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.

MY ENEMY HAS A NAME: CHECKLIST |

September 21, 2012

Name: Tyrell Mayfield
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Milblog: The Kabul Cable
Email: click here

My Enemy has a name: “Checklist.”

It’s five or six pages, double-sided and written in 10 font. Much of it is cryptic, vague and misleading. It seems simple but rest assured that when it comes to deploying, nothing is ever easy.

I was notified via SMS text message by an Afghan-American about my Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) test results well before the government could get word to me. In retrospect, it isn’t surprising and I didn’t find it unusual at all when the message came across. I mean, why would the Test Control Officer know first? It actually gave me a little chuckle and a glimpse into the networked life of Afghans. Word travels fast in a high-context, relationship-oriented society; any government that tries to outpace the speed of the SMS text is in for a world of heartache.

LANGUAGE: I scored 1+/1+ in Dari which isn’t too bad for just 14 weeks of instruction. My Arabic was never better than 1/1+ even after six straight months of instruction. Overall, the third language was easier than the second. I’ve got a whole post sketched out on second language acquisition and the DLI vs DLS debate, but it’s going to have to wait for a few weeks. Here are some initial observations on what factors contributed to my ability to score well.

Dari is an easier language than Arabic.
 

Already knowing how to read and pronounce the language gave me a huge advantage
 

Smaller class size and amazing teacher to student ratios really helped (1:1.5 or 1:2 but never more than 1:3)

I spent some time thinking about the mistakes I made during my Arabic instruction and focused hard on not repeating them in Dari.

 

WEAPONS QUALS: One of the big checklist items was getting my weapons qualifications re-accomplished. I hadn’t been on the range in a long time but didn’t have any troubles getting through my M-4 carbine shoot, and tomorrow I’ll be out to qualify on the pistol. I did have the unfortunate experience of shooting with the general base population and while it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it might be it was certainly underwhelming. America may have it’s share of gun fanatics, but they’re not present in high numbers in the Air Force; that much is for sure.

CBTS: I endured another five or six hours of computer based training (CBTs) today which I utterly abhor. They are horrible and I fail to understand just exactly what it is the AF is trying to accomplish by making me do these things every year. If you want to make sure that I have the knowledge then let me open the CBT and take the test. If I pass, then I know the material and that should be it. If I fail, make me go through the slide deck and retest. Forcing everyone to go through the slides before you’re able to test is a colossal waste of time. Which means it’s a waste of money. This is something that we should care about. At the end of the day it’s about productivity and me sitting in front of a computer clicking through slides as fast as possible so that I can take and pass the test at the end is not productive.

SHOTS: I got my seventh Anthrax shot today. I am fairly certain at this point that I actually have anthrax and that if I bit someone they would become infected. I also got my Typhoid vaccination and I don’t know which one hurts the most but they both suck. Does anyone actually use anthrax anymore? I mean really? (I’m looking at you Carlton Purvis)

ANAM: I spent about half an hour today in front of a computer clicking on a mouse and it wasn’t to complete CBTs. I was taking my Automated Neuropsychological Metrics Assessment (ANAM) which is a program used to establish a baseline of your cognitive functioning prior to a deployment so that in the event you are injured the effects on your brain can be measured an hopefully help guide doctors and other medical professionals to an earlier diagnosis and better treatment. It’s not all roses though and the program does have its critics (NPR). Regardless, I’ve taken the test before and was happy to have the opportunity to take it again before this deployment.

Tomorrow and the week ahead are much of the same; lots of phone calls, appointments, shots, dental exams, medical exams and CBTs. Somewhere along the line I’ll defeat this checklist and then move on to the next one. When I do, you’ll read about it here first….

Comments

Really appreciated the write up. Getting ready to deploy my detachment so it's good to know there's a lot to look forward to.

To answer your question, yes, anthrax is still very much out there. You are deploying to a place with a lot of sheep and goats and questionable sanitation. All you need to do is cut yourself and then come into contact with an infected animal. Why in the world you would need to be vaxed seven times, well that comes under military logic, I guess. Be well on this deployment.

Sherrain,
best of luck on your trip! Thanks for the comment.
Ty

Janet,
I'll take your word for it. Chances of me catching anthrax from a sheep has to be about the same as me winning the lotto. Weaponized anthrax seems to be the thing we've spent millions of dollars protecting people against and I just haven't been convinced that it is neccesary.

Thanks for the comment.
Ty

Well, you'll be all set for civilian life, as checklists have taken over here, too. When I went to the ER for stitches (stuck a paring knife in my palm), the triage nurse had to run through a checklist: "Do you feel safe at home? Are you a danger to yourself or others?" and the one that always kills me, "Do you want HIV testing?" (I've been married to the same guy for 43 years, honey; I think I'll pass.)

Best of luck to you in Afghanistan. I'll be thinking of you, hoping you're safe, and waiting for the next hilarious--and unfortunately accurate--description of checklists.

Living it up; living placard statesman n more n more.

Thanks for the detail. Much appreciated. Way back in the early sixties we had to have typhoid shots, supposedly because we were swimming in a lake. Hurt like hell. Swollen area around injection too. My father was the doctor and I guess it was his call.

Be thinking of you while you are over there. Hope you stay safe.

In another country's service, but a long time fan.

The computerised medical check for family postings asks "do you have a normal sense of danger" - how do you answer that one on behalf of a two year old?

Kathy, Tim,
thanks for the comments.
Some things never change. Not sure what a "normal sense of danger" would entail.

Hope you'll both follow along at The Kabul Cable this year.
cheers
Ty

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