As its been nearly six weeks since I’ve made a journal entry and our departure is immenent, I figure its probably time to do a nice “mobilization recap” entry to preserve the recent weeks for the posterity’s sake.
Camp Roberts was actually quite fun for me. Nestled in the rolling hills of California wine country, the scenery was pastoral and serene and the topography made for some challenging runs.
View of Camp Roberts, CA
I got lost a few times in the back roads both literally and figuratively speaking causing me to end up running for almost 90 minutes on one of my jaunts. The mobilization process itself consists of various formal and informal (a.k.a. “hip pocket”) training events and what is known as “SRP” (Soldier Readiness Processing). Trying not to be cynical about SRP would take the patience and mental fortitude of the Dali Lama himself. (12th son of the Lama…flowing robes…striking
) It took me a while to figure out why we were being forced to sit through the same Sexual Harrassment, Equal Opportunity, Anti-Terrorism, Force Protection, Ethics and other “briefings” (there’s nothing brief about them) over and over. At times the speaker was even the same person with the same films and death-by-Power-Point presentation as before! You see, each command has an SRP checklist and in their infinite wisdom never bother to consolidate lists with their higher or sub-commanders. I am part of 321st CA Brigade but at present “attached”to the 492nd CA Battalion for deployment. Both are under the 351st CACOM which is going into theatre “attached” to the 82nd Airborne Division. Each of those has an SRP checklist and it clearly doesn’t matter to either of them what redundancies exists. Apparently, looking for ways to make things more efficient doesn’t occurr to anyone. Its truly mind-boggling. Another sociological doctural thesis subject just waiting to be written: Inside the Collective Bureaucratic Mindset. Add the training redundancies and the medical, dental, financial, legal and identification stations that are performed in the same repetative manner and you have a recipe for some fairly frustrated soldiers. Still, we’ve had some fun with it. I’ve invented an Equal Opportunity mascot named “Harvey the EO Donkey” – as “E-O” kind of sounds like a donkey braying. That’s spread like wildfire and now whenever we get the inevitable EO brief, half the taskforce starts braying when the guy puts the first Power Point slide up. Another bit we’ve been goofing on lately is this hyper-paranoid anti-terrorism video hosted by John Glenn. We’ve come up with so much good content on that one that we’ve just about decided to write a script and make our own version of it. Here’s a sampling:
John Glenn: “So you’re probably asking yourself, ‘Gee, John Glenn! How ridiculously paranoid should I be about terrorism security?’ Well, remember the last time you were stoned out of your mind in the grocery store at midnight? About TWICE that paranoid.”
John Glenn: “Remember, if you’re at a bar and a beautiful woman approaches you, she is a terrorist. You are a loser so don’t fool yourself that she’s just an innocent girl who finds you attractive. She is a Taliban operative and should be knocked unconscious with a dull object as soon as possible. Now of course, I’m an Astronaut. I get approached by legitimate women all the time. You might say I’ve had plenty of ‘Tang’ in my day and I’m not talking about the orange drink, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I still am on my guard for possible al-Queda operatives trying to blow up the moon or some other heinous, freedom-hating act.”
And this comic jewel:
John Glenn: “Look to your left. Now look to your right. Now slowly turn around without being obvious. NOW QUICKLY LOOK TO YOUR LEFT AGAIN! …You’ve probably just seen a terrorist!”
You get the idea. By the time you’ve seen this video four times you’d be getting slap-happy yourself.
After three weeks at Camp Roberts, we shipped out to the other side of the country - back to Ft. Bragg, NC for more SRP. Yes, more. Noone has really been able to give a good reason we did mobilization readiness on BOTH coasts but the conventional wisdom seems to sugggest that some Congressman from the district that Camp Roberts is in is responsible. Overall, the training has been decent if not somewhat too force-protection centric. I’d say only 5% of our training time has been Civil Affairs-specific which is a little frightening given the fact that many of our officers did a two-week-long branch-transfer course and have no other civil affairs experience besides that. As hard up as the military seems to be to get officers into CA, you’d think they’d start allowing direct commissions from the qualified enlisted ranks. Oh, well I guess that’d make too much sense. Although, I’ve devolved into a bit of cynicism about the mobilization process, I’m as excited as ever to get into theater and get to work. I’ve got a great team with a good mix of experience and intellect.
Being back at Ft. Bragg has been both good and bad. On one hand, there’s so much more to do, but that can be counter-productive to say the least. Many of the soldiers have gone out every night and I’ve gone out too often myself. Its nice to blow off some steam now and then, but I crave my alone-time too. Once folks realize you’re fun to hang out with they want you to go every time. Its great to feel wanted and I do have a hard time saying no when people single me out for an emphatic invitation. Still, all the partying has a tendency to get me off my game and out of my mission orientation somewhat. I’ve done about half the language studying as I’d have liked but its important to get to know the team too, so I rationalize it that way.
Ship-out is just days away and I am as excited as I’ve ever been about anything. About the only downside will be not communicating with my wife, friends and other family as easily and with as much frequency. Still, I’ve been training for this moment now for the better part of nine months and I’m ready to get to work. Whatever happens over there, I will make a difference. I will do some good at some level. When I get home next year, I will have left behind many people that think better of my country for my efforts at the very least.In Our Memory
Finally, a bit of bad news. About two weeks ago, a dear and highly-valued member of our unit passed away enroute to the Middle East in support of our Operation Enduring Freedom rotation. Lt. Colonel Albert Smart
was a kind, intellegent and hard-working man with an infectionous enthusiasm. Those who knew him can count themselves blessed. He will be missed.