The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

GOING TO AFGHANISTAN |

October 18, 2006

GOING TO AFGHANISTAN
Name: CAPT Doug Traversa, USAF
Posting date: 10/18/06
Stationed in: Kabul, Afghanistan
Milblog url:
http://traversa.typepad.com
Email: traversa@gimail.af.mil

My life in brief: I am 44 years old, have been in the Air Force for 17.5 years, passed over for Major (that means I am still a Captain) but allowed to remain in the Air Force until I can retire at 20 years. I have a wonderful, lovely wife, Jancy; three terrific kids, Taylor, Elise, and Ryan; five dogs; live in Tullahoma, Tennessee; and am a Logistics Readiness Officer at Arnold AFB in TN. My passions include soccer, science fiction, dog rescue, and ice tea (with lemon). As of April 2006, going to Afghanistan had not even crossed my mind. Iraq, yes, Afghanistan, no.

My job at Arnold AFB is (or was, and hopefully will be again in a year) to prepare the military personnel stationed there for deployments. Yes, I would be in the mix too, but my next window of deployment availability (we actually use the term "vulnerability") was the summer of 2007 (it was April 2006 when the fun started). In the Air Force there are two types of deployments, the shorter 4 or 6 monthers, and those that last one year (called "remotes"). The one year deployments are treated like an actual move, as though you were transferring to another base, while after a short one, you'd come back to your home base and continue with your job there. This is, of course, a very simplified explanation, for those of you not in the military. For my military readers, you know all too well how much more there is to it.

In mid April, give or take a week, I found out that I was number five on the list for getting tagged with a remote. Fair enough, I had never done one, and it was certainly my turn. A brief discussion with the guy (who will remain anonymous; let's call him Captain X) who handled these remotes lead to the conclusion by him that I would probably go on a remote tour in the spring of 2007. OK, plenty of time to prepare and wrap my brain around going to Iraq for a year. But wait, there was more. Before going away for a year, as an added bonus, I would get to do two months of Army Combat Skills Training (CST). The fun never stops hitting you full in the face, usually with a large, aluminum bat.

At least I knew nothing would happen for a while, because I was number five on the list. Even if someone say, broke a leg, during CST, there were four other guys ahead of me on the list. So I had a little breathing room. (If you aren't familiar with the literary device known as "foreshadowing," pause here, dig out your dictionary, and look it up. It's important you know this, because I'm laying it on thick, in multiple layers, with a side order of foreboding. Look that one up too). As I was saying, plenty of time to make that list of things Jancy would need to do if I died. Plenty of time.

Has everyone looked up foreshadowing? Good.

The very next week, Captain X calls me up, and the conversation goes something like this:

Captain X: Hey, Doug, how are you?
Me: Since you're calling, probably about to be very bad.
Captain X (laughs evilly): Remember what we talked about last week?
Me: We talked about many things, none of them good. They did all have heat, sand, and impending death in common.
Captain X: Remember when you asked what would happen if someone got injured in training?
Me: Yes, I do, but I remember even more vividly that I was # 5 on the list, not # 1, so why have you called me? Did the other four already decide to leave the Air Force?
Captain X (ignoring me): We had someone get medically disqualified mid-way through CST, and you are going to be the short notice replacement. We may need you to leave next week.
Me: Let's go back to the part where I was #5 on the list.

Captain X went on to explain that I would be #5 on the list in September, but was #1 right now. Seems all the other guys who would eventually get ahead of me on the list did not have one year on station yet, so could not deploy. So I had a choice, go or get out of the Air Force. After having put in 17.5 years, and being able to retire at 20, I could, as a fellow Captain once said, stand in quicksand and eat dirt for a year.

The assignment was to Afghanistan for a year, with the delightful additional two months of CST training first. A fourteen-month, all-expenses-paid vacation. The only question was, how fast could they get me over there? My group had already completed a month of training, and they needed to figure out how to get me there ASAP! Thus began three weeks of being jerked back and forth wondering whether or not I would even deploy, or what base I would train at (or, to spare my former English teacher pain, "the base at which I would train"). I was told a total of four different training locations, and also told that my assignment might only be for six months, in which case I would not go at all. I wasn't #1 on the six-month list, only the one-year list. I received final confirmation three days before my flight would leave. I was going to go to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and only for 3.5 weeks instead of two months.

Did you follow all that? If not, go back and read it again. There will be a quiz next week.  Let's pause and critically analyze the situation, looking for good points. I can think of a hundred of them.

1.  My training would be one month instead of two.
2.  I wasn't going to Iraq.
3.  The weather would be cooler in Kabul than Iraq.
4-100. I wasn't going to Iraq.
    
There, 100 reasons why I was a very lucky guy and should be grateful. Which I was. And am. Next post we'll see how much fun I had at Fort Sill. I'm sure the anticipation is killing you. Fort Sill almost killed me.

Comments

Great post! (and now I am going to go check out your blog:)

Nice post. I think I know your son Taylor at Guilford. He's a good guy and I feel a little weird knowing that his dad is going off to war. Good luck and stay safe as you can. Afghanistan may not be Iraq but watch yourself nonetheless. Have you ever checked out John Haldeman's Forever War books? Good sci-fi, maybe a nice read for the desert.

So you've got good motivation to be a quick study at Fort Sill!! Leave those Sci-Fi books at home :(

Really, Captain - after 17.5 years, you haven't learned the mystical secrets of BOHICA??

Your humor in light of the chaotic mess we lovingly call the military is astute and articulated with flare. Stay safe and be smart.

PS When you are feeling like the deployment sucks - remember reasons 4 - 100! :-)

you must be prior service

so you won a version ofthe lottery - good luck in Afghanistan,

At least you can learn proper soldiering from the Brits and Canadians. (ducks 'n grins)

Hey! Captain! In the Old Corps we used to call what happened to you "An Opportunity" You needed one. Sounds to me like Captain X did you a favor. You're "expendable" and he threw ya to the lions. So! Go on out there and slay a few lions. Could be you are going to turn up in just the right place at just the right time. Be strong! Push the edges of the envelope! Use your creative abilities. What the heck! The worst they can do to you is to retire you in two and a half anyway. Go ahead. Give it your best shot! You can do it! Semper Fi!

FUBAR!
I spent 4 years at an air base in Texas. We called Fort Sill the s**thole of the world.
I found that in my years in the AF was never, ever, ever to underestimate the AF's ability to turn the tables on one's expatations.
Good luck.

You know, before I read your post I thought I might be safe from deployment. But now I'm not so sure...

I go over 17 years next month, I was passed over for promotion, and I'm due to leave a joint assignment next year.

Not quite the same story as you, but I can certainly envision the same ending... Oh boy!

We went through a similar experience. It is very hard on families to be pulled back and forth and not know till the last minute! I hope your wife has a good support system.

Stay safe and if you see the support group from Alaska they are great people to know. They are in Kandahar.

Perhaps the experience in Afghanistan will give you the push up the ladder to Major before you retire?

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