The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us. 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. The Sandbox is a clean, lightly-edited debriefing environment where all correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted. And contributors may rest assured that all content, no matter how robust, is currently secured by the First Amendment. To submit a post, click here.

Name: Joe Roos
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Worthington, Minnesota
Milblog: Just Glad to Be Here 

You should always be gracious. You should always work hard and be kind to people. If you do that, good things will happen.

It's easy to be gracious when people are treating you kindly. When you are kind and working hard, it is easy for them to treat you kindly.

I went to Anaheim, California in September, and I got treated so kindly you wouldn't believe it. But to be honest, I was being treated kindly as an aftereffect of a previous time when I had been treated kindly and given the opportunity to work hard.

I've been listening to the audio book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, and he talks about being given the opportunity to work. Sometimes, people don't even get an opportunity to work hard, and don't get an understanding that hard work pays off. Not only was I given the opportunity, but I had people treating me kindly the whole way, giving me opportunities so that I could see the payoff of hard work.

When I was in Iraq, my boss gave me an opportunity to do work. My boss, Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, is someone who I hold in the highest regard for a lot of reasons. One of them is that he's a guy who finds ways for his subordinates to grow, and create their own products -- shape their own destiny, if you will. In my case, my passion was obviously music. So I made this song about being a Soldier, and he created the environment where we could produce a music video.

You have to understand that "creating an environment" involves a lot of different elements. You can't just say "Create an environment." There's a lot more to it than that when we're talking about making an entire music video in Iraq.

-- There has to be equipment that, for a time anyway, is dedicated to the production.
-- There has to be a group of people that, for a time anyway, is dedicated to the production.
-- There has to be an information environment created to receive the video the way it did.
-- There has to be top-down support for the project.

And I got all of that.

-- We were able to shoot the video and edit it with top-of-the-line equipment and software.
-- The videographer I worked with, Johnny J. Angelo, is incredible. His level of skill and knowledge is immense.
-- There was news disseminated about the Red Bulls' operations in Iraq for an entire year to build the information environment before the video was released.
-- Everyone at every level of command was aware and supportive of the project.

Lt. Col. Olson created the environment. I just got an opportunity to work in it.

Fast forward to September 2010. Lt. Col Trancey Williams, another Minnesota National Guard Officer who I hold in the highest regard, submitted the video for an award.

This is a process in itself. The amount of specifically formatted documentation for a military award is daunting. Not just the sheer amount, but all the formatting that has to take place (every bullet point has to be worded in such a way that passes military scrutiny). And Lt. Col. Williams managed that for the submission of this award. He created the environment. I was just recipient of kindness.

People don't have to do this kind of thing. No one has to submit something for an award, and I assure you this particular submission was done of Lt. Col. Williams' own accord -- not because anyone was leaning on him for their own priorities. He submitted the work I did for an award because he was being kind.

In this case, his kindness came in the form of the painstakingly detailed work that goes into submitting a piece for an award. The benefit that I received from the fruit of that labor was incredible.

They flew me to Anaheim for the presentation of the 2009 National Guard Bureau Equal Opportunity Advisor of the Year Award, which is given out at the National Guard Bureau Equal Opportunity Conference. This year's conference was hosted by the California National Guard -- hence Anaheim.

And you wouldn't believe how well I was treated. Everyone treated me, the whole time, so incredibly kindly. They flew me to Anaheim and put me in a hotel room about four blocks from Disneyland. They let my family come with me to award ceremony (which is at a very formal military, Class A, dinner in the hotel) and treated my family with such openness. The Adjutant General of Minnesota even came to our table to chum it up.

I know I'm supposed to talk about sacrifice that it takes to deploy to Iraq, and the hard work that it takes to earn an award so prestigious as the National Guard Bureau's 2009 Equal Opportunity Advisor of the Year. But I can't. I'm just the beneficiary. It's almost as though I "Forrest Gump"ed my way through the whole thing.

I did something I love: I made hip hop. I did it about something I loved: Being a Soldier. And it was almost as though everyone else around me just created the path for me to do it. And once it was done, everyone created a path for me to be recognized.

And the entire way, even when I was working to create the element of it that I controlled, I was still the beneficiary.

I know the award is supposed to be because of the work I did to make the video, but I can't stress enough how much I am just a fellow who sauntered through the wide open doors. I can't stress enough how much I'm just the guy who was doing something he enjoyed. I can't stress enough how much I am nothing more than the beneficiary of the hard work of other people who created an environment for me to be nothing more than myself.

My hat is off to Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, Lt. Col. Trancey Williams, and Sgt. Johnny J. Angelo. In regard to this video that was put together and the accolades that have come from it, you are my benefactors.


Editor's note: You can sample/order Joe Roos's music here.

Search Doonesbury Sandbox Blog



My Photo