Well, five days ago, anyways.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since the 211th gathered in Bryan, Texas on October 10, 2008, to begin this odyssey that has been our deployment to Baghdad.
For some of us, the work began over the summer, with conferences to attend, training to plan, equipment to be ordered, and contracts to be moved through the system. It took a lot of hard work on the part of a handful of people to ensure that when our Soldiers arrived on “hit day” everything was in place so that Soldiers could focus solely on the looming pre-mobilization training.
Slowly we worked through the summer and early fall, working towards the date of 10 October. When it arrived, we were ready. Our battle roster was full and we were ready to head to Ft. Dix a week later for 21 days of RTC. Since I supervised or did most of the paperwork prior to “hit day”, I knew a lot about our inbound Soldiers…and I hadn’t even met them yet! I had talked to all of them on the phone at least once and had passed multiple e-mails back and forth, giving them tips, ideas, and packing lists.
Then the day arrived. There were multiple trips out to the small airport that serves Bryan/College Station. We picked up inbound Soldiers and took them to their home for the next 2 ½ months…the EZ Rest Hotel (or the EZ SleazY as it was nicknamed). Many of them partook of their first Army-supplied meal at Golden Corral Steakhouse. For some, that was also their last!
We’ve been through a lot in the last year, the mighty fightin’ 211th MPAD. We’ve had Soldiers drop off of our battle roster for various reasons, but we managed to pick up a few as well. We survived Ft. Dix, New Jersey not once, but twice, battling cold, snow, and frozen toes. We arrived in Baghdad after a lengthy trip with many duffel bag drags already a little worse for the wear.
In the past year we have:
-Celebrated everyone’s birthday with cake (or at least Twinkies with candles stuck in them), silly string, and a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday”.
-Welcomed a new baby! Congratulations again to the Martinez family.
-Gone on R & R all over the world and then faced the grim reality of “I’m back here?” upon return.
-Squabbled, made up, fought some more, made up, scratched and kicked, made up. In the Army, no matter how hard you fight with someone you always make up because the guy you’re arguing with tonight could save your life tomorrow.
-Saw four of our own receive Combat Action Badges and one of those Soldiers receive a purple heart.
-Learned a lot of hard lessons about the world of A/C Public Affairs and learned to just “let it go”.
-Ate a lot of pizza and watched a lot of movies.
-Admired that beauty that is Army Dining Facility Food, especially chicken and Mexican food.
-Learned to find the humor in EVERYTHING. Even where none lurks.
-Grown up, matured, and realized that life outside of the US isn’t always nice.
But, alas, although we have marked off one year, it’s not over yet. We have just under 60 days before we depart Iraq and once again brave the wilds of Ft. Dix. We have mountains of paperwork to complete, not including the documents I’m not even aware of yet! And we can’t let our guard down. Complacency is what gets Soldiers hurt…we have to stay focused on the endgame but not so focused that we have tunnel vision and don’t see the dangers lurking all around us.
Hang in there, guys.