Monday, May 28, 2012

Catch 22 and Living in Pennsylvania

This post is a week late.  Most people don't live in the state where they grew up, so the fact that I have lived in PA for more than three decades after growing up in MA is not a big deal.  But how I came to be a PA resident is straight out of Catch-22.  That wonderful, dark book has many messages, but among them is:  In the Army (government) Paperwork is reality, Reality ranks below paperwork.

So if there is a conflict between paperwork and reality, reality loses.

Several years ago, I wrote about the scientist in charge of the Soviet nerve gas program.  This long-suffering man was drafted into the Soviet Army in 1941 to repel the German invasion.  He was Lithuanian.  When the Soviets took over his country, they took his families home and looted it.  Yet he fought for the Soviets.  Bravely.  He was twice gravely wounded, once left for dead.  He was decorated many times.

After the war he went to Moscow to get soldiers preference admission to college.

He was denied.

Why?  the paperwork indicated he died in 1943 in the Battle of Kursk.  He was left for dead, but was quite alive and standing in front of the Soviet official.  It took months to prove he was alive.  Eventually he did.

When I re-enlisted in the Army a year after I left the Air Force, I signed up in Lancaster PA.  I was talking college classes, but not a resident.  I compared the offers of recruiters in Lancaster and Boston and went with the one Lancaster.  I signed the enlistment giving my address as PO Box 334 Brownstown PA.

Four years later I was in Germany and getting ready to get out and go to college.  I was planning on going back to MA when I was told I was not a resident of MA.  I lived in Stoneham MA from birth to my first enlistment.  My parents were still living in the house they bought in Stoneham in 1957.

Didn't matter.  My DD Form 4 (enlistment) said I was a resident of Brownstown and my stuff would get shipped no further.

But it turned out that DD Form 4 meant I was legally a PA resident.  I could attend Penn State at resident rates!  I applied and got in.

I became a PA resident the moment I signed that DD Form 4, no matter where my family lived.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Told My Boss

This morning at 845 am I told my boss about the deployment.  She was great.  She supports the military and understands that I want to go.  Maybe just as important she understands adventure.  She told she and her family are going to the Caribbean for the weekend.  She plans to swim with a whale.

On Tuesday we will be making plans for putting someone else in my job for a year.  Two of my co-workers may get a chance to see if they like my job.  Of course, nothing  is for sure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On the Roller Coaster

Late yesterday I talked to the sergeant in charge (NCOIC) our the battalion admin section.  She dropped the likelihood of me going to Afghanistan from 70% to 30%.  The problems are technical but real in the sense that if there is not an open slot, I can't fill it.  She (the NCOIC) said a lot of people are still trying to figure out a way I can go, but her 20-year experience in Army paperwork says what every soldier knows:  paperwork is reality.  Before I can get aboard the long flight, all the paperwork will be right or I won't go.

My wife said she is going to plan for the deployment no matter what anyone says.  She said if someone definitely tells me "No" she will consider that maybe, but if someone definitely says "Yes" then I am going.  She is a smart woman.  And she knows how determined our sergeant major is.  So while I ride the roller coaster--at least in the emotional sense--she will wait.  She said, "I will know you aren't going when the plane leaves and you are here."

Of all the books I have read about the military, the one that best describes paperwork is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.  If you haven't read and you like black humor, it's the best book of its kind I have read.

Next post I will tell you why I am a PA resident and a Penn State graduate and how Army paperwork made that happen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Up and Down the Chain of Command

Those of you who read this blog while I was in Iraq will remember that my move from the motor pool to battalion headquarters came when Command Sergeant Major Christine came to me and said, "Do you want to do the newsletter full time?"  I said I did.  Next day I was in the Battalion HQ.

On Saturday (see yesterday's post) the CSM had a plan. On Sunday it went from idea to plans and reality.  At 8am I was on a Chinook flying to Boalsburg to take pictures at the annual 28th Division Memorial Day Celebration.  This year Gov. Tom Corbett was the speaker.  If you are curious, 147 photos here.

The Battalion Commander flew the Governor and The Adjutant General to the ceremony in a Blackhawk.  While the BC was waiting to take off we had a chance to talk about the deployment.  He and the CSM had talked and he would do his best to make it happen.

His aircraft was the first to take off from the ceremony.  The Chinook I was riding in left an hour later.  When we got back, I walked through the flight facility--they have the best coffee within ten miles of Fort Indiantown Gap.  One of the pilots saw me and said, "You're going Dude."  When I got back to the armory, the admin officer and NCO both said "We're going to find you a slot."

I walked outside with the CSM.  He said, "Tell your family.  You're going."

Monday, May 21, 2012

Going to Afghanistan

After Saturday's drill the Sergeant Major laid out for me how I could go on the deployment and spend time with each of the three Aviation units going.  "Keep a rucksack packed and fly from place to place" is the plan.  All three units form a task force, so I would just have to be sure I was part of the troop count in each location:  The BOG report or Boots on Ground.

He asked if I was ready to go and wanted to go. I said I was.  He said he would clear it with the commander.  That's the topic of the next post.


In the morning of this drill day, I got to fire an M240B door gun on a 300-800 meter pop-up target range.  My spotter, Staff Sergeant Blake Andrews, said he thought I knocked down the 800-meter target.  I definitely hit the 600-meter target.  Lots of fun!!!!  Here's a video of another soldier firing, Sgt. Mike Machinist, a Chinook flight engineer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Twas the Night Before Basic. . .

. . .and in a Kenmore Square bar,
I drank way too much
And Frank drove my car.

This long-haired drunk smoking a cigarette is me, just forty years and a few months ago.  I've been so focused on getting an extension to stay in the Army, I forgot that Feb 1 was the 40th anniversary of my initial enlistment.

On that auspicious evening, my best friend Frank Capuano, my sister Jean and others I cannot remember took me to a basement bar in Kenmore Square, Boston, for pitchers of beer before I left for basic.  In Boston in 1972, 3.2% beer was legal for 18 year olds.  

So we drove to Boston and I drank way too much--something that has always been easy for me.  I can get drunk on three beers.  I got really drunk.  Enough that I fell off my chair onto the sawdust-covered floor.  One of the bouncers decided I had enough and carried me up the stairs over his shoulder.  The bouncers wore vertical-stripe red and white shirts.  Looking at the shirt and bouncing caused me to throw up on the bouncer.  He tossed me into the alley.  

I was up at 6am to go to Logan Airport for the flight to basic.  Not a great beginning.  But it turned out OK.

By the way, we tried to get in the Ratskellar across the street.  Aerosmith--a local bar band at the time, was playing at the Rat.  But they wouldn't let us in.  So we settled for K-K-Katy's.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thanks to Everyone Who Voted

"Home from Iraq" is a finalist for the 6th Annual Milbloggie Awards this weekend in at the Military Blogging Conference Alexandria VA. I won't be able to attend because I have a big weekend with the boys.  

Now that I got the extension, I guess I can enter the contest for two more years.

Thanks to all of you who voted, especially to Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority at the University of Richmond--my daughter Lisa is a member and asked her sisters to vote for her Dad.

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