Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Same Page

We're all on the same page now, the children and their mothers and I. It went as well as can be expected, really. Of course the children cried. And I did, too. I didn't actually shed a tear, but my eyes stung like hell and welled up. I already cried like a baby a week or so ago. It hurts. It hurts a lot.

No parent likes to see their children cry.

There are four of them. Two daughters, aged fourteen and four; and two sons, aged eleven and eleven months. I will miss the baby's first birthday. I was there for his birth by C-section last January, though. There are a lot of Servicemen out there who have missed that event. Due to the failure of my relationship with his mother, I have missed a lot of other firsts, and so it goes with this.

Not all pain is losing a limb, or leaves you bleeding. Those are obvious sacrifices, but this one, just like that any Service member with a family suffers, is a wound nonetheless. Freedom is not free. Liberty has a license fee. The children pay that license fee, too. They are giving their father for their country. And so it goes. The fees keep racking up, and this tax man only accepts one payment: pain.

I don't mean to whine, but my wound was opened today. It was both liberating and like salting the wound. It is no longer a secret, that burden was lifted; but the fresh pain of seeing my children cry was my own twin towers crashing to the ground. It is a quiet, civilized kind of horror.

The goodbyes will be worse. I will miss them, and they will miss me, and so it goes.

I don't feel hate, but I am really pissed with Osama and Ayman today.

Well, the kids had a great Christmas, and I didn't ruin it with my revelation. I did what I said I was going to do, and it's over now. We move on, but we move on from here on the same page. I think I did the right thing.

I think I'm doing the right thing with all of this.

Side note: Scott Kesterson posted today for the first time in about two months. I was thrilled. That guy is my freakin hero. I hope to meet him in-country. I was actually starting to worry about him, because he had not posted for so long.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006


This post was written on December 22nd, but for some reason my ISP decided to take some time off. Here is the belated post.

Last night a small group of very good friends threw a small get-together for my deployment. It was a quiet gathering. Salad, chili, cake, coffee, and soda. I went to bed thanking God for these friends. While I am going alone, I am not alone. How in the hell I deserve such good people to call me their friend is beyond me. To have a group of people who are so lovely come together to tell me that they want me to be safe, that they support me in this, whether or not they support the Global War on Terror, is indescribably wonderful.

Today was my last day at my civilian job for the next 16 months or so. My co-workers got me a cake with a flag on it, and the words, "Thank you for your service and loyalty." I nearly cried. They are also incredibly supportive. More lovely people.

The deeper I get into this, the more amazed I am that it just seems sort of... normal. It just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me, even though it is. In a way, it feels no different than going to an Army school. I don't know if that is the sense of unreality, or if it is a calm acceptance, or if it is some strange form of denial.

I guess that when I tell my kids, it will become a bit more stressful. I am concerned about their reaction, but I have no choice at this point. I love my kids so very much, and this whole thing has been a balancing act. I believe that this separation has a purpose. I believe that it is honorable. I hope that they are able to find a sense of purpose and a sense of pride and duty in all of this.

I hope that I never lose mine. I pray that I never lose mine.

I also pray that I do not allow hatred to creep into my heart. We (my Tulai, or Afghan company) will almost certainly have to kill. I may very well have to kill by my own hand. I am prepared for that, but I do not want to do it with hatred. Anger, yes. Purpose, yes. Prejudice, yes. Hatred; pure, vile hatred... no. Please, no.

How can a man write that if he has to kill, he wants to kill out of love? I love my children. I love my friends. I love this country, and I love the Constitution. I will come to love the LT, and I will come to love the men of the Afghan Tulai that we are assigned to. We have many differences, but we have some strong similarities. We are Soldiers. We are Soldiers for a reason. If I have to kill, I want to kill for them, not because I hate anyone so deeply.

The Afghans have been described as warrior-poets. I very good friend of mine defined me years ago as a warrior-sage. I think that he was meaning something along the lines of warrior-poet. More common ground. There is a different kind of animal inside of us that cannot be fathomed by those who do not harbor a similar beast. Occasionally, someone will ask a question that is responded to by the warrior spirit, and they glimpse it. It confuses them, because they know that I am a gentleman in my dealings with my fellow civilians. I have seen the realization in their eyes that they are glimpsing something that they didn't know was there. I have seen flashes of something like what you might see when someone suddenly realizes that you're insane, and flashes of other signals of discomfort. The warrior is a conundrum to those who do not have that seed inside. There are lots of those who do, though. Plenty of them are women. Not all of those who have the warrior spirit are able to do anything with it, to exercise the beast. Note that I did not say exorcise. That beast will readily feed on hatred, if you feed it some. The sheepdog can become a wolf.

Hatred is a disease that rots the soul like a flesh-eating bacteria. I will carefully monitor myself to watch for the signs of hatred. How I will counter them if I detect them, I don't know.

As the charges against the four Marines of Haditha demonstrate, Soldiers in combat risk not only the loss of their lives and limbs, but the wounding or loss of their souls as well. Hatred is the bullet that wounds the soul. Hatred is what drives our enemies, and we must fight them with our souls intact. That doesn't mean to fight them lightly or gently. I know that sounds contradictory, but my warfighting needs to be cerebral, focused, and violent as hell when required.

I'm sure there will be casualties. I don't want to be one of them.

I can feel the transition from my daily civilian life to the focus of the warrior. These next two weeks will be a daily movement in that direction, and things will seem even "realer."

Tomorrow will not be one of them. Tomorrow I will Christmas shop and think of my family. Tomorrow I will be a mall-warrior along with my countrymen and women, who will have no idea as I pass among them how different my life will be soon, or what the kids I am buying toys for will go through soon after they open those gifts. I feel like a specter passing among the living, seen but not recognized for what I hold within.

It is as it should be.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Real Will Be Realer

Milestone: My Department of the Army Mobilization (DA Mob) orders came through today. It refers to me by a code called a UIC (Unit Identification Code.) A UIC is how the Army identifies units in various systems. I have my own UIC. Since I am mobilizing as an individual, the Army has subdivided me from my unit and created an individual subunit with its own unique UIC. In effect, I am a unit of one. I think that's a scream... it's just how it works. The state will generate individual orders to active duty.

The significance is that, up to now, there was a sense of unreality (see prior post.) This makes it a lot more real. As the girl with the elephant says, "Real will be realer."

It is real.

I couldn't sleep last night as the reality began to set in. Then there was today. I was on the phone with the LT when the call came on my cell. We were talking about getting together with his family after Christmas so that they knew who was going with him. He said that he's beginning to get pumped for this, and how we are going to work together. I ignored the call in the background, figuring that whoever it was would leave a message. The LT and I were wrapping it up anyway.

My desk phone started to ring. I ended the call with the LT and answered it. It was the State Mobilization Office with news. My DA Mob (pronounced "mobe") orders were in. My world changed just a little in that moment. There are milestones, and this was a big one. It's a dose of reality in the unreal. The SFC up at the Mob Office emailed me the orders. It was weird to look at them. A historic document... in my history, anyway.

The world will little note, nor long remember... but I will. Forever. I think I will remember that moment just as I remember watching the smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center, seeing Flight 175 fly into the South Tower, watching the towers fall. This is my history, not world history, my history. I will remember it.

It's funny; that document doesn't resemble a can opener in the least, but it sure does open a can of worms.

HUMOR NOTE: After my last post, I wondered if I had made too much fun of the French. Then today I read that the French were pulling their special forces out of southern Afghanistan.,,1974323,00.html

Surrender Monkeys. With French like these, who needs enemies?

In 2003, most of my unit deployed to Kosovo. Just as my unit was preparing to leave Germany for Kosovo, there was a riot in the French sector. A French soldier was killed. Within two weeks, the French had evacuated that sector and handed it over to other forces.

Old joke...

For Sale: French Army rifle. Original issue. Never fired. Only dropped once.
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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Lieutenant, Part Dieu

I met the Lieutenant that I will be paired with in Afghanistan for dinner at Max & Erma's. The two of us will be responsible for advising and mentoring an Afghan company. It should be between 70 and 100 men. He will work with the officers, and I will work with the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO's.) I think that we will get along just fine.

The 1LT (First Lieutenant) should be a Captain by the time we get to Afghanistan. He already did a tour in Iraq, doing convoy escort duties, so he's not favorably impressed by the Iraqis. He's approaching the Afghans with a certain sense of suspicion, which I certainly can't argue with. He and I will need to be on the same sheet of music at all times. If for any reason the company is infiltrated by insurgents, we could find ourselves in deep trouble really fast. So we will need to completely trust each other, communicate with each other, and always have a plan to "evade unassisted." That means we may need to become scarce most rikki-tic if the Afghans are not loyal to their elected government. Not what I hope to find, but you never know until you know. I don't want to find out the hard way and get caught flat-footed.

One of the problems that we will have is that the Afghan National Army is receiving training from a number of sources. One thing that makes the United States Army what it is (unbeatable in open battle) is our NCO Corps. The NCO Corps is the backbone of the Army. It is what separates us from the rest of the world's armies, with the notable exceptions of the armies of the British Commonwealth, and the Germans.

The Afghan officers are trained by our esteemed brethren from the Republic of Surrender Monkey... who commonly refer to themselves as the French. The French have a reputation as fine trainers of fine officers who have performed some of the finest blunders, retreats, and surrenders in history. They also train officers who have no idea of what to do with an NCO Corps, so they naturally do it themselves. You can invalidate a developing NCO support channel that way. An exception may be the Foreign Legion; they are by definition not French... but their officers are. After WWII, many of the NCO's of the Wehrmacht found their way into the French Foreign Legion. I can't imagine they didn't make a difference.

The Afghan NCO school is run by the British. The Brits have a strong NCO Corps, and their NCO traditions are strong.

Imagine a French officer... you get a picture of a man in a set of heavily starched fatigues with a bright white kepi on his head, some sort of baton tucked under his arm, and a disdainful attitude towards all who don't speak French as a their first language. A battle leader is not what you picture. Now picture a British Sergeant Major. You get an image of a man who miraculously remains upright amidst a hail of fire, handlebar mustache curled up at the ends, carrying an air of invincibility while he rails at the enemy and exhorts his men with cheerful calm and understated enthusiasm. He fires his weapon, and he finds time in the middle of a shelling to make a cup of tea.

The above was written tongue-in-cheek, but it has been noted that the French officer education system does not seem to stress the critical role of the NCO, and that's a problem. Some of the Afghan officers' first military experiences were under the tutelage of the Russians, also not known for their strong NCO Corps.

I think the LT's got the tougher job. All I've got to do is convince the Afghan NCO's that what the Brits taught them is the truth, and they need to do the NCO business even if the officers don't seem to know their role. If we can get the Afghan NCO's to take responsibility for leadership, accountability, and discipline, then we will make a lot of headway. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? I'm not under any illusions, but it can be done.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

It Finally Happened

There have been a lot of times since this has begun that I have thought of my children and how this is going to hurt. It will hurt me, but I know what I am doing and why; and how it will benefit them. All of us, really. They, on the other hand, do not.

They don't know yet. I want for them to have a normal, happy Christmas. I will tell them the day after Christmas. Their mothers don't know yet, either. I am divorced, unattached to their mothers, but I love them... if for no other reason than they are both great mothers. It would be a burden to them to know and not tell their children. It is a burden on me that is sometimes nearly too much to bear, but I already decided that it would be selfish to tell them before Christmas.

I have looked at my children and known, and in that moment felt the pain of separation, felt their innocence, and known the pain that is coming for each of us. I was glad for their innocence in that moment. My eyes have stung, but I've bitten my lip and pushed through.

All of this has a sense of unreality. I have been quietly training myself for months... reading, exercising, learning Farsi in my spare time. Yet it still has an air of unreality to it. That moment of innocence keeps that feeling of unreality in place. It's sometimes every bit as unreal as that place is to me, that place I'm going that I've never seen except in pictures, the people I've never met that I may be closer to a year from now than I can even imagine now. Unreal.

I've wondered when I was finally going to cry. Tonight it happened. I sat by myself and cried. I cried for my children, for what they're going to go through. I'm grateful to have finally cried.

I've been reading a blog by Scott Kesterson, an imbedded reporter with the 41st Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard. They are the unit currently doing the ETT mission in Afghanistan under the name of Task Force Phoenix. One of the problems of a warrior, of this warrior anyway, is to express what it is; what it means. I want to be able to tell those who I love, those who I care about, those who ask me, "Why?" Mr. Kesterson got a big chunk of the feeling, and I realize that to someone who does not have the feeling it will still not ring true. But it did for me. And it brought me to tears. I'd love to cut and paste it here, but his blog is copyrighted, and I'll respect that. So here is the link. It's way down the page, under "Saying Good-bye, I"

Thank you, Sir. I needed that.
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