December 6, 2008

On Point

Over at A Soldiers Perspective (ASP), CJ had recommended a post for one of Paulette's Ramblings. She writes about greeting the soldiers coming home as they get off the airplane. This is of utmost importance for our soldiers morale and memories of stepping onto that tarmac and feeling welcomed home.

Paulette gives soldiers pennies with an angel punched out in the middle. She tells them to bring it back home, when she really means for the angel to bring them back. A token of remembrance of things back home which brings a sense of calm and serenity. When I came home there was no fanfare or gentle angels, such as Paulette, to welcome me home. I was actually let down quite a bit over that, but my situation was different in that I came home by myself due to my sons birth. So I had contradictory emotions associated with my journey home.

I was stationed in Germany and came home before the rest of my company. My youngest son, who will be 18 in February, was born right before we left the demarcation zone (DMZ) to go into combat. I received a Red Cross telegraph out in the middle of the desert, hand delivered. I could have went home then...WOW... I had never even thought about that until now. In 18 years this never crossed my mind. I could not have left before, I knew that my experience driving a Bradly Fighting Vehicle (BFV) was in need, I was responsible for 9 lives, 6 squad members, Track Commander (TC), my squad leader who was the Gunner and of course mine.

My TC, squad leader and I hated each other, we argued and nearly came to blows several times. This went on the whole time we were in Garrison (on the military base). But, when we went into the field, we kicked ass. In war games we were usually some of the last to be knocked out of commission. So, when we went to war, none of us wanted anyone else to to be in any positions within our squad. We trusted and respected each other and knew that everyone on us had each others back.

This trust in your squad members is paramount in the successful survivalship in combat situations. We were one organism, complete and whole. Numerous contingencies have to be considered before the squad has a green light for combat readiness, comprehension and functioning. I knew without a doubt that when the time came, everyone of my immediate leaders and squad would be ready for whatever we faced. So, all I had to concentrate on was my job.

My job as a driver was of course to maintain the BFV, which was more than a full time job. I had over 150 checks and maintenance tasks that I had to perform three time a day. When we were on the move I had to watch for unexploded ordinance and keep an eye on. Then there was the actual driving, my vehicle was on point for the 1st AD, 1st brigade. I had to keep an eye two other divisions one to two miles away.

OH YEAH, did I mention that I had drove for 172 hours straight? Yeah, I drove for 172 hours without sleep, unless if you call the 5 to 10 minutes that I fell asleep at the wheel and lost the other divisions at night. It took us two hours to find them again. My TC told me the only way he wanted our reserve driver to drive was if I was killed, I took it as a compliment. The first 72 hours was extremely hard to stay awake. The 100 hours of sustained combat, now that was extremely easy to stay awake for that. After combat, I slept for two days and only woke up after sleeping 24 hours to go urinate and then went back to sleep for another 24.

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