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.


February 07, 2009

Name: Cheese
Posting date: 2/6/09
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Binghamton, NY
Milblog: Cheese's Milblog 

As expected, the trip home was a whirlwind of micromanagement. See, I came home with a large group of staff officers and NCOs -- soldiers who probably haven't led troops since the Cold War and were very excited to do so again. Our NCOIC* was a basic training stereotype; not a rough combat arms NCO, just a vulgar carbon copy of so many drill sergeants that he'd seen in movies.

For all its faults, there are a few things that the Army does well. One of these is the task of moving and organizing luggage. Every Joe knows to form a chain and to line up the bags facing the same way so the names on them are visible. Now, that's exactly what the lower enlisted started doing with the duffel bags once we hit Kyrgyzstan and before all the chiefs decided that the Indians were taking too long. I wish I had taken a picture as a clan of E-8s and majors climbed atop the pile of bags and hurled them down into the giant puddles surrounding the pallet. We spent the next hour trying to find our own soaking wet duffel bags. I can't even describe how frustrating that was just to witness.

When we finally boarded the plane to head back to the States, each unit was assigned certain seating. This was done before speaking with any of the Air Force guys, of course, because those in charge were eager to assign themselves to the first class area that they'd promised to the baggage detail. As we started boarding, the stewardess pulled a bunch of us out of our assigned area to help balance the weight. A certain Lt Colonel looked down at an E-4 that was sitting by a window and asked, "Who are you with?"

"SecFor, Sir."

"Then you can't sit here. There's an empty seat back there. Move."

"But the stewardess put me here. My bag is already in the overhead. I have to do what she..."

"Move now."

So the young medic moved out and wedged into the open seat and the Lt Colonel sat by the window, dropping his carry-on into the middle seat to keep anyone from sitting there. The SecFor NCOIC tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You had better write about this, Cheese."

Fort Bragg, where I spent Christmas, was more organized that I had expected. Medical went quickly -- no broken spine this time around. While we were at Fort Bragg, we were still under the umbrella of General Order #1, which states that we can't drink.They expected us to sit all Christmas day, while the out-processing staff was home with their families, and not drink. That's all I'm going to say about that.

The most entertaining part of Fort Bragg was when one of our Joes, in an Ambien-induced coma, was shaken from his sleep and told to go to formation. He showed up in socks, shower shoes, PT shorts and a green fleece.

As we waited for our plane home to New York, an E-7 came in and bellowed, "As of right now this plane isn't going anywhere! If no one comes forward and admits to having gone out last night," he's now staring directly at SecFor," this plane is staying in North Carolina and so are we!"

He was shocked that SecFor couldn't stop laughing. We were shocked that we were the only ones. If this guy had ever deployed before, he would have known how empty his threat was. The Air Force doesn't ground planes for anyone. Plus, we actually hadn't gone out. The idiot that went to a bar and left his wallet there refused to say who had gone with him, and even though we had no idea who this guy was, everyone was sure that it was SecFor. I love our reputation.

The final ceremony was fine. SecFor lined up in the back row and we threw our berets on just before we marched in. See, as line troops, our soft caps (the standard baseball-style hats) were filthy and we hadn't bought new ones because we were told that the beret would be worn as soon as we hit Bragg. This changeover didn't happen because many of the soldiers had mailed their berets home, despite being told to hold onto them. Now, the Army can do a lot of things, but they're not gonna make me look jacked up in front of my family. Plus, it was a small act of defiance for my last ceremony as a member of the New York Army National Guard.

It's a good thing that I was in the back row, because I think my fiance took out at least three guys when we were released. It was hilarious seeing all the wives and girlfriends sprint to their significant others -- a "sexually frustrated tsunami," as my future father-in-law put it.

Anyway, I'm home and waiting for school to start. After that trip home, there is no part of me that is questioning my decision to leave. I am not a part of this organization any more and it is not a part of me.

Goodbye and good luck.

*Non-commissioned officer in charge

Editor's note: A Sandbox salute and best wishes to Cheese, with thanks for his service and his posts:









As long as an enlisted man/woman is griping they are OK. Cheese must be more than OK. Enjoy your laid back time in school.

Sounds vaguely familiar to my trip home in 1991 when my enlistment in the Navy was over and I was still in the Persian Gulf. They (being in the military you know the they to which I refer) used charter planes back then but it was the same old song and dance. We stopped at a bunch of European bases and officers and THEIR FAMILIES tried to bump us from our seats.

Glad you are back, and your love life is flowering... frantically.

welcome home cheese.we can separate from the organization but not from the time and people we served with.part of us is always there. a plus and minus of nam service was that you came and went as an individual.i got my discharge papers and was told to clear post in 24 hours and was gone in 4. live well. mike

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