Yesterday I met some military journalists.
They were out of our higher headquarters and part of a reserve unit out of Denver.
Three sergeants and a captain. Smiling. Friendly. Not in that sappy, fake religion kind of happy, but in a way that showed satisfaction in their work.
Having hopped on a convoy to get here, they were scheduled to spend a couple of days with us, covering this and that, and allowing soldiers to record holiday “Hi Mom”s to be sent home to the states.
Naturally our command wasn’t too keen on them showing up at all. By all accounts, they care little for the media, and listen to the counsel of our intelligence section that says we are all liars and spies.
There were ground rules laid out on where they could and couldn’t go. As the servant of the unit, it was my duty to enforce those rules.
“Wow, your unit is awfully sad and tired-looking,” said the visiting staff sergeant after I explained the restrictions. Although her Hungarian accent colored her words, she spoke clearly enough that it was more of a unique flourish than a distraction.
“Really? I guess I didn’t notice,” I said back.
Living with the constant pile of things to do, I didn’t look around very much. But there they were, downcast faces, grumpy responses to salutations, sighs and moans, all the signs of a unit too long deployed…and we had only just begun.
It was late in the afternoon, and our guests were eyeing dinner. My section sergeant and I said we’d join them, but would have to get back to work afterwards.
“Wow, how long do you work?” one asked.
I told her it changed often, but was between 10 and 15 hours a day.
“Doing what?” she continued.
That was a good question. There were PowerPoint slides that needed to be submitted, a myriad of meetings that required our attendance, some one was always reenlisting – photos had to be taken…always a glut of small, trite tasks.
The captain called it “combat envy” – the way that units that didn’t have a war to fight filled their days with office drivel to look hardcore. He was right.
After talking with them, I grew more and more jealous of their position. They traveled around the country, visiting all of their subordinate units. Their command allowed them free reign of the theater, hopping from camp to camp, looking for stories to tell. They had seen palaces, ruins, bombs, units doing well, and units struggling. They were journalists.
They were doing what I thought I was signing up to do. I guess it made me wonder what I was contributing to the whole mess.
I know the whole “everyone serves in their own way” story, and it’s true. Even the admin people who process awards, leave, promotions and all that get to help out…but what about the guy who takes pictures of the admin people? Really. I’m about as essential as a fifth thumb.
Our visitors will leave tomorrow to head north. They don’t know what they’ll find, but there are some people they haven’t visited in a while. Sounded like quite an adventure.
I have halls to clean and dust to sweep for a general who’s visiting in a few days. They even sent the temperature she wants her room in the dining facility to be. What am I doing here?