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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A soldierly career continues stateside... Part II

In Dugway, Utah, I wasn't short on friends, we lived in a remote area and, well, for the most part, all we had was each other.  Three of my fellow soldiers and friends at Dugway had volunteered for the tour, they were natives of the Salt Lake Valley, they were essentially home.  Although it was an hour and a half drive from the Salt Lake Valley to Dugway, the drive is a quiet and pleasant one, or at least it was in 1998. The community of Dugway, even though an Army installation, is comprised of mainly civilians.  From security, to the operations of the post, the chunk of the responsibility falls on a civilian workforce.  I can only speak how it was then, in 1998 through 2001, it could be different now.  I heard prior to my deployment talk about moving a brigade sized element out there.  Not sure that ever came to fruition.  Just last month, early August 2012, I was attending a advanced practitioner conference up at the Snowbird Resort up in Little Cottonwood Canyon with my buddy Bret Stemrich (a fellow PA, and Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen).  We decided to take his rental car for a journey out into the skull valley reservation and close to the Dugway main entrance.  It brought back memories, all good, from my time there.  I loved that drive, the openness of the valleys, and the dry climate, that meant sunshine a majority of the time. 

I lived on Dugway for almost a year of my two and half years stationed there.  I moved into my wife's house in Magna, west of Salt Lake City, after we married in May 1999.  I had to stay on Dugway every other week to cover emergency medical response for the post and surrounding rural areas.  It wasn't difficult back then, my wife Shannon and I didn't like being apart early in our marriage, but the time away made the week we spent together that much more special.  The emergencies were rare, but there was a car versus cow every now and then that needed response medically.  Open ranges in Utah was something you had to get used to while driving out Skull Valley Road.  If going too fast you could be on top of a herd of cattle without warning, bowling them over like dominoes and mutilating your vehicle.  I was even told a story of a car travelling so fast that when it hit a cow, the cow flew over the hood, tore the roof off like retracting a convertible, and the driver was uninjured and car otherwise functional, so they drove to the gate at Dugway for assistance.  Not sure it was true, but I still tell the story from time to time, I will keep the story alive, regardless of the validity, it is a good story. 

Over time I have list touch with my friends from Utah, most the guys I served with went their separate ways between 2000 and 2001, some got out of the Army and stayed in the Salt Lake Valley, others remained in the Army, deployed several times, still serving and notching up more deployments, that is the way of the active Army soldier, a never ending rotation of frustration and separation. 

In 2001, I decided my family, which came instantly with marriage, both wife and kids, were more important than the Army.  I left the uniform for what I thought was good.  I didn't realize what the future had in store, but when do we ever know or realize this?  I took a civilian Army job at Tooele Army Depot in Tooele, Utah at the US Army Health Clinic as a Occupational Health Technician and EMT.  It could possibly be the best job I ever had.  My own office, four 10 hour shifts a week, meaning a three day weekend, and an hour at the gym on government time daily.  I loved it.  It was good, but my longing for the uniform always remained, I would always be a soldier at heart, and eventually I would return to that mistress, I would return to Army green.

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