Monday, January 7, 2008

Back to normal at Ft. Bragg

From our SPC at Ft. Bragg:

It starts over, as if everything that happened, didn’t.

Out of the desert and back from leave:

0500 wake up,

physical training from 0630 to 0745,
breakfast from 0745 to 0845 and a 0900 work call.

Brand new privates have begun to show their faces.
Timid and scared like little kids, they are labeled

I look into their faces and see myself some
two years ago. They almost look innocent, and in their
eyes, I can see that their souls carry no weight. Most
are baby faced and can’t be a day over 18-years-old.

I wonder what they see when they look at me. Do they
see a twenty-something veteran who feels like he’s
thirty-five and pities them knowing that one day their
eyes will look like his own.

To be honest personally I am relieved they are here
because it means fewer details for me. The latrine
needs cleaning. “New guys!” The floor needs a sweep
and a mop, or the garbage needs emptying. “New guys!”

Some may call this hazing or just unfair. But
that is the way it has to be. There is a short window
when a cherry arrives to either make them into a good
soldier ready to listen and learn from the veterans or
allow them to become (for lack of a better term)
“shit bags”.

They have to learn their place and earn
the respect of the veterans. The more they take the
quicker they are accepted by the rest of the herd.
But don’t feel bad for them because every day that
goes by it gets easier for them. Little-by-little
they are befriended and absorbed into their platoons.

Not only that, but the old way of the Army, which used
a system of torturing and hazing new soldiers to
integrate them, is gone. As far as my unit goes, the
group of new guys with whom I arrived got the last of
it. Those were tough days and I wish them on no one.

No one talks about the sandbox much anymore. Even
though we were in the middle of combat operations only
a few short months ago, it’s been put to the backs of
minds and swallowed deep inside.

And so the endless rotation begins again. For a combat unit in a time of war, if you are not in combat you are training for it. The day we landed back in the States after almost a
year and a half in Iraq we began to look forward to the next deployment. Rumors spread like wildfire and the initial spike of moral was slowly lost as each day
ends. For those who have been in the know, it’s only a matter of time before orders come down.

Those veterans with several tours under their belt keep
track of the days they have left in the Army trying to
do the math and praying that they will be out by the next
trip to the sandbox.

I am one of those veterans. I put my life on hold to serve my country. I am now certain
that I have done more than my part. I am ready to start
my life and go on to do bigger and better things. But
for now like so many others the Army still owns me and
I am at will the of it, and my civilian leadership.

I have been asked more than once or twice whether I
regret joining the Army. From my heart, I say “No.” I
purposefully volunteered three times to get myself
into a place where I knew I would most certainly see combat. I knew what I was doing unlike most guys who are here with me, who were sold the idea by
recruiters. I say now that you know I
don’t regret joining the Army but ask me if I regret
signing a four-year contract.

We’ll start training again very soon. Bring the new
guys up to speed. Polish the skills of our new
officers and NCOs. Eyes always looking down range
towards the next battlefield. Some quietly praying
to never have to make that journey again.


Uncle Steve in Boston said...

Awesome! I can't wait for your first book!

Uncle Steve in Boston said...

Hey Mark,

This is your next career! You've got a natural gift and people who don't know you respond in a big way to your writing!

Jan Wesner said...

Thanks for sharing this with us.

muniman said...

Great insights into Army life. Thanks you guys are the best.
Airborne all the way..


This was so good I forwarded it to my son who is with the 2-319TH 82ND Airborne and returning from Iraq in March. I hope it will give him some insight on what to expect when he returns.

I agree with Uncle Steve in Boston perhaps you may have a writing career.


Airbornedad said...

Airborne Poppa,

Thanks for stopping by. Wish your son a safe return back to Bragg.