Friday, June 15, 2007

13% through the deployment

First, this photo is a bit out of date- this was during our week of waiting at Camp Buehring in Kuwait- standing in front of our glorious tent.

Well, here I am during a break between cycles of training National Police. So I had the time to open up my Deployment countdown .xls file (someone around here with too much free time created a nice little formula and graphics interface for all of us to enjoy), and voila! I'm 13% through my "one year boots-on-ground".

Now many would find that discovery a sign of bad luck, to be right at 13% through the deployment. I can point to many other things that are greater signs of bad luck for me, but I'll just celebrate the fact that I have the distinct impression that things have moved along pretty well for my first month and a half in country.

Here are some comments about my experience given my 13% retrospective.

The super-long training at Ft. Riley wasn't very relevant, but it probably took the 3 months for me to start to believe that, yes, I am in the Army now.

I know the joy of "being away from the flag pole." When I did an internship last year, they asked me how I liked to work. I said, "tell me what you want me to do, and then leave me alone to get the work done." This job I have is about as close to that as I could ask for. They gave me a quick explanation of the role in general, and I've been at it ever since. I've talked to my immediate supervisor in person once since I came down- he had to get down here via helicopter.

I'm enjoying working with a group of professionals that in other circumstances I would have never met nor worked with. The international group of trainers and others at the facility here are an eclectic mix of law enforcement and security professionals with a smattering of other specialists. They swear even more than the folks I've worked with in the military, and most of them have biceps bigger than my thighs, but they're great fun and there's plenty of humor to accompany their understandings of the deadly serious business they are in.

I see a lot of "penny-wise, pound-foolish" types of activities.

I get the feeling there are a lot of folks just waiting us out and taking our money and resources in the meantime. The real power grab happens whenever we leave or our presence is too small to stop it.

You have to exercise a lot if you don't discipline yourself when every meal is "all-u-can-eat".

Even a psychologist can get good with a Glock and M4 if he practices at the range every Friday or so. I'm even OK with the Beretta.

This isn't a religious war, and in some ways is a reprise of the Gadianton robbers from the Book of Mormon. Secret combinations abound.

I love my country more than ever and want to serve it honorably, even if I'm not entirely excited to be here serving it. Likewise, I cannot express adequately how great is my pride and admiration of my colleagues and brothers in arms who work harder, are more enthusiastic, and take on much more dangerous missions than mine.

You don't learn arabic very well talking primarily with Aussies. They speak Aussie (I did find an Aussie slang web-dictionary to help me with my "word of the day" exercise).

Don't drink the tap water. Bottled only. You don't even want to eat the fruits and veggies if they've been contaminated by the dirty water (learned the hard way about "Saddam's Revenge"- may I have my intestines back, please?).

120 isn't hot- it'll be hot in a couple of months. When the wind blows, its a lot like standing in front of a giant hair dryer, but you can't turn it off. Thankfully, "its a dry heat." Yeah, thanks, I'll be in the Army all day! Try the veal, its delicious!

The contractors here are training some people (not all are like this) who seem to be able to on one side endure tremendous hardships, yet on the other are unwilling to do the small things which would in some ways make their lives much more tolerable, and complain incredibly about things which really don't matter.

I don't think training is the 'rate limiting factor' in getting things in order here. It does not appear to be an issue of not knowing what to do or how to do it.

There's some of my 13% worth. My fear of censure or punishment for blogging means most of my comments are off the record for at least four years (20 year letter first). Not that I have any earth shattering intelligence, but it is not outside the realm of possiblity that I could be accused of sharing sensitive information.

I'm enjoying things much more than I thought I would. I miss my family quite a bit, but am able to communicate with them enough to feel like I'm not losing touch with them entirely. I've got a good picture of what my next 4 months will look like, and then I face more uncertainty as the situation has the potential to change drastically at that point.

Thanks to friends and family who keep me in your prayers, and especially to those who have worked to support my family during my absence.

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