Sunday, May 09, 2010

Road Warriors

I know there are many people who face long commutes to work on a regular basis. I have been blessed to be able to find work and school settings where I have not had to travel great distances, with the one exception often being my Army Reserve duties, as I've been assigned to units that aren't necessarily very close to the rest of my life. Typically, I was facing about 60-90 minutes to get to my Reserve duty, whether that be in Maryland, Utah, or even Hawaii- small island, but small roads...

So when I planned out my next steps with the move to North Carolina, I also planned to find a unit as close as possible to home. I just don't like commuting much. Found a large HQ unit in Charlotte, NC, about 40 minute drive, but it was chock full 'o Majors, and didn't have space for one more. So I checked in with the National Guard, and they indicated they had a couple of military police major slots at a Brigade HQ in Charlotte. "Perfect!", I thought. And so I started the process of separating from the Reserves and joining the National Guard. An easier task at more junior ranks, but a bit more involved for a "field grade" officer.  Eventually, I got through the process and began my role as the plans officer. I don't know if I did it very well, very poorly, or just had the right occupational specialty, but after only 8 months or so, they reassigned me to be rear detachment commander for a military police battalion that has units and detachments scattered all over the western part of the state. Great units, beautiful country, but so long, 40 minute drive!

So I go from having one of my shortest ever military duty commutes to easily my longest (outside of my 8 "one weekend a months" of ILE 6 hour drives to Fort Belvoir, which I'm also doing right now). To some degree it is a part of the process as you become more senior in the guard and reserve systems.  You have to go where the positions are, and there are understandably fewer positions.

What also helps me get over myself with the travel is to recognize that I'm not alone. In fact, many of my brothers and sisters in arms have it just as bad in terms of how far they have to go to get to their drill weekend locations. Even many of the full-timers- either AGR or on ADOS or other status- have such a long commute that they just stay at the units during the week and go home only on weekends. So in that sense, I'm not alone.

It does make me feel more and more like this is a young man's game, though. I try to profit from the long drives by using the quiet time to reflect on family, work, church, etc, and also enjoy listening to General Conference sessions on CD.

So, to those of you, my military friends who go the extra mile (or few hundred miles) to get to your duty location, I salute you! Keep your vehicles in working order, get as much rest as possible, and get to your work and home settings safely!

God's Country

Last weekend I was playing Army out in western North Carolina, visiting units in a few locations, stops included Franklin, Hickory, and East Flat Rock.

Spring has arrived in western North Carolina, and it made the drive over the eastern continental divide prior to Asheville, and throughout the area, a spectacular experience. I had to keep my eyes on the road, but when I could look around, it was one beautiful view after another of green mountainsides and valley and blue skies with the perfect mix of bright clouds for contrast.

I had in an earlier visit to a unit in Franklin fussed a bit about the drive and wondered aloud to the local commander why folks would live all the way out there, away from the conveniences and accoutrements of larger population centers. I quickly realized my silliness- not only would I sometimes like to live "in the middle of nowhere" myself, but he had the ready answer, "Sir, why would anyone want to live anywhere else? This is God's country!" His smile let me know he meant it, and it has helped take the edge off of the 4 hour drive each time I head out there. It is beautiful, so I can enjoy both the destination and the journey.  I know I can also look forward to the scenery in the fall, as the leaves turn color. Should be great.