Wednesday, January 7, 2009

D+26: Return of the Augmentee

seafarer has left a new comment on your post "D-0: I am leaving Iraq":

”Congrats on leaving! I'm just headed in that direction to do the same job. I was hoping maybe to get some insights… Sadly, the attitude still seems to be ‘good luck. Let me know how that works out for you.’”

I will comment on Seafarer’s message in a moment. It is great to be home, and thanks to everyone for all your warm wishes, care packages, and participation on The Augmentee blog. It has been fun interacting with family and friends, and a few strangers, through this poorly written, un-focused blathering.

Aside from the core members of the Augmentee community, most of whom are family and friends, we have picked up the occasional stranger. Most have one thing in common; they are future Navy IA’s looking for some information on the incredibly stressful evolution on which they are about to embark – Alone! Most of them likely stumbled upon us through a series of Google searches containing the words “Individual Augmentee.” This is pretty interesting; considering that Google searching that phrase doesn’t lead here until page 7! In fact, Google blog-searching doesn’t even find me until page 2! And this is a Google hosted blog.

So, why is that interesting – see the above comment by Seafarer.

It is interesting, because presumably, our pal seafarer waded through 7 pages of useless Google links, before landing here. More interesting, because like many others before him, he found my idiotic rambling helpful enough that he chose to contact me and seek further guidance! Those of you who have been reading this blog should be able to identify the issue here; this blog has been in large part about; drinking, curse words, understanding Hadj, and the incredibly insane antics of a person dubbed Big K. Reading this garbage should not be considered a “useful” pre-deployment exercise; it should be considered a mildly entertaining diversion… at best.

Sadly, the opposite is true – and I continue to get e-mails from shipmates who are just looking for a little help, because they can’t find any help anywhere else. And while I am happy to help you all, it is sad that after nearly five years of Navy IAs, the support program is still a shambles. In fact, I had significant issues with both my FITREP and my travel claim on the way out – because there was no help available. I didn’t even know what the right questions to ask were - and all along the way, there was always someone around just a little too late to help, but just in time to say some snide bullshit like “you didn’t print out your summary letter? You know you’re going to need that…”

“No, DICK! Obviously I did not know that… since the last time I deployed, I deployed with a whole god-damned ADMIN department; and THEY knew that, so I didn’t have to! So, how am I supposed to have magically learned every nuance of Navy administrative burdens while I have been running around with a rifle in a MOTHER-FUCKING ARMY INFANTRY BATTALION FOR NINE FUCKING MONTHS!”

I digress.

Now, if you are reading this, and you happen to be a high ranking (O-5/above) military officer, I know what you are thinking. You are saying “well, what have you done to make it better?” Condescension is dripping from each syllable.

Well, Sir, I am writing this blog, which I know has helped at least 13 people to date. Probably 13 more than the NKO website and the entire ECRC have done combined. So, I guess the question is, what are you doing? I know you have probably never been on an IA (only 3% of sailors have, how many of those do you think are O-5/above?) – and if you have, you probably served in a “Joint” command at the VBC, where you likely had a Navy boss, a nearly all-Navy staff, perhaps with some Air Force and National Guard sprinkled in for good measure. So what have you done?

Perhaps, you commissioned the 35 page end of tour survey – and while I really appreciate the opportunity to tell someone that I am “very dissatisfied” with the NKO website, I just wasn’t in the mood to answer all 200 questions, so I just put it back in the envelope and turned it in blank… so I guess I am part of the problem right?

I suppose I could write a nice, long point paper. But to whom shall I send it? Perhaps to the ECRC, an organization which doesn’t even respond to the e-mails of re-deploying GSAs – personnel for whom they are directly responsible. That doesn’t seem like a good use of my time. Perhaps my Navy umbrella command in theater ought to know my opinion… although, I guess I had my chance to give it to them in my 30 minute “out-brief” that I shared with 13 other people. I’d send it direct to the CNO, or maybe SECNAV, but those guys aren’t taking my calls, so it seems my point paper will go un-read; so, in fact, it will go unwritten.

So, Seafarer, good luck. Let me know how that goes for you.

Don’t pack a lot of crap, don’t buy a bunch of high-speed tactical gear (or you will be dubbed a “gear-queer” by your Army counter parts. Hilarious!), and make sure you have a folder to keep all of your paperwork (ask about “hand receipts” and why they are so important). Get your FITREP/eval and EOT award paperwork in about 3 months before you re-deploy.

Most importantly, just become an Army guy for a little while; don’t try to “fix” them (although they will seem beyond fucked up)... just do things the Army way and don’t be an asshole. It’s just another deployment – no big deal.

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