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Monday, November 19, 2012

144th ASMC and Iraq... Part Three

The initiation into a National Guard Deployment is the pre-deployment phase.  Prior to flying out of state to a mobilization site (which site you go to partially depends on the type of unit you belong to) there is usually a short pre-mobilization training period in your home-state.  Unfortunately, the worst part of deployment for the National Guard soldier is the pre-deployment portion of the activation.  At this point in the game the pre-mobilization training usually takes 3 months, it has been known depending on what type and size of unit you belonged to, to take upwards of 6 months.  I was extremely frustrated at this point, I vented often in my journal about how much of my time was being wasted, along with the taxpayer dollar.  I don't think individuals in the planning of these mobilizations were looking at the big picture.  If there was a little more coordinating and preparation we could save soldiers so much anxiety and discontent from the pre-deployment circus.

We left the Salt Lake International Airport on a direct flight to El Paso, Texas, and Fort Bliss.  There was nothing blissful about this part of the country for me, however, I left there with the knowledge that it would not be a very appropriate place for me to live.  I had horrible allergies during the last few weeks of training.  Seemed like I was under constant assault from a nerve agent, runny nose, stuffy head, cough, and no relief regardless of what I took, except Benadryl.  The unfortunate side effect of Benadryl is that it makes you tired, so at best I could only take it at night.  We are still subjecting National Guard soldiers to these long pre-deployment training adventures, some of it is needed for certain, but much of it, especially the down time sitting on your ass away from family, is gross negligence.  That is simply my opinion, and my opinion only. 

Regardless of how I felt about it, pre-deployment training was the first leg of our journey.  We only spent a week at Fort Bliss before being shipped out to Dona Ana, New Mexico to live for the next couple months while we trained.  I describe in my book the living conditions and the dilapidated buildings we used, however, 80 years ago they were most likely in excellent shape.  The best part of the time we spent in the southwest USA was the camaraderie that developed between the soldiers in our unit, so regardless of how poorly the time was managed, in the long run it brought the unit closer together.

A journal entry from the pre-deployment phase is below, you can get the whole story here:
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Friday, September16, 2005

Miserable, that’s how I feel, as if I’ve been run over by a freight train. No energy, no motivation, no will to do much of anything. That’s probably why we were out conducting more training for which I need energy and motivation. At least I’m not sitting around doing nothing, but the way my allergies have been hammering me lately, I’d rather just be sitting around. Yesterday and today we have been conducting quick reaction force (QRF) and traffic control point (TCP) training. Today the treatment platoon got a chance to set up the TCP, and we had much more action than yesterday.

For today’s mission I was reduced to a private; we let the junior enlisted get a feel for being in charge, and I was a member of the initial security team that went in and set up a 360-degree security perimeter as the rest of the platoon set up our AO (Area of Operation), which included vehicle and personnel search areas. All this meant was that I got to fire off more rounds, even though they were blanks. I definitely didn’t let the opportunity to fire my weapon pass me by. I had sixty rounds to begin with, but in a real situation I would have much more. The first time our AO came in contact with enemy fire I unloaded my whole magazine, thirty rounds, at the van firing at us. From that point on I decided I would conserve my ammo and only fire a few rounds at each encounter. If the rounds had been live and the enemy a true enemy, he would have been dead pretty quickly. I made sure my sights were aligned center mass on each individual; I don’t think I would have missed because the insurgents we encountered were less than 150 meters away.

The unfortunate part of a medical company pretending it’s an infantry or MP Company is the fact that some individuals don’t know that firing a weapon with your buddy in your line of sight is a bad thing. (Yes, I’m serious.) We were using blanks, but the instructors caught two individuals firing with friendly personnel in their line of sight. What does that mean? It is called fratricide, death by friendly fire. We had two, and that is absolutely unacceptable, no matter how you look at it.
The first was questionable. One of our SSGs fired at the enemy while a soldier was on one knee, trying to clear a weapons jam, about ten feet in front of him. The rounds he fired would have passed over the soldier, but if the soldier stood up, it would have been tragic. The second was absolutely negligent. The soldier was working in personnel search in the middle of AO and came in contact with enemy fire. This soldier decided to return fire from the middle of the AO, and continued to follow and fire at the insurgent as her line of fire took her straight into our Platoon Sergeant (PSG) who was working personnel search less than five feet from her. At the moment it was pretty funny, from what the others told me, but we’ll be using live rounds at some point, and the last thing I want is to get shot by a fellow soldier because they forget the basics of muzzle control with their M-16. It’s all fun and games until someone shoots an eye out.

Overall, it was a positive experience; the instructors didn’t have many negative things to say. We cleaned up the AO, police called the whole area for trash and brass, then returned to our barracks to enjoy the rest of the day. For me it wasn’t enjoyable, because all the dust and pollen that I’d been inhaling the last two days left me with a nose that was constantly running and uncontrollable sneezing fits.

I called Shannon and the kids. They were at Rick and Doris’s, so we had a short conversation—just long enough for me to say goodnight to each of them and find out Dylan’s soccer team won their game 6–2. Dylan scored another goal on a corner kick, something that rarely happens at any level of soccer. I’m pretty impressed. Hopefully he’ll keep pushing himself to get better than the next guy. If he doesn’t then he’ll be good, but possibly not the best. Good night.

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