Saturday, September 29, 2007

A cold morning in Ireland.

It's been very hectic since my last entry. I spent the last week at Ft. Benning learning the Army way of deploying. There were over 400 people being processed together so it was like being in a herd of cattle most of the time. Civilians and contractors out numbered military 2 to 1 and of the military, there were only 4 people who weren't in the Army. Two of them weren't going to Iraq so that just left Navy Lt JG Bob (who is also going to work at JIEDDO) and myself as the only non-Army.

The training consisted of lots of briefings, medical screenings, and military training. We have briefings about Iraq, IEDs, first aid, weapons, tactics, and on and on and on. We fired the M-9 at and interesting range with multiple pop up targets, and we even practiced throwing hand grenades. It was a packed week with days that lasted from 10-12 hours. The accommodations were interesting. The Army has a different standard than the Air Force, but it was not too bad. We were issued all of the gear needed for the next year - uniforms, sleeping bag, body armor, and lots of other stuff. Bob and I are now stealth Army guys - we have Army uniforms so people think were Army officers until they take a look at the service tapes and see Navy and Air Force and then they generally just look confused. It's kinda fun.

We boarded a contract flight out of Ft Benning and we're currently on a refueling stop in Ireland. In a couple hours we'll load back up and head off to Kuwait were we'll switch to military aircraft for the final hop to Iraq.

Stay tuned for more after I get to Iraq and get set up.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

For Real This Time.........

I depart for Ft. Benning Saturday afternoon, and a week after that I'll be heading to Iraq. The last week has involved briefings and of course more paperwork. I've seen some interesting things, but haven't really learned much more about what I'll specifically be doing when I get to Iraq. I did find out I'll be traveling much more than I thought. I completed some paperwork today so I could travel in and out of other countries in the region including Afghanistan. Of course I'll write as much as I can about any adventures involving regional travel.

I want to take a little space to cover a topic that's come up a few times in the last couple weeks. I have no intention of turning this into a blog about political ideologies so let me say, as a military officer, I remain neutral in my public political affiliations - I will follow the orders of civilian leadership regardless of the party or person in charge. With that said - what I have to say is my personal belief and is not political in any regard. Several times over the last few weeks, as people discover I'm preparing to deploy to Iraq, I generally receive generic supportive comments, and then invariably something which I find curious takes place. Some people look at me with pity and make a comment about how I must hate that I'm being forced to deploy to Iraq - how I must hope that the troops are all brought home soon so I can get out of there quickly.

I volunteered for this deployment - in fact, everyone in my group is a volunteer. These are well educated, experienced Officers and Senior Enlisted people, most with families. I make this point because I want people to understand these are not people who are blind to the risk and hardship they are about to embark upon. I can't speak for my fellow team members as to their personal reason for volunteering, but I can tell you mine. Nothing is black and white so I don't pretend I can capture my personal reasons in their entirety and complexity in a few paragraphs so here are the broad reasons.

There are professional decisions that played the smallest part of my reasoning. I have two deployments already so I don't really need another one to make my records better for promotion, but let's face it - another one won't hurt. My true reasoning is this. I believe America is in a fight for it's existence. There is an enemy that has nothing less than complete annihilation of our way of life as it's end goal. These people want to kill you - your parents - your kids - your neighbors - your priest - the local kindergarten teacher - everyone. I know there's a large part of our population that simply can't imagine that to be true. In fact - a large part of our population feels there is some sort of internal conspiracy to perpetuate this idea on the basis of some hidden gain for industry or rich people. That is simply ignorance and fear. Ignorance of the world events of the last 20 or so years, and how they relate to the growth of radical Islam and hatred of not just our nation, but democracy and freedom anywhere in the world. Fear, because it's scary to think a group of people want us and our way of life extinguished. It's hard for people to wrap their minds around that - and let's be honest with ourselves - most Americans don't want to think about anything that detracts from their favorite TV shows or the latest scandal surrounding some lame celebrity. We simply want to live our lives and avoid contemplating the ugly, dangerous, evil lurking just beyond sight. To avoid having to face that evil, people will convince themselves it can't exist and will argue with anyone who says it does. To do any less means having to acknowledge it exists, and that's scary - plus it might mess with the fall TV lineup - or God forbid - it could actually mean the slightest sacrifice for the average American. People are simply not willing to accept any of that and will fight to ensure their security blanket of ignorance remains pulled over their eyes.

This is the reason I volunteered to go to Iraq. I believe America is in a fight for it's very existence and I want to do my part. A million debates could be held on whether or not we should have invaded Iraq - I don't know the answer to that and neither does anyone else. Besides - we don't get a do over on that one. Was the enemy there before we invaded? It doesn't matter, they are there now. Did we draw them there by our presence? Probably - but that should make every person in our country very happy because there is one thing I do know with 100% certainty - I know where they were before they went to fight us in Iraq. They were in New York and Washington D.C. I would rather fight them over there than here. This is why I'm going - this is why I want to go - and this is why I wish more people would pay attention to what's happening in the world and less attention to which celebrity is in trouble. Think about it........


Friday, September 14, 2007


It seems I have an extra week to spend with my family. I was initially told I would depart for Ft. Benning this Saturday. During my meetings at JIEDDO this week I was told I'm now leaving the 22nd. The group of us from my pre-deployment training were all supposed to travel together, but we've been broken up into a few different groups. One guy is out on the 15th, another guy and I are departing on the 22nd, and the rest aren't leaving until Oct 6th. This is a great deal for me. I get to spend more time with my family. It kind of messes with my mind though. It's an emotionally trying time to prepare and leave your family for a year. For me, I kind of prepare myself emotionally in the last few days before I leave. It's hard to explain. I had myself prepared to leave and now it's a another week away. Don't get me wrong - it's a good thing to get an extra week at home, it's just double the emotional drain getting mentally prepared for the last couple days at home twice.

Friday, September 7, 2007

One Week Out

It's about a week until I leave for Ft. Benning and two weeks until I depart for Iraq. I signed in at my new organization - JIEDDO - and have done my inprocessing with them. Next week I have some orientation briefings and I think I'll be in a meeting with the team in Iraq so they can brief me on anything I need to know before I get there. From a military standpoint this is the strangest deployment I've had. I barely feel like I'm leaving and it's a week away. Usually I've had a large amount of gear issued to me so I've had mobility bags sitting around the house in the weeks leading up to my departure. They keep telling me I'll get everything I need when I get to Ft. Benning so I don't really have anything except my personal stuff to pack. For those of you who aren't familiar with how this works, you can't wear civilian clothes in Iraq so no need to pack that. What I am taking is my laptop, a couple books, an MP3 player, one set of civilian clothes (to fly to Georgia in), my Physical Training (PT) gear, my toiletries, and some documentation I need. All in all, that's very little. My last deployment I had six very full mobility bags. While I'm glad I don't have to carry that much equipment, it's disconcerting to be leaving for a year and not really taking anything. When I get to Ft. Benning, I'll receive uniforms and weapons along with some small uniform items like socks and t-shirts. When I stop in Kuwait I'll receive body armor and chemical warfare gear. It's really a much better way to deploy.

On the home front, I think most of the things on the list have been crossed off. I can always think of a hundred small things I wish I had time to do before I leave. As I've said in other posts, just imagine you had to leave your family for a year and think of all the things you'd want to have done before you leave. I want it to be as easy on them as possible while I'm gone. The often overlooked when it comes to deployments, are the families back home. My wife, now becomes a single working mom. My kids have their lives disrupted and everything changes for them (never underestimate the impact of something like this on kids) and everyone back home will have this low level concern eating away in the back of their minds about my safety. I have the easy part in all this. So back to my point, I want to make sure as many things around the house are taken care of as possible. From my perspective I'll be as worried about them while I'm gone as they are about me - it's that protective instinct for the family. I'll feel helpless to do anything for them while I'm gone and that's not a good feeling. One thing that has helped is getting a nanny. I guess the true term is Au Pair. We have a young lady from Germany coming to live in our home and take care of the kids while I'm gone. She'll be here a couple weeks after I leave and will leave right before I get back - so I won't even meet this girl until my mid-tour, but it's still a good feeling to know childcare is locked in. Let me just say a little about this method of childcare. We looked at every possible method for child care. We assumed we would use the before and after care program associated with the kids school but we were too far down the list for them to get in the program until Jan so we were in a real bind. The problem with that program is you have to pick them up by 6:15pm and you can't drop them off until 7:15am. Anyone familiar with traffic in D.C. will understand why that's a problem. My wife would be stressed everyday trying to make it to child care and work on time. When we started thinking about live in child care we thought the cost would be prohibitive, but in reality the cost is almost the same. Of course you have to provide room and board, but in our case I'm not there anyway so it's really an offset cost. If any of you ever find yourself in need of child care in a similar situation take a look at the State Department's Au Pair program.
Keep checking back - the good stuff is only a couple weeks away. I'll present it all, the good, the bad, the boring, the exciting. The only thing not open for discussion is operationally sensitive information and personal information about my family (after all - anyone in the world can read this) I have a companion web site where I'll have a large photo album. That site is empty right now, but once I get there I'll keep it updated with pictures. If anyone wants to know something specific, drop me a line.......