The cold weather, which no words could truly convey the severity of, has been a useful marker to the moments we have spent here. All of our training opportunities here have been emphasized by the morning ritual of determining just how much cold weather gear one should wear. One layer? Two layers? No, wait, maybe three layers!
It is a never ending guessing game at just how far to go. This one aspect of the time we have spent here will make it memorable. One day, when all of us are old and gray, and the weather man on the evening news makes some statement about how New Jersey set a new cold weather record, which has stood for 25 years, we can all proudly say we were here back when the first cold weather records were set. That's how cold it has been.
But, that aside, we now look forward to winding up for warmer climes. Our time here will soon come to a close. No dates, as of yet for our departure, but the time is getting closer. Our last "real day" of required training is scheduled for tomorrow, and then we wait.
We'll be packing our bags and simply, patiently and with anticipation wait for the call that says our jet plane is ready. When that happens then phase four of our journey will be completed and phase five will grab hold of us and whisk us away.
So you may ask how many phases are there? Here's how I see it, and this is not Army doctrine just 1SG Martinez' opinion. Here are the phases:
Phase 1: Coming together, forming a team (completed in early October)
Phase 2: Regional Training Center (completed in October)
Phase 3: Homestation Pre-mobilization training (completed in Decemeber)
Phase 4: Fort Dix mobilization training (going on now)
Phase 5: Deployment to Iraq (to be determined)
Phase 6: Preparation in Iraq for return to the U.S. (to be determined)
Phase 7: Redeployment at Fort Dix (to be determined)
Phase 8: Mission complete
This is the world as I see it.
Now, back to the present.
There is another sub-phase, if you will, to our current phase - a four-day pass. We have been granted an opportunity to take a four-day pass. A pass in the Army, is like a paid holiday. For four days we can take a mini-vacation from our daily grind. The commander has set the limits to travel no more than 150 miles from Fort Dix. Most of us will be taking the opportunity to get away from the post and see some of the regional sites around us; New York, Atlantic City, Philadelphia to name a few.
It will be a welcome break just before heading out. I'm sure there will be some interesting stories that come out of the break so keep posted to this and the other Soldiers' blogs for their updates.
Another thing of note that you might find of interest. Last week we had the opportunity to have an Army chaplain come to visit us. He spent an hour or so sharing his experiences while deployed. He talked about family, stress, spirituality and host of other touchy-feely type things that chaplains often talk about.
After his comments and a brief Q and A session, he opened up an offer, for anyone interested, to take communion. This a part of the Army that many don't often think about; Soldiers and spirituality.
For many Soldiers the spiritual aspect of their life needs attention, and in many ways even more so during a military deployment. Many Soldiers take comfort in their faith to help them get through the challenges of a deployment. It was a great opportunity to have a chaplain available to see to those needs too.
Finally, I wanted to give a big kudos to one of the Soldiers in our unit that, in my mind, really stands out during this phase of our deployment - Sgt. Heise.
During our the Mission Readiness Exercise (MRE) we had last week she really showed what she was made of. First let me say that all of our Soldiers have made great sacrifices and efforts to make our little unit successful, but Sgt. Heise really made her mark during this exercise.
The MRE is a 24 hour operation. Most of our Soldiers worked the day shift and a few (4 total) worked the night shift. What makes Sgt. Heise stand out is that she worked both shifts for three days with little more than a few cat naps along the way. She is a great example of making the best out of a rotten situation. Due to circumstances beyond anyones control, certain equipment, timelines and story ideas all went awry.
Truly undaunted, she pushed forward to make sure that the requirements of her mission were met - and they were. If we placed gold stars on the forehead she would have one placed dead center. For a little more insight to Sgt. Heise CLICK HERE for her latest blog entries.
In fact, there are a lot of great new entries from our soldiers today. Just click on one of the Soldier photos to the right to get a feel for what we've been up to here at Ft. Dix. They range from introspective to humorous. You'll also find some of the stories our Soldiers have produced and written. Please take time to get to know our unit and see life from our Point of View.