They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...

These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Jul 22, 2008

Voluntary AT...


Alright so today was our second day of a week long SRP, I don’t know what the hell that stands for but basically this is the process by which we get all the goofy paperwork ready for this deployment we have so graciously been given by the US Army.

So I’ll tell you more about what goes on here later, because basically we haven’t done anything yet. We just got here about an hour ago and all we are doing tonight is getting some briefings, eating and going to sleep. But something happened yesterday that is worth telling you all about.

Now when we were down at Fort Chaffee, we qualified on all of our weapons. Rifles, pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, Oh my. Now this is not an easy process, I take that back, it is easy but the Army makes it infinitely difficult with its endless stream of paperwork and bureaucratic nonsense. So the ranges are all being run by some other company, normally a company runs its own ranges but for whatever reason the First Army (who were our trainers) were running them. I guess that this is not that uncommon but for the duration of my military career the company I was in always ran its own ranges. But I digress.

A range is basically a bunch of guys on a line firing whatever weapon at the targets placed downrange at increments ranging anywhere from 50 to 800 meters or whatever. These ranges usually take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete depending on what weapon is being fired and what the qualification table entails. Most weapons have to be fired not only during the day but they also have to be fired at night and in NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) gear. So they can take a while…Needless to say most soldiers really don’t like going to ranges. I would be more than happy to fire my weapons all day and night, but I don’t want to have to do all the shit that comes with it. You know, like cleaning weapons and cleaning up brass, and setting up and tearing down a range and dealing with all of that stuff. Just let me fire the damn thing and I’ll be a happy guy. But that is not the case.

So now not only were we going through these ranges but so were a couple of other companies. The amount of soldiers that they were sending through these things was crazy. And I’ll give you three guesses what happened during all the craziness. If you guessed that a lot of our scores got lost you need to get up and get yourself a cookie.

Now they lost some of our scores while we were there and those guys had to go back to the ranges while we were at Fort Chaffee. Which all things considered wasn’t that bad. At least they got to go right away and they didn’t take up anymore of the soldier’s time that wasn’t already being taken by the Army. Basically, that was a case of “no harm, no foul”

But we were about to be harmed by the Army’s foul up. So we get back from Chaffee and we are notified that there is a (get this) “voluntary AT” (AT means annual training, the two weeks in the summer for national guardsmen) Voluntary meaning that you didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to but they did say that they wanted as many of us to go as possible. The bosses usually do so that they can brag to their other boss buddies about how many of their guys went to the “voluntary AT”. I would’ve been curious to see just how many E-7 and above and officers went to this thing had what happened not occurred. So just about everyone said “fuck no” We are getting ready to deploy for at least a year, and if the situation remains as it has been we, like so many other units, will get extended and have to stay for a little longer because the Army cannot find enough people for this bullshit. But that is a whole other argument, so back to the topic at hand.

Yesterday, while we were sitting at the armory we were getting ready for final formation so we could all go out and get sloppy drunk and stay up too late and come to drill in the morning in absolutely no condition to actually function in any meaningful way. So it goes.

However, this time we got told to get into the classroom because the commander needed to talk to us. All right, no problem. The boss has got something he needs to put out. I can deal with that. But then the waiting begins. We sat in that classroom, which was probably made for at most 80 people, with our entire company of over 100 motherfuckers for what became an hour. An entire fucking hour sitting there staring at the wall waiting for the commander to talk to us. Wow, so nice to see that our commander has a lot of respect for our time. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the fact that he left us sit in there for an hour. After being in the army for a while you just get used to sitting around waiting. Everyone has this picture in their mind of the soldiers of the United States Army working hard all the time and getting things done at lightning speed. Well let me tell you, I would estimate that in my 10+ years of military service I have spent about 2-3 years waiting for one thing or another. What I have a problem with is the fact that he didn’t even bother to send someone to tell us “Hey, I am trying to sort something out so I can brief you on it, I’ll get there as soon as I can, I’m sorry about this, but it can’t be helped.” Simple, easy thing to do that would show that you actually care about your men. But we got nothing. Typical.

So anyways, after becoming seriously pissed off by being forced to sit there with my thumb up my ass for an hour, he finally comes in. Then he proceeds to tell us that a whole bunch of scores from all the ranges at Fort Chaffee have been lost and there are a bunch of us who are being “ordered” to the “voluntary AT” so that we can qualify on the weapons systems that we have already qualified on again. Now he postures a little bit about how he is trying to get this thing fixed so we don’t have to go and blah blah blah. Then he says that we shouldn’t feel bad because he has to go also. Like we determine how to feel about things based solely on whether or not he has to go. Narcissism anyone? He goes on for about 15 minutes about how this is all bullshit and he is fighting the battle but this is coming down from higher and he is losing.

Now bear in mind we are deploying at the end of next month. First down to Fort Bragg for 45 days then on to Afghanistan until sometime next August and then home for a week of out-processing before we actually get to go to our real homes and see our families. So if you ask me, every fucking day counts. EVERY SINGLE MOTHERFUCKING DAY IS PRECIOUS FROM NOW UNTIL THE DAY WE LEAVE. We are not going to see anyone we love for a goddamn, motherfucking year and now they continue to squeeze us for every day that they can get, and then they take another week when they fuck up. Needless to say I am angry because of course, I am on the list of the lucky ones that have to go to this bullshit. I have already made up my mind that they can pretty much kiss my fat, Irish ass. I am not going. I’ll take whatever punishment the army deems appropriate but I am not going to spend one more day away from my family in order to do something that I have already done. I’ll be there for the mobilization but I am not giving you another fucking day, not one.

Now later that night, I learned that I am no longer on the list of people who have to go because they rechecked the spreadsheet and it said that I was a “go” on all of the weapons systems that we needed to qualify on. So I should never have been told that I had to go to this shit. But more military bullshit and I have to spend my time ranting and raving and making myself crazy over a situation that actually doesn’t exist. For me anyway.

I am still insanely angry on behalf of all the soldiers in my unit that have to spend another week away from their families because certain sections of the army are too stupid to keep track of paperwork.

You see what people in the military chain of command seems to be completely ignorant of is the simple fact that all of us have lives outside the army. Understand that there is a world of difference between the active duty army and the National Guard. Most active duty guys will tell you that we are a bunch of weekend warrior shitbags. Which is fine with me, in many cases (myself included) they are probably right. But all those active duty guys should try to imagine how long and hard and frequent their deployments would be without us national guardsmen to pick up at least some of the slack.

The fact of the matter is that we have lives. We have jobs, wives, girlfriends, friends, volunteer occupations, and families, and houses, and apartments, and leases and rent, and bills, and cars, and boats, and sick mothers, and pain in the ass kids, and on and on and on. Our lives do not rotate around the military although the military expects that we rotate our lives around it. Whereas the active duty guys are employed by, and taken care of by the military, we are on our own as far as getting our lives together and ready for this deployment, and the fact is this. Not only do we have to live up to all that the military expects from us, we also have to administer our lives while we are gone. Not to say that active duty military doesn’t have the same considerations to deal with but its just a bit harder when you are leaving your life to be deployed, for the active guys this army shit is their life. Personally speaking, I just do this shit on the weekend. I know its hard all over, but if I were in the active army still, I would be always ready for this because the army actually is my job and by default, my life. But I digress.

Yes, I am bitching, and fuck you if you think I should shut my trap and take it. I am going to take whatever the military can dish out. In my time I have already taken a load of shit from the army roughly the size of Mount Everest. So I have earned the right to piss and moan when I feel like it, and I am going to utilize that right. You don’t like it or you think I am wrong, that’s fine, but FUCK YOU.

Lastly, I want to ask a question, does anyone out there who has ever dealt with military officers and the bureaucracy think that had the commander not been required to go to the “voluntary AT” himself, do you think he would have fought as hard as he did to get us all out of it?

Maybe someday I’ll ask him.

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