Operation: GTFO (Day 215)

Post Paris Depression

I'm not in Paris anymore.

I’m not in Paris anymore.

I’ve been back from leave for about 14 days now.  A commenter on Trip Advisor asked me how I was getting along with my “post-Paris depression.”  I think that is the exact disease from which I’m suffering.  With a little bit of I don’t give a shit-itis.  This is precisely what happened to me during the last deployment when I came back from R&R—my ability to care about anything went from 0 to -15.  I would say that I’m sitting at a solid -20.

Of course it did not help that my battle buddy went on leave the day I got back.  I swear to God, I never thought it humanly possible to miss somebody so much, and we ain’t family or in love!  It’s just sitting in this office for a week straight with these two lunatics just really wore on my nerves.  It’s lucky they do have conversation or I would have committed suicide.  It’s just that they have a lot of issues.  Sometimes I feel like I’m having a conversation with a schizophrenic and/or my grandfather.

I suffered through a set of meetings where I realized that I don’t actually like any of these people.  No, let me take that back.  I’ve known since jump I didn’t like these people.  I think I realized how intensely I don’t like these people.  I remarked to Higher that I found it amazing his ability to deal with all these personalities.  I find it taxing to work with people I consider to be idiots.  He has loads more experience than I do, and maybe one day when I grow up I’ll learn how to function in a society full of buffoons.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

The face you make when someone asks you to sit in on yet another meeting.

In the last meeting, they thought I was taking notes.  Instead I was planning my post-deployment leave.  Thanks to PDRMA, I might get a week extra of leave.  An initial calculation puts me at 22 days.  I don’t believe anything until it’s in writing, so I’m going to assume I only have two weeks left.  I’m going to take a whirlwind tour of France and the UK.  I want to visit the Champagne region because I never got around to it during my initial leave.  Then I’m going to Paris again, then on to London for a week.

I already plotted out my entire itinerary based on 14 days.  I’m flying Space A into Ramstein and out of Mildenhall.  The only thing I really need are the dates.  Since there’s no way of actually knowing when the fuck I will be paroled from this misery, I will just have to wing it.  I figure I will have a better idea once I actually get on a plane.  Last time it only took me 2.5 days to escape Fort Hood.  It might be last minute and more expensive, but it is better than nothing.

It’s just giving me something to look forward.  For whatever reason going home is not enough of a motivator.  Maybe because there isn’t anything back there waiting for me, and I feel like it would be more of the same old-same old.  Really, I’m on the verge of just quitting everything and becoming one of these Bohemians that work their way around the world doing whatever the fuck they want.

I don't see what's wrong with this lifestyle.

I don’t see what’s wrong with this lifestyle.

I am going to take a page from my battle’s book and backpack—not in the traditional sense, though.  I’m too old for that.  But I might stay in a hostel in Paris because it’ll be so last minute, but when I get to London I’m doing my luxury route.  I’ll consider Scotland if I end up having these 20 days these people claim I’ll have.

Based on an arbitrary calculation I think I have nine more Sundays left.  I think this is the best way to think of it.  Higher said, “We have four paychecks left.”  Who the fuck wants to count dwindling paychecks?  Yeah, almost all of us are going back to jobs so it’s not like we won’t be getting paid ever again, but I can’t be like, “Four paychecks till I stop getting double paychecks.”  Someone else tried to count in hours.  Someone said, “Yeah, I did the calculation and it’s like 2100 more hours.”  I don’t know how accurate the calculation is but seriously, do you really want to count two-thousand, one-hundred, fifty-six hours, nineteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds?  Uh.  Nope.

Forget counting days too.  If I go with the rough estimate of nine weeks, then that’s like 63 days.  That’s still too much.  Nine Sundays sounds more reasonable and it doesn’t seem like a long time.

Operation: GTFO (Day 197)

mil 08

On the next Command Climate Survey I’m complaining they don’t serve Ruth’s Chris in the field.

After being divided up by gender, we were asked to further divide ourselves by race.

I feel like I’m the only person who understands that dividing people isn’t the way to bring them together.  Apparently, all of this came out from the command climate survey.  People felt like they were being mistreated based on race.

*bangs head on desk*

I just wish that people would look at things objectively.  Before you jump on race, maybe you should consider something else.  Across America, many people feel like everything is dependent upon race.  I do not believe this to be exactly true.  Do we all love each other?  No, but it isn’t race that divides us—it’s class.  IT’S MONEY!  Race can play a part in it, but I really think money is the driving factor for everything.

No one likes a poor person, whether you’re white, black or purple.  Even poor people don’t like other poor people.  If someone feels like you’re not good enough, it’s probably because you’re a deadbeat, broke ass bum—not because of the colour of your skin.  At least, that is my opinion.

All my life I had to work.

All my life I had to work.

The same theme permeates this circus of a unit.  The unit is about 60% minority.  (This is based on my observation and not actual numbers.  I know for sure that we have more minorities; I just don’t know the exact number.)  A number of the minorities happen to be our most junior-ranking Soldiers.  When we first arrived here, we had to task a large number of Soldiers to Higher Headquarters.  There was no debate about it.  Higher Headquarters said they wanted the Soldiers to fill in gaps within their own organization.  Anyone that has been in the Army longer than 15 minutes knows that means “shit detail.”

From my understanding none of the leaders of my own unit actually selected the Soldiers to go to Higher Headquarters.  The names were selected by our predecessor unit.  They ran down our roster and selected Soldiers based on rank and MOS.  A manning document does not contain race, so how the hell would they know who’s black or white?

These glasses help us see through the bullshit.

These glasses help us see through the bullshit.

We also did not even know the exact detail the Soldiers would be doing for Higher Headquarters.  We would later find out that some Soldiers ended up in nice office jobs.  One Sergeant even landed his very own room and vehicle because he was assigned to a cush position.  Some Soldiers were happy because they got tasks that were related to their MOSs.  Of course, you can’t please everyone.  One of the details was trash pick-up.

Before you start laughing, let me tell you how I would have been okay with a trash detail.  When we first arrived here, it was hot as fuck.  That does not sound pleasant because I hate being even the slightest bit warm, but these assholes only had to work about four hours a day.  They got up real early before the heat became excruciating.  The NCO that was in charge of them didn’t even have to pick up trash.  All that was required was to drive around and make sure the Soldiers were where they were supposed to be.

I can’t believe they’re making me fold my own clothes.  It’s cuz I’m tall, isn’t it?

I can’t believe they’re making me fold my own clothes. It’s cuz I’m tall, isn’t it?

That’s it.  I did hear that occasionally there was an extra hour or two, but the bottom line is that they were not putting in the same hours as everyone else.  They could go back to the barracks and sleep.  They could take care of their own personal business.  They could hit the gym, or shop, or do whatever they wanted and no one was even looking for them.  They pretty much had no oversight except that one NCO.

So what’s the problem?  Apparently, everyone on the trash detail was black.

I didn’t look upon it as black trash pickers.  I looked upon it as SPECIALISTS (E4s) picking up trash.  Typically, that is a job you assign to a junior Soldier.  I cannot imagine why anyone in their right mind would think an E8 should be out picking trash, unless he was on some kind of additional duty punishment (and even then I still don’t believe it would happen).  They didn’t see it that way, and they made a big deal out of it.  Also, I want to point out the Sergeant who ended up with his own room and vehicle is black.

If you’re from Oregon, you can’t get boots though.  Army regulation.

If you’re from Putnam County, you can’t get boots though. Army regulation.

Then there was the question of Soldiers who came from out of state.  We did not have enough from our home unit to make up the numbers, so we advertised for vacancies.  Soldiers from a number of states showed up.  Some of these Soldiers felt they were also mistreated because of they weren’t from Maryland (as if being from Maryland is something special).  There was a great deal of bitching about boots.  Six months before the deployment we were sized for boots at home station.  I am not even sure at that point we knew exactly which out of state Soldiers would be joining us, so obviously we didn’t have their sizes.  The boots arrived months later, after we had already got to AJ.  The out of state Soldiers saw the Maryland Soldiers getting boots and some felt like it was something underhanded.

The EO Lady comes back and divides us by race and rank.  I’m supposed to go into this room with other “African-Americans” of the same rank.  I had a huge problem with this.  Under no circumstances have I ever referred to myself as African-American.  What you choose to call yourself is a personal thing and I have always been of the mind that no one else can determine what I am. [Later, I would find out that you can actually call yourself whatever you want and no one can do anything about it.  So if I feel like being Eskimo, I can.]

I don’t have documentation but this blood test will prove I’m from Florida.

I don’t have documentation but this blood test will prove I’m from Florida.

When I told her I wasn’t African-American she wanted me to provide documentation to the contrary.  Well, where’s your documentation stating you are whatever you say you are?  Does anybody have some kind of card saying they’re white, like a White Person Card?  Okay, I do have documentation.  I have a piece of paper that says I was born in the United States, and that’s all you need from me.

I do refer to myself as having one particular origin over another.  I’m not talking about claiming I’m Chinese, or some shit.  The choice for me came down to an extremely personal matter that I did not care to discuss with her or anyone else.  She said because I did not have the documentation I would have to go to the African-American group.  You don’t tell me what to do.

I did not go.

I gather the purpose of these focus groups is to group commonalities, and that was the problem for me.  I could not sit in a room with the three African-Americans and even pretend like I had anything in common with them.  We have nothing of the same experiences.  We’re not on the same page.  Hell, we’re not even in the same fucking library.  I just flat out refused to go.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one refusing to go to these stupid ass groups.  Quite a few Soldiers ditched out of their focus group because they felt like they had nothing to say.  Then Higher put out that the groups were mandatory.  You can go to the focus group and just sit there, but you have to go.  What a total waste of time.  I still didn’t go.  Eventually my assigned group came and went.  EO Lady tracked me down and asked me to sit with her one-on-one.  I begrudgingly agreed to do this.

Who here wants to play the race card? Girl, yaaaas!

Who here wants to play the race card?
Girl, yaaaas!

The first few minutes was me basically staring at her.  She tried to revisit the barracks issue.  I told her I was finished talking about that situation.  Then she asked me about my leadership.  The questions were insane.  Who would really out of their mouth say, “I think my [insert leader here] is a piece of shit” and not expect some repercussions.  I told her I wouldn’t answer specific questions about anyone.  She went into some bullshit about reprisal and how no one can do anything to me if I talk.  Only a fool believes that.  You can cite whatever regulation you want; all of it is just paper.  She asked if I felt like my immediate boss was discriminatory.  I actually laughed in her face.  It’s a stupid accusation, and I knew immediately where it came from. A few weeks before all of this bullshit, a Soldier had an altercation with my boss.  During the Soldier’s vent session they told me they would play the race card if it came down to it.  I have no idea if this Soldier ever spoke with the EO Lady.  Who knew what could have transpired?  Why set myself up?  I did not witness the altercation between the two.  I only heard one side of the story.  Just because one Soldier wants to “play the race card,” it doesn’t mean we all do.  EO Lady did not ask me about that Soldier in particular, but she did keep drilling me about my boss and other key leaders.

Can’t decide if my boss hates me because I’m white or because I’m an asshole.

Can’t decide if my boss hates me because I’m white or because I’m an asshole.

Then she started asking very pointed questions about an individual I hardly even know.  It was actually a little bizarre.  This time I didn’t have to stonewall.  I honestly did not know the answers to her questions.  I felt like the Soldier was the subject of a witch hunt.  Who knows what the Soldier is actually involved in, I couldn’t say.

I felt only slightly more comfortable speaking with her one-on-one, but I still did not feel comfortable baring my soul to her.  I felt my answers would just stir up trouble, and that is what I explained to her.  I understood her role and position as an investigator of potential wrongdoing in the company but looked upon her as a harbinger of trouble.  We’re here for a few more months.  Why can’t you just leave it alone?  We’ll all go home where we belong and forget about this mess.

I feel like nothing good will come of her investigation.  I do not feel like she’ll come back and say, “Hey, I think everything is fine in the unit.  Have a good day.”  In fact, she told me there were serious issues that have gone to the next level and that she “did not know what the outcome would be.”

Why would I want to talk to someone that could destroy us all?  How would we progress if one of our leaders was removed from their position?  I just don’t see why we’re even doing this.  I mean, I do, but I don’t.  I just want everything to go away.

Operation: GTFO (Day 195)

As the Deployment Turns

Fail is not a strong enough word.

Fail is not a strong enough word.

I begin this with three words:  Command. Climate.  Survey.

Anyone who has been in the Army longer than 15 minutes has taken one of these.  You’re required to take one within a certain amount of days (National Guard) of receiving a new commander and then every year after that.

The survey asks questions like:

How do you feel about your unit?

Do you trust the members of your unit?

Does your Commander exemplify the SHARP program?

If you’ve ever taken one of these things, you can tell the Army is trying to steer you to answering a certain way.  The last two surveys I’ve taken are heavy on SHARP.  This last survey, every other question had to do with SHARP.

How often have you been sexually assaulted?

Do you sexually assault other Soldiers?

Does the Commander support sexual assault?

From my perspective, and my perspective only, there haven’t been any SHARP violations, and I felt the survey was unduly geared towards SHARP—as if nothing else is important.  Do not misunderstand me:  the Army does have a problem with sexual assault, but there are many problems with the Army.  Every problem should be given adequate attention.

When the survey asked me, “Are you deployed?” of course I answered yes.  Then it asked me, “What is your least favourite part of the deployment?”

This is where I went insane.  It was like something just snapped inside my head.  I really dislike these surveys because I do not feel like they affect much change.  I am forced to respond and tell you my feelings but then everything is filed away somewhere, never to be heard of again.

The thing asked several more questions, and I really dug down deep and said exactly how I felt.  I also mentioned names (or rather, position), because I don’t like to deal in, well, there was this one guy who might have said this… That really isn’t helpful.  I wish I hadn’t answered the questions so quickly because something did happen a few months ago that really bothered me and I forgot to mention it.  The moment has passed, and like I just said, it doesn’t matter anyway.  Nothing is going to change.

The results of the survey were far worse than I could ever imagined.

In all my years of being in the Army, I’ve never had to go and talk to Equal Opportunity representative about anything.  Even that incident at AIT didn’t cause a furor as this.  This EO Lady (that’s how I’ll refer to her) showed up to bring the hammer down.  She broke us all up by gender, rank and race and we had to go into these focus groups to talk about our feelings and the stuff that we wrote on the survey.

And just keep on asking them.

And just keep on asking them.

She did not say, “Hey, SSG, you wrote that you hate your boss.  Why?”

But she did ask, “How do you feel about SFC So-and-So?  Do you think he is an effective leader?”

And you were supposed to answer with everyone in your peer group staring at you.  I felt so uncomfortable my body temperature rose 10 degrees.  Then she started going in on what happened in the barracks about the stupid ass refrigerator and subsequent incidents.  I felt caught in the middle.  Why couldn’t everyone agree to disagree?  And why did my opinion matter?  I wasn’t the one involved, and I felt as if she were trying to get me to take sides on an issue that had nothing to do with me.  Yes, I did have an opinion but I felt it did not matter because I was not the injured party.  Why couldn’t this woman just try to work it out between the two people involved?  Obviously there was an issue between the two Soldiers.  A focus group with just the two of them would have made much more sense.  No one would have privy to what they say and they can really get off their chest everything that is bothering them.  Why did she interrogate all of us?  It made us divisive and some people were just flat out lying.  It was surreal and I wanted it to end.

The EO Lady said I was emotional.  I wasn’t emotional—okay, yeah, I guess anger is an emotion.  Unfortunately, when I become angry I cry about it–which makes me even angrier.  I wasn’t sad or depressed.  I was frustrated.  I did not agree with either Soldier in the Barracks Fiasco, bu since it did not involve me I did not care.  I guess by some standards that is a selfish way of looking at things, but lately I’ve been on this trip that if it ain’t about me then I don’t really give a fuck.

EO Lady kept going on and on, asking me how I felt and I really just wanted to tell everyone to fuck off.  I became so tired of talking about the situation.  I understand that it’s this woman’s job to investigate everything, but if I have said to you, “I refuse to answer your questions,” there’s really not much else you can do with that.  Move on.

Take your pick.

Take your pick.

I am not a middle of the road person; I have very strong opinions about a lot of things.  Over the years, however, I’ve learned I have to carefully pick my battles.  No one actually cares about what I think.  I have come a long way in accepting that.  I do not feel the need to voice my opinion on everything I come across.  I now save my energy for battles that truly need fighting.  I pick what is important to me and go from there.  That is what I wanted this woman to understand.  The size of the living quarters, yellow tape on the floor and respecting the barracks NCOIC are issues that don’t actually appear on my “Give a Shit” list.

I felt drained by the time we were done, and this crazy woman wanted us to do it again, but this time based on race.

Yes, race.  Let’s talk about Ferguson up in here, because apparently that’s where we’re at.

Operation: GTFO (Day 193)

I had to take a break from blogging because I felt like things were getting out of control.  I don’t want to add fuel to a fire already burning out of control.  We’ve gone someplace unfamiliar, and it’s become more than a snarky blog can handle.  I feel I must tread very lightly.

For the first few months I felt like this deployment was way better than the last deployment.  I cited less drama, more amenities and more freedoms as reasons why this was better.  After additional analysis, I have now changed my mind.  The drama is far more magnificent on this deployment than it was on the last, and because of that I think this is worse.

The Case of the Missing Refrigerator

I was out one evening, jogging or something.  When I returned I was told that Higher was looking for me.  I went down to her corner in the barracks but she wasn’t there.  I shrugged it off, thinking that if it was that serious she would just come find me.

The next day she did indeed find me.  She came to my office and said there would be an all-female meeting in the barracks that night.  I asked her why she was looking for me and she said she would talk about it at the meeting.  I was annoyed because I prefer to be more direct.  If there’s something to be said, just go ahead and say it.  Why wait until later?  What’s the difference?

Of course, she could have just used her fridge as a backpack and all of this would have been avoided.

Of course, she could have just used her fridge as a backpack and all of this would have been avoided.

When we got together for the meeting, she announced that someone had stolen a refrigerator from an empty cubby.  “Whoever took that girl’s refrigerator needs to put it back.”  The refrigerator in question belonged to a Soldier who is on assignment in another location.  She bought the refrigerator before she left.  Since you can’t stuff a fridge in your duffle bag, she left it in her cubby for her usage upon her return.

Apparently, someone had taken it and Higher was demanding that it be returned immediately.  Be advised that at the time of this incident there were only five females from our unit present in the barracks.  Most of the females had been assigned to other bases.  One was at school.  Of the five females that remained, every single one of them already had a refrigerator.  Apparently, Higher had not applied any logic to her accusation that one of us had taken the fridge.  There’s no reason anyone would need two refrigerators, especially since there are hardly any electrical outlets and there’s very little space.

When we all just stared at her with deer-in-the-headlights look, she launched into a tirade worthy for a toddler.

“Who took that refrigerator?  Whoever took it is a thief!  You need to put that refrigerator back right now!”  It went on and on for about five minutes, but we’re still just standing there, looking at her like she’s insane.

Let’s stop for a second.  The one thing I despise about the Army is that people get promoted because they just do.  You happen to have completed all your schooling.  You show up to drill on time.  You pass your PT test and all that stuff, and suddenly you are promoted to the next level.  It does not matter if you are qualified to lead people or not.  The Army is under the impression that anybody can be trained for leadership.  I completely disagree.  There are some people who are born to lead.  There are some people that can indeed learn to lead.  And there are some people who just were not destined for leadership at all.  They just aren’t.

Respect my authoritaaaaay!

Respect my authoritaaaaay!

I feel like Higher is one of these people who is just not a leader.  She probably knows her job quite well, but when it comes to managing people it’s a fail.  From what I observe, she lacks communication skills, empathy, and connection.  The Army feels like if you can do your job and pass a PT test, then you can be a good leader.  I just don’t agree with that business model.

Some of us tried to ask questions about the missing refrigerator but Higher just continued to scream.  She can’t look any of us in the eye, which doesn’t sit well with me.  I don’t like for people to talk to my feet, or the ceiling or the wall behind me.  If you’re addressing me, look at me.  That’s what I meant by connection.  I felt like she was screaming at her kids, but I am not one of her children.  No one could get a straight answer from her.

When I suggested the fridge might have been taken by one of the females from the other unit, Higher became almost ballistic.  Seriously, I thought she was going to have an aneurysm.  “Why would they take the fridge?”

Uh, because they’re leaving this weekend and it’s a quick way to make a dollar.  We shared the barracks with females from a chemical company.  Most of them had left their stuff for their replacements, but a handful of them had sold everything.  In fact, while Higher was on her rampage one of the girls from the other unit was at the door selling a refrigerator.

Trust me, the irony was not lost on me.  I like to think the refrigerator was sold at that very moment.  Of course, I have no way of ever proving that.

Whoever got that fridge is gonna be shot on sight.

Whoever got that fridge is gonna be shot on sight.

To fan the flames, some other NCO that doesn’t even live in the barracks with us showed up.  Her immediate behavior was belligerent and accusatory.  She seemed to have already decided what was going on.  To my mind, she directed most of her ire at two individuals.  She launched into this speech about respect and rank, which made no sense since the focus of the meeting was this fucking fridge.

An hour into this, I said, “Why don’t we just call the 1SG to resolve this matter?”  Higher did not want to do that.  They wanted to wait until the weekend for “the thief” to come clean.  I was not comfortable with that because you’re basically saying that someone in the barracks is snatching shit up, stealing things.  You can secure your clothes, small items and other minor valuables in your wall locker but you can’t secure your refrigerator in a locker.  You can’t put a TV in there either.  With this “thief” running around willy-nilly, anything is liable to come up missing.

I insisted on calling the 1SG but they ignored me.  I wish I had just done it anyway.  They could search our cubbies, find this stupid refrigerator and put the mystery to bed once and for all.  They decided to go through the cubbies and write down all the serial numbers of the fridges we already had.  Higher claimed that she had a list of items and serial numbers belonging to the females that were away.  “They gave me their serial numbers before they left.  I’m going to find out who has the fridge.”

When she said that, it really pissed me off.  Basically you’re saying we could have avoided this uncomfortable fiasco but you chose to come in here like a half-brained mutant.  If it were me, I would have gone straight to the 1SG.  “Hey, Top, we got a missing item in the barracks.  I have the serial numbers.  Can you and the Company Commander search the barracks for it?”  They’re the ones with the legal authority to do such a search.  I don’t need to have a meeting with anyone.  I don’t have to scream at anyone.  I can let my leadership handle the situation.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

What irked me was that Higher lied to us point blank.  She claimed that she had the serial number to the missing refrigerator.  She also said that she walked by the refrigerator every single day and that she knew it on sight.  The second problem is that only half the barracks was searched.  These two did not even search the other females in the barracks.  They couldn’t, of course, because we didn’t have any leadership present.

These two go through our cubbies and write down all the serial numbers to the fridges we’ve had for months.  Higher said she would compare these numbers with the list she had.  “I’m going to find that refrigerator.”

I was so pissed about the situation, the next day I went to my shop leadership and told them what happened from my perspective.  I told them how I thought Higher was purposefully singling out those two Soldiers.  They weren’t accusing those Soldiers of stealing the refrigerator, but there was some tension there that I felt was unnecessary.  What I hoped was that my leadership would involve company leadership to resolve all this bullshit.

That did not happen.

Instead, we all got called into the 1SG’s office individually to talk about what transpired in the barracks.  Apparently, someone had sent an inflammatory email to the 1SG and the CSM, which led to everyone accusing each other of everything from racism to fuckery.  No one would say who sent the email.  1SG wouldn’t say what was in the email but he intimated there were some pretty serious accusations in it and that he had to act upon it.

The Case of the Mysterious Email is a story for another day.

So who had the refrigerator?  Who even fucking knows?  The list of serial numbers did not exist.  The Case of the Missing Refrigerator was never resolved.

Operation: GTFO (Day 120)

Gender Woes

Really, this is could go either way.

Really, this is could go either way.

I normally do not call people out by name but this time I think the situation warrants it.  I have to put the Camp Arifjan USO on blast for what I felt was some kind of discrimination.  I absolutely hate going that route because I feel like the word is thrown around far too much these days, and it has lost significant value.  When you say discrimination, other people roll their eyes and automatically dismiss you as a complainer.  Just hear me out.

How can you keep quiet after this?

How can you keep quiet after this?

I’ve been in to football since my college days.  Don’t expect me to walk around quoting stats, or anything but I have love for the game.  I’ve only missed one Super Bowl since 1997, and that was in 2012 when I was too lazy to get up at 330AM for kickoff, while deployed.  Last week, 47 and I decided that we should go out to watch the games because we really can’t enjoy them here in the PCB.  Because of quiet hours, we can’t have the TVs up on full blast, and neither can we start screaming when our fantasy football quarterback throws a pick.  We tried the Zone 1 Community Center first, but they were having Oktoberfest.  As a last resort, we headed to the Zone 6 USO.

Personally, I don’t enjoy going to the USO in a deployment area.  The USOs at airports are great, but when you’re downrange the place is usually full of young male Soldiers.  It smells like cigarettes (even though you’re not allowed to smoke indoors) and there are dip cans everywhere.  The USO really is a place for everyone, but every time I go to the one on Buehring or Arifjan, I feel like I’m in a locker room with popcorn.

There's no way anybody voted for this.

There’s no way anybody voted for this.

It’s really hard to enjoy football while you’re deployed.  AFN can’t play every game.  They have this voting system on Facebook.  Whichever game with the most votes get airtime.  You kind of have to cross your fingers and pray that your team will get airtime.  Then you want your team to have the early game.  If you want to watch the game live, be prepared to get up at 3AM for kickoff.  If you love the game, well, this is what you have to do.  We lucked out because both our teams had an early game, and both our teams won the vote and got AFN airtime.  However, when we got to the USO we discovered that some parts were males only.  No, seriously, you read this correct.  There was a sign up outside one of the rooms that declared it to be a “broasis,” a place where the fellas can hang out without women.  Excuse me, isn’t that the vast majority of the Army?  The room was all set up with football stuff and I was like, “Oooh, awesome place to watch the game,” but since we are not male, well, I guess we can go watch the game out there with the rest of the unwashed masses.

This female football fan can stay, but the rest of you have to leave.

This female football fan can stay, but the rest of you have to leave.

We were very rudely informed that the room was for males only and we were asked to leave.  I really was offended.  I did find another spot to watch the game, but the whole time I was thinking about this “broasis.”  I thought to myself, well, what if I just set up a Vag Cave and declared it off-limits to all males.  Isn’t that exclusionary?  I feel like I should have Black Power night.  No white people can come.  I dislike any event that excludes any group of people based on factors they cannot change.

It bothered me so much that after the game was over I went to talk to one of the USO volunteers.  I do not know why I even bothered.  It was like talking to a stone wall.  His response was, “Well, we have ladies night.”  That is not a justification.  It is an excuse.  One wrong does not correct another wrong.   The USO does indeed sponsor a ladies night once a month.  I’ve never been but I saw the pictures on Facebook.  Ladies night was a group of women sitting around making soap.  If you would like to make soap, that is awesome.  I don’t want to make soap.  I want to watch football.  Who decided that soap-making is for women and football is for men?  Apparently, the USO volunteer.  He said, “Well, this was for the guys because football is mainly for men.”

Football is mainly for men.  I guess millions of female football fans did not get the memo.

The Army since forever.

The Army since forever.

When someone comes at you with such an irrational argument, it is better to walk away.  Knowing that I could persuade him, I chose to end the conversation.  He asked me not to leave but I could not stay there any longer.  He just did not understand how offensive the whole thing is.  Ladies night, broasis, all that stuff.  There is a huge problem in the military that is based on gender.  We should not have events that exacerbates that problem.  While the USO is not a military organization, it does support Service Members.  We belong to an organization that has historically excluded females.  The military’s answer to that problem was to include females, but only in certain capacities, as if we are somehow incapable of doing anything a man can.

Excuse me while I change in to my pink tutu.  I also have a tiara I'll be wearing with my ACU.

Excuse me while I change into my pink tutu. I also have a tiara I’ll be wearing with my ACU.  It matches with my glittery Hello Kitty M16.

Camp Arifjan USO basically perpetuated stereotypes that women are only interested in domestic activities and beauty tips.  Football is mainly for men, and manicures are mainly for women.  If you escalate that further, that is the same line of thought that states women cannot be combat arms or do any type of work outside of nursing or human resources.  You might feel like I’m over-exaggerating, but really, let’s look at the numbers.  Camp Arifjan USO, in case you did not know, women make up a mere 13.6 per cent of the active Army.  The military is an environment that has been dominated by men.  Until recently, women were excluded from certain positions based solely on gender.  Although the military has made great strides to be inclusive, there are still some positions not available to women.  Women could not permanently enlist in the Army until 1948.  As of January 2013, of 976 generals and admirals only 69 are female and none of them are in charge of anything combat-related.

It's White Male Night, and it's not discrimination because we're just celebrating who we are.

It’s White Male Night, and it’s not discrimination because we’re just celebrating who we are.

Some days it is an uphill battle being a female in the military.  Camp Arifjan USO is having a Princess Party for the next ladies’ night.  A princess party.  If I ever had to lead troops into battle, or get a male to follow my orders I first have to erase the perception that I am a delicate flower.  If I get hurt or I can’t do the job same as a man, it’s okay, I’m a princess.  I don’t want to be a princess.  I’m not a princess.  I’m a Soldier.  And it works both ways.  All stereotypes are damaging.  If a male wanted to make soap or get a manicure, then he is denigrated as gay, or somehow less than a man–when really, he’s just interested in those things.  If he doesn’t like football or sports, something is wrong with him.  I wish Camp Arifjan USO would move away from these stereotypes.  I doubt they will end Ladies’ Night or Guys’ Night, but maybe they might have events that are gender neutral, or sponsor activities that are more appropriate for this location and our occupation.  This month’s Guys’ Night is a Scavenger Hunt, which really sounds awesome.  Unfortunately, the ladies are having a Princess Party, which sounds like something a six year old would be interested in.  (I have since learned that the USO did indeed have a scavenger hunt for ladies’ night.  No word on a Princess Party for men, though.) I don’t speak for all women.  There are some ladies who feel like they are princesses.  What I’m asking is that we shake things up a bit.  Let me know when there is a ladies only cornhole tournament (actually, I suck at cornhole).  It would be awesome if Ladies’ Night was game night, and I can sit in a Vag Cave and drink [near] beer.  Oh, but I guess, since football is mainly for men, that might never ever happen.

I don’t want you to be confused.  I’m not a hairy-legged, bra-burnin’, women’s libber.  I just want to watch football.

Sources:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/women-in-the-military-statistics/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/24/us/military-women-glance/

Operation: GTFO (Day 119)

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate

You bring me cold coffee again, I will bury you.

You bring me cold coffee again, I will bury you.

Once again I find myself to be a disliked member of a unit.  The last time I found myself in this position, it was completely understandable.  This time, well, I really don’t give a damn because the source of dislike is actually really quite stupid.

This unit is slightly different than previous units I’ve been in.  It’s not a company or battalion—it’s a group, which is like a battalion, but not.  I’m not going to try to get into how it all works out.  All you need to know is that there are S-shops, so there’s a staff, and then there’s the company.  For the longest time, this meant absolutely nothing to me.  I felt like we were all a part of the same organization.  Now we’re two months into this, I see now why there is a distinction because they have made the distinction.

The staff is naturally made up of officers, but officers need support.  Who does that?  NCOs, of course.  So all the NCOs that work for the staff are also considered “the staff.”  This has led to the Staff vs. Company, or the haves and have-nots.  Officers have a tendency to do whatever they want.  They don’t really follow any rules, and I’m not mad at them.  If you are a battle-weary field grade officer, I feel like you’ve earned the right to do whatever the fuck you want.  If you are lucky enough to work for such an individual, well, then you get an opportunity to enjoy the ups and downs.

For me, it has truly been a roller coaster.  The disadvantages of my position is that I’m forced to work long hours, I am subject to menial tasks that are beneath my intelligence, and I find myself pulled in two different directions by people who don’t really give a fuck about me.  They say they do, but I know what’s up.  This ain’t my first rodeo.

Yeah, I'm gonna need you to work till midnight.

Yeah, I’m gonna need you to work till midnight.

Really, I want to be here, and I knew what I was getting into when I signed up.  I’m smart enough to put up with the bullshit.  Not everyone can handle working for the staff.  There has already been one NCO fired from his staff position because he was incapable of following the most basic of orders.  And you can’t be sensitive either.  These officers say whatever they want.  They do whatever they want.  They don’t really give a shit about you because they are looking for their next piece of brass and they will run over anyone that gets in their way.  I am witnessing this with my own eyes, listening to the things they have to say about one another.  It’s a dirty game, and sometimes it can be amusing to watch.  Other times, it’s scary because eventually everyone has to take a turn.

While the company level NCOs are complaining that I appear to be in a cake job, let me count the ways on how it’s not.  The company has set working hours of 0800 to 1600.  They get off every day at 1559.  Where am I at 1600?  Still in the office, tap dancing on hot rocks, while balancing ginsu knives and hemophiliac babies, to please these people that I work for.  On Saturday, the company works 0800 to 1200.  Where am I?  I’m waiting for these people to get back from their country club lunch.  My co-worker has wasted away to nothing, starved to death because no one thought she was important enough to eat lunch.

Pictured:  47 waiting for our boss to remember that she too has to eat lunch.

Pictured: 47 waiting for our boss to remember that she too has to eat lunch.

Whenever Higher decides he doesn’t want to go to a meeting, guess who gets to go?  I do.  Then I get to feel stupid when GEN COL MAJ looks at me like an insect because I can’t answer his high-level questions.  That’s cool, fuck off, GEN COL MAJ.  That’s my answer to your question.  Oh, Higher wants to get promoted?  Let’s take on 15 new tasks to impress GEN COL MAJ.  Who gets to work those tasks?  Here you go, NCO.  I need you to get on these hot tasks right away.  I need my OER to look good.  Oh, did something get fucked up?  Higher was supposed to send those emails.  Whose fault is it?  My fault.  I’m sorry I did not strap you down to your computer and drag your hands all over the keyboard so you could respond to GEN COL MAJ.  That’s cool if you tell him that I hacked into your computer and deleted all of your emails.  Everything is my fault.

Am I still at work after dark?  Did I come back to work after dinner?  Did I just stay up all night waiting for Big Boss?  Did I still come to work the next day on time?  Go to training and go to work and go to all these meetings and write all your emails?  That’s cool.  I’ll dance that dance.  One night I left my bed and drove two hours down the street to pick up some people.  I sat in a parking lot for three hours, then drove two hours back to base.  We returned to the base at 4AM, and we still had to come to work and work all day long.  What response did we get for doing this?  “You didn’t help with their bags.”

Please shred these papers, one by one, in alphabetical and chronological order.  Also, color code them.

Please shred these papers, one by one, in alphabetical and chronological order. Also, color code them.

Anybody that really knows me knows that I don’t do anything for free.  There is a reason I’m here busting my ass, and it ain’t so I can drive around off-post in a brand new Escalade.  These dumbass mother truckers feel like we get special treatment because we work over here.  No, we’re just not idiots.  That’s all.  If you weren’t dumb as a hat box, this might have been you.  The complaint is that they feel like we’re always the ones who get to “do everything,” and by everything, they mean going off post and participating in activities with the staff.

Let’s examine this and really break down why this is an idiotic complaint.  First, any Soldier can get off post now they’ve lifted all the restrictions.  When we first arrived, all Soldiers did the mandatory paperwork and training necessary to be able to go off post.  There were no exceptions.  All Soldiers were required to get their in-country license.  It took a while to get this done, but now mostly everyone has a license.  If you don’t have a license you can get in a vehicle with someone who does.  Company policy requires two or more Soldiers to travel.  So basically, PFC Doucheface can ask for a vehicle and take his happy little ass to the mall.

Apparently, because we do not go around inviting everyone, we’re assholes.  I don’t want to hang around with everyone.  My days of going to the mall in a horde ended when I was 17.  My days of wasting money in chain restaurants are over.  I do not hang out with people who complain about the cost of a cup of coffee.  I don’t hang out with loud-talking, rude, uncultured idiots.  If you don’t know what fork to use, I don’t have time for you.

If I wouldn’t sit down to dinner with you in the United States, what makes you think I’m prepared to sit down with you in a foreign country where people already look at us like we’re barbarians?  It’s really that simple.

If the Staff invites me to dine with them, it’s probably because they might see me on their level.  I am not going to speak for them, but since I don’t make an ass of myself that might be why I’m seen as fit company.  If you’re not invited, you might want to take a look at yourself and who you’re trying to hang with.  Maybe you’re just not a good fit, socially.

Bitch, can you even read!?!

Bitch, can you even read!?!

I don’t see the Staff as my friends.  Because of rank, they’re not my peers.  I’m just someone who works in their office.  I put up with all their idiosyncrasies.  I hold their hands.  I baby-sit when required.  I do whatever is necessary to get through the day in this office.  I’ve been able to go home “on time” maybe two or three times since being here.  If the tradeoff is being invited out to dinner, then yeah sure, I guess I’ll take that because I’m not going to get anything else.  I might get a half-assed “good job,” followed by a “but really you need to….” I take whatever I can get.  If that means one random weekend I get free reign to do whatever the fuck I want, well, that’s just how it is.

I just hate the “it’s not fair” argument.  Lots of shit ain’t fair.  I don’t feel like it’s fair that I have to attend NCODP and then come to work and make up all the time I missed at training.  I don’t feel like it’s fair that I have to sit in the office while Higher is swimming.  I don’t feel like it’s fair that I get shit on because of stuff outside of my control.  Seriously, no fucks are given for any of these people.  I am not shedding a single tear these people have taken a set against us.  I didn’t want to hang out with you in the first place.  I’m just glad we’ve finally got this cleared up.

It’s never been a secret that I’m ambitious.  I do what I need to do to get ahead in life.  Believe me, there are far more disadvantages than there are advantages.  If you’re a hater, well, keep on hate, hate, hatin’.  I’m sorry you picked an MOS that requires you to kick rocks.

Operation: GTFO (Day 118)

The Mystery of the Bathroom Smell

bad-smell-ad1At long last I’ve solved the mystery of the bathroom smell.  Every time we come back from being away for a long period of time, we would smell this smell.

47 was the first to notice.  “How come it smells like a bathroom in here?”

The temporary bathrooms have this curious smell, and I notice that if you spend any amount of time in there, you return with that odor clinging to you.  It is most aggravating to smell like a urinal cake.  All the bathrooms have toilets and urinals, but they are designated male or female.  I guess it was just cheaper to get the his-and-hers toilet set.

My only explanation for the bathroom smell was that someone had been hanging out in the toilets and they came back to the barracks with that smell on them.  But sometimes it would linger, and it’s really all you could smell.  One time it gave me a headache.  I have a very sensitive nose.  I can smell everything.  Even when the smell is good, if it hangs about too long or is too powerful, it drives me nuts.

A lot of us have resorted to burning candles, warming wax tarts or just spraying the place down with an entire bottle of Febreeze.  You’re not supposed to burn candles or warm wax tarts, but really, I can’t sit in there for any period of time with that smell, like a sun-ripened urinal cake.

We share a barracks with the Chemical Girls (that’s what I call them).  They were already living there when we moved in.  It depends on who you ask if we get along.  They seem to be heavy on the lesbian side.  I don’t say that to be offensive; I say it because there are some strong indicators.  One of them came right out and said she was a lesbian, and there are at least two others that have the look.

KTHXBYE

KTHXBYE

Yeah, yeah, go away with your EO.  I’m not gay-bashing, because I could really give two shits if they’re gay or not.  There is one chick that looks so much like a man that if I happen to get up in the middle of the night and I see her, I’m like, “Why is that guy in here?”  She is the one that drags her feet.  One night I screamed, “Pick up your feet!!!” because I really cannot stand the sound of slippers dragging across the floor.

As further evidence to their alleged lesbianism, one of them frequently asks the confessed lesbian to cuddle.  Or rather she shouts across the barracks, “Hey, you want to cuddle?”  Sometimes I hear them talking about massaging each other, but this really isn’t about the lesbianism.  They could have a gay orgy for all I care, just as long as there is no smell.

There is a very weird one, Mewling Myrtle.  She is the one that was blasting the Jesus music the second day we moved in.  I call her Mewling Myrtle because whenever she listens to music she doesn’t exactly sing along, she mewls, like a dying cat.  It is very low, like you almost can’t hear it, and it’s always off key, but it’s this weird moaning.  One night I thought she was crying.  Another time I thought she was chanting.  It’s just strange.

Well, Mewling Myrtle is the reason why the barracks smell like a toilet.  Two nights ago, I’m lying in bed when I hear the sound of water being splashed about.  Not like a cup of water, mind you, but more like when you overturn a bucket of water.  I kept hearing this over and over, and after a few minutes that smell showed up again.

Why does it smell like that?

Perfectly safe for washing.

Perfectly safe for washing.

I got out of my bed and peeked out of my cubby.  Mewling Myrtle is on her hands and knees scrubbing at the floor.  I don’t even know why she is doing this.  First, the floor is made of concrete.  What are you scrubbing?  Secondly, you don’t need that much water because it is impossible to keep out the dust.  I sweep my corner every single day.  There is always dust.  I do use a Swiffer wet thingy but really, it doesn’t do anything but make the floor smell like bleach for 10 minutes.

So at least I figured out where the water sound was coming from.  She had a bucket and she was dumping water on the floor, scrubbing for a little bit, dumping more water on the floor and scrubbing some more.  I also realized that’s where the smell came from, but I could not figure out why.

So, like I said, I use a Swiffer to mop my corner.  It has a little bottle of bleach juice.  It doesn’t use water.  I don’t think anybody else in the barracks actually mops the floor, but there are a few that use a Swiffer.  Imagine my surprise when 20 minutes later I get up to go to the bathroom and I find Mewling Myrtle in the bathroom, with her bucket, filling it up with water from the urinal.

Water from the urinal.

Now everyone has the ebola.  Thanks, bitch.

Now everyone has the ebola. Thanks, bitch.

The water used in these temporary bathrooms is non-potable.  There are signs that say do not use it to drink.  Do not use it to brush your teeth.  The sign doesn’t say so, but I wouldn’t use it to wash with.  Non potable water is very tricky because it depends on what has been done to the water.  Was it sewage water first?   How many microbes are in the water?  I mean, it’s good for flushing the toilet, which is probably why they don’t want you drinking it or brushing your teeth.  Should you be slathering it all over the floor of your living quarters?

 

Yum!

Yum!

Okay, maybe I’m hyperventilating but the water has a smell to it.  It stanks like a dirty toilet.  I don’t have any proof, but I wonder if the water in the temporary bathrooms is just recycled over and over again, from the toilets back into the toilets.  I mean, I just found it to be bizarre.  Imagine back home in your house and someone in your household is using toilet water to wash dishes.  Who does that?  As 47 asks, “What kind of life did a person have growing up that you thought that was okay?”  It has never crossed my mind that water from a toilet would be acceptable, even in the US where the water for flushing is required to pass EPA standards for drinking.

But these chicks are leaving this weekend.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to solve the mystery of the Barracks Shitter before they depart.