21 August 2007

Happy Birthday to me...

Today's my birthday. I'm now 30 and the most fun thing I did today was buy a new pair of combat boots - ones that didn't feel like they were trying to crush my ankles. How did something like buying a pair of boots turn into my birthday fun? Well, it all started July 3, 2007...

I was sitting in my comfortable office at the Naval Academy reading my 100 emails that I received since I left the previous day when my boss's boss called me to her office for a meeting to discuss "my detailing". Now, as clear as that might sound, it meant something completely different to me at the time. My position at the Naval Academy was the Summer Training Officer. As such, I was responsible for assigning all 3300 midshipmen their summer training schedules. So, her wanting to discuss detailing meant the midshipmen schedules to me.

When I went to her office, she told me that Navy Personnel Command sent a message to the academy requesting me, by name, for an individual augmentation in Iraq for 280 days (9 months). An "Individual Augmentation" (IA) is when a single service member is used to augment a unit already deployed. In my case, I will be the Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) for a ground unit in Iraq working Counter-IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) operations. Usually, they ask a command to supply a name for a position. In my case, since the request was not to fill a job but for me specifically, USNA could do almost nothing to get me out of it. They must have heard about my amazing ability to make tequila disappear from a bottle and thought that it was a skill they needed on the battlefield. Cset la vie...

On 30 July, I went to Norfolk, VA to begin my medical and administrative in-processing to begin my IA. This lasted for a week and consisted of many line rides (standing in line and getting very little at the end of it), many needles (giving blood, getting inoculations, and my foot fell asleep once resulting in pins and needles), and getting my Army style pajama-flage (camouflage so comfortable, it feels like pajamas).

Fortunately, I had two weeks in between my in-processing in Norfolk and the first stage of my training this week. That enabled Shira (my wife) and I to go on an unbelievable vacation to the Mediterranean. We spent 8 days on a cruise going from Barcelona to Nice, Rome, Naples, Malta, Majorca, and returning to Barcelona. For those of you lucky enough to receive the pictures from our trip, you can see why we enjoyed it so much.

Yesterday began my first real day of training for my tour in Iraq. This training is designed to expose EWO's to the various equipment that we might come across in country and the basics of their capabilities. The day was spent watching PowerPoint presentations of equipment capabilities and watching various videos of insurgents blowing things up. It was a strange mix of shear boredom, abject horror, and furious anger. At the end of the day, you leave the room exhausted, only to remember that you have to drive home. For me that meant a 1.5 hour drive back to my house and Shira - and I consider myself lucky. Many of my classmates are staying in hotels without their spouses. Some of them haven't seen their wives for two weeks and here I am going home every night to my own bed and my family.

Which brings us back to today. I woke up at 0440 (4:40 am for you non-military types), drove for 1 hour and 35 minutes in a torrential downpour to be in a video teleconference with Iraq (and learned that two O-6's can't give a straight answer even over a secure line), proceeded to sit through 4 briefs (all of which said about the same thing), then drove the 1 hour and 25 minutes home. I would've thought a milestone like turning 30 would've been more celebratory and exciting. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam has sucked all the fun out of it with the present he gave me. Thanks, Uncle Sam... Um, is there any way for me to exchange this gift for one that fits??? I guess not...

Like I said before, I consider myself lucky. I was able to spend my birthday with my wife at home and was able to talk to ALL my family today. (Thank's for calling everyone.) It's amazing how the little things become so big when they won't happen for nine months.

If you're looking to buy an iRaq this season, wait a little while, they might get recalled for defects hazardous to your health...

3 comments:

terp330 said...

Nicely written. I look forward to reading this regularly.

cutlerfam said...

Looking forward to reading more about your adventures and celebrating your next birthday with you safely home!

Lori said...

Glad you're doing a blog so we can hear about all your adventures.
I'll look forward to your next chapter soon.
Be safe