Just finished our rotation at NTC. I'm not sure what the point of coming here was. Our brigade was cut approximately half due to the troop reduction (probably the first serious thing that has made me seethe with hatred over a Presidential decision) and will be broken off into individual task forces spread across Afghanistan. NTC only trains brigades. Brigade SOPs and brigade level training was conducted for 3 weeks yet in about 2 weeks, our brigade will dissolve and we will not work with them ever again. We learned nothing - we proved ourselves to be the best CoIST in the brigade and did nothing but utilize our company and BN SOPs. That being said, I witnessed some really terrible shit that makes me glad we will not be working with our own brigade soon enough. A no cell phone/outside communication policy that resulted in more than one soldier missing the chance to talk to a loved one before they died. A restriction on red cross messages to immediate family only to prevent them from leaving "the box" and pictures of pizza boxes in the brigade TOC while at the company level, we were usually restricted to MREs or sometimes nothing. Sometimes I am so excited and proud to be a member of the military and other times I am so disgusted that I regret ever joining. I suppose everyone in the military feels like this at one time or another, and that I am not extraordinarily unique in this thought process.
Because the National Guard and the Army as a whole enjoy fucking soldiers out of money, we're doing two back to back AT's (2011 followed the next day by 2012) in order to not pay everyone BAH and the other entitlements we would normally receive on active orders for 6 weeks or so. Then we're off. I feel confident in the COIST team and I know we'll be able to perform whatever tasks the commander has for us. The largest part of our job is receiving intelligence and processing it to make it useful to the commander and higher headquarters. We're all college educated, anal retentive/borderline OCD neat freaks, so we fit well together. Not sure how the blog thing will work out this time. If anything, I'll keep a digital journal and then publish it all once we get back.
So I read this article today: http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/wanted-a-good-job-and-some-understanding/
Quite a good read. It makes me laugh too. The military and the government are always doing surveys and spending millions on how to fix veterans but they do not hesitate to keep troops away from their families for lengthy periods even when stateside. I ran the numbers and I was gone for training 1 day out of every 3 last year. This year has been even worse. Last year we had a month AT, two weeks off in between, a MUTA 12 (6 day drill), another 2 weeks off, another MUTA 12 then I was gone for 2 weeks for a school. I had two more weeks off, then was gone for a MUTA 4 (2 day drill) and a 7 day school. There has also been a disturbing trend towards having drills during the week instead of the weekend. Trying to get a job as a Guardsmen has been the hardest thing I've ever done. They ask for your drill schedule, see that you'll be gone at least one week a month, an entire month sometime in the summer and then either at the end of the year or early in the next, you'll be gone for an entire year. When you get back, you'll have a few months of nothing and then the cycle starts all over.
If I hear "we've filled the spot internally" one more time, I might get sick.
So I have a wedding today. Yesterday the girlfriend and I went to Old Navy in search of some cheap "summer casual" wedding clothes. I found a nice polo, a pair of khakis and some black undershirts. As usual, my girlfriend found nothing to wear in the entire store. I noticed a tiny TV playing some military crap at the front of the store with a bin that read "t-shirts, boxers, and socks". We waited in line at the check-out and our cashier greeted us. She rang up my stuff and made small talk with my girlfriend. Right before I was ready to pay, she asked if I would like to donate $5 to the troops in order to get 10% off my purchase. I laughed and commented that I was a troop. This was apparently not funny. She looked at me and said "Well you can donate $2.50 too for 10% off." I laughed again. Explaining to this girl that absolutely none of these clothes or cash would go to troops that actually needed it would be an exercise in futility. Care packages and MWR packages go to people that spend the majority of their deployment time at the PX and Burger King.
The girl was stonefaced. "So because you think you're a troop you don't need to donate?" In my mind, I pictured myself smashing her face open with my fist. I could see her nose crack, her lip split and teeth come out. Luckily my girlfriend stepped in: "He's already donated 5 years of his life, with one of those in a combat zone."
The girl was unrelenting: "You can donate as little as $1 for 10% off!" I swiped my credit card and left with my shit.
Well done Old Navy. I'm not sure what reward you're giving your cashiers for pushing this 4th of July bullshit. I used to shop at your stores almost exclusively for my clothes. I will never shop with you again.
Berets are gone with ACUs. I've always hated it, but I've also managed to go three years without wearing mine. We wear PCs at training anyways since we spend very little time in garrison. It was great to read the report last night though, considering I am at a two week course where we have to wear it everyday. One less item for the packing list and now my right cargo pocket will be empty of a hat I never wear.
The velcro patches are largely irrelevant to me considering in a few months I'll be overseas wearing Multicam without any nametapes or patches anyways.
So a lot has changed. I got promoted rank-wise, and I got very promoted job-wise. A few readers out there are Facebook/E-mail friends with my actual persona and I ask them to keep it "locked up" for now. I was asked to join the CoIST team (Company-level Intelligence & Surveillance Team).
I am also compassionate in a way that not many guys in the company/battalion/brigade/Army/planet are. I don't think we should kill everyone that has brown skin because of 9/11: I am very interested in the SWEAT-MS (Sewage, Water, Electricity, Academics, Trash-Removal, Medical, Security) of the places we deploy to. I am very passionate about connecting with Iraqis and Afghanis on a level where we trade information/compliance for these basic amenities. I think, like GEN Petraeus that like in Iraq, this is the key to success in squelching insurgencies and ensuring that the US and her allies are successful in the mission at whole and most importantly, bringing people home. It's crazy to think that I am deploying to fight in a country that we had first went to war in when I was in high school. I will be fighting in a country that we had first invaded when I didn't even know what a boner was in high school. Weird.
So my updates are few and far between. It's winter and we don't train very much so there's not much to complain about. Our training tempo has also considerably slowed down for the holidays, no 8 day drills during Christmas/New Year's, go figure. I have a wonderful red beard growing out thanks to my Viking heritage.
The G.I. Bill issue got solved. All I had to do was declare a minor that covered every "elective" class I needed. So now I have 4 minors. That seems incredibly bureaucratic but it is the VA after all.
My tuition assistance (FTA) issue from last semester remains open in the amount of $2300. Apparently the two ladies in charge of it at the state level got deployed and the one dude running the shop just ignored all calls/e-mails for the semester since he was so overwhelmed with work. Seems like a reasonable course of action for a Sergeant in the United States Army. The S1 is working with me on the issue. I am not hopeful.
My bonus issue remains at the battalion level. I was recently asked to write-up a report on it to give to the incoming sergeant major. I got excited for a second then realized I was an idiot.
I met a wonderful girl who has been occupying most of my time. I haven't ever felt this way about a woman before and now I sort of regret extending my contract for Afghanistan, but it is what it is.
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