11 September 2005

Day 10

Today I stayed back in the rear, while others went on missions. It was an interesting day nonetheless.

Today is September 11, 2005. My Commander (CPT Belsha) had a formation in the dark this morning (we have one every morning at about 6) in which she said that every day she wakes up and asks herself if she could be doing more for her fellow man, and that right now she couldn’t think of anything more that she could be doing than what we are doing right now. I have to agree. Then we had a minute of silence in remembrance of the events of 9/11/01.

I went on sick call for my finger this morning—it had become stiff and swollen during the night. It was more to document the injury in case complications developed later than because I was worried about it. The doctor said that it had probably been hyperextended, gave me Motrin, and sent me back to duty.

The base is starting to come together. Showers, laundry, a mess hall, a PX (alright, NEX), some order established on the airfield where we’re living (one way in, one way out)...even an Internet cafĂ© that I discovered today. I’m starting to feel like a soldier again. I got a haircut (finally! I’ve needed one since we moved out), I have clean clothes, a reasonably clean body, hot chow, a permanent place to sleep, electricity to the tent...all I need now are shined boots, which I will have as soon as I find my shoeshine kit. I may have to buy another one.

My haircut was paid for by an Air Force Colonel who needed to jump in front of me (and others) for a quick hair fix. I told him not to bother, but he paid for me and four others.

I finally broke down and bought a digital camera from the NEX (Naval EXchange) today, for about $200. It’s pretty nice. I’ll post pictures soon.

Our camp is really shaping up as well. We’ve put out camouflage netting as porches for our tents. It’s amazing how much cooler it is under there—cooler even than in the tent. A Wal-Mart run was made today, and people went all out. This evening people were sitting around in their new camp chairs, playing their new CDs on their new stereos while being protected from bugs by their new bug zappers, being cooled by their new fans, and lighted by their new tiki torches (tiki torches!!), while others threw footballs or frisbees with their new...you get the idea. I’m sure that once we get everything set up the way we like it, we’ll have to move.

Fire ants are from the devil. I and another soldier are convinced that, under a microscope, they reveal little horns and cloven heels. Thank God for ant spray. Holy water would probably work just as well.

The mosquitoes, on the other hand, are surprisingly benevolent. They’re large, slow, easy to kill, and kind of politely bite you and flutter away, leaving a bite that itches (a lot, I admit) for only about five minutes. A light coat of bug spray, reapplied occasionally, keeps them off nicely.

This evening I got tasked to go out on a mission to deliver water to the police base camp. This mission has already been aborted several times, and the trucks have been sitting in our motor pool, full of water and unavailable for other missions, for several days. Well, we finally got in the trucks to take them (weapons in hand), drove out of the motor pool, around the giant concrete pad where a lot of people and equipment are, to the gate—and turned right and went back to our motor pool. And parked. That was it. The mission was over. Apparently it had been cancelled before we got out of the gate. We have a military photographer from Illinois Public Affairs with us (sometimes), and she was hanging around after almost everyone had gone back to the tents. I asked her what she was doing, and she said she was waiting for the mission to go out again. It took a bit of convincing for her to believe I wasn’t pulling her leg when I told her it wasn’t going out again; that was the extent of the mission for the night.

The Commander came up and asked what happened. I told her that we had simply driven around the parking lot and she just keeled over. She literally doubled over with laughter, tears coming out of her eyes. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone laugh that hard. I think she’s getting a little frustrated with the disorganization around here; like I said, that mission has been canceled several times now.

It’s funny—Soldiers in the field never know what day it is. The day of the week just has no meaning for us. We don’t get weekends off. Someone said they tried to call their wife at work yesterday, only to realize that it was closed; it was Saturday. I’ve done the same thing. The only time we know what day it is is when they announce when Chaplain services will be—then we realize that it must be Sunday.

My accent is coming back. Well, sometimes. See, I grew up in the South, principally in Alabama, where I spent four years, from 4-8 years old. So I have a latent Southern accent that comes out whenever I’m around southerners. It started to emerge when I spent that day in the back of a truck with the Georgia DNR cops, but it’s going away again now, around our own Illinois soldiers. It’s amusing—I don’t pick up the accent of the people I’m with; I simply revert to my old Alabama accent. Georgians talk a little differently.

I’ve made a deal (somehow, the phrase “drug deal” has become current when any sort of unofficial or off-the-record (but not illegal) deal is being made) with the photographer I mentioned to get all the pictures she has so far. Hopefully, I’ll get lots of good shots.


• There are more military aircraft flying over New Orleans than over Iraq or Afghanistan.
• There are 50,000 military servicemembers either on the ground or on their way.



Michele said...

I was cruising using the Next Blog button. That's how I came to be here.
Read many of your posts. Very informative and interesing.
I've also read a blog from a reporter that was embedded with another Nation Guard unit from another state. Between your pics and his...the environment you both had to endure is unlike anything an American citizen has ever seen before.
Blows the mind.
I'm glad things are getting better though.
Riveting blog!