I knew it had to come—the load of incredible BS that was overdue.
Days in the service are like hurricane seasons. You can have “mild” seasons for years, but eventually you’ll get hit with storm after storm that leaves you neck deep in crap.
Storm 1 (Category 3)
Yesterday I was wrapping up another wonderful, mesmerizing briefing, made much cozier with two times the personnel now in attendance with our replacements. The new XO saw me putting up the chairs and straightening up.
“Sgt. Salmons, aren’t you staying with us?” he asked. Uh oh! I thought this had been resolved.
“Sir, I had been trying, but no one ever worked the paperwork after it left my hands,” I explained. To catch people up: They asked me to stay months ago, I said “sure” and completed all the paperwork, then they blew me off, now I’m going home.
“We could really use you.” He got that puppy dog, ‘your country needs you’ sort of look that seniors put to enlisted just before asking them to start a work-intensive “good idea.”
“Well, sir, I tried, but no one ever gave me an answer, so I’m preparing to leave.”
“Hmmmm. We’ll get on that.”
A call to division today confirmed that things were in motion once again. And this is usually how things work. Military cats wait until the last possible second before acting to fix something. And they have to be the ones to see a shortage…no amount of advice or foresight will do.
All the back-and-forth stuff before today was just some silly sergeant trying to plan ahead.
“So…do I ship my stuff home or what?” I asked my boss.
“Well, we won’t know until after we get back,” she said.
Ah…back in limbo. Nice. Get an apartment? Get a car? One month back in the states? Six? Here it comes all over again.
Storm 2 (Category 5)
A couple of weeks ago, there was a transfer of authority ceremony for the Iraqi unit that we used to manage. They were finally being integrated back into the Iraqi army—meaning they wouldn’t use us for maintenance or intelligence and would rely on existing Iraqi sources…ha! Good luck with that. But, anyway, the ceremony was a chance for the brass to show off their stuff, with cameras rolling.
Our lack of cameras was a challenge, of course. We had worked to get some of our journalist higher-ups to send down a crew—a process requiring several weeks of planning, room reservations, haggling with our command as to why they had to put up with more “media,” and all that business. We also had scored some Arabic media, which was cool. Although it was just a ceremony, it was one of those more visible symbols, showing Iraqis doing their own thing.
The ceremony itself was slightly-controlled chaos—busses with the journalists were late, there were changeups to the program, etc. But we pulled it off, by God. We got the Arabic journalists in and out without them blowing up anything, as was the fear. “You watch them close,” I kept getting told. “Yeah, got it.” Terrorists. All of ‘em. Yeah.
Afterward, my division asked us to get them the footage so they could use it for some propaganda films and flyers. We obliged and I thought it was a good day of public affairs work.
“Sgt. Salmons, be sure I get a copy of that video,” my battalion commander told me after the ceremony. He and a couple others had been interviewed by the gaggle of media. Everybody wanted the video. They always want the video. What do these officers do with all these ceremony videos? Show them at parties? To their kids? Yeesh.
“No problem sir, I have to wait until our guys get back to their base and edit it, but they’ll send down a copy.” Our visiting Army journalists were from up north and had to get back and edit together a story for their own deadlines.
We finally got the copy of the DVD yesterday. I had copied a few runs of the footage and gave them to my boss to deliver the goods.
Now, remember, this was for a news story. My guy and all the visiting journalists were all over the place, getting close-ups, wide shots, crowd shots…all to be spliced together into broadcast pieces.
“Sgt. Salmons, what’s with that video?” my battalion commander asked today while I was at the pisser. Oh, hey there sir!
“Did it not work?” I asked. What the hell could have been wrong with it?
“It’s all choppy. He goes from the interviews to shots of the speaker to the vehicle pass and reviews. It’s all over the place!”
“Sir, it was for a news story. The first bit is the story itself then he included all the rest of his footage.”
“You didn’t have a camera rolling for the whole thing?”
“No sir, we just had one camera and he needed it for a story.”
“Well it’s jumpy.” Actually, we call them “cuts” in the video-production world.
The sentiments were echoed by the rest of the footage recipients. Even when we get it right, in our command’s eyes, we’re f*cked up.
Storm 3 (Category 2)
“Sgt. Solomon?” the new brigade sergeant major called out to me. I was hanging outside in the smoking area for a few minutes, taking a break from the 11-plus new people in the office.
The colonel and most other higher-ups call me “Solomon,” which I answer to. Nametapes be damned! It’s easier to just respond.
“Sergeant Major N*** is on the phone for you.” Ah, one of our battalions needed pictures taken…hopefully it wasn’t in the next ten minutes.
Walking into the brigade sergeant major’s office, I walked around behind his desk and answered the phone.
“This PAO?” he asked. I had worked with this guy countless times before and he didn’t know my name either. Nice. I affirmed and he continued. “Saturday at 0800 we need some pictures…”
Basically I am to be hung from a crane to take a glamour shot of one of our battalion’s command staffs, arrayed in their combat gear, surrounded by some of their vehicles. I was assured I’d have a safety harness on.
Being how I have to fight through five or six of their cameras when covering one of their ceremonies, why don’t they just take the pictures? I guess the whole “hanging from a crane” thing thins out the numbers.
I can just see it now…Soldier paralyzed after crane fall days before redeployment. Catchy.
Storm 4 (Category 3…expected to strengthen to 5 before landfall)
Normally, when going home, several weeks before departure, containers are loaded up with a whole mess of personal gear. These containers are shipped off and arrive in the states a month or two after the unit makes it home. The long delivery time is due to the huge amount of crap floating around the world and the fact that getting stuff home isn’t nearly as high a priority as getting stuff to war. So it’s no biggie to have to wait a bit to get your stuff out of the containers.
There is again the possibility of me serving a second year in Iraq—but not a certainty. Meaning I can’t leave my stuff here, but that I can’t ship things home in the containers, as I may come down on orders back to Iraq long before the stuff arrives in the states. Enter the normal “commercial” shipping funds from our supply office, meant to handle these sorts of situations.
“I need to ship some stuff through DHL,” I told one of my supply sergeants.
“Why?” That’s the question any supply person has about anything asked of them, so I had a response prepared.
“I may be sent back a few weeks after we get back and I can’t wait for the containers.”
“Well, you’ll have to bring in a list of what you want to ship. We’ve been sending a lot of people’s stuff home and we’re almost out of money. I don’t know…”
Well, yes, but this is because I’m COMING BACK TO WAR. Not because I had connections and didn’t feel like waiting for the containers on the back end.
If push comes to shove, I guess I’ll just pay to ship it, but damn! Days like this make me want to go career! Yes, Dad, you were right…shoulda joined the Air Force. I think about that every day.