Monday, February 17, 2014

"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.

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