February 17th, 2003

Hat

First of many, related to deployment

I am writing this while on guard duty in an arms room at Ft. Lewis.

With stunning speed has my life once again returned to the rhythms of
soldiering. Rumors abound (four are what I would call credible, but some
are so stunning in the creative thinking involved I have to share
them. We are going to be sent to Germany to replace troops there, so
they can be sent to the desert. As others {and there will be others,
never have I seen rumor grow, sui generis, as I have here) worthy of note
appear I will share them with you.

But the early rising, the quiet cacophony of the barracks, the creak
and sway of a top-bunk, the careful attention to what the weather is
doing (with an attendant disregard for it when it is actually happening)
the rushed meals (though I can take all I want, and need not eat all I
take, Ike would be proud, and disgusted), the bluff camaraderie with
everyone (and the frayed moments of temper), the close bonds with some and
the absence of home.

All as familiar as old shoes, and like them can be put on without more
than occasional discomfort.

As you all know (probably better than I, were it not for some feeds
from people's cell-phones, and the occasionally seen newspaper, I would
have no news whatsoever, we are too busy to spend time searching it out)
this is a large deployment. So we are not getting all we should
be. When I get to Ft. Bragg I may be cold, because the cold-weather gear
I was supposed to get here is out of stock and we are not staying long
enough to wait for it to arrive.

Interlude of several days. I am now at Ft. Bragg.

Rumors of where we are going are rife. I, no less than any other have
been trying to decipher where we are bound, from the vague indicators of our destination, but the mixture of hints, possibilities; the plethora of confusion
makes all such attempts similar to attempting to shepherd the
wind. I can't share any of those rumors with you, because we were
just told to see to it we tell no one, anything. This almost seems as
though the barn door is being closed behind the horse (I can't think of
anyone who has not shared the rumors and surmises with loved ones). I
suppose as we get closer to deploying (and I now know more about that
timeline, but it is even more sensitive than the where {which I don?t
know yet. There is a cadence call, which goes, "Mission Top
Secret//destination unknown// don't even know when we're coming
home." It used to seem quaint) the risk of someone who might want to
prevent us from getting there becomes greater, but one never thinks that
one could possibly be important enough to become a specific target.

On the other hand, they could have avoided all of this by just giving
us a briefing a month ago. If we were given a classified brief, there
would have been none of the speculating, none of our efforts would have
been to try and figure it out/ease our loved ones' fears. We would have
shut up and soldiered. Ah! Well. There is a bit of dark jest which goes
that the U.S. protects its information by just spewing it out
on the world, so much must then be sifted through that the chaff hides
the wheat.

I wonder what is made of a sudden silence by those who observe us.

So far life here is better than it was at Lewis. We are getting closer
to the front, and the petty things, which survive so well at the rear,
fade away as we move up.

The accommodations are not as nice, we are three to a room in my
billet, and it was meant for one, so two of us have cots. I think the
camaraderie of the open bay was better, on the other hand doing things
like a 'zine is now easier, so on balance I will take a private latrine
and a smidgeon of quiet over the sense of village life.

Another interlude

This is the fourth day at Bragg? Time is plastic and if you were to
ask it would seem we have always been here. I am in class twelve hours a
day, getting a crash course in administering the computer system we are
going to be using in the field. The instructors (who are contractors and
have been going at this pace since the middle of last year) have never
had a group like us before. Military intelligence yes, but a Battalion
(Bn, I will probably start using more acronyms. I am afraid familiarity
makes me do it without thinking. I will try to define them as I go)
which has so many who work with computers for a living is new. We have
no less than four people with a collected sixty years of experience in
computer networks. They are going slowly mad at the slowness of the pace.
For my part I am content with it, save that I am usually done before the
rest, and when I have ten minutes to wait, I start to drift toward sleep.

Sleep, sadly, is a commodity in short supply (and more so for the
troops in Bravo Co, who have a commander who seems to think a wealth of
action is meritorious in its own right). The duty day starts at 0600, and
ends at 2000. People not in class have the same start time but are done
at 1630. B Co. starts about 0500. That totals 14 hours, so unless one
can collect one's thoughts, take care of the laundry and the shopping (and
all of us have things we need to buy to get ready for what has been
called (though we don't, officially, know where we're going), the big FTX in the
desert, (FTX is short for Field Training Exercise), one can only
sacrifice sleep.

I get more than I did in basic, but have been averaging less than six
hours a night. A friend of mine slept for about half of the single
period of free-time we got at Ft. Lewis.

And, since my tour as un-offical Charge of Quarters is now drawing to a
close, I will put this to bed, and myself most shortly thereater.