Sunday, July 11, 2004

Getting the Call and Moving Out

It was a little before noon on 11 May 2004 when I got the call that I had been involuntarily transfered to a reserve transporation company that had been in Iraq since Jan. 2004. I was a little caught off guard but not terribly surprised because I'd received two other such calls before this. Neither of the first two incidents panned out due to one reason or another.

I immediately told my boss and began packing my things as I was ordered to report to my home station ASAP and prepare for mobilization as an individual replacement. It was a sad and stressful day. Talking to my co-workers, telling my family and friends, and walking out of my office were all difficult things to do.

I reported to my unit that same day and began asking all the usual questions, "Where am I going?", "To what unit am I assigned?", "What do I need to do next?", etc. I only got answers to a couple of my questions and new questions developed as time passed. I would spend the next 26 days preparing for mobilization, getting my life in order, straightening out my finances and making multiple copies of legal documents like my will and power of attorney, all of which were very somber activities.

In just a matter of a few minutes, my life had been transformed into something I only barely recognized. I was on my way to a war zone, a defining moment in my life, and my emotions were running pretty high. People came out of the woodwork to wish me well and out of a sense of obligation, I rushed around trying to say goodbye to every one of them, probably neglecting the people I cared about the most. Luckily I have a very understanding family.

On 5 June 2004, I left Arkansas for a CONUS Replacement Center (CRC) in Ft. Bliss, TX. The first week was spent re-doing all the paperwork I had completed at home station. Much of that week, save the weapons class, medical and finance, was a colossal waste of time. The second week was spent mostly in the desert. About half of my group was selected for a first time ever, additional week of desert training. The cadre and instructors organized and executed on the fly. We put on our brand new desert boots and uniforms and marched out into the 115 degree temperatures and trained without any acclimation. Several people had to stay an extra week on medical hold to recover from the damage that was done during our three days in the sand box. The next phase of replacements didn't have to stay for the second week of desert training.

The cadre NCOs at Ft. Bliss were great. They reacted to the last minute changes and always treated everyone with respect and courtesy. I will always remember their professionalism and I made it a point to thank a few of them before I left. The Major in charge of Operations was also very helpful and engaged. She impressed me during our last formation when she took the time to shake everyone's hand before we were dismissed. It was a small gesture but it had a big impact on me.

The third Sunday at Ft. Bliss found me at the APOD awaiting departure for the Middle East. Our bags were sniffed by the drug and bomb dogs, we ate our pre-flight meal and received services from the CRC chaplain. We finally boarded the plane and some lucky saps got to sit in first class. I was crammed in a middle seat in coach and sat there for the better part of the next 15 hours, approximately. We made a couple of stops along the way before reaching Kuwait at around 9:00 p.m. When the door of the plane opened, a blast of warm dusty air hit us in the face like a solid mass. It was not a pleasant welcoming.


Disclaimer #1: I needed a name for this blog and Sojack immediately came to mind. It also satisifes the requirements for OPSEC and just plain ole' personal anonymity. The word "Sojac" comes from the Smokey Stover comic strip that was popular in the 1920's and 30's. The phrase "Notary Sojac" was frequently used in the comic strip and few people knew what it meant. Supposedly in Gaelic it means Merry Christmas. I don't speak Gaelic so I can't confirm this. My dad grew up reading the comic strip and Notary Sojac became one of his favorite sayings. He still uses it today. Out of deference to my dad, I've purposely misspelled "Sojac" as "Sojack." One Notary Sojac in the family is enough.

Disclaimer #2: This website is privately operated and is designed to provide personal information, views and commentary about the authors experiences during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The opinions on this website are solely those of the author and contributors and not those of any agency of the United States Government. Further, this site is not designed, authorized, sanctioned, or affiliated, by or with, any agency of the United States Government. The author cannot confirm nor deny that any of this information is at all true, or a complete work of fiction. Users accept and agree to this disclaimer in the use of any information accessed in this website. Thank you.

No comments: