Thursday, October 13, 2005

No Time to Relax - Yet

[This story was rejected by the Public Affairs Office of our unit since they will not have time to review and approve it with all the election stuff going on. Thus, I'm not sure if this, or my final story, will ever appear in any media. It appears here for the first time ever, another first just for you, my blog reader!]

As the countdown clock ticks toward the day we leave Iraq, it becomes more and more of a challenge to stay focused on our mission.

The day of 'The Freedom Bird', the flight that will bring us back to the United States, is already tantalizingly close and of course gets closer with each passing moment.

"We talk about it all the time," notes Specialist Kristoffer Ohlensehlen of Jerome. "We talk about what it's going to be like when we finally get back, everything that we're going to do, how much beer we're going to drink. You just can't stop thinking about it sometimes."

Almost everyone has some kind of countdown going, although no one knows for sure the precise date of our departure. Some have Maxim or Hooters calendars with countdowns scrawled on them. At least one graffiti calendar has popped up in a guard tower, along with phrases like "The Freedom Bird is coming" and "29 days left!"

Last month, my very thoughtful wife sent me "countdown candy." This is a jar of candies equal to how many days we believe it is until I arrive back in Boise. Each night, usually as I email with her, I eat one candy. The jar is becoming pretty empty.

More often though, the countdown is etched indelibly into each soldier's head and updated as he awakens to the realization that another day is gone. Some greet you in the mornings with "Hey, only 28 days to go," or, "Did you know that this month is five-sixths over with?"

(However, mentions of our departure are often answered by, "Yeah, hopefully." This is because – however small the chance of it actually happening – the phrase 'deployment extended' hangs like a specter over us.)

Yet while our minds can't help but wander to thoughts of home, loved ones, and the feeling of absolute elation that will come when the Freedom Bird's landing gear screeches its touchdown on U.S. soil, we are not out of the woods yet – not by a long shot.

Second Lieutenant Sergio Soto of Nampa said, "We're not at the end – just the beginning of the end. Statistics say that this is the point during deployments when accidents happen. We need to keep enforcing our standards and not get complacent."

And while it would be ideal to just quietly fade out of here, there is still an election looming. This one is to ratify the hotly–contested constitution, a bedrock document that will provide the foundation of governance for this nation and influence the future direction of the state.

"If anything, the election will keep us from letting our guard down," adds Soto. "It will keep us busy and focused on our mission."

So while our company continues to run its average of ten daily missions (four scheduled patrols, two 'logistical package' runs, three trips by headquarters to meetings throughout the city, and one daily 'quick reaction force' response patrol), we will also add more.

Recently we stayed out all night on ten-hour missions, guarding U.S. engineers and local contractors as they installed concrete barriers at polling sites. Each night a patrol was able to reinforce half a dozen sites. There are more than 70 sites in our company's sectors.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?