Well, I finally found that semi-quiet night here (thanks, Mother Nature) and a chance to grab some of that wonderful Camp Phoenix chow hall wi-fi to put a few thoughts down.
I could/would blog more -- much more, in fact -- but the high-speed Internet we have in our TOC (Tactical Operations Center) says no to blogspot. The funny thing is, Facebook, Yahoo mail, and Gmail are all somehow okay. I can access richardhowe.com but somehow nothing else that's on Wordpress. There's a crappy public wi-fi access spot on the base, but it seriously took me about a half-hour just to get to where I could type...and the connection keeps coming in and out, but thankfully blogger will automatically save any drafts I have.
The other limiting factor is time. The 16+ hour days are just sort of stacked endlessly on top of one another, and the demands placed on our intel section are constant and endless.
The good news, though, is that this will be all over in not *that* long. The first wave of new guys (Advance Echelon, or ADVON) is already here, and the rest of the crew will be here in two weeks or less. After moving through Manas Kyrgyzstan to Fort Dix to Reading, MA I should be home in early to mid-FEB.
Thankfully, I haven't heard a single shot fired in anger or felt the *pucker factor* of combat in the entire ten months I've been here. So coming home I'm not dealing with PTSD, or the after-effects of violence, related nightmares, or anything like that. The strongest single feeling that I have though, is the need to recapture lost time.
By that, I sort of mean everything. First and foremost, it's the time that I haven't spent with my wife and daughter, who I tend to think about more and more the closer I get to the big C-17 ride. That would apply no matter what I had been doing over here. After that, there's also the personal time that just doesn't exist here in this position. Don't get me wrong -- there are many jobs here that, based on duty MOS or paygrade, require only a fraction of the hours that mine does (say, someone who works in the Finance Office or in Admin). Then there are others that require long hours but are essentially just downtime punctuated by short periods of work (say, a radio operator in the TOC, esp. on the overnights). There are others still that require physical labor and occasional long days but come with lots of in-between time (say, a crew member on an MRAP movement team that ferries people around Kabul).
Either way, what I'm looking forward to most is seeing and spending time with Ratriey and Lily. Next to that, though, is just having a bit of personal time to do just about anything...whether it's walking along the canals, whether it's reading the Sunday Globe in bed or on the couch, or it's going to dinner with Ratriey and her mom and not feeling constantly rushed, it's going to feel dream-like for the first few weeks. Third, I would say, is what I'd call re-joining the world. Without even getting into an assessment of what I've done here, or who I think it's helped (or hasn't), where it's been relevant to the overall mission (or not), there's a big disconnect between what I work on here and anything that I will do, or want to do, back home. Rejoining the world is sort of how I envision catching up with friends, getting back into the groove with groups (i.e. LDNA, VFW, Global Vets, reading group, etc.), and getting on track with professional networking type of things.
Eventually, everything will sort of just become normal again, and I sincerely hope never to be mobilized for a twelve-month clip ever, ever again. (I am trying to angle my way into a unit at Devens that directly supports CENTCOM, and tends to do shorter tours when called up).
But for the first few weeks or months back in the states, if it seems like I'm still *on a mission* -- and maybe even obsessively so -- it's probably because I am. And the mission is to take advantage of every nanosecond that I can spend immersed in my reallife.
In the meantime, that time thing is nagging at me again. Just taking the time to write this means a delay in the reports that are due in the morning, which means being here until nearly noon, and with convoy duty in the mid-afternoon, it means another night of, well, you get the idea. More of the bleary eye stuff.
With that said, I have no plans to blog again until at least Manas, if not Fort Dix or even good 'ol Lowell come February. When I do, I'm looking forward to doing some local traveling (a modified 351 club is the goal), and taking the blog in a more interview-y type direction.
In the meantime, thanks for reading this far, and I greatly look forward to catching up with you next month...and when we get the chance, I hope we can both take at least a brief moment of quiet, or reflection, or maybe just laughter that goes on for that extra second or two to appreciate the time afforded to us to be able to do it.