Archive for Thursday, November 11, 2004

From the Front

Military life an adjustment for weekend warrior

November 11, 2004

Throughout each and every one of our lives, we will be faced with difficulty and adversity. What truly counts is not the roadblock itself but our ability to work through the difficult times.
During my deployment and activation into the active Army, I have learned a lot about myself, my family, my friends and the Eudora community. What truly separates Eudora from many communities is the caring people who make up our hometown.
During the past years, we have seen many of our own go to war in the Middle East. There have been older soldiers and younger soldiers who have made a great sacrifice to protect us and keep us safe. We read about them and worry about them because we live in a community where practically everyone knows everybody else -- or at least knows the family.
During my time at Fort Sill, I have been fortunate to get The Eudora News. Staying current on events in town is enjoyable, and I can honestly say the section that identified the military personnel was very moving. My hats go off to those who made it possible.
During my time at Fort Sill, my admiration for all the men and women who have served our country increases. The sacrifices these people make, or have made, goes without question. It is difficult to explain how hard it is.
At one of our very first briefings, they addressed the fact that this deployment will be hardest on families. You hear people who have experienced it talk about it, but until you actually live it, words can't describe it.
The transition from civilian life to military life has been a tough one. No longer are there days of sleeping in -- unless you consider 6 a.m. sleeping in. I eat when they tell me and sleep when they tell me. I go where I am told and report when they tell me to report.
I gave up a nice, comfortable king-size bed for a small cot-size bed, and I no longer have access to the master bathroom.
I have gone from working behind a desk to working behind an M-16 -- and Rambo I am not. As a principal, I got my exercise walking down the halls of Eudora West Elementary School. Now I am doing physical training on a daily basis and carry around a 40- to 50-pound rucksack.
It isn't that I am complaining, because the physical training isn't hurting me. And yes, as hard as it is to believe, I can follow and obey orders.
I have been around the military for 16 years in the National Guard, but that is no comparison to the real world of the active Army. There are so many acronyms that there are acronyms for acronyms. And yes, nothing works very quickly in the military. But as much as people complain, it is very amazing how much is accomplished.
Since my arrival, I have been poked and prodded They checked my ears, eyes, teeth and took what seemed like a gallon of blood. I have been stuck so many times, I can't even remember where all the pokes were. We received vaccinations for small pox and received our first anthrax shot, which definitely brought a different sensation to my arm.
Once all the medical and administrative work was done, the training began. We will be required to validate on many different tasks before we can ship out.
The staff at Fort Sill is professional and provides excellent training. Many of our instructors were drill sergeants, which made me nervous at first. I did my basic training here many years ago and only saw the drill sergeant from a basic trainee viewpoint. They know their stuff, and I am confident that the training they are providing will prepare us for anything.
We have all qualified on the weapons range. One surprise for many in our company was the fact that I qualified on the first shoot, considering I have been at State Area Command headquarters in Topeka for many years and haven't touched an M-16 in nine years. Of course I didn't make too big a deal about it. (Yeah, right).
The other day, we went to a range to perform a live fire. I put on my gear, which consisted of the battle dress uniform, load bearing vest, our Kevlar helmet, a flak vest, rucksack, protective mask and M-16 rifle. By the time I was finished, I must have weighed 300 pounds. Moving around was quite difficult.
Now I know why they get us up at 4:30 a.m. We loaded the bus, which took us to the range, and rather than driving us to the range, they dropped us at the bottom of the hill and allowed us the opportunity to walk to the range. Not real sure whose idea that was, but I have a good feeling that somebody felt we needed a little exercise. Did I mention there are mountains in Oklahoma?
Seriously, they are called the Wichita Mountains, and you guessed it, we got to walk up what felt like was to the top of one of these mountains. I wasn't fast, and I finally made it. Of course the younger folks were being real supportive and yelling things to me -- in a positive way, of course.
The 891st is a very good unit with a lot of tradition. I know nothing about engineering, but I am learning new things each and every day. Rest assured there are very qualified and dedicated soldiers who are willing to risk it all for success. The leaders are extremely knowledgeable and truly care for the soldiers.
I am quite thankful I am not the only Eudoran here. Sergeant First Class Jim Briery and Specialist Kurtis McCormick are here as well. It is nice to see familiar faces.
I would like to thank the classes from Eudora West Elementary for writing letters. One thing I have learned is that many -- any mail -- is appreciated. It is really fun reading the letters from the kids because in all actuality, they have a pretty good perspective on what is going on and they let me know everything that is going on.
On a final note, I would like to congratulate the volleyball team on qualifying for state. Also, congratulations to the cross country team for its state showing at Wamego, and good luck to the football team. One comforting feeling is that I can follow the teams through the newspaper.
All is well from Fort Sill. I will let you know how things are going in the near future.

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