Some commenters on a previous post have wondered why I haven’t made mention of the fact that I’m headed to Iraq. Two reasons: I’ve really been busy getting things in order and spending time with my family, and now that I’m on my way, it’s not very easy to post. This I’m doing from my cell phone, so forgive the grammar and spelling errors.
I’m now at Fort Benning, Georgia at the CONUS Replacement Center. The CRC is where the Army processes about 20,000 Soldiers a year on the way to overseas deplyments. Most of us here ar individual augmentees, that is, people deploying individually instead of as part of a unit.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Fort Benning. I was last here twenty years ago for jump school. It’s also been a while since I’ve deployed to the Middle East. Two things have struck about this experience thus far.
The equipment is so much better than what Soldiers brought with them even just a few years ago. It’s more comfortable and stronger. In many cases it’s lighter (although there’s more of it, so on that count everything cancels out. It’s aso more civilianized. The Army now issues Gerber knives and Camelbak canteens. Before Soldiers if they wanted them (and, in the case of the Camelback, were allowed by their command to wear them) they had to buy them themselves.
The other thing abut my time here at Benning is that I’m reminded of how beautiful this area of the country is this time of year. The hardwoods are out, showing that light green color of new spring leaves. The dogwoods are fully in bloom, as are the azaleas. Both are dramatic and colorful complements to the green forest. Not too far form here the Masters begins this week with the same verdant backdrop. It’s the foreground that is very different.
There’s one other difference that I was just reminded of by the chaplain I’m now sitting by. Years ago when soldiers went through these kinds of “hurry up and wait” exercises, Soldiers would bring a book to keep them occupied. Now they have a cell phone or a pda so that they can read their emails and check the web. Instead of reading about the past to pass the time, today’s Soldiers are keeping up with the present