Yesterday morning, we pushed out at oh-dark-thirty to start a 24-hour exercise that involved convoy movement, reacting to IEDs, *quelling* ambushes, and towing disabled HMMWVs. It was pretty cool. Very scripted (it was the same thing 3 x in a row, just first without firing shots, then with blanks, and then with real rounds), but still very "hooah" for me because this is the first time I've done this stuff, which is unusual for someone wearing the two bars.
We did it all over again at night, so another big "first" I can check off my list is being able to move, shoot, and communicate while wearing night-vision goggles. Previously, that sort of not-quite-focused greenish imagery was something I only saw in movies and CNN.
Then today, four other soldiers and I trekked down to "regular" Fort Hood for a class on CIDNE (Combined Information Data Network Exchange), a really cool software tool that helps users understand their environment by graphically depicting the Significant Actions (SIGACTs) that occur in the neighborhood.
So in just a span of a few hours, I got to go from jumping out of a gun truck to put down an imaginary ambush with real bullets to "dorking it out" with imagery overlaid with important events on a software system that we'll use in our TOC (Tactical Operations Center).
Two key observations here, both about the nature of modern warfare.
First, the modern U.S. soldier carries way more stuff than his counterpart from any other era or country. In fact, adjusting to all that *stuff* has been one of the toughest transitions for me. It's like, no matter how solid I am with PT, cultural knowledge, Dari, or the day-to-day taskers, I'm still going to look like a soup sandwich if I've got loose straps hanging off my gear, or my helmet looking cockeyed on my head. I know all the stuff we carry is useful, and much of it potentially life-saving, but it sort of makes me think back to Band of Brothers and long for the simpler times when a guy went into the field with his rucksack and rifle. Period. However, those *simpler* times probably meant leaner chow, worse combat medical aid, and greater risk, so I'll stop short before really wanting to make the trade.
Second, the modern U.S. soldier is expected to perform more roles than most peers across time, countries, and cultures. I hesitated and then balked there to use a superlative (I was sure of the first because I know the Roman centurions weren't carrying heavy radios and laser range-finders, but I don't know if they were doing what we'd call Civil-Military missions...and I'm not arrogant enough to say they weren't). My transition from emptying a magazine of 5.56 rounds to plotting points behind a laptop screen isn't even considered remarkable in today's Army. If you'll pardon the awful pun, that's just how we go rolling...along. In fact, that doesn't even factor in the roles of medic, aid worker, social worker, radio operator, diplomat, negotiator, and trainer that any single deployed soldier might be performing in a single day.
Time to go to bed. Stepping off to lead PT tomorrow at the crisp hour of 0450.