02 July, 2009

Thoughts While Waiting

Sometimes it is hard to believe that a month has gone by so quickly. I look back at the last time I posted and think it feels like yesterday. In all honesty I really don't have all that much to report about my time here at North Fort Hood. Everything that we did seemed to all drag into 1 long day. Of course there was always waiting in line, the Army will always have a lot of that going on. But we did do some really good training. As we've gone from range-to-range they've been making the training more realistic and integrating the training we've had before to better prepare us for our mission over in Iraq. Some of the ranges are boring - like the IED defeat range as it was very repetitive. Other ranges were exciting - such as the Urban Operations range where we have to practice fighting in close quarters in city streets. Eventually ranges turned into exercises that help to prepare us for what we'll be doing over there. The mission that I think I had the most fun with was the mission I was in charge of.

The scenario was that there was a helicopter crash and we had to go rescue the pilots and recover the black box. I received my briefings and looked at the intelligence reports to know what to expect and briefed the platoon to prepare them for the task ahead and explain my plan to them. We set out to find the crash site and save the pilots. Finding the crash site was easy (they actually had something burning so we could just drive to the smoke) and we quickly secured the crash site. I had a team run to recover the black box and a team of medics looking for the pilots as soon as the site was secure. One of the issues was that the media had showed up and were getting in the way of myself and the other soldiers doing their jobs. I had to work with the Kuwaiti police that were on scene and get them to detain the media crew so we could work. Things seemed to be going good until the medics told me there were no pilots at the crash site! I started asking the police officer if he knew what happened to the pilots and he informed me that some local villagers had seen the crash and come to the aid of the pilots. In helping them, the villagers brought them to their villi age. The police officer gave me directions to the village and I thanked him for his help. I had my platoon load back up and drive over to the village to find the pilots, leaving two gun trucks at the crash site to continue to secure it.

Once we arrived at the village I dismounted with some other soldiers for security so I could talk to the village elder and find out any information about the pilots. I was greeted by a woman who spoke English and she volunteered to be my translator. I asked her to bring me to the village elder and she said that the sheik would be happy to see me and she would bring me to his home. I was surprised that the sheik was actually speaking Arabic since this was training after all - this made it all the more realistic. When I greeted the sheik he started yelling at me! Apparently what I thought was a parking lot was actually the village's fields and we'd just ruined a lot of their crops. After much apologizing and rushing to get the vehicles moved the sheik agreed to meet with me. He explained that the pilots were there but before he would let me see them, he wanted to talk about how the United States could help his village. He explained that his village was very short on medical supplies and he was becoming frustrated why his friends, the United States, wouldn't help him. I promised that if he gave me a list of supplies he needs I would give it to my superiors so they could see what they could do for him. This was good enough for the shek and he took me to the pilots. After that the medics did their job, and I had two gun trucks rush the pilots back to the FOB for medical treatment. Thanking the sheik, and apologizing again for destroying their crops, we departed the village to finish recovering the downed chopper. While the intel reports said everything was safe, we all kept our heads on a swivel just in case something happened. Fortunately nothing did actually happen and we were soon within the safety of our FOB and done with the mission. All-in-all it was really good training and a lot of fun. Talking to the villagers through the translator was different but a very good experience.

Shortly after that exercise I was given the opportunity to do some classified training that only 3 people per company get to do. I can't go into details, it was classified after all, but it was probably the best training I had here. About all I can tell you is that I was training on a weapons system that is installed on every HMMWV and MRAP in country. This weapons system isn't a weapon that kills people, but a weapon that saves lives. It is cutting edge technology so it was really interesting training for me.

In the end the days were filled with more ranges, more waiting in line, more shots, and more paperwork. It mostly seemed to all drag into 1 long day with the exception of 2 weeks where I was at a school with no internet access (hence, the month since I have last posted). The time just flew by quickly. But that is what I see when I look at what I've been doing in the last month. Looking at what's gone on back home brings a different view however.

Eventually we had finished all the ranges and exercises except one - the MRE or Mobilization Readiness Exercise. This is the mother of all exercises where they simulate for 2 weeks everything everybody in the entire Brigade will be doing over in Iraq or Kuwait. We were lucky enough to get a few days of down-time before we started the MRE. While all the training was going on, my unit had been trying to get me to a school so I can get promoted but had told me a few days before the start of the course that they couldn't get me in. Well.... at 9pm my 1SG came to me and informed me that I would be going to the school, at 6:30am the next morning. So while all my fellow soldiers were getting ready for a much needed trip to the lake the next day, I was packing to go to Warrior Leader Course. I won't go into the details about the course because it was pretty much a waste of my time but I'm glad I got that done and over with. Why am I glad? Because now I can FINALLY get promoted for real!!! I have no idea when I'll actually get promoted but its only a matter of time.

Just a few days ago we were given a 4 day pass to go home or wherever with our families. I was fortunate enough to have most of my family come down to Texas to visit me. I could have gone home but I figured that it'd be better to have them take time off from work to meet me down here rather then spend 2 of my 4 days traveling. My parents, my oldest brother with his girlfriend, my sister-in-law and my nieces, and my "son" all came down to see me. While they were traveling I was getting things packed and getting my rental car so I could drive to see them. I had to temporally give Hertz my manhood because all they had was a Toyota Prius, but a car was a car and nothing was going to stop me from seeing them. The reunion was such a huge relief for me and it felt so good to see them, and hold all my loved ones in my arms again. We went to San Antonio for the 4 days and stayed fairly busy; I won't go into detail because some memories I just need to keep to myself. Maybe after a while I'll go into more detail and post some pictures. It was so good to see them I wished it would never end, but eventually it had to come to an end and after saying goodbye, I had to drive alone back to Fort Hood.

After we got back we actually had very few things to do. Most of it was pack and clean (and get screened for Swine Flu oddly enough) so we have had a lot of down-time since then. I think the main problem is that right now is that I have far too much time on my hands to think.I start to think and I look back at the last month, there isn't much that I have done. Like I said, everything seemed to drag into 1 long day. But now that I have the time I can look at what's going on back home. It has only been 2 and a half months since I've left home yet so much has gone on in such a short period of time. Summer has started and my family has started the "family-cabin-Sunday" ritual, my oldest brother has started a family with the baby due in January, my cousin got married, my sister and her fiancee have had their respective parties and the wedding is around the corner, my godson has started walking, and finally my "son" has turned 15, got his permit, finished a year of school, started and finished an entire season of Lacrosse, and started his first job! When I think about all that has gone on since I left it seems like I've been gone forever. As I think about this I think about all the things I'm going to miss over the next 10 months as I'm in Iraq and Kuwait. Thinking about it all it makes me miss my family even though I just saw them a few short days ago.

While waiting to be told to get on the plane I have been trying to keep myself busy though. I've watched a few movies and even filled up an entire 500gb external hard drive with them! Quickly people figured out that I am very good with computers and a lot of people were having me help them with various issues they were having. Some people's computers were full of viruses, others just couldn't play the movies they've acquired. It appeared that EVERYBODY went out and bought an iPod of some sort and were having issues getting music and movies on there so I get it all working for them. We've also been lucky enough to get to go off post to get to Best Buy, Walmart and various places and just find things to keep us busy.

As I write this my bags are packed and I still sit here waiting. Waiting to get on the plane, waiting to just actually do something. Eventually they will come in and tell us to grab our bags as it's time to go and I will start the 18-hour journey across the globe. Until then I'll just watch some movies and try to keep my mind off home. The next time I write to all three of the people who read this blog, I'll be in Kuwait, sweating my balls off. Until then... take care and thank you to everyone for your support, especially the Moe's



Anonymous said...

Thanks T.J.! We are praying for and we are so thankful for you! The girls and I will be taking good care of you! We love to do your boxes and we love reading your blog. I read them to the girls.... They are 12, and 9 but I like reading to them. We have gone back and read the old ones too. Please be safe....