I read somewhere that Fort Lewis is the third largest post, after Fort Hood, TX and Fort
If you want to see the Army, this is a great place to be.
With three infantry brigades, one artillery brigade, an MP brigade, and engineer brigade, a MI brigade, a Ranger Battalion and a Special Forces Group, along with various support units, Fort Lewis is a very busy place.
Here at Fort Lewis, reminders of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are never far away. Recently, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team returned after 15 months in Iraq. The ceremony welcoming them home reminded everyone of the cost of freedom. During 15 months of combat in Iraq the brigade suffered 54 killed in action and over 300 wounded in action. Many of the wounded Soldiers, even the seriously injured Soldiers, participated in the ceremony on crutches or in wheelchairs.
For me the hardest part of being back here is reading the news from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish I was still there, still in the fight. In Afghanistan I felt needed and in control of my own destiny. My mission was real and immediate and there was no ambiguity. Here, I have no mission, or the mission is less real and immediate, and everything is ambiguous. Here I'm not really needed and I have no control of my destiny.
I love the Army, but even with the nation at war the Army tends to be bureaucratic and slow to change. In my current job I manage the training for medical units deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even after 7 years of continous deployments and combat operations we are sometimes reinventing the wheel when we train units to deploy. Often the training does not meet the reality of the missions "downrange".
I love my family, but after being gone for 18 months I sometimes feel like I don't fit in anymore. My views have changed after seeing the dead and wounded up close and personal, after carrying a weapon 24/7, driving an armored vehicle fast and aggressively wherever I went and after living in close quarters with Soldiers for months on end. I can adjust to the changes, but I hate to give up the sense of purpose and mission and yes, the danger and thrill of being deployed.
I write these thoughts not looking for sympathy or help, but because I know I am not alone.
Recently I met a group of Soldiers with whom I was deployed to Afghanistan, and after some polite conversation we all reluctantly revealed the same thought, "I wish I was still there, in Afghanistan, doing a job I loved with people I cared about." And this thought was expressed by a group of Army Reserve Soldiers, all of whom had good civilian jobs and happy families. If they feel this way, how much more do "full-time/career" Soldiers miss their recent deployments?
In my current job I work almost exclusively with Active Duty Soldiers, most of whom have deployed recently, many of whom are preparing for their second or third, or even fourth, trip to Iraq or Afghanistan. We all tell our war stories with the same underlying theme, "Those were the days..." Life is different "over there", not better, just different.
War is hard and the separations from home and family are stressful, but Soldiers and families are tough. The media makes it sound like servicemembers deploy reluctantly, and can't wait for the war to end. From what I see, nothing could be further from the truth. Soldiers want to deploy, to do their part and then return with honor. They want the war to end, but only with victory and only after achieving our nation's objectives. I'm personally tired of seeing friends and colleagues killed and injured, but I want to see those sacrifices honored with victory and peace, not squandered by defeat and surrender.
Every day I visit a great website, Honor the Fallen, to read about the heroes who have given their lives in defense of this great nation.
Every day I see the wounded coming and going around post and at Madigan Army Medical Center, reminding me of the cost of war.
You can't live and work at Fort Lewis and not realize that war is an ugly thing, with a high cost that cannot be measured in dollars.
I'll keep blogging as long as someone is listening, and maybe beyond. Sometimes it's easier to write my thoughts than speak them, and I hope my ramblings can shed some light on the current situation, or at least reveal the view from my foxhole.