16 October 2010

It's a Good Thing

We are surrounded with paper work and chores.  We are in day fifty-something of lock down, and as of now, 2 have gone AWOL.  One just this afternoon.  Can't blame him.  How long do they think we can deal with level of tedium?  Those in the line companies get passes here and there.  And, they know that it all ends in 12 weeks.  But here we are indefinitely enduring this crap.

Last week an O-3 told me that "it's not so bad," because now "test scores are up, and you get your phones for an hour."  Thanks sir.  Yesterday an O-1 told me that "it's a good thing because before at HHC they would work for 4 hours and get into civvies and go get drunk.  It was a pay check for nothing!"  Amazing how those who are through are all for this.  Think they would have supported this when they were here?

This week we had a change of responsibility ceremony for the 1st Sergeant.  The Captain said, with a straight face, that the 1st Sgt. personally mentored us, helped with our security concerns, helped us stay connected with our families, and helped get us out of here.  We managed not to crack up in laughter.  New 1st Sgt. informed us that HHC is not a place to heal.  Someone should tell him that this is where OCs go to heal.  Someone who gets a phone for more than one hour please call him and tell him that.

Charlie is classing up again on Monday.  Above is the trash that those heading over left for us.  Thanks.  I heard they came and took care of it, but only because we raised the issue.  Think they'll have another suicide this cycle?
I snapped this last night.  I call it "resignation."  She was looking for something she couldn't find.

At least this week SM got her orders.  She'd been here since March.  I miss her, but I'm happy for her.  Am I up next?

01 October 2010

Sleep, I Miss You

We're into our second month of mass punishment, and people are cracking.  I'm only writing now because I went to sick call and lost it and the PA gave me 48 hours of quarters.  Sleep, hooah.  I've noticed that people sit in the day room and knock their heads against the wall.  Not hard, but enough to catch my attention; this is not something I've seen here before all of this. 

C got her orders today.  She's clearing tonight, and she's out of here.  I'm happy she's escaping, but I'm going to miss her.  She's my lifeline here.  The other C is returning in one week, so I think I'll make it, it just sucks.  The other, other C got his orders today too.  He's been here 7.5 months, and I'm so happy for him, but I really will miss him too. 

I have a new room mate, and she really likes talking.  She butt into a conversation last night I was having with C.  She wanted to know C's story, and C just turned to her and asked: "Do we really have to have this conversation?"  There's a weird ritual when a new class comes in.  The new people have all the reasonable and basic questions, and they are all motivated about this shit, something that has long since evaporated from us.  What's your degree in?  What's the tape on your uniform for?  Are you classing up?  How long have you been here?  I'm sorry, how long?  Really?  Well I'm classing up with Alpha.  I'm going to branch MI.  I'm scared about the water combat survival test, what's it like? 

Oh, shut up!

My roomie doesn't understand that when I have ear buds in and I'm working on this computer, that's a cue that I don't want to hear about her tragic narrative.  She got kicked out of Alpha.  Hey, come to think of it, so did I, nearly 4 months ago, so shut up, because you've been here 72 hours.  Today she told me that it was difficult to watch Alpha finish their first week.  Hey, girl friend, try watching them graduate and then have the idiot new-LTs tell you what to do.  Then, watch them class up again!  How long have I been here?  Day 30-something of the lock down.

19 September 2010

Day 24

Yes, it's day 24 of the OCS lockdown immersion training.  Yesterday we were treated to a two hour class on customs and courtesies.  The poor LT who had to lead it was answering questions wrong, and finding himself corrected by the in-service folks.  He seemed undaunted, and went on to declare: “Let’s be honest, we’re not equals.”  So true, sir.  So true.

What was interesting about it was how those of us who have had it with HHC all ended up at the back of the room.  The class was quite unexpected; we’d gathered in the day room because we’re not allowed in our rooms after lunch, and several of us were preparing to depart for the PX.  We’re not allowed to drive ourselves anywhere, so we needed Sgt. H to take us.  At the last minute, we were told the PX was a no-go, and we were going to have three hours of classes.  So, it was not intentional that we ended up grouped together.  When the LT asked when we were going to class up, I said “Never!” the way we’re supposed to during PT when they tell us to “relax,” and I got as far as “Ne” when everyone around me joined in and drowned out the eager future Alphas.  The people up front kept asking the basic OCS questions, and at one point OC C, who has been here twice as long as I have, awoke from his stupor and asked, “Huh?  Are my orders ready?”  Another from our group asked the LT what to do when the cadre addresses a serious concern by cussing us out.  Good times.
 Yes, you do have to salute an officer even if his hands are full, it turns out.

This morning we’ve been given extra “hygiene” time, so I took a nap and now I’m writing.  This “gift” is not expected to be extended into the evening.  Dear god, we’re going to be in classes all day with Ssg. G, who is allegedly not happy to be here baby sitting us because he’s going to miss football.  

17 August 2010

Memos That Make Me Laugh

Last night I had CQ duty (Charge of Quarters).  When I showed up for my shift I started paging through the SOP binder on the desk and found this memo.  What has the world come to that we need a freaking memo for making coffee?  I like this the best:
"Follow these instruction to maintain coffee availability".  Oooohhh, I knew how to make coffee, I just had no idea why I needed to!  So many questions were answered by this memo.  The context of this memo is missing from the pictures.  This memo was placed in the binder before most other memos; before the SOP for what to do if the building catches on fire, or if an OC becomes seriously ill, or if we receive a bomb threat.  I do appreciate the priorities of this organization.  

I actually blogged last week about my security clearance.  But it's still in the Edit portion of the blog because I could hear my lawyer call me up and tell me to take it down.  He's so unfunny about that sort of thing.

31 July 2010

Someone Please Help Me be Serious

I’m beginning my 8th week at Hotel California, and I’m beginning to suspect the Army’s bureaucracy may, perhaps, move a bit slow. 

I’m not the only one being made to wait for security reasons, and I suppose I’m even a bit lucky, as I’ve been told what those reasons are; others who arrived the same day as I are still waiting to learn what sin they’ve committed.  Having been here for several resident turn-overs now, it’s more than easy to see the narrative trend.  There are but a few.  Some arrive at Hotel California after receiving the boot from their line companies.  Usually they failed Land Nav, failed the five-mile run, or failed the History Test.  They are in denial about being at Hotel California because they are generally sure they don’t deserve such treatment for a variety of identical reasons.  Some arrive early for classing up, which only happens every three weeks.  So, people can come from BCT and sit here for about that long, and then they are gone.  Others are held over on “security holds;” that would include me.  Two things make this suck.  First, it took almost a month before anyone told me what those reasons were, leaving us to feel lame because we didn’t quite know what we were up against, though I certainly had some idea.  The second suck factor is that Hotel California is structured to suck the morale out of you.  Yes, you.  Rather than give us time to work on our security issues, or study for History or Land Nav, or work on PT, we are tasked-out to be other company’s bitches.  In short, I mow lawns for a living.  Generally, it’s so urgent we look busy, that we’re actually made to go outside and mow the same grass up to four days in a row.  I’ve seen it many times.  This week a new resident expressed disbelief on her second day of weed whacking the same patch of wilted grass, to which F and I (both here the same amount of time) assured her that much more whacking could and would commence.  Oh fate, fuck you and your lawn mower!

I know I’m more civilian than Army with just 4 months in, and I suspect that’s part of my problem.  I’m having a hard time taking this organization seriously, and I’m trying to keep that out of my mind.  But, as I watch those who came here with me head into their final weeks of OCS, while I mow lawns because Arabs taught me to speak Arabic, I’m certain that more than anything, the Army wants officers who can 1) run, and who 2) have never left god’s country.  And that’s fucking stupid.  Oh yeah, and that’s in order, too.  I listed nothing about actual leadership skills, because I see little of that as a requirement, though the literature here would dispute that. 

One good thing about Hotel California is that we get weekends off.  We don’t have to run in formation in our ACU’s, or stand in a horseshoe and listen to Rangers talk about how we lack motivation.  This morning a fire alarm foiled my attempt to sleep late, though.  I stumbled over to the DFAC and got some turkey bacon, and then came back and started some laundry.  And, guess what taxpayer? I recklessly hit the “extra rinse” button.  Yeah, I went there.  I may even take those clean clothes and wash them again at your expense just because I can.  And thanks for the sub-par A/C too.  It is technically better than nothing. 

Oh yeah, and clean your junk for the love of god.

17 July 2010


Near the air field.  K took this one.

On the epic drive around post.  I took this one.

Epic drive continued...

Closet with a mysterious phone sign on it.  The closet is filled with mold.  Rather than fix it, the Army tells us not to use the closet.  Roger that.

I live here.  This is the building with moldy closets.

Badly made bed.

Happy roommates.

At least we have some things to live for.


Columbus, GA.

24 June 2010


29 March 10 – 11 June 2010

At the San Jose MEPS I was handed several thick packages that contained the orders for several of us traveling together.  We were hurried into a taxi and taken to the airport.  I ordered a latte at Peet’s Coffee, not realizing it would be my last latte until 10 June when “family day” allowed me to go eat somewhere where I could talk, that had A/C, and that permitted us the consumption of caffeine. 

We flew to OK City, and then waited several hours for a bus.  The bus driver informed us that no one could sleep on his bus because he likes to talk.  True to his promise, by midnight we arrived at Fort Sill, and I’d been awake without interruption since 4 that morning.  The first Drill Sergeant we saw got on the bus and immediately told us to shut up even though we were all to terrified to have been speaking anyway.  We began “in processing,” and we were given PT uniforms, books, and a canteen.  We went to sleep at 2 in the morning.  The lights came on at 4. 

That was “reception,” the week tacked on to BCT that no one told any of us about.  Up at 4, called dumb-asses all day, given shots, told we’re not worthy of the Army, and in bed by 9.  10 days later we finally shipped to BCT. 

They came to pick us up.  We were lined up alphabetically, and put into platoons.  DS J and DS B came to get us.  I was in the 4th squad, or the last of 4 rows, and heard nothing DS J said.  We were hurried onto a cattle truck, and driven across the tracks.  Our bags were thrown into the red ant colonies in front of the battery.  We scrambled to find our crap, and ran upstairs.  Then, suddenly, we were sitting in a circle filling out paperwork.  That whole first afternoon perfectly sums up BCT.  Hurry the fuck up, wait right here without explanation for a long time, now fill out this form without requiring an explanation. 

The first few weeks of BCT were pretty chill.  We did mainly class room work, including the Combat Life Savers course (CLS), a radio class, a bunch of classes on the Army values, a class on why we shouldn’t use drugs, a class on how to open a bank account and write a check, a class on the UCMJ.  And on an on. 

That about accounted for Red Phase.  BCT occurs in 3 phases: red, white, and blue.  Red requires full time DS supervision, and is designed to disallow thought and encourage jingoism and selflessness.  White phase sees the establishment of student leadership in the form of Platoon Guides (PGs) and Assistant Platoon Guides (APGs), as well as 4 squad leaders.  Group punishment is diminished.  Blue phase is when many of the DSes just showed up for Charge of Quarters (CQ) duty and otherwise ignored us except to call us all privates, insult us, and tell us to find our military bearing (again).  Blue phase felt more like Red than Red.  Group punishment continued, no more phone time was allowed than before, and we had to have even more accountability formations.  In Red phase I would go to bed as soon as personal time started, about an hour before lights out.  In Blue phase they had us dress (some times in ACUs (Army Combat Uniform)) and go downstairs for formation.  Lame.  Blue phase was also physically exhausting, particularly compared to Red phase.

Over all, BCT was not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.  Also, it was more fun and funnier than I thought it would be.  I’m surprised at how much time we spent laughing.  I’m pleasantly surprised at how many people I grew close to.  However, it was much more disorganized than I thought it would be.  I assume some of that is built in to make us more flexible and less questioning.  I think that much of it was not, though.  Different DSes would tell us different ways to do Drill and Ceremony (D&C) for example.  That stuff is standardized, no flexibility is built into how a platoon does that. 

Here are some entries from my journal over the course of BCT:

3 Apr:
Finally a little down time.  Yesterday I received another 4 shots (7 total) and was sick by dinner time.  I went to bed at 8 and we slept till 6.  Thank god.  It’s only day 5 and I’m not even in BCT yet.  It’s really dragging… 

4 Apr (Easter):
We’re all getting along better after the drama with W.  We had some rest this weekend, and I’m over my reaction to the shots.  It’s warm, and I wish we could open these windows (no a/c), but we’re not allowed.  I’m surrounded by laughter finally instead of crying.  I should finish processing tomorrow and possibly ship on Wednesday.  If I never have to eat another grilled cheese again.

8 Apr:
I’m finished with my second day of BCT, but our official 9 weeks don’t begin until Monday [turned out that wasn’t true].  It’s Friday now.  There is little personal time.  The female Drill like to talk!  We got our M-16s today.  It’s really awkward moving through the DFAC (Dining Facility) with that thing. 
Today we were admonished not to think.  Then, this Drill [DS F] told us that what the Army does makes sense, so we can trust them to think for us…

From the E.O. (Equal Opportunity) Briefing on 15 April:
“Race: a division of human beings identified by the possession of traits transmissible by descent and traits sufficient to characterize a person possessing these traits as a distinctive human genotype.”

18 Apr:
I had fire guard last night with K.  Thankfully, we were not visited as we had been on our previous shift.  I lost an hour of sleep on the one day a week we can sleep 8 hours.  G got me up at 0545 and we ran down to the laundry room and got the last 2 washers.  6 washers for 100 women, and Sunday is the time they give us to do our laundry.
This Morning C, L, me and P are going to attend the Muslim service.  I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with 2 hours. 

15 May:
I remember what I was doing 3 years ago today, but I have no idea about the intervening 2.  Now I’m finishing my 5th week of BCT, and feeling more and more accustomed to having people who know nothing of me pronounce judgment on me.  That’s OK, when we woke up at 0500 several folks wished me a happy birthday.  26 days and a wake up to go.
This time in June I’ll be in OCS.  I saw the schedule is 12 weeks. 
It’s 0635.  I’ve been awake for 95 minutes.  Can I please sleep in on my 37th birthday?  Probably not.
I’m still quite impressed at how diverse the Army is.  Still, at the range the other day K.I. was in the shake down line with me, and DS F said to him, “You have a crazy look in your eye, you always do.”  I told me later that he felt that may be a comment on his [Muslim] religious background.  I must admit I too took it that way.
Nevertheless, I’m surprised at how open people have been to him.  People have asked him questions and seemed to appreciate the opportunities that come with living with such a diverse group of people.  There seems to be something about the organization that allows appreciation of diversity while making it approachable.  I suppose it helps that we’re all dressed alike, eat the same crappy food, we even walk in the same step.  Differences are either internal or become superficial.  I’m not sure which. 

21 May:
At the hospital with H.  She is getting a splint for her broken thumb, and she’ll get a cast in a few days.  They told her she can’t graduate with us because she can’t do her final PT test next week.  This is the only one we need to graduate.  She just stared straight ahead on the bus ride over here.  I wish I could think of something helpful to say.  They’re not going to recycle her at least, she just has to stick around until she can do her PT test after several weeks of rehab. 

25 May:
Shout, Show, Shove, Shoot

31 May:
10 days and a wake up.  Almost there, and not a moment too soon.  It seems that all order has escaped from this platoon, thanks to our weak leadership.  J is increasingly getting on my nerves.  She is lazy, save for when it’s time to make excuses.  She still hasn’t passed her PT text, nor has J, R.  I feel like a terrible person because I’d enjoy graduation much more if they weren’t there [Note: neither was]. 
K continues to give me hope, though.  She’s funny and down to earth.  There are a few people here I’m really going to miss. 
One more week.  Hurry up June 10. 
I would give up a lot right now for a nail file.
The immaturity of the women here is beginning to get to me.  I’m particularly bummed that they have begun to use the speakers to play their crap-ass music when we have our phones.  Bleh.
The BC said something interesting at STX the other day.  He said we need to share with our families what it means to go to war.  He said that on one of his tours of Iraq he and his soldiers barely escaped an IED attack.  Later he was on the phone with his wife trying to explain that, and he said he kept hearing a weird static noise.  When he finished his story he asked her if she knew what the noise was, and she said, “yeah, I’m eating corn flakes.”
His point was that we needed to try and share with our loved ones what we experience, but it was also a caution that they aren’t going to understand.

BCT lead me though all those stages people are supposed to go through when they’re told they’re going to die, but it was out of order.  It began with fear and bargaining.  It ended with anger.  Many of us concluded that BCT could take place over about 4 weeks is we skipped all the standing around for no apparent reason.  G estimated that we stood in place for 2.5 of our 9 weeks.  That estimate may be low.  Still, the training was reasonable.  I’m glad to report that the Army is a big, slow organization that nevertheless has adapted much of BCT to its current wars.  CSM H told us that only a few years ago soldiers did not train in their IBA (individual body armor) or any of the other cumbersome equipment we wore while qualifying with our weapons and doing STX lanes (situational training exercise).  Lots of STX stuff that involved real missions and focused us on teamwork and all that stuff that seams required to successfully complete a mission. 

I’m glad I did it, but I’m more glad it’s over.

Graduation Day: L, J, F, J, T and M.

Graduation Day: Waiting for trans to ship to AIT and OCS it was about 2300 by this time.  Our orders are in the packets.

Some of my favorite people, I and F.  We're finally getting on the bus and it's about 0100.

OCS bed: Just like home.

Georgia: my life for the next several months, maybe years.

12 June 2010

Good Bye BCGs

I graduated from BCT yesterday and spent about 10 minutes with my family. Thoughts on BCT have to wait for now because I've been awake since 0500 yesterday and for some reason it's taking the CQ men several hours to take a few forms and give us a place to sleep.

Some good news: I don't have to wear my army-issued glazes here. I'm wearing my own glasses. Some bad news, Georgia really sucks.

22 March 2010

اهلا و سهلا

In less than 10 days I ship off to BCT in OK.  After 9 weeks I go to GA for 14 weeks of OCS.  In September I finish, and will be sent to AIT, though I don't at the moment know what/where that will be.  At the moment, I'm sitting in SoCal enjoying wine from a box and wondering what has happened that brought me here.

You see, I oppose war, I oppose much of what the military does.  I oppose the American grab for empire.  I oppose the vast dedication of our budget to the military while our schools are under funded.  I have strong feelings about the vicious ways in which we undervalue education while extending "hero" status to the military.  Yet, I joined the "volunteer" military.  I did so for complicated reasons, though I don't expect you to understand.

I've already had many strangers extend sincere expressions of "thank you for your service" to me.  At an Oakland Raiders football game I attended with several Army recruits, one drunk white guy told me he wanted to, "buy a fucking beer" for me, because of my "service."  Service?  Perhaps that's apt, it turns out.  I'm more alarmed by this country than most fascists I know, and I know many.  I think the Left (such as they exist) have avoided this organization to their detriment; the war hawks do what they want to.  Still, I've told none of my close friends (such as they exist) that I joined the Army.  I'm just not prepared for more "good luck with that" speeches, like those I endured before I moved to the Middle East for my dissertation fieldwork.

I expect the next six months to be as ridiculous as my time in the ME, though at least I'll be able to speak English.  However, I expect I'll never be fed maglooba.

Nevertheless, I've been surprised to see who joins the Army.  Perhaps this uneasily indicates the upper-middle class status I've enjoyed, but I was surprised when I went to MEPS in Los Angeles in the summer 2009 and met other recruits.  Most of the young (17-18 year olds) folks I talked with did not enjoy the same advantages I did; they were joining for the G.I. Bill, because they wanted to go to college, but had no parents like mine to write the checks for their under graduate degree.  They were smart, they were willing to put their lives on the line, they were willing to let the MEPS civilians act like total unprofessional assholes toward them in order to get there.  In short, they were fucking cool.  They acted like adults, unlike many the 18 year olds I taught at the U of C.  Completely prepared to take responsibility for their futures, they joined the military, and, like me, had to at one point plan their own funerals.  I was freaked out enough to do that at age 35; they did it at 18.  We stood in a room with carpet on the walls and pledged never to engage in sodomy, or beat our spouses, and to die for the nation if necessary.

What a world.