March 30, 2010
Posting date: 3/30/10
Returned from: Afghanistan
The last time I went to Afghanistan there was this thing the soldiers did, something they got from the older NCOs who'd been with the unit for years. They'd meow like cats, then say, "Here, kitty, kitty!" and yowl. I asked one of the NCOs what it meant, and he told me a story about how they'd had a cat in Iraq, after the unit airdropped in to seize the airfield. The cat had disappeared, and for the next two deployments they were always asking after this cat. Even when they weren't in a place where there could possibly be a cat -- come to think of it, especially in those situations, like up at the COP* -- they'd give these cat calls: "Kitty? Kitty!"
This was the first exposure I had to deployment psychosis.
Until recently I'd put the "Here, kitty" incidents out of my mind. When we were at JRTC* training up for the Iraq deployment that never came (boots are on ground in Afghanistan, just like last time), I was writing missions for other units to execute (a deeply satisfying job), and I heard what sounded like a cat meowing. At first I didn't think anything of it, then I heard it again. "Son of a b****," I thought. "It's finally happening to me -- in training, for chrissake!" Then one of the commo guys walked by the office, looked at me, and meowed.
That was back in August.The cats went away while we were back in garrison, but for a couple of weeks now, as the unit has been deploying, they are back in full force. What surprised the hell out of me was that my shop, the S3 section, has begun making animal noises too. Mostly clucking, though a couple of the NCOs make a sound like an animal in pain. A kind of moaning, like a cat or a dog when it's irritated.
I have not participated in this. I feel somehow I'd be giving the worst kind of example. It's funny, of course, to hear people clucking like chickens, and acting, really, crazy, and treating it seriously would just make the whole thing more ridiculous. And if treating it seriously would be a minor concession, joining in would be a major concession. I don't know exactly what to do about it. But the last unit I was with had it, and did it, and ended up fine as far as I could tell -- maybe better than most. So I'm just going to ride it out. Maybe it's a good thing.
JRTC: Joint Readiness Training Center
COP: Combat Outpost