Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Got Drafted for the Iraq War?

Several of the soldiers I served with could be considered draftees. At least, they were serving very much against their will and were surprised to receive a FEDEX package telling them to report for pre-deployment training within two weeks.  Most of the soldiers I knew who got called back adapted well after the initial shock.  One did not.

One of the Battle Captains in our aviation unit was Jay Hoffman.  He received a FEDEX telling him to report for duty in two weeks for deployment in Iraq.  His home is in London where he works for an oil exploration firm.  Jay was a Black Hawk pilot and had left the service several years ago, but did not resign his commission, so he got the FEDEX and went to Iraq with us.  A couple of days ago,
he wrote me from the Congo to ask me how things were going.  Jay applied for the MBA program at the London School of Economics while we were in Iraq and was accepted for the fall 2010 class so he will be changing his career again.  He also is completing all the courses he needs to be a reserve major so he can be in a reserve unit instead of getting a FEDEX with no warning next time.

Chief Warrant Officer Suzy Danielson left the military in 1994 after serving as a Black Hawk pilot during the Gulf War and in Somalia.  She did not resign her warrant commission, and did not really give the Army a second thought from 1994 until 2008 when she got a FEDEX package telling her to report for duty.  She had not flown a Black Hawk since 1994, but worked as a flight instructor for fixed wing aircraft since she left the Army.  She had to brush up on the Black Hawk, but flight was very much second nature.  When I met her she was flying the chase bird on MEDEVAC mission--the Black Hawk with door guns that follows the MEDEVAC bird.

One of the stranger recalled soldiers was an extremely unhappy female sergeant major who was activated out of retirement to go to Iraq.  She had retired several years before and never expected to be at Tallil Ali Air Base, but the condition on the military retirement is "return to duty" when requested or forfeit all pay and benefits for the rest of your life.  The sergeant major did not want to lose her retirement so there she was running the chapel coffee shop called "God's Grounds."  She was assigned to a support battalion, but was unhappy enough that they sent her to the chapel.  I heard her explain her circumstances several times--losing no vehemence no matter how many times she repeated her story.