Archive | January 2007

Deciding on a future

With a nod and a wink, my path was set.

I had been talking with the colonel’s secretary, a very attractive specialist whom I chatted with every so often while I waited to see the old man. She was asking about my plans, if I was staying in, if I was getting promoted (the fiasco had made its way through some circles).

“No, I think I’m getting out,” I said.

“When?” she asked.

“Next January.”

“Oh, uh, you’ll be in Iraq, Sgt. Salmons.”

“Really? You’ve heard something?”

Then came the nod and wink part. Not that I bet the whole of my estate on the passing rumors of junior soldiers, but it was one of multiple reports I’ve heard concerning the subject. Things in Iraq are a bit dire. Tens of thousands of additional troops are gearing up to go, filling the immediate levy and preparing for the increased rotational demand. Whereas our unit’s initial plan was to lay low until a few months after I had planned to leave, that timetable had been moved up considerably.

The choice I have been wrestling with is this: whether to live out my days as an enlisted journalist, being passed from unit to unit, working in capacities that don’t exactly make me pop awake every morning and rush to work; or continue my trek toward an Air Force commission, where things would be a little better for ol’ Salmons.

I had been in contact with family and friends over the matter. Naturally, all want me to find something that makes me happy. I have no idea what that will be, but I am restless enough to want to move on from my current circumstances. Now that my exit window out of the military has all but closed, I am looking to trade up a couple of years for a drastically improved lifestyle. If commissioned, my time requirements in the service would increase, but they’d be good years, at better pay, more opportunity to improve service members’ lives and all that.

So there it was, at the behest of a specialist, where I all but made my choice. I’m of course still open to the divinings of the Almighty–signs on the wall, burning bushes and all that; but this is the path for now. May it be blessed or cursed.

On a lighter note. I was selected as the FORSCOM journalist of the year. Meaning of all the deploying active-duty soldier journalists, I was considered top dog. Not bad for someone who is barely utilized as a journalist, eh? I also had a photograph that was selected as the top “stand alone” picture. Also also, and the biggest surprise, was the fact that our own “Wrangler” newsletter won second place of all the publications in theater.

Mind you, it was put together by me in between convoys, briefings and exhaustion. I slaved over that thing, but it only had our stories–bits about fuel and supplies, not exactly “Saving Private Ryan” stuff. Other papers, especially the division- and corps-level publications, had a dozen reporters buzzing around, designing and laying out, with several supporting subordinate units providing adequate stories.

“The Wranger” had me. I’ll take second place, for serious!

So there’s that business. Pretty cool that big Army thought I did okay over there, even if the unit doesn’t really make a stir about it. I’m happy with the nod. The lack of local hoopla isn’t a big deal.


Another break

Sadly, I’m easing back on the blog again. There’s just not much going on apart from the mind-numbing events of staff work. You all don’t really want to hear about the finer points of meeting scheduling, do you?

I do miss the outlet of writing, so I’ll stick around on this entry for a few minutes.

The time is coming for me to reevaluate life again. Some events are taking place overseas that might quicken our return to the fun place. As a response, I’m weighing my options and exploring, once again, the possibility of seeking a commission.

It’s not that getting out is my first choice, and a commission is the backup plan and it’s not vice versa; I’m just in one of those places where a major life-course change is in the works and I need to work through that.

What I do know is I’m a little worn out from the Army. God bless it, I’ve just not had a good run. Maybe its me and the attitude, which I’m taking an honest look at also; but point of fact, I’m deeply underwhelmed and burnt out. So staying the course isn’t in my set of options. What’s next is picking the next road.

Which leaves you and I apart for a bit while my brain tries to churn through possibilities and options spanning three potential lifetimes. I’ll be around, though. Laters.


Knowing “the dude”

I’ve been blessed by God to know a lot of people who are worlds smarter, more creative, and just super cooler than I. In Michigan, especially, there seems to be this strange sort of enclave of cats that just vibe.

It’s a shifting pack, with people running off and leaping in to the rest of their lives on occasion. A few years ago, before my fetish with camouflage, I lived in a house with Santino and Dave. Santino, as you may know, was a college chum of mine, whom I worked with to get a small film company started. By the time I was free from school and had moved to Michigan, my place there had evaporated, but I was determined to give Grand Rapids a go, regardless.

Our other roomie was David Vandervelde, a musician. I’ve been testing the waters, asking if people know the name in the intervening years between my time in “the house” and since. Seth (see, at right) gave me a link to Buzzfeed where my boy Dave is starting a bit of a following. He was the featured gig on Christmas day on Daytrotter.

I say “my boy” ’cause Dave and I became good bros in the months I spent losing my soul in the frozen Michigan wastes (note for future biographers: “lost soul” metaphor plays off of Michigan winters and the fact that this was the time Salmons entered in to his pact with the Army).

Life pre-Dave was much less melodic. I “liked music” as much as the next guy, but being around Dave made it electric. It started slowly at first, having just met the kid. He’d play some records for me (records, mind you, not that CD crap, he still knew where to get vinyl). Pretty soon I helped him glue carpet to a back, musty corner of our basement in that house–creating a super-poor-man’s studio.

Our house was a huge, three-story Sears and Roebuck catalog house–the kind you see all around tracts of the GR cityscape, built back in the ’20s. It was in a crummy part of town–drugs and all that, so rent was dirt cheap. The house was comfortable enough, so long as you didn’t mind 50 degrees as the highest maintainable temperature and the occasional door kick-in from the locals.

We kept things sparse inside, partly because only Sonny really had a job. I was mooching off of my savings and Dave was just working on projects/gigs. Dave had a girl in the next town that kept him busy, but he was home a lot, and let me in to part of his world.

Down stairs, through twisting piles of broken crap, around a corner and through a make-shift wooden door, was the music room. The ground was saturated with Styrofoam pellets, a result of our attempt to cut and add additional sound proofing to the carpeted walls. The glue fumes from said prior carpeting lingered for weeks. Heaps of excess carpet lay bunched up in free corners, supposedly to soak up more noise, but really was there since it was as good a place as any to store swaths of cut-up cheap-o rugs.

Dave had a few toys he had imported from his time with the folks. The kid was only 18 and so was still a youngin’. So was I for that matter, just 22. He had his drums, a couple of guitars, an analog synthesizer, a couple of keyboards, a couple of mixers, and a few amps/speakers. It was definitely the mother lode of loot if anybody came bursting in. Luckily it was stashed away downstairs in the labyrinth and out of sight.

The cool thing about Dave was that he played everything. He was practically a one-man band. He’d stay downstairs for hours, laying down a drum track, laying down a guitar track. Then keyboards. Then vocal. Then another vocal. Then he’d mix it. Then there would come more tweaking. It would grow and grow, eventually morphing into this amazing sound. The great thing about the whole setup was even though next to the basement might have had a 30-40 percent drop in noise because of our awesome walls of carpet, upstairs, everything was clear as day, since the sound just pipped out of the vent systems. Whoops.

I would go down and listen sometimes and sometimes he would wrench me from the PS2 to hear something. It was almost divine to hear the raw earth of sound molded and shaped in to a melody, then sparked to life with his voice.

And it wasn’t just his music that knocked me out, but his passion for it. He would sit there and make me hear it. We’d go through a bit of song again and again. He would explain how analog systems added depth and richness to the tones. He’d play me a bit on a digital toy–sounded the same to me, but he’d sit in ecstasy when we hit the analog. “Hear that? Aaaaah!” For him it was more than just notes, or catchy tunes, it was life. There was a heartbeat in his notes. Music was his pulse.

Granted, that was his earlier stuff, and in the snippets I’ve heard since, I can tell he’s developed a lot since then. I’m just proud of the guy, you know? It’s damn cool to see someone start to get recognition for something I believed in years ago. I hope he makes it–not in any mainstream, MTV sense–Dave hates that crap; but that he’ll get some props with a community that digs his approach. I sure do.

Moreover, if he does become this big guy, it’ll be a trip to say I lived with him, not that people believe name-droppers much anyway.


You work hard for the money, eh eh eh eh


Words? I get words. I can read words. They work.

Math? I can get math. I understand math. That clicks.

Reading how to do math? Yeah…I’m worthless.

My first finance class started Wednesday and I’m a little over my head, me thinks. I’m wondering if I missed a prerequisite or something. We dove right in to balance sheets with gross profits less interest to defer tax deductible short note debt financing fixed equipment.

Ubba ubba ubba. I had to write a note to my prof, saying I’ll need a day or two to complete the first case study problem thing.

Part of it was my fault. The other classes had been relatively a breeze, and I was focusing on work stuff before cracking open my text. Then it hit me, 70 pages of terms and formulas that make me want to play video games.

I think the trickiest part of it is the text portion of the mathematics. Reading 30 pages of descriptions on a formula confuses me more than just hashing through the formula itself. Then again, I suppose it’s helpful to know about liquidity, net income and all that booshwa, instead of just being a number cruncher.

So there I am, on page 14, scanning through the paragraph on tax deferment again when “Le Disko” pulses in, I look up, see the ticker, open the browser and I’m in Typepad before my brain’s taskmaster
unit realizes I’m not at my book anymore. Ha ha, sucker. I’m blogging. Stuff it.

Two emails and a jump to track eight leads the clock to 11:24. PT in five hours, and I get to lead it. Lovely. Three complaining troops and me, all standing in the cold as the seniors go to the warm gym. Extend to the left, march! Arms up “Q”. Yeah, I’m cold too, I don’t want to hear it.

Things are hectic at work with this big Bush announcement on Wednesday. It was supposed to be a big surprise, but all the buzz is we’re upping troops levels in Iraq again. Not that it’s news to anybody reading, it’s been all over CNN and NPR for a week. “Surge” is the word of choice in Washington these days. Troop surge that is. Everyone is prepping to head out a LOT sooner than we thought, which means more war for everybody. Cool eh?

That means more money, and tax deferred since that’s our consolation to checking out of life for another year. I’ll be able to see my finance text come to life. This time, I’ll fine tune the old bank account while I cruise the sandy streets. Health permitting, I’ll have a little nest egg when I get back. Not “buy an BMW” worthy, by any means, but enough for a sofa or something.

Crap! Didn’t finish reading my assignment. Oh well, I’ll get to it later. You readers and your insatiable need for “new” entries. I mean, really!

Seriously, though, thanks for reading! It’s really a special thing to have this little connection. Not that I’ll let you have my car or anything, but the back-and-forths on the comments are always fun to read.

God bless and I’ll see you the next time I try to sit down and read about monies.


Abandoning ship

Things around the unit are abuzz.

There’s not much to do, but there are plenty of meetings to discuss the fact.

Morning stand up, admin updates, directive reviews, MSO reviews, CIC updates…in addition to the normal “let’s get together to discuss xxx before Friday.”

People are scrambling, writing articles for the colonel, building a command information center like the one we had in Iraq (but without the mission or personnel to track while we were in Iraq), and a host of other high-level things I’m not privy to.

The spending gates have also been opened. We’ve been told to spend, spend, spend. Etched glass windows for the command entrance, carpet to hang on the walls of the CIC, new signs for the officer parking spots, screens, computers, projectors, anything we think we might “need.”

Why? Because it’s time for the seniors to get new positions. Promotions are in the works or already given. Now it’s time to cement the legacy, find a new position, and move on.

Most don’t really care about our budget after this quarter because they won’t be here. Also, a lot of people are getting snappy since their demands right away. Only a few weeks left to add whatever to the history books! That gets people spun up and frantic.

Meanwhile, those without the connections or prestige to call their own shots wait it out, preparing for the next rotation in Iraq. We sort of just look at all the commotion and shrug our shoulders. Not much juniors can do amid the politicking and deal-making other than getting pregnant or leaving the service, if our timing is right.

It’s just funny to me to see how bothered some leaders can get.

“Sergeant Salmons! What is your status on your three directives?! The brief is in an hour!”

“Which directives are those, sir?”

*sigh* “Newspaper utilization, battalion news release enabling, and additional public affairs asset acquisition.”

“Green, sir. All green.”

“Alright, I’ll mark it.”

The newspaper doesn’t print our stuff, since it’s about meetings; the battalion can’t be bothered to produce much of anything; and the fact that they want more reporters to cover more meetings is laughable.

But as long as it’s green, it’s good. Besides, everyone will be gone in a few weeks anyway, and the new leaders are going to want a whole litany of new procedures. Why bother keeping this old girl afloat? These cats made their rank or got their bigger/better assignments. Time to get on out.


The Quest for Stripes: The Rest of the Story

Well friends, it’s the third of January and I’m still a sergeant.

Yes, it’s true, no staff sergeant for me.

Turns out there was a problem with paperwork and being a couple weeks shy of eligibility.

My personnel people said “my bad” and that I’ll have to wait a few weeks. My only beef is this is the third time my chain has been yanked. The first was before Iraq when they said I would be eligible with an often-used waiver. That wasn’t true. The second time, they came to me during Iraq and asked if I wanted to get promoted, only to say I wasn’t eligible when I was preparing for the board.

This time, though, I made it through the whole process, through the board and everything, only to find some snag in my eligibility again.

The added caveat to the situation is now I have less than a year left before I exit the Army. To make E6 you have to have at least a year left. Since I would have to reapply for promotion and wait another period of time, I’d be short.

So no more stripes for me, I’m afraid. At least they let me keep the ones I have. It’s pretty much the clinching deal to motivate me to leave when my time is through. Not that this alone drove me to run, screaming; but it’s indicative of my entire Army experience. I’ll let someone else be “hooah” for a bit.

But not to fear, there’s still a good chance that I’ll get snagged for another tour of Iraq, so all that “planned exit time” gig is moot. That does mean another volume of pithy posts. I’ll keep you all posted on that business. The higher-ups are hashing through all that as we speak. Our president says there’s lots to do and lots more troops needed overseas.


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