Skip to main content

"Old" Soldiers on a Train

Today on the train ride to Philadelphia I sat with Drew Cluley.  He works for Amtrak and is a squad leader in a PA National Guard Engineer Battalion.  Drew has been on three deployments. The first was an active duty deployment with the Marines.  The second was to Camp Adder in 2009-10 where we were both in Echo Company, 2-104th.  The third was to Kuwait with his current unit.

The first thing we talked about was the food.  Would we ever eat as well again as we ate on deployment?  No likely.  We rhapsodized about our particular favorites:  the fresh-cut fresh fruit at Camp Adder and the first-rate cheesecake in Kuwait.

Drew said he had just spent the weekend in Lancaster and was with Brian Pauli, another Echo soldier.  Brian got commissioned after Iraq and is going to make Captain next month.

Then we started talking about when the Army went wrong--ending in the lamentable state it is in today.  Because to old soldiers (even when they are barely 30) the "old army" is always better.

But Drew had an idea I had never thought of.  He said that the post-draft Army of the 70s tried to sell itself as a "family" organization.  That worked well until Sept. 11, 2001.  If I had stayed in, I could have gotten to 20 years with only the Gulf War as a place I might deploy.  And that war was over so fast that no one redeployed.

Drew said if the Army had stayed with being "soldier unfriendly" it would be a better Army.  We were also talking about the book "Thank You For Your Service."  That book is a harrowing chronicle of how bad our protracted wars are for families as well as soldiers.

When I first enlisted, Drill Sergeants still said, "The Army would have issued you a wife if you needed one."

Most of the replacement soldiers in our tank battalion after 1975 fir this description: 19-year-old man with a 17-year-old wife pregnant with first or second kid.

Old soldiers never die, they just get more opinionated.

Popular posts from this blog

Different Water for Sinks and Toilets--Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, and Amtrak

On the train to Philadelphia recently, the toilets had water, but the sinks did not in the last two cars. I walked three cars away from my seat to wash my hands. On the way back, I let the conductor know about the lack of water.  He said there are different water systems for the sinks and the toilets.  Then smiled and said the water is blue in the toilets.  
I told the conductor about a morning at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, in April 2009. We were there for training before we went to Camp Adder, Iraq.  During our two-week stay, we slept in 77-man tents.  Outside the tent were several sinks and mirrors just standing in the open on the sand. I wish I had a picture.  
About twenty yards away were Porta-Johns or Shit Ovens, which everyone called the plastic enclosures when the temperature approached 120 degrees.  One morning just after down I went out to the sinks, brushed my teeth, then walked toward the Porta-Johns.  One of the soldiers just stepped out of one and was walking toward me.  

Ten Years Ago Today: Cold War Soldier Starts Re-enlistment Process

The Night Before Basic, Killing Brain and Lung Cells
On January 31, 1972, I flew to Texas to begin basic training. On April 2, 2007, ten years ago today, I called Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Askew, recruiting sergeant for the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, and began the process of re-enlisting after 23+ years as a civilian.  I was 53 years old at the time, about to turn 54.

In the Spring of 2007, The Surge in Iraq was in full swing and recruitment for the Army was down a lot. The economy was good, Congress would not even consider re-starting the Draft, so in late 2006 Congress raised the maximum first-enlistment age for the Army from 35 to 42 years old.

The program was a failure and was rescinded three years later. But that failed program allowed me to re-enlist.  The maximum enlistment age for soldiers with prior service is the enlistment age plus the years of prior service plus a one-year waiver.  I needed all of that.

I called three recruiters before I called Kevin. He was the first one…

My Last Tanker Nickname: Oddball

Donald Sutherland as Oddball, a tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes"
I got my last tanker nickname more than a decade after I earned the nickname Sgt. Bambi Killer.I got that nickname on a business trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000.The company I worked for just bought a company in Brazil and I was part of a team that went to Brazil to introduce ourselves to the people who ran the business.
Sao Paulo has traffic that makes Los Angeles look like Omaha, so the local managers sent a limo for the four of us. This meant we could be more comfortable on the three-hour 20-mile trip from the airport to downtown. 
At the time I had a beard and still had a lot of brown hair.  Among the local staff people who were waiting to meet us was my now long-time friend Ivan Porccino. Ivan speaks five languages and was assigned as our interpreter.  When we got in the car, Ivan introduced us to the driver and said we would be in Sao Paulo for a few days. The driver said, “I love Americ…