This is the first article in what will be a long-running series written by me about the time in my life that will most likely conclude my enlistment in the Army National Guard. Some of you already know what this is about. I don't know who I'm really writing this for. I guess I'm writing it for me.
I was standing at the very front of the mass formation because I'm that guy. I don't mind standing in front. Some people do, but not me. They were waiting for the colonel. I was waiting for what the colonel had to say. Most of us knew what was coming. It was just the specific details that were hazy. The young guys couldn't or wouldn't shut up about it and most of us older guys would just grimace when the topic came up.
The captain snuck around the corner of the building to tell the major that the colonel was coming. For those of you unfamiliar with the military, this previous sentence sums up the life of an officer almost perfectly. Or at least that's how I've always viewed it from an enlisted point of view.
The major called us all to attention and turned to face the colonel. He saluted and moved to the rear. The colonel put us at parade rest.
Without great fanfare or preamble he announced that Minnesota's 34th Infantry Division was putting together a brigade combat team for a little trip overseas.
The PFC standing next to me looked like he was going to faint. I just felt my stomach turn upside down. It wasn't a terrible surprise to me"… or rather it didn't upset me as much as it probably should have.
The colonel continued on, only to be interrupted by an M113a3 roaring past. The motor pool isn't the best place to have a mass formation. He looked like he was about to rip the driver's head clean off but he continued on. The essence of the spiel was that a lot of us were going. It's hard to explain the feeling. It's probably like winning the lottery. There's a strong feeling of uncertainty mixed in with the knowledge that your life will never be the same.
The formation broke up a little bit later. That same PFC started yammering at me about how he has plans and a life and everything. Well no sh*t. Don't we all?
Whether or not a Guardsman gets deployed is decided by chance, and by chance, I mean the people making the roster. Those people like me. They like me because they know that I'll do my best not to get the people around me killed and do my best to kill the "bad guys" should the need arise. They grabbed a bunch of guys like me for this little"… hoo-hah. I like that word. It's fanciful.
One of those other guys like me walks up with his ever-present grin. All he says is, "˜Are you buying the hub or am I?' I just grin back. Our biggest complaint last time we deployed to Bosnia was that nobody brought a hub big enough for everybody. My 16-port Linksys shipped from New Jersey yesterday.
I told the PFC not to worry. He's going with the guys he knows. We'll have plenty of time to train. He asked me what was going happen. I told him, "˜What's going to happen? We're going to Iraq.'