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.

OFF THE BUS |

August 12, 2010

OFF THE BUS
Name: Charlie Sherpa
Posting date: 8/12/10
Not deploying to: Afghanistan
Hometown: Boone, Iowa
Milblog: Red Bull Rising
Email: Sherpa at RedBullRising.com

It's time I tell you something ...

After months of mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and fiscal preparation for deployment to Afghanistan, I didn't get on the bus.

I will not be deploying to Afghanistan with 2-34th Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division. Today marks the last unit send-off from Iowa, and I'm not going with them.

A rule regarding my pending 20-year-mark and subsequent retirement was reinterpreted by Big Army, and I'll most likely be leaving uniformed service in December. I will continue to be a member of the Iowa Army National Guard until then.

Yes, I was surprised by this turn of events. So was my family. And we're all a little conflicted about it. It quite literally came down to the hour I was to throw my duffel bags on the truck. "Everybody get your bags on the truck -- hold on there, Sherpa, not so fast!"

It's hard to change family focus and plans so quickly. Hard to see one's buddies go off to war. Hard not to feel left behind.

At the same time, it's hard not to feel like I've suddenly have been given my life back. I can re-focus on my civilian career. I can witness my daughter's first days of kindergarten. I can watch my 3-year-old son grow inch by inch, day by day, and word by word. My wife says that my not leaving is blessing to our family, but she is kind enough not to say it around me.

This deployment has been an emotional bungie jump for me and my family. We have fallen and bounced and twisted with a hundred unexpected jolts. A number of you have asked how I ended up telling my kids that I would be leaving them for a year. The truth is, my procrastination now seems like genius -- my children need not know that Daddy was once going away, until they are old enough to read and understand this blog.

I plan to continue writing the Red Bull Rising blog, partly to help collect and capture this latest chapter in 34th Infantry Division history. It is a wonderfully storied unit, and my friends and colleagues will be writing history. I can only hope to help them write it all down.

In the coming months, I should also have expanded opportunities to share ideas on how we can all help "remember, support, and celebrate" our citizen-soldiers, veterans, and their families. I'll also continue to explain and illuminate how our National Guard soldiers are pursuing their Afghan missions.

Thank you for reading Red Bull Rising. I hope you'll continue this journey with me. I hope that you will continue to think good thoughts, and pray for the safe return of the Red Bull.

In the meantime, tomorrow is another day, and, well ...

Let's just say I haven't told you everything yet.


UPDATE: THE SECOND-HAND MINUTEMAN

Yesterday, I told you that I wasn't going to deploy to Afghanistan. Today, as I am writing this, I am on a plane headed toward Camp Shelby, Miss. I'm calling this boomerang turn-of-events "Operation Bad Penny."

Confused? Imagine how I feel!

National Guard life can be fast-changing and full of surprises. The Latin motto of the Army National Guard should be "Semper Gumby," for "always green, always flexible."

I received less-than-24-hour notice that I'd be headed to Shelby, where I'll help out in getting my buddies in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (2-34 B.C.T.) get from Mississippi, to California, back to Mississippi, and on to Afghanistan.

While packing my bags, I considered my Minuteman ancestors: Citizen-soldiers who kept a musket at the ready, who could run toward the sound of the guns, at moment's notice.

Me? I can be spontaneous -- I just have to plan ahead to get that way. Apparently, so does today's National Guard: It took me about 12 hours, getting travel orders published and airline tickets purchased. It was like a red tape scavenger hunt, with me doing laps around the state headquarters building.

But here I am. In Mississippi. Where I'll see friends and colleagues to whom I said good-bye just last week. (I imagine plenty of double-takes and handshakes in the TOC.) We'll catch up on current operations, and wait a few weeks say our good-byes again. Meanwhile, I can help get them a little further down the road to Afghanistan.

Another day, another change, another mission.

 "Attack!"

 

Comments

Gotta love military life! When I was a young Marine, the first thing I was told once I got on station was our motto was 'Sepmer Gumby' - always flexible as the situation, even in garrison duty, was constantly changing.

Although your family may not appreciate having you ripped from them for a couple of months, I know you are probably relieved to see your troops one more time and see them off.

I haven't done Astan. I've done Shelby, that's when NJ got thrown in with 34 BCT.

I've heard that Shelby has improved from the joke we had in 05.

Glad to hear you are off the hook.

Yes indeed, the Army can't run a railroad.

Maybe some newspaper runs stories from soldiers, but if they don't they all should! You have a true gift and I hope that there is a book in your future! I'm not a blogger, but I'm going to check out Red Bull Rising.

All the best to you and your family.

Flexible indeed. Wow, that was very short notice for you to have to change your plans on. Although, I can see the need to have someone with your experience on call for purposes such as this. And doing something like overseeing the newbies and supervising their send off is something that you seem more than qualified for. And for them to have someone with your experience, as well as compassion and zeal for the job and jobs that you and the rest of the troops do is a comfort to us civilians that have friends or family that is away or in line to be shipped over. Knowing that there are those people out there that are willing to relate their experience with the military and help to transition those men and women into their posts is a relief. Thank you for your continued service.

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