Friday, May 30, 2008

D-252: The FOB

It's been a while since my last post, but I have received some encouraging e-mails from strangers saying they're enjoying the blog, which has reinvigorated my will to post by appealing to my vanity.

Today is my ninth day at FOB Falcon, and I am officially knee deep in the Army. Judging the whole Army solely on the group that I have met here, I would say the Army is the most uptight organization I have ever witnessed. They salute incessantly, in uniform, in PT gear, no cover, carrying weapons, and most bizarrely, after a meeting they all stand up and salute simultaneously. I think some of the TCNs are convinced that saluting is just how Americans say hello to one another, so many of them have started saluting everyone they pass as well. The result is that you basically have to walk everywhere you go with your hand attached to your cover.

Rank is everything here, the O-2s salute the O-3s and call them sir all day, and O-4s are large and in charge. Anyone who is familiar with Naval Aviation could tell you that being an O-4 is just about the worse thing you can be - you don't fit in with JO's or Senior Officers, you get no respect, and everyone pretty much hates your guts. Not so in the Army, the XO of the battalion is a Major and he rides these dudes like a rented mule. In the Army, it only takes 3 years to put on O-3, with 18 months a piece for O-1 and O-2. So the difference between a junior O-3 and a "senior" O-1 can be as little as 18 months, but you would think it was Private Pile reporting to General Patton the way they treat each other.

Adding to the misery, these guys are pretty much trained to punish themselves; they run to the DFAC and grab a to-go plate and hurry back to their desk hoping the Major wasn't looking for them when they were gone. The staffers in the office where I work are really busy, as the Army's manning problem is reaching critical levels. There are no card games, no movie nights, no distillery, and pretty much nothing that I expected from watching M.A.S.H.

My off-going EWO left things in great shape, so my job is just to maintain excellence, which is a thousand times easier than creating excellence out of something that is fucked up. For that, I am very grateful. More importantly, he has fostered an environment where the battalion thinks he is just working his magic all the time, and he operates pretty much autonomously - that makes for a very nice situation, and I don't get swept away by the Army hate train. Bottom line, as long as I keep this program in order, which shouldn't be too hard, I will maintain a low profile and be very appreciated.

I must say, I have never seen a ship or squadron in the Navy with less esprit d' corps and lower morale than this one. They have only been here a month, and you would have a very hard time finding someone who liked his job and was proud of this unit. That sucks, I imagine that is not representative of the whole Army, and honestly I don't know why they are so miserable. They have only been here a month and hadn't deployed before that since 2005. So they really don't have it too bad. Maybe I just don't understand enough - I'll touch on this later.

Changing gears, I found a scorpion in my room yesterday. I thought it was a weird bug, and I stomped it. Later on, I was telling some guys how I found this strange little bug in my room that looked like a tiny green scorpion, and they said that's what baby scorpions look like. As if I didn't have enough problems, now I have poisonous critters in my room.

There is no doubt in my mind that I joined the right service, a six month deployment on an aircraft carrier seems like club med right now. Correction, since the Navy essentially "traded" me (and by traded, I mean gave me away) to the Army, I'd say that it's pretty much a tie.

I made a T-Shirt out of my logo because it's so funny and clever. Go buy one and I'll donate a dollar to charity - I haven't picked one yet, but I'm going to choose a charity that helps vets, as soon as I find one with low admin fees.
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