Friday, October 5, 2007
War is Hell
2111 hours: The air conditioner in this hotel room vibrates and makes an irritating sound. Over-all, it’s not a bad room – microwave, refrigerator and even a stove top, although I will almost surely never cook anything that doesn't fit in the microwave. Even the TV works fairly well, so I can keep up with my favorite news network – Fox News.
My current life of bouncing around from fort to camp to fort isn’t really bad, but you are still not home. It’s a life of fast food, microwave meals and no chance to have dinner with the wife. This old soldier must endure his nights in air conditioning, in America with no mortars, rockets or improvised explosive devices. A little sweat during the day, but a chance to cool off at night and watch “Survivorman”. Poor baby….
Then I get out with the soldiers - the officers, the sergeants and the troops who are living in a temporary “forward operating base” as they train for their mission at war. As often happens in the Army, training changes, events are postponed or some crisis makes the soldiers’ days more difficult and challenging.
It’s all good – even the stuff that’s a pain – because it helps them remember that there is very little certainty in war. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and deal with whatever fate hands you on any particular day. Life in war is a roll of the dice and, in the end, it is both the soldier’s skill and those damned odds that determine whether he lives or dies.
This group is lucky in one way. Most of their leadership – officers and sergeants – are war veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq or both. They know what to expect and they are helping us prepare their troops. Still, even the experienced soldiers left their families behind. They may see them once more before they fly out of here, but there will be no Christmas at home in 2007.
We have dealt with those first irritating weeks of mobilization. Their minds are at home with the wife and kids. Tempers are short and sometimes there can be a tendency for our warriors to snap at each other. Still there is a bonding in progress.
The soldiers who have just joined the unit are getting to know their new comrades. As they share the difficulties of training, they start to depend on each other more and more. By the time they enter the war, new friends will become lifetime ones.
They are going to war; I am staying here. In many ways, I envy them, but more importantly, I care about them. I promise you that I will do whatever I can to make them ready.
Well, I'm done with the reports, the charts and the training records. Time to chill out for awhile, then get a good night's sleep. We'll be with the troops again before dawn.
Please pray for them - tonight and every night.
SFC Chuck Grist