Thursday, March 20, 2008

ENDEX and Mike Charlie

I got zero sleep yesterday. I don't know what I did to aggravate it, but the tendonitis in my left elbow kept me up until about 3am, at which point I basically said "to hell with it" and started packing.

The exercise which I have been supporting for the past two weeks ended. It was, without a doubt, the best training I have ever seen a unit receive. I have no question that, elsewhere in the Army high-speed units get far more realistic training. However, what is being done for Soldiers in an unheard of installation in New Mexico on the Texas border is incredible. The Soldiers in the supported units received training that is going to help them accomplish their mission in Iraq. Common sense OPSEC means that I'll give no further details on an open source, but I finished each of my shifts in a state of awe over what these units were doing and how they were preparing.

With as much time as this nation has spent at war, the line between "Active" and "Reserve" has blurred. There were "reserve" Soldiers at this training who have spent more time on active duty than about half of the Regular Army enlistees who have signed up since the start of Iraq. For some of the mobilized Soldiers, they'd have spent less time on active duty if they had simply went RA. Now, for the vast majority of them, it is a voluntary choice. Even for those who are involuntarily mobilized, many of them "volunteered" for it (it's "easier" to involuntarily mobilize than to volunteer for mobilization). However, four years in the high desert of New Mexico can have an adverse affect on people.

I turned in my linen today and have checked in to the Army Lodging hotel on Ft. Bliss. Although it's questionable that I'll be reimbursed for my stay tonight, honestly, I was sick and tired of that Korean War era building and a mattress that was new during Reagan's first term. I have a TV with cable, free internet, and a mattress and box spring tonight. That is well worth the $42 it cost me. I even took a shower in a facility where I wasn't turning off the hot water with my elbow when I turned.

One day during the exercise I went to the Troop Store and hung out in the internet cafe eating a sandwich. At the table next to me were a handful of young Soldiers in one of the units we were training. I sat there and listened to them talk about what they had done today. The training they received late that night and early that morning was a combination of real-world with live roleplayers and some notional exercises for their higher command. These Soldiers had no idea what their command was doing, but they were there for the live action. Each of them were talking about what they had done during the event, how they, and their immediate leaders, had handled it. And one of them remarked to the group that it was "the best thing they'd ever seen" even though they actually didn't handle it very well. However, these young Soldiers knew that they learned more from the errors they made than if they'd lucked in to doing it right. Another even remarked how "it didn't feel like training, that it was real." I was proud to have had a very small role in providing that for them, and am confident that they are going into harm's way better prepared to, not just survive, but to thrive and help accomplish the mission they will be assigned.

Anyways, I picked up some reading material for the trip home tomorrow. It's only and hour flight, with about two hours at the airport, so I picked up two books to read. Baseball Prospectus 2008 and God Save the Fan. I read a couple chapters from God Save the Fan, and I'm impressed. This is a book I'd often thought about writing myself if I had the ability. I'll enjoy it I'm sure. BP2008 isn't really a "read it" book so much as it is a "Who is this guy?" resource while I'm watching Spring Training.

Speaking of which, baseball season starts for real soon. I'm excited. I'll actually be able to enjoy having Extra Innings again since I'll be home in time to see Astros games! Yay to being out of USAREC! My fandom was another, silent, victim of my time in recruiting. I just couldn't enjoy the Astros, who I've followed since the early 90's as much, because USAREC sucked all joy out of life.

While on the subject of USAREC, while I was here I ran into another former recruiter and we had a bit of a conversation. Even though this NCO had been out of recruiting for over two years, they still had the nightmares of missing appointments and forgetting to take someone to MEPS. Although I don't have it that bad, I still go into full-on panic mode that I misplaced my government cell phone. I also have "phantom rings" where I swear I heard the "Asian jungle" and feel my shoulder pocket vibrating.

I don't miss it at all.


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