Presently, the 211th is working at a high OPTEMPO. Since our return from the holiday break, we have been going, going, going. It has been a few weeks since my last entry and so I'll do my best to play catch up here.
By all reports, our Soldiers had a great holiday break - being with family, friends, dogs, cats and all those that mean anything to us. It was a well deserved break. But, we're back to work now. We left Bryan, Texas at 0230 on January 6th. It was cold, raining and, did I mention - cold.
Because so many of us come from other places around the country, our send off really lacked the intimate and warm feeling of families and friends gathered around. No free hugs, tears, banners waving, TV cameras and the kind of stuff you see in the news. We did have Sergeant Major Dunn and Maj. McDiffet of the engineer command, there to shake hands, give words of advice and in the SGM's case, offer a prayer. The most festive part of our departure were the goodie bags presented to us from family programs representatives and a few cookies left over from the day before, compliments of 1Lt. Sarratt's wife, Domenica.
Actually, the best part of our departure were the great accommodations at the hotel the night before. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Suites. The bed was comfy, the TV huge and the room temperature perfect. It was our last night living in luxury.
Today we are at Ft. Dix, again. It's been like returning to our autumn home since we spent three glorious weeks here in October. At Ft. Dix, we are familiar with our surroundings so we aren't too uncomfortable yet. The big difference this time around is the temperature. The only one who truly feels at home, especially with the climate, is PFC Johnson. This is where she grew up - not 45 minutes from her hometown. The rest of us - with the possible exception of the commander, who just may have slush running in her veins - the rest of us are truly feeling the bitter winds of change, climate change. It is cold here and there is no way around it.
When you think about it, this is the best place to send us before going to Iraq. Who wouldn't be motivated to get out of the cold and head to a nice warm, sandy place with date palms lining the roads. Isn't that what everyone dreams, sand, sun and date palms. Of course it would be nice to add a little surf too, but hey, when you are trying to escape the winds of winter, you don't mind a minor trade off.
But for now this is where we are. We continue to train, train, train. It's what we do at this point. Fortunately, we are finally conducting training in our journalism and media relations skills. It's the kind of training most of us really like to do - writing stories, putting video reports together and conducting public affairs functions. We are finally starting to get a taste of how we work together in our journalist and public affairs specialist roles. So far, so good. The group remains professional, motivated and happy.
We do however have a few other training requirements and administrative screenings to complete. We've had more immunizations, more blood draws, more finance, personnel and deployment life briefings since we've been here. Some of it is repetition but, overall these screenings help ensure that we each are truly prepared - mentally, physically, and emotionally to deploy.
I continue to be impressed with the unit. They have fun, they work hard and they work well together. To prove my point, I want to share one of our training videos with you. These guys know how to have fun and successfully complete the mission.