"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Adventure number four

Today, along with the start of deployment number four (or daddy's big adventure, if you're Aaron), I'm also beginning another phase of slowly eliminating my need for a laptop: blogging, with the digital keyboard, on my iPad.  We'll see how long this lasts.

Anyway, I can finally talk about something besides how long it's been since the last time I talked about something.  Yesterday (possibly two days ago; or maybe two hours ago, since the International Date Line has really screwed with my perception of reality), I commenced chapter four of the action-packed book, "Places the Marine Corps Has Sent Me That Look Exactly Like The Worst Parts of 29 Palms".  As most of you know, this deployment was delayed due to the tragic passing of Bree's father.  My command was completely supportive of letting me go to help Bree's family take care of matters back east, and worry about me coming out there later.  Well, later is now; after two weeks of haranguing various chains of command, I finally got booked on a ride to join the Flying Tigers in the wilds of Afghanistan.

Or did I?  Having been assured the Friday before departure that my travel arrangements were in order, I showed up at the mustering area at zero dark thirty Monday morning, only to be told by the movement officer that he had no record of me getting on the flight that was leaving in a few hours.  Waking up most of the logistics officers in MAG-16 eventually corrected this, but for a good hour I was afraid I'd be calling the squadron to tell them that I was just kidding about that whole 'finally coming out to join you' thing.  Even after these assurances, the plan still boiled down to: get on the bus, go to the airport, and see what happens.

I was let on the plane without undue fuss.  There was a little fuss during boarding, but not about me.  Rather, the Army contingent traveling on the plane with us engaged in a little creative seating assignment.  On all past deployments, the rules have been clear: first class seats are reserved for officers, starting with the most senior and going on down until all officers are seated, then putting senior enlisted in any open seats, and on down the line.  For you non-military types this may seem vaguely like class warfare writ small, but it's really the simplest way to avoid arguing who gets to sit there.  Rank hath its privileges, after all.  Anyway, the Army contingent boarded first, and decided that they, regardless of rank, were going to bogart all of first class because they got there first, and they're Army Strong.  Thus, there was some consternation when the Marine and Navy contingents boarded, with commanders and majors discovering that their seats were taken by overweight Army specialists.  I took some guilty pleasure in watching an Army lieutenant try to explain to an unimpressed Navy commander why his warfighters shouldn't have to make room for him.  Eventually, they did.  This gave me an opportunity to move forward to the big seats, but I had already taken residence in a row I had to myself, and besides, I had no desire to be in close proximity with chickensh*t of that nature.  Let them keep their seats; they managed to start their deployment earning the contempt of every non-Army person on that plane.

The ride over was uninteresting.  I started my deployment ritual by reading a new Steven Pressfield novel - Killing Rommel - and watching 300, one of my two traditional 'ride over' movies (Transformers is my other one.  Don't ask why these are what I choose to begin deployments with.  It has less to do with quality and more with I've done this every other time, and the deployments went okay.  Why mess with what works?).  And now I'm cooling my heels in lovely Kyrgystan, waiting for the ride to my final destination.  The transit center here is quite well furnished, though with its own idiosyncrasies (there's booze, but not for deploying units.  And there are some interesting reflective belt rules, as we were told in our welcome aboard brief. And I quote: "from sunset to sunrise, reflective belts must be worn by members of all services, with the exception of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines".  Since there's no coast here to guard, that only leaves one.  Hooah, Army Strong.  Guess it's asking too much of you guys to go out at night and not get run over on a base where the speed limit is 5 mph).

That's all for now.  Next time I write here, it'll be from Alexander the Great's old stomping grounds.  And as my family has already asked if I had not, in fact, already been to AtG's old stomping grounds - Iraq - the answer is yes; but old Alexander did a lot of stomping.  Kandahar is one of the many cities he named after himself, and the genetic markers of his Macedonians are still present today, in the form of pale-skinned, blue-eyed, red-headed Afghanis.  Pat, I will try to get you a relic of Bucephalus, but given that a dozen other armies have invaded here between then and now, don't get your hopes up.

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