero back online. It was beautiful. Well my guys execution was beautiful. The repair itself was a night mare!

A Mitsubishi Pajero is very much like a Montero back in the good old USA, and much to my chagrin the jack that comes with this vehicle is about 5 inches tall when compressed, and about 14 inches tall when fully extended. Well if you subtract the about 8 inches that the vehicle is already off the ground and then add the about 6 inches of play the suspension provides, you guessed it, the darn thing wont even lift the wheel off the ground. What is the point?

After working with this stupid little jack for about 40 minutes trying anything and everything we could think of to get the wheel off the ground our saviors arrived. The local police. Surely they would have a real jack to lift this piece of junk off the ground. There were a few moments of relief and then utter despair. These guys didn't have a jack, they don't have radios, and these guys don't even have weapons. What exactly do these guys do anyway? They zoomed off to find a jack.

In the mean time we continued to try to find a solution. Breaking into our own truck to try to find another jack. We pulled out the hydraulic jack for the 5 ton truck we had. This thing was at least three times the size of the Pajero jack. It surely would have lifted the vehicle off of the ground...If it had any fluid in it.

We spent the next couple of hours trying to work some magic with little to no equipment. What we finally ended up having to do was prop a chalk block under the suspension and to get our mini jack out, find a bunch of wood to raise our Mr. mini about 4 inches and get the wheel off the ground. All in all we spent nearly three hours on the side of the road for a flat tire. It's funny to look back at now, and actually, it was funny at the time to.

Now we are wrapping up preparation for our next headache, I mean exercise and we'll see how long this one lasts. At least we are getting a lot of training.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Couple Days Off Can Work Wonders

I have had the last two days off, and man what a difference a day or two makes. I was almost at the point of pulling out all my hair and curling up in a corner and just going to sleep. Today I feel much better. I slept from around 10pm last night until about 2pm today and it felt great.

I got up, took a shower came in to check my email, and went to church. It was a very reinvigorating day. Now we'll just have to wait and see how I feel after tomorrow.

I hope to be able to post pictures soon. You can see what my storage bin looks like. I kid you not, I live in a converted container. It's nice to have my own space though so I'm not complaining.

There was a hole six people at church today. I guess the unit that had the biggest presence is gone. They were all in a finance unit in Utah. I am happy for them being back home.

I am and am not looking forward to going home. My unit in the rear often times leaves much to be desired, but to be with my family is worth any hardship. All of the little things that are going on with everyone in my family I wish I could be there for, good and bad. I will be soon and for as long as I can manage. There is a good chance that the Army will deploy me at least once more before my time is up but at least I am getting close.

Joyce and I are getting bills paid off, so that's a good thing and there isn't too much opportunity for me to rack up new ones out here. Though I do try. I'm sure if you could talk to Joyce about it I have been a spending machine. The things I do I do well or why bother, and I am good at buying toys.

Well I need to go to bed and get ready for the next wonderful day in this soldier's paradise.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Duck Tape and Bubble Gum

I'm trying as hard as I can and I know I am a little....okay maybe a lot melodramatic, but it seems to be getting harder and harder to hold everything together. I am seeming to lose control of my guys, at least it seems that way to me.

One of my NCOs has taken it upon himself to disregard bits and pieces of what I tell him to make happen or even to do himself. He doesn't communicate well with others, but I knew that coming into this mission. He is a "doer", and he figures he can do it faster himself than get anyone else involved. Sometimes that is a good thing and some times it is detrimental to the TEAM. The biggest place it has become a problem is when there has been an issue when I wasn't there and he doesn't tell me anything about it and then I get blind sided by it later on, and look stupid because I have no idea what happened. The picking and choosing of which instructions of mine he will follow and which he will not is really getting my goat however.

He's not the only one either though. The other day Smiley got a speeding ticket on the compound. It could have happened to any of us, but regardless of who it happens to, it reflects on me.

Mo as found a new way of getting under my skin. He is no longer looking for someone to kill every minute of the day, at least not visibly. He is now pushing every limit of my uniform standards. He is also becoming a "sharpshooter", in other words he is constantly telling me how he would do things differently. Now I have been known to have a hard time dealing with constructive criticism, but I can accept a logical suggestion when one comes along. Let's just say not of his have been anything remotely close to logical.

This morning our way back to camp from shift the garrison commander paced our vehicle at 160kph. Yup that's right around a hundred miles an hour. Needless to say he was none to thrilled and he called in our license plate and vehicle to all of the camp gates. We got stopped as we were pulling into our home camp and received the lovely news. As it stands right now the driver got a citation and all of the rest of our names have been sent up as being in the vehicle. I was not driving but by position I am responsible for the actions of my soldiers. Now I was asleep at the time of the occurrence, so I had no control over the situation, but that is no excuse. Even if I had been awake I probably wouldn't have said anything. I wanted to get to bed as badly as the rest of them.

I know this sounds like a vent session, but it really isn't. I accept full responsibility for everything that I have mentioned above. I let the actions take place and for that I am wrong. I need to get a tighter grip on what is going on out here. I had it good for a while, but I am getting worn out and that control is slipping through my fingers. I think the bottom line is it is just time for me to call the whole Army thing quits. I don't enjoy any aspect of it any more, and I have always believed that if something doesn't make you happy, don't do it.

This month I have two years left on my current enlistment and I have less than any intention of continuing my service. Until then I just hope I can scape up enough duck tape and bubble gum to hold this worn down soldier together.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Where to Begin?

About three weeks ago my guys and I were up early hustling about in the dark trying to get ready to go quietly. This was it, our first opportunity to shine. We had to roll off post to another facility and put all of our systems in service, I expected some "hick-ups" and "bumps in the road", but I didn't expect this.

To save some sense of brevity I will sum up. We didn't get all the info we needed for our mission until after we had arrived on site, we have had vehicles perform poorly, and the window of visibility on what we are doing is HUGE! It has been a good learning experience for my guys and me as well as a humbling experience for myself. In spite of that no one in their right mind would call this mission a success. I guess all we can do is roll with the punches.

I got my first disciplinary counseling since starting my military career. The stress of not performing to my own standards was really starting to bear down on me and during a butt chewing that I have never been great at taking gracefully I lost control. I was disrespectful and unprofessional with a senior non-commissioned officer. I was immediately ashamed of my actions and worse still I did so in front of one of my soldiers. Not the example to be setting ever, let alone in the situation we are in. I apologized my offended superior and we are still on very good terms, but I have not been able to shake the memory of how immature I acted.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to take a long time soldier of mine to the promotion board. He has been my soldier off and one since he was a PFC and there is an immense sense of pride watching him gain his promotable status. We have not always seen eye to eye on everything and I still feel he has a lot to learn before he can be an effective NCO, but that is what I am here for right? I just hope I can get back into being the example I need to be.

On the trip between posts for the board, I locked and loaded for only the second time out here. As we pulled up to a stop light I saw the barrel of what appeared to be a shot gun sticking up between the two front seats of the car in front of us. Upon closer inspection it was a little boy with a toy shot gun, but it was not really identifiable as a toy at all, except for the size. It was slightly smaller than the real thing. The little boy was just being a little boy, aiming the toy weapon at road signs, and other traffic, but I couldn't help but think how irresponsible that father was, letting his child behave the way he was. If I had not realized earlier that it was a boy with a toy gun, I could have killed him. I have no urge to take any human being's life, but if it came down to a position where I thought I or any of my guys was in danger of not going home to their families you bet you butt I would. I could have killed this child, and then would have forever had to live with the knowledge that I not only killed a human being, but a child and for no real reason. Worse still this young man in the driver's seat would have lost a son.

I am left wondering why the world has to be this way. It seems so much easier to be happy, at home with your family, living peacefully together. Will we ever get there?