Sunday, October 22, 2006

I went to Mass today....

I went to mass today in a small building that sits upon a Peninsula out on blue-green water in a lake in part of Saddam Hussein's old palace complex. Quite a mouthful, yet the sight that I saw was breathtaking. the entire back wall of the building has a huge glass where you can see the water. The sun was hitting on the water and it was one of the most beautiful scenes that I can remember for a long time.

The homily was about how we should not promote ourselves above others. We should not step into the spotlight solely for the purpose of self-promotion or self-gain. I took this to heart, and I prayed about well as prayed for the health, benefit, and welfare of my family. Luckily today was a calm day today. It is a strong contrast to how things have been for the past week. Church really made me feel a lot better today. God made me feel better today.

God knows I needed him today. He offered himself to me yesterday in the form of my daughter writing something for me on a piece of paper that my sons were discussing a football play on. This piece of paper in a way represents part of my reason for living.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Finally Here....

Well, I am finally here at my post. Not quite moved into my hootch where I will spend the next year, but I am at my post nonetheless. The facilities available are much nicer than what I was expecting, but they are not a consolation to the fact that I will not see my wife and kids for at least another five or six months. As soon as I get a camera I am going to post the pictures of my area that I am allowed to post.

I heard a couple of mortar rounds impact nearby last night, and I heard sporadic small arms fire....kind of a sobering welcome to the new area. I guess they don't call it Slayer for nothing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

More bad news...

Well, at this point I found out that I will be in this place longer than what I expected before I head to my assigned post up North.. The moral level of those of us who have yet to muster is beginning to dip low. There is only so much chow you can eat, DVD's you can watch, and weights you can lift before you become painfully aware of the cyclical monotony that you are trapped in. On top of that, a Junior Enlisted Soldier took it upon himself to adjust the air system in our tent and completely messed it up. I was awakened from a nap today by the sound of an NCO berating him. Aside from the loud voice that he used, there was an avalanche of profane invectives being heaped upon him as well. As I emerged from my nap, I realized that there was a sticky sheen of perspiration over my entire body. I was so hot and sweaty that my socks were moist despite the fact that I had removed my combat boots before I lay down. Most of the chew out session was over when I came to, but I heard this remaining salvo from the grizzled Sergeant.

"You keep your ass away from that congtrol, you're too goddamn stupid to adjust your belt let alone a damn thermostat. It's hottern' fuck in here cause a you!"

The tent was quiet for about 10 seconds and then the snickers begain. Unfortunately that was the most remarkable thing that I witnessed today.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Smoked, Ripped and Chewed...

In the military when a person is harshly scolded, or reprimanded they call it getting chewed out, or "getting their ass ripped". The final level of this stern evaluation is getting "smoked". Generally that happens to Junior Enlisted at the hands of an angry NCO. This includes pushups, situps, or some other exercise that makes the person NEVER want to run afoul of whoever is in charge of them at that particular time. Despite being an Officer, yours truly, Dkelsmith got (verbally)Smoked, and literally ripped and chewed....its been a long time since that has happened to me, but I think I welcomed the reality check. It went like this.

I was making the long trudge from one side of this crappy Camp to the other in order to hit the chow hall before I went to the MWR. There was a group of 5 Junior Enlisted slightly to my left standing in a circle smoking. As I walked past one of them said, "Hey, what's up LT". I just said "Hey, how are you doing?" and kept walking. Suddenly I heard someone yell "Heeeeeeeeeeey" in a sharp doberman sort of way. I looked to my right and the archetypal Platoon Sergeant was standing there. An E-7 of Hispanic descent...about 5'8, thick jawed and built like an Abrams. He starts striding my way at a high rate of speed and says, "Why didn't you Soldiers salute that Officer just now?"....5 cigarettes fell to the sand simultaneously..... As he passed me he snapped up a smart salute and said, "Good evening, Sir." I saluted back and said, "That's okay Sergeant they were taking a...... "He cut back in with a modified, "Talk to the hand" pose and said. "Sir." while raising his eyebrows. I thought to myself about one of the many lessons learned in my enlisted days and in OCS, "NCO Business is NCO Business...stay out of it." I said nothing else. He continued on....."Correct me if I'm wrong, this entire FOB is a salute zone is it not?"

I have found that many generation X Soldiers don't have the same fear of NCO's that I had when I came into the service in 1990, but it was obvious that this guy was not screwing around. All of them went to Parade Rest and said, "Yes Sergeant!" in an enthusiastic unison. He then asked them.."Are you Soldiers blind, or do you have a waiver that allows you to tell the rank structure to fuck itself?" There was an uncomfortable silence, the Soldiers squirmed around without answering...

"WELL?!", he barked at them.

One of them piped up with, "We didn't see him, Sergeant, we were talking...."

"Bullshit!!! One of you chow hounds said, 'What's up LT?', and while we were on that subject what the hell is 'UP' with that shit?!" Is that how you talk to an Officer? Does he look like Ludacris to you?"

There was a resounding chorus of "No Sergeants!".

"Good, then do what the hell you are supposed to do.", he snapped. One of the Junior enlisted snapped to attention, yelled, "Group attention!", rendered a salute and said, "Good evening, Sir." I saluted back and said, "Carry on". At that point the 5 of them evaporated...

The Sergeant looked at me and said, "Why were you going to let them get away with that, Sir?" I told him. "Sergeant, they were taking a break, and there are so many people here ready to go into the chute that I end up saluting all day."

"I see", he said. Somehow that worried father always said, "I see", right before he took my words, fashioned them into a weapon and beat me over the head with them.

"So, here in theater, is anybody ever really ready to take a break? I understand the overcrowding thing, Lieutenant, but when you let them get away with that once, you have set the new standard for them....especially these Privates. Once you are in for a while, you will learn how important that little shit is to keeping good order and discipline when you are in garrison AND when you are tactical. Granted you don't salute outside the wire, but it is a reminder that there is an order and a hierarchy. "

At this point I felt myself getting a little flustered...some people say I look a lot younger than what I actually am, and sometimes this is an annoyance. Especially since I became commissioned. I said, "Sergeant, I know what you are talking about, I have been in since 1990." His eyes dropped to the rank insignia on my chest and back to my face and he was puzzled. I added in, with a high level of pride, that "I was an E-6 when I was on OCS".

Gleefully....he retorted. "Oh so you KNOW better than that, Sir."

In one second I went from the proud Mustang Officer to the kid who just got caught lying about who ate all of the cookies. He says, "What unit are you in?" I told him _ _ 9th Infantry. He said, "Hooah! I'm 11 bang all my life. You heading North from here, Sir?" I told him yes, and his demeanor changed somewhat. "Outstanding. Where are you headed?" We exchanged information about direction, distance, and time and that was that. We talked about the current SITREP and how things were going. Before we parted, he said, "Sorry to be a jackass, but lack of discipline scares me...I see it a lot more now. We have to make sure that the discipline is there, discipline keeps these kids alive." I told him that I agreed completely. He laughed and said, "I really wasn't mad at those guys, you aren't MY Lieutenant...if they had pulled that shit with my Lieutenant I would have bitten em' on the back of the fuckin' neck." I laughed, thanked him, and we saluted one another. I had to chuckle to myself as I continued on......"I just got smoked."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My strength and my weakness...

The following Video is one that I shot right before I left MCS. It was supposed to be light-hearted, but something happened in the middle of it. So much for living up to the stereotypical hard-as-nails Soldier. But, then again, what kind of a person would not be emotional about leaving his family. Especially a family like mine.

I suppose that some may wonder what the title of my post means. When I say my Strength and my Weakness, I am specifically referring to my family. Everything that I am, everything that I aspire to be, and everything that I will ever be flows from them. I wake up in the morning with my family being my purpose for being. All of my motivation, all of my pride, all of the perseverance I can ever muster is about them. They are my strength...however, at a time like this when I don't know when I will see them again I also realize that they are my biggest weakness. Without them I don't feel complete...I realize that I am nothing without them. Though I am physically detached from them, they are still mine, and I am theirs. This time apart lets me know what I have taken for granted many times in the past. My wife makes me want to be a better man, a better listener, and a better provider. My children make me want to be a better parent, a better listener, and a better role model. My parents make me want to be the same as well as a better son. My sisters make me want to be a better brother, more dependable, more successful. I have to wonder to myself where I would be without them. They are all that I truly have in this world. My everything.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm Okay....

I just wanted everyone to know that I am doing okay. I am in an undisclosed location now, but I am doing well. I have limited internet access, but when I do get some I am going to post a video I shot before I left MCS Shelby. Take care everyone.


Last Beer before shipping....

We're not in Kansas anymore/it sucks here.....