Friday, July 15, 2011

Ah... So This is what they call Work

So much has happened since I started working "for reals" a week ago.  I was technically "late" and missed the first day of orientation, but it turned out not to matter since the first day was like most first days at any job.  Mostly pointless and not much potential to screw up.  So on day 2 I showed up on time and "ready to go."

During this time I'd moved into Camp Natural Bridge, the 'lodging' facilities for Active Army personnel training Cadets during their summer training.  It's enough to live in, but I was quickly pissed off by the persistent fire alarm which went off arbitrarily and could not be turned off without the fire department present.  This obnoxious alarm forced us from our beds once at 2300 and 0300 hours in the same night.  Besides this hiccup, it's basic housing:  a tin can or box which puts a roof over your head and walls around.  It had air conditioning, electricity, hot water, and toilets.  And that's it.  No internet, not even phone signal.  The last thing eventually convinced me it was worth it to leave, but I hadn't moved out until today.  But this is also part of "work."

My job is at the Land Navigation Site #1.  I help to run the compass confidence course and 500 meter pace count course and also supervise the carrying out of the terrain walk.  I feel a lot better at land navigation without trails now and would like to keep working on the skill.  The first four days were more than that though.  They involved long hikes covering a few kilometers a day uphill, overhill, and downhill.  In the humid heat or the pouring rain and thunderstorms.  We walked.  A lot.  My feet are still torn up a little.  Blisters and calluses on parts of my feet I wasn't aware bore all that much pressure while hiking.  There came a point while we trained the cadet cadre where my feet hurt more to just stand on site than to get out and hike up and downhill again.  It was strange because standing still even my toes hurt like my feet were swollen and I just needed to sprawl out and elevate them... but walking briskly up and downhill seemed the best cure.

We received the cadet cadre on a Saturday and I got a group of ten to train for four days.  These barely junior cadets were all unfamiliar to me, which somehow helped.  One of them asked if they were the first group I was leading as an officer.  The sarcasm and cynicism amused me.  It annoyed the older officers who think cynicism ruins training.  I think it can do that... but I also think it's a firm reminder to get your head out of the academic clouds and realize you are training people with very human traits and if it was you on the ground at that age again you would have the same attitude.  I also can see that some very clever kids are just frustrated with the repetition and 'dumb down' process of it all and are itching to actually perform.  Now, often these particularly bright cadets are also a little bit proud, but they are willing and even eager to perform, they just hate being talked down to or doubted and the Army has a tendency to give that impression.  I sort of get that attitude, I understand it, and maybe it's a problem because I haven't learned how to deal with that yet, but I feel like I connect with those cadets.

Anyway they picked team names which I'm obligated due to verbal promise to repeat here:
  • The Purple Cobras
  • Ladies
  • Swamp People
  • Best Buds
  • The Reapers
The "Ladies" were two guys, but that name came up because I was explaining to them when to use "female" and when to use "Ladies" or "Ma'am" or "women."  My basic explanation was this:  Whenever it's appropriate to use "males" you may then use the term "female(s)", but whenever you would say "men" or "guys" or something similar say "women" or "ladies" etc.  There were some jokes, but also a little bit of the light bulb going on... I could tell a couple of them agreed that made sense.  I'm glad I was able to reach ten individuals.

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