06 September 2005

Day 5

Today was kind of bogus, at least for those of us who stayed in the rear. Most of 2nd Platoon left fairly early to complete the mission that didn’t go off yesterday. Those of us stuck back with the baggage trucks had something of a frustrating day. First, everyone was pretty disappointed and angry that once again they (I say they; I’m certainly included in the group, but I learned a long time ago that in the Army, sometimes you get the good stuff and sometimes you get screwed. It has nothing to do with who you are; it’s just fate, or chance, and more-or-less random. So unless I’m getting really screwed over, I tend to roll with the punches because I know that next time (or perhaps the time after; these things are unpredictable) it will be someone else who gets the rotten job while I get the good one) didn’t get to go on a mission for a second day.

Second, well, the military has two modes that nobody likes: “Hurry up and wait,” and “Dig a hole. Now fill it in.” We got stuck with the second one today. Not with holes, but with baggage. What’s worse was that I was giving the orders to dig holes and fill them in. I was in charge of the baggage detachment. The mission this morning (for those in the rear) was to move to a new location that had a grassy area that would allow us to set up tents, not far from where we were. Well, we got over there and started to offload the baggage in order to get to the tents when a Lieutenant from the 3637MT came up to us and said that we were in his area, and that we were supposed to be on the other side of the field. I say “we,” but I was parking the trucks without tents on them further down the runway from the grassy area (which turned out be a skeet-shooting range, of all things. On the side of a runway!??). The NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer, remember?) on the scene started sending the trucks to the other end of the field, which is when I showed up. I spoke to the LT and got things straightened out, then went back to park trucks while the other NCO worked on getting the tents offloaded. Well, when I came back, all the baggage and gear and water was off of the trucks on the ground, and the tents were ready to be offloaded—on the wrong side of the field. Apparently the other NCO had misunderstood the what the LT and I had worked out (translation: I wasn’t clear enough in my directives); we were supposed to be in our original spot. So all the baggage, gear and water had to be put back on the trucks, driven across the field/range, and taken back off again. It was at this point that we realized that there was no human way for the tents to be offloaded by hand; they were in massive crates that only a forklift could handle. So we sent someone to get a forklift and driver. After much prodding and pulling and finagling, we got a crate off a truck with the forklift. At this point we were told to stop unloading; the grass was going to get mowed (who cares!!?) and so we had to re-load everything back onto the trucks. Before we could do that, however, we were told to stand fast again; several high-ranking officers from the 1st Cavalry Division (Regular Army) had showed up and wanted to know why the hell we were setting up in their area. Apparently, the base commander had told both them and us that we could use that skeet range to set up tents in.

So we waited to be told whether we were staying or going. And waited. And ate. And waited. And still no word. Finally, the Commander (acting) of our unit comes up to where we’re sitting in the shade behind some trucks and asks us what we’re doing; word that we had to move was put out an hour ago and we were moving out in the next few minutes. So we all had to rush over and throw the baggage and water back on the trucks, ensure that the tents had been re-loaded, and leave. By the time we accomplished all this and pulled out to the road/runway, we saw the last of 1st Platoon’s trucks just about to disappear around the corner; the company had moved out. Finally, after hurrying to catch up with everyone, we drove to our new location, and I realized why they hadn’t worried about the fact that they were leaving us behind: The new area was within easy walking distance from where we were.

So here we are on a different (but identical) runway, next to a building with something that looks like a giant bowling pin on top but is probably some sort of radar device.

Other people had different experiences today. 1st Platoon did all the sitting around that we did, but about midday they got word of a mission going out, so they offloaded all their gear onto the ground behind their trucks to get the trucks ready to go. It was looking for a while, then, that not only were we going to have to move, but that our small detachment (12 people) was going to have to move the entire company’s gear to the new location. I think you can imagine that this wasn’t the most popular idea (especially as at that point we would have been the only people who had not done a mission into New Orleans), and what the level of frustration among my troops was today. Some nerves got a bit on edge, including mine. Luckily (from our point of view), the mission never went off, and 1st Platoon had to move their own gear.

The rest of 2nd Platoon got to accomplish the mission that did not go off yesterday. They drove through four feet of water and evacuated victims, with the assistance and direction of the Louisiana State Police. Some of them got quite dirty in the nasty, disgusting water. Luckily, there was a shower run tonight. Hopefully, all that needed to got to go.

When 2nd Platoon returned, they discovered something that I hadn’t thought to check: The weird, noisy building with the bowling pin on top has outlets on its outside walls. Very soon there was a Christmas tree of power strips, cell phones and chargers sprouting from it.

RUMOR: Our Battalion is the only unit down here without weapons.