Friday, March 31, 2006

Army Jargon

I wish that there was a way to input Army jargon into your mind when you join the Army. Maybe something like The Matrix, where you can just sit down and have a computer take about 10 seconds to let you in on all of the new words and acronyms you will be exposed to in your enlistment. I did have a step up because of JROTC, but I still got confused really easy.

Like I wrote in my last post I got to learn a lot in Kuwait before we left. One of my team leaders told me at one point to get the ANCD and fill the RT. My first reaction was "What?" I had about no clue what he was talking about. Now for people that are not in the army this is an easy way of telling me to do something with our radio. I learned that RT was radio transmitter. The team leader did ask me how on earth I made SPC/E4. Again if you are not in the Army as long as you are in for 2 years and you don't mess up big time it is pretty much and automatic promotion. Well I went to training for 2 years before I got to my first duty station.

There are still acronyms that I don't know what they mean, but I know what it is. I know that doesn't not seem to make sense. That would be like I would know that RT meant radio, but I would not know what the R and T stand for.

One of the things that I did not like about some of the people in my section (not all of them just most) was that it was hard to ask them questions with out being made to feel like I was stupid. I think leaders really need to watch how they answer questions. It can cause some real problems if a person does not ask a question that could be important later. I would have to wait and pull aside someone that I knew would not ridicule me for not knowing.

One thing that I will think is funny, if all of the people in my old section would read this they would all except one think that they were approachable and that I didn't have that problem with them. One would be right and the one that would not think that they were approachable right away would first think back and make sure that she never teased me for anything like that. She was also one of the people that I could go ask questions. She is also really modest so she would not assume that she was always right.

Moral of this story: If you are a leader and take care of any soldiers answer their questions with respect. Don't treat them like they are stupid it could cost their or your life.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Getting ready to go!

I was never scared when I was in Iraq. I might have been overwhelmed at times, but far from scared. (even the time I fell out of a moving Humvee, but I will tell that story later) When we left to go overseas though I was a hair away from terrified. I think it was more fear of the unknown. I had never been deployed before then, and I had never even been out to the field for real training. Sure I did all of that high speed training at basic training, but that was far from preparing me for what I had to do in my first unit. I didn't realize just how much I didn't know until we got to Kuwait. I still thank God that we had a bit of a wait in Kuwait, because that is where I learned some of the more technical aspects of being a soldier first and not just an interrogator.

So getting on the bus that led me to my first flight overseas was more tense for me than when I was actually in Iraq. I hate not being in control of things. The question I usually get at this point is why did you join the Army then. Well I was still in control. Sure I had other people telling me what to do, but that is the same at any job. Also I could always choose to not do something, as long as I wanted to pay the consequences that came with it. When I was leaving for Kuwait I didn't feel like I had any control at all, and if was because I did not know what was happening. I didn't know what was going to be happening in the next ten minutes let alone the next year.

There was two other females that were in my section. One was a SGT at the time and that was another blessing I had. She was able to tell me and the other female about what we would need to pack. What to expect for showers and crappers. I don't think that I would have done so well with out that guidance. I almost for got to pack my bras for the time. I would have walked out of my room to the company area and only had one bra in all of my possessions (the one I had on).
When I was preparing to leave I had set up with my dad and step-mom to take care of my car and what I didn't want to have the Army store. So I had some clothes that I left out of Army storage to get packed in my car later. I was packing up all of my bras in the bag to go in my car when my room mate mentioned that I must spend a lot of money on bras if I had that many left after what went in my A and B bags. That was when I thought about the fact that I didn't pack any. I am so glad that they didn't try and go through our ruck sacks when we were leaving because right on top of everything were zip lock bags full of bras. I know this is not something that most guys would want to read about, but I think that deployments are different between guys and girls and we have certain things that we need to think about that you don't. Plus this might help some woman remember to pack her bras in her duffle bag. Also this is not the end of bra stories I have another one that comes later.

It was also really funny how one of my NCOs would try and let us know about the changes in times and dates. You are not supposed to give times and dates over the phone so he would call with changes anyway. Only he would say, "You know the date and time I told you earlier, well add 3 days and take away 11 hours." Even that is not supposed to be said over the phone, but I was glad I had an extra three days until he would call back. Then it was there has been a change subtract two days. I was always a smart alac but I really did want to know from what the first date or the first change. The guessing game was always fun though.

So when I did know when we were leaving I went home to let my parents in Atlanta know so they could make plans to get there and spend time with me and take my car with them. We went out to dinner the evening before I left and there was a live band there. Well they got an A for effort and not much else, but they played requests. There is this Jimmy Buffet song that used to grate on my nerves as a child. (Cheese Burgers in Paradise) My parents would play it in the car on long road trips back home from spending time with my mom and step-dad. So they figured that it would be funny enough to play for me before I left. Man did that band mess it up, and bad. Those are the kind of memories that I would not trade anything (but my kids) for.
There were a lot of parties also. With a lot of drinking. I think in one way the military kept me an immature teenager for as long as I was in. It took me having kids to grow up.

There is another thing that being in the Army did teach me, drinking games. There was a guy that almost broke his nose himself playing a drinking game where you don't want to be the last person to put your thumb on your nose. He shot his hand up and smacked himself in the face so hard that he fell over. I think that a lot of people drank because of that lack of control over what was going to happen. I know that me, and my infinite wisdom at 20, seemed to have better control over things when I would drink. If not that then at least I had an excuse for stupid stuff I did. Thankfully I had kids and that stupid stuff went away, and I don't miss it at all.

Speaking of kids nap time is over again so I have got to get off the computer and play with my little ones.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

JROTC Commander

Another person who was a major influence on me when I was young was a teacher in high school. I was in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). My Senior Army Instructor was a great role model. He taught me a lot more about the Army than I realized until I was in for a while at least. There were times that I could not stand him, and I could not get over how he ran our unit. Of course I kept fooling myself by saying well it will be different in the “real” Army. (by the way I am still looking for the real army) I always respected him even if I didn’t like him sometimes. I remember working my tail off during the summer once to help out the unit with its upcoming inspections the next year and all I wanted was to be Battalion Executive Officer the next year. Guess what I was made S-1 (pretty much an admin officer) I should not have put that much work in, because then I knew how to run the computer systems and I knew all the information that the S-1 needed to know. I was really disappointed and I wondered (at the time now I know) why was it that I was the only one that came in to help out and did a lot of work on my own, (not for a pay check or even a grade just to get it done) and I was not being rewarded for it.

I did not realize at the time that this was how most organizations work. You prove that you are proficient at a position and they will put you there. Even if it is not what you want to do. I wanted to believe that the Army was different and that if it had been a “real” commander then I would have been given what I wanted. (man I miss being a teenager where I always had an excuse for what was happening in my life) I enlisted instead of going to college and using some of the scholarships that he was helping my get. I decided about half way through my senior year that I did not want to go to college. He was so mad at me, not because of the scholarships I pulled out before that was an issue. He figured it was better to be an officer than enlisted. Maybe it was for him, but I much preferred the enlisted side of the job. A couple of years later I am still going strong in Arabic school while some of his officers in training are failing out of college. So I am glad that I followed what my gut was telling me. I didn’t feel that I was ready for the type of freedom college offered.

This man taught me a lot, and I didn’t not realize that most of what he did was from how he ran a battalion in the Army. I remember he gave and award to a female that didn’t complete the prerequisites for the award because she was able to earn a lot of money during our fund raisers. I (being the rational teenager that I was) put my award that I had earned on his desk and walked away. I didn’t want it if you didn’t have to earn it. (I got talked to later when in the Army for something very similar) There were some many disappointments that I had through my senior year in JROTC that I lost faith in what it was teaching me. About a week into basic training I realized that I was just extremely idealistic and expected way too much from people. I still had to learn that I had to rely on motivating myself. Even if a leader is supposed to do it for you.

Now that I have grown some and learned a lot I respect my old JROTC Commander more than I ever had. At least he was trying to show us how it was in the Army and not sugar coating it to get us to join. I never regretted enlisting, and I never wanted to be an officer after I joined. I was glad that I did what my instincts were telling me. Not that officers are bad people. They are just not my people. I like to look more at the individual soldier and their job is to look at the mass of soldiers and what is best for all. I could be wrong I left the Army as an Sgt. (E-5), but I believe that even as a platoon sergeant you have a little more leverage to work with the individual soldier’s needs. I will ask one of my old platoon sergeants to see what his experience was. (he might let us know before I get the chance to ask him if he sees this post)

Monday, March 13, 2006


I realized that to people that do not know me they might not understand what I have been posting. I think that if people are going to understand my stories about Iraq and being in the Army they are going to have to get to know me a bit first. To know who I look (or looked) up to. Also what my life is like today, and I understand that most people do not care about me staying home with my two little girls. They will just have to deal with it or leave the site. That is a part of who I am and I think people will understand more of how the war effected me if they know what I do now.

I was going to be in the Army for a career, and I still wanted to have a family. Things happened to change my mind. I figured out that if I was going to raise my kids then I was not going to be in the Army. So my priorities changed, and I still miss the Army. I can not go back though. I try and think about it this way, how would I feel if my husband was still in and got deployed? I would hate it, and I would cry (a lot). He might not cry if I got deployed, but I don't think it would be fair to him or my kids. This was not how I felt when I was in Iraq, and not even how I felt when I first got pregnant with Elizabeth (my 1st kid).

I was still in the Army and I was going to stay in after she was born. My husband was gong to get out and that way one of us would always be home with the kids. I refused to have my kids raised by my parents. It is not that they would not do a good job they might do even better than me who knows. One they didn't get pregnant and two I am a selfish person I don't want my kids taking their first steps and learning to talk while someone else is taking care of them.
I went out on a tangent. I tend to do that a lot. There is just so much that I want to type that it all gets kind of mixed up sometimes. I am going to work on it though. So back to my dad and step-mom.

My step-mom was the one parent that was always there for me from day one. There were things that she has done to make my life better that was not always apparent. Of course I have kind of grown up a little bit since I was 8. (not much though) I know that no one is perfect and for a while I did blame a lot of what was going on in my life on my mom and dad. I realize now that I was holding them up on a bit of a pedestal. My dad could do no wrong. (man was that a big lie) My mom (not step-mom) it was not so much that she was on that same pedestal as what I thought mothers should be. I still believe that my children's needs should go first before everything that I want or need. I just thought that since my mother didn't keep my needs first that she was a bad mom. I now know she was not a bad mom just not a perfect one. This is where my step-mom comes in.

If any of my parents were perfect she would have to be the one. I am not saying that she is perfect just the closest to it. I never once had the urge to tell her she was not my mom, not even when we would get into arguments when I was a teenager. I just never thought that it was somewhere I wanted to go in an argument. How could I take it back if it was ever said. She was the person that showed me that it was alright to need to take care of me first and not care what other people thought about it. It sounds weird but even now I take care of me first by taking care of my kids. Not all of my reasons for staying home are about the kids. Like I said earlier I am selfish when it comes to my kids time. I want to be the one that is there when they have all of their firsts. I will share them with everyone but I will not give those experiences to anyone.

I know if my mom ever reads this she will not completely understand what I have written. She still does not completely understand my relationship with my step-mom. She seems to think that what happened was my step-mom became my favorite. I will not apologize for how I feel, but I will try and help her understand that I love them all the same amount just in different ways.

One of my hopes is to be a lot like my step-mom when it comes to being a parent. I want to take care of myself by making sure that my kids come first. I want to be excited to take care of my family, and not feel that it is just an obligation.

Well I got to go for now the little ones are wakening from their naps.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

More on my Father and Myself

There is a little bit of a jump in time for this post, because I have had a baby and lost a lot of free time. I don't think I would have it any other way my kids are worth at least all of my free time. So know that it is 2230 and both of them are asleep I want to get some typing done. I was writing about my dad, and I will continue on this topic in just a moment. First I want everyone to know that I love the Army and that I have come to realize that it was like having a spouse. I will always love it, but I am going to complain about it sometimes. I might even get belligerent, but don't you dare speak bad of it because well it's mine and I will defend it. I know it sounds kind of kooky, and that I should probably have my head examined. There are only a few things I love more than the Army and well that is why I am out now. One of them is Lizzie my first daughter and another is Sarah my newest baby. Now let us continue where I left off.

The man (my papa) can not stay away from military conflict and I think of this as both good and bad when it comes to my dad. He fights for what he believes in, and well it took him away for long periods of time a lot of the time. I learned that faced in the same situation my family would be number one. I could not see my baby girls being raised by someone else. That is one reason why I decided to stay at home and be a momma full time. When I was growing up there were a lot of things that I would have changed about in my life, but now I am glad that everything happened how it did. I there was one small change then everything would be different now. I would be a different person. So while I missed my father a lot I am glad that it turned out the way it did. I was also taught the importance to fight for what you believe in though.

So while I did leave the Army I am doing what I believe is right in taking care of my kids. It is a fight, and I was scared to do it. I am a worrier and it goes against every grain in my body to completely rely on someone else. I am also sure that the only person that I could have done this for is my husband. Not only do my kids deserve a mom, but he deserves a wife to take care of things on the home front. It took a little while to get used to, and we cut our income in half. Yet it is all worth it. I don't need things, but I need my family. So I fight for it, and it is not nearly as glorious as being able to say that I am a soldier. Clipping coupons is such a new concept, but I guess that is my new way of preparing myself for financial war. Instead of going to a rifle range I am getting into my mini-van and comparison shopping for milk, eggs, and bread. (thanks dad for preparing me for this fight, honest)

My dad did something else that forever changed my life for the better. He married my step-mom. Now he did not deserve her and I still believe that (sorry dad). Well that is all for tonight if I do not get to sleep then I will regret it tomorrow. So I will start on my step-momma tomorrow.

Friday, November 18, 2005

My Father

Just like I typed I have had a few great leaders. The great thing about most of them is that I realize they are not perfect. This is great because that way I get to learn from their mistakes. The first one I would like to mention is my father. (I know corny) Even if he doesn't like it he has made a lot of mistakes and well I am a better person for most of those mistakes.

Now do not get me wrong there are a lot of things that he has done to look up too also. He is the definition of selfless service when it comes to being in the military and protecting our country. He has given up things in his life to be able to defend what he feels is worth defending. I do not think that I would be half a patriotic as I am now if it were not for this man. He has also passed on a love of learning history, and that is something I hope that I can do for my children. Any love of learning would be fine and maybe I can even teach them how to speak Arabic.

It was always fun to tease him about his lack of emotion. I even used to say you could paint a happy face on a rock and it would show more emotion than my father. That is alright though. You can always depend on him to give advice that is not a knee jerk reaction but a level headed thought. The only time I have ever seen him cry was the morning I left to go to Iraq. I did not even realize it was happening until he apologized for it. That is when I realized that my deployment was going to be harder on my parents than myself. I knew I was going to be alright and I knew what my job was. We were not on orders for Iraq but Kuwait and all of us knew what was going to happen. We were right and to set it straight I would not have changed a thing. (well except that the night the missiles started flying overhead it would have been nice if there were different colors, just kidding) The crying hit me and I realized that his little girl was going to war. To me that was a surreal thought until it was his little girl and not just me. Now that I have a little girl it is an even stronger feeling and I hope one day she will understand that kind of love.

My favorite motto is something he taught me "Illegitimi Non Carborundum" directly translated that is "Don't let the bastards grind you down" and loosely for my motto change out grind with get. He was always there to give me a pep talk. He is also the one that reminds me that I served in the army to protect the rights of everyone and not just the ones I agree with. When I was younger that helped a lot, because now I can look at San Francisco and Sacramento and even though I don't agree and if I could I would change it I am glad that they could speak out against their military or their government. I am glad that the chairmen that voted to condemn the war do not have to fear for their or their family's lives. I am glad that they live here and not in Iraq before we took down the Saddam Regime. Now that I said that why don't we get them voted out next term and fix the mistake they made in condemning the war.

Next post I will type a little more on my dad and why he is someone I have looked up to.

Just a Little to Get Started

For a long time I thought my name was, That Arabic Speaking Chick. Kind of like when a kid thinks that there middle name is no from being told it so many times. Some people know about losing your identity in the military and becoming what you do. So for me anyone that didn't remember my name always remembered that I could talk to the Iraqis. It never bothered me, and if anything it was a complement that they paid attention as much as to realize that I could be a benefit. There were variations like the Swahili Speaker, Blonde Arab Chick, or even That Girl (with some units not so familiar to working with women).

Now I am usually a very private person, but after a while it gets frustrating seeing everything go on and having people use my name as a soldier/veteran in vain. I have had a few great examples of people that I want to emulate. (man, that is just not the right word) How about this way... I have had a few great leaders in my life. (that is much better, maybe mentors would be a better word than leaders, oh well let us move on) Recently I have been motivated by one to share my opinion. Not that he told me to do this; so much as he shares his opinion with the public to inform them on what is really going on in the minds of soldiers. I got to thinking about MilBloging and well there are not a lot of women doing any type of MilBlogin and I think that should be remedied. What better way than doing it myself! (the whole if you complain about it try and fix it yourself don't wait on others to do it for you theory)

This is only the beginning guys. I want to get some things set straight and that just will not happen on it's own. I also want to acknowledge some of the people that helped form who I am today. In the words of a co-worker of mine, "It is not if you have been brain washed; it is who you let do it." (I feel so witty today)