Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Jet Is Set

It's finally here. A date has been set for our departure Down Range (Down Range is the term we use when a person or unit deploys to a theater of operations). It has been a long time in the making to get to this point. In all we will have spent nearly two months here at Ft. Dix and another couple of months in Bryan, Texas in a training mode.

Honestly, I think the Soldiers and command element of the unit are ready to get on with the real meat of the deployment and get to work. The training has been good, the opportunity to "gel" as a unit has been good, the memories have been many, the food has been mediocre, and the time is long past due to move on.

This phase of a deployment is truly the worst part to endure. Believe it or not, by the time you finish this phase, you are ready to leave what little comforts you have left on American soil and get into theater. You are ready to stop all the training and finally do the job you are trained and ready to do.

But, just for a moment, although we are ready to move ahead, I want to take a little look back. I mentioned early on in this blog that the unit would likely come together as a family unit and experience a great deal of the same feelings and experiences of a biological family, we have.

In the past months we've celebrated eight birthdays, we've lost three Soldiers from our original 20 and gained two, we've had some arguments, disappointments, frustrations, family health issues back home, cold weather (really cold weather), got new weapons (a first in my career and admittedly not really an occurrence in a biological family, usually), endured sheer boredom, shed a few tears, endured physical pain, felt helpless to our families back home inaugurated a new boss, nursed colds, drank a lot of coffee, peed in a cup (again, not really a family event), eaten more donuts than we will ever eat for the rest of our lives (thank you SFC
 Burke), and on occasion, second guessed our initial decision to join the Army.

Now, the real fun will finally begin!

In the next few days, we'll jump on a pretty big plane and move on to the next leg of our collective journey. We will take our memories of the past months with us and add new ones. There is one thing however that will not be packed up and shipped off to Iraq for the next year, it's that piece of our heart that stays with those we love and miss. As anxious as we are to get on with our mission, it truly is a means to an end. We look forward to coming home.

We have a long way to go before that day comes, but, and I feel sure that I am not the only one thinking this way, we look forward to being back in the USA (or France for SSG Burrell), with friends and family.

Most of us love what we do in the Army and we are grateful for an opportunity to be a part of history, to make a difference (in Iraq or to each other), to do our duty and then quickly get back home. We hope you'll stay tuned to the blog and see some of it with us. We encourage you to tell others to look in on us through the blog, make comments and keep in touch.

There will probably be a bit of a break in our blogs for the next couple weeks as we move from Dix to Iraq, but be patient we will update as we get a chance. Bon Voyage!

Faces Of The 211th:

SSG Burrell cuts his birthday cake. It's not a French pastrie, but he concedes it will do and moments later the tasty slices are gone.

SPC Logue, camouflage pillow in hand, waits to check in at Houston International Airport.

SSG Ford heads for the bus on mobilization day.

SGT Risner and SPC Alperin load up gear for the trip to Ft. Dix.

Our "C" bags. They are brand new, but will likely come back a bit worse for the wear. We each have an A, B, and C bag that contains the majority of all the gear we will need over the next year.

SPC Fardette carries his urine specimen bottle to the latrine. The bottle must remain in the sight of an observer from start to finish to remove any doubt of who the specimen belongs to and to ensure that there is no "urine cheating" - yep somewhere in the Army somebody has tried to use someone else's specimen. Go figure.

SGT Heise burns the midnight oil, the daytime oil, the oil in the first sergeants hair and any other light producing oil she can in order to meet story deadlines during our MRX (mission readiness exercise).

Monster, the staple drink used by our Soldiers to stay awake and edgy during our MRX. Addiction has set in with some of our Soldiers and now it is used to wake up, go to sleep, endure the cold, watch TV, have coherent conversations and whatever else is needed.

SSG Burrell and SPC Alperin discuss the finer points of story editing, how to say what you mean and how not to say what you don't mean.

1LT Sarratt on the hot seat for one of our press conferences - a job well done. Remember, it's all about the right words.

SGT Heise, the oil finally burned out and so did she. Great job!

Holy communion - a renewal of the Soldier's spirit.

Chaplain (Lt. Col) Hunter, prepares for the offering of Holy communion.

When boredom sets in, the boys will play! In keeping with the spirit of military strategy, the group gathers for a game of Risk.

2Lt. Douglas (right) and SGT Risner make adjustments to SGT Taylor's protective vest. The process truly does take several people to get it right.

SPC Logue is just too good for an Army bed. Have hammock, will deploy.

Recently promoted SPC Johnson, cleans her M4 rifle. Weapons cleaning sessions are a social activity in the Army. You'd be amazed at the conversations conducted, the food consumed and friends made during weapons cleaning - it's akin to a band of Gorillas gathering to pick each others fleas.

Cleaning an extractor pin from an M4 rifle.

2Lt. Douglas gets a noggin rub from MAJ Daneker. This is a new lieutenants responsibility in any unit - noggin rubs from the commander. It's a time honored tradition.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/02/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

MichelleWilliams said...

Anthony, Thank-You and Thank-You to your unit for the sacrifice of family, home and community as you make your way to Iraq. I appreciate your efforts and willingness to defend our country, lift other countries out of its ashes and to stand as an emblem of freedom to the world. My heart and thoughts and prayers are and will continually be on the Units' behalf as you go forward in "Phase 5". I feel as though I am getting to better know the 211th, via blogs, and your Army Family is begining to feel like my family. I love you, My prayers and thoughts are with the 211th. "Vaya con Dios"