Over time, my mind and ears seemed to filter out the once annoying sounds and I was able to sleep peacefully. It seems that those sounds became so common place that I was able to tune them out. The situation had changed so drastically, that even if a mouse or mosquito moved or buzzed in the night I could hear it and respond accordingly, even over the industrial sounds emanating from the rail yard just outside my front door.
In some circles, this ability to filter out ambient noise is also called Mommy/Daddy deafness. A syndrome experienced by parents whose children are able to tune out the voices of parents and peacefully go on their merry way, as if their parents aren't actually talking - but I digress.
Today, I discovered that I am once again filtering out the noise of unwanted sounds to allow me a peaceful nights sleep, and further, to filter out the everyday sounds of a war zone.
At 0530 today our unit met at the base of signal hill for another installment of unit PT. (see SFC Burke's blog entry for greater detail on that). SSG Burrell put us in a PT formation, got us all stretched out, warmed up and ready for an unexpected 3-mile run around what we call Z lake here on Camp Liberty.
That's when it hit me. As I ran, I noticed a few things. I could hear the breeze rustling the reeds that line the lake shore, I heard a duck and a bird squawk on the shoreline. I could hear my feet strike the pavement (when there is pavement) and the crunch of gravel under foot as I ran. I could hear my breathing and the rhythmic jangling of my dog tags bouncing between my chest and shirt. I could hear the voices of my Soldiers yelling at me across a small span of lake saying, "you go first sergeant!" What I heard were the peaceful sounds of a morning run along a beautiful lake. It was invigorating.
Here is what I did not hear, though I can promise you these sounds fill the air around us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The whopping rotor blades of helicopters over head. The constant drone of hundreds of diesel generators, from which there truly is no escape. The revving of engines from Humvee's, MRAP's, strykers, buses and cars. The thrust of jet engines from airplanes taking off from Baghdad International Airport, BIAP as we call it. Whining sirens from the lead vehicle in convoys headed outside the wire. Automatic weapons fire from ranges on the camp and distant combat engagements from off post. And a cornucopia of everyday sounds and noises that are the constant audible backdrop to our life here.
Somehow in the past few weeks my mind has made a change. Like the change that occurred years ago in Portsmouth, Ohio. All those noises that, when I arrived, were so obvious to me, that at times raised my adrenaline level, or might have made me duck and cover, have become almost silent to me.
And again, just like those days next to the rail yard when I could hear a mouse or mosquito, it's the noises that aren't normal that raise my attention now. I always wondered about that before coming here. How it was that our groundpounder's (infantrymen), MP's and EOD (ordnance) Soldiers could know when something bad was going to happen or how they knew when not to go around a corner, go into a building or avoid certain areas of the city or road. It's all about filtering; knowing the difference between normal and, - not normal.
It's a strange shift in reality. When the sounds of a war zone actually become peaceful. When what once brought fear brings comfort.