Monday, February 20, 2012

My Reaction to DoD opens 14,000 Army jobs to women

My feelings on this can pretty much be summed up in the quote from Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women's Law Center,

"It's good, but it's not very much more of a step forward."

I totally concur.  I've written very passionately about this.  I guess I would have mixed feelings if the barriers were removed right now because I've already started my military career and I'm generally happy being a Transporter, but it should still be changed.  I'm really thrilled General Odierno is pushing for more changes, even though I know a lot of his quotes come from a similar article about a month or so ago.  He expressed disappointment the deadline for reviewing the gender policy was not met and he spoke highly of the real contributions women make in our Army.

Unfortunately, I believe a larger percentage than are speaking openly and plainly in interviews and from podiums are reluctant to see the change.  Someone said to me today referencing the article with a shrug about women being in combat:

[Just saying...] "Could you pull me out of a burning vehicle?"

I wish I'd had a better retort on hand, but I was off guard and tired.  I wished I had mentioned Sgt. Monica Brown, the medic who may not have pulled anyone who weighed a ridiculous amount more than her from a burning HMMWV, but who shielded Soldiers with her own body in Afghanistan one day, risking her life to treat the wounded.  And beyond that, on countless missions she provided much needed aid to the unit she was attached to.  Though just doing her job she was awarded a Silver Star for valor.  A few days after the flurry of media attention though, she was pulled from the area because she was too close to combat according to current policies.  According to the unit taking her out on missions though, there was no other medic to take at the time.

Now, reading a story like that, why turn to me and ask bluntly if I could carry you out of a burning vehicle?  I think of the guys who already push 200 lb when they are in plain clothes.  Could he pull that guy with a full combat load and body armor on out of a burning vehicle if the seat belt is in place?  I mean let's quit with the what if statements, these hypothetical scenarios don't address the real issue.

The real issue is that women deserve as much fair treatment in this government job as they receive in any other.  The real problems are not about the chivalry of men, the emotional reaction to combat, or the physical demand of their jobs.  Real problems may be privacy, and preventing affirmative action from debilitating the fighting force.  Additionally, the article mentioned the so few women in high ranks because the best career jobs in the army are in fields closed to women.  For me it is not really about the 'Brass Ceiling'... though that part does have some legitimate backing and research.  If the Army is viewed from purely a career standpoint, than it is a problem, but from a more traditional standpoint, call it nostalgic maybe, but from the the standpoint that the Armed Forces are the real life heroes of a nation - the defenders and upholders of the Constitution - it's just plain heartbreaking.  Ask me can I pull you from a burning vehicle... but then let me try.  Don't look at me, my gender, and simply shake your head.  Defense officials say there is no Brass Ceiling, and that women have "no disadvantage in... promotion rate."  Wonderful, so women have not been detrimental or performed any worse than men in all the jobs they are allowed?  So, give us a chance in the Infantry.  Give America's daughters a shot at Eleven Bravo (11B)!  I think she may surprise you if you'd give her half the chance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weather Forecast: Sudden Bursts of Irrational Behavior

I don't understand how I have been so incredibly happy these last two weeks and now all of a sudden I am having this 180 internal crisis.  I am transformed into this delicate, easily tripped, emotional reaction-bomb.

Starting yesterday night I was feeling pangs and aches in my (metaphorical) heart for no reason whatsoever... I started reliving all the bad moments in my life during times of high change and stress and how I wish I had closure or that I'd reacted differently.  I started speculating whether if I had not driven away some people in my life I might be even happier.  I started thinking maybe the happiness I had now was just a farce... because I'm just pretending to be happy through the sadness of people I'm missing.  That maybe I'm hiding a sadness under the surface of my happiness and excitement to be somewhere new??  It's crazy talk, and I know this.

So, the analytic side of me is wondering what should I do to banish these feelings?  Maybe work out, but the gym is closed, it's 34 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and it's 11:40 p.m. I feel a quick push up and flutter kick work out will not make this emotional sea any calmer.

The real problem is I don't really want to do any of the things that would make me feel better.  It's not that I want to sit here moping over nothing... I just know I don't feel like drawing, or editing photographs, or working out, or chatting.  Even though I was chatting just an hour ago.  While I used some poor excuse of a conversation to launch into a more obvious show of my feelings, it's deeper than that.  My unhappiness stems from an unknown source, and hours like this only leave me wondering when the feeling will pass since I apparently have no control over it.

But I know after a little bit of rest my high spirit will return... just an occasional low in my high-speed speed.  Plus I have a guest to look forward to tomorrow!  Everything else is just growing pains:  I am literally outgrowing the pains of the past.  Unfortunately I cannot be as emotionless as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, I am - sometimes unfortunately - afflicted with the strong and high emotions of a very high energy human being.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living in Germany: Week 2 AAR

I have officially arrived at my unit for two weeks now, and it's great.  Last week I had a bunch of briefings that couldn't be helped.  I have to admit I got some decent information from each one, but they were long days and I felt drained after hours of PowerPoint and the monotonous repetition of, "Welcome to Bamberg."

Friday a friend visited me and we reminisced on our days at the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal.  I can't believe it was two years ago already.

This Saturday 391st CSSB had a Valentine's Ball, and it was a nice event, I'm going to post some pics soon to my Flickr account.  I'm glad I had my ASU (Army Service Uniform or "dress blues") ready to go, because it would have been a shame to miss it.  While these events do have somewhat a frustrating compulsory aspect to them, they are - like everything else in life - what you make of them.  I ended up getting to know some of my peers in the battalion a little better, and a chance to see the people I've met throughout the week all in one place.  I met some Lt.'s wives (or girlfriends) as well, and in spite of the below freezing temperatures outside even enjoyed (most) of a nice cigar outside.

Sunday followed with more fun because of a group dinner 'party' which included a group effort to cook a dinner.  We tried a new recipe, so no one was entirely certain how it would turn out.  It was sort of a casserole with chicken, carrots, ginger, yogurt, spices, and rice.  Very delicious even though the rice was soggy, we served it in bowls, and since we were just having fun, it didn't matter that the appearance wasn't stellar.  I give the recipe four stars, because even not cooked perfectly, it was totally yummy!

Today as I was investigating the contents of my fridge, I discovered that my freezer actually does work to my chagrin.  The bottle of champagne I was saving for my boyfriend's arrival had unfortunately exploded:

It's a shame, but as you can see, it wasn't too costly of a mistake to make ;) plus I at least know that I will have ice cubes... even it seems to take forever.  Wish I had a balcony because it would be easier to just leave an ice tray outside at these temperatures!

As far as the upcoming week my to-do list is lengthy, even though I don't have a platoon yet, or really any subordinates to speak of (a manager with nothing to manage) it's a sort of free limbo for me:  a rare opportunity to get adjusted without heaps of pressure loaded on me.  It's funny that I should get the honor to deploy so soon after arriving when I never agonized over it like some of my male counterparts.  Some of them right now at West Point were trying to figure out by analyzing the dates of their respective branch BOLC and the rotating deployment shifts of the Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), but of course it's sensitive intelligence, important to national security; and not everyone can just know it!  I'm pretty sure the people in charge don't even know exactly when and where deployments are scheduled and I am not saying this is part of the disorganization so often associated with government work, but because the world is a pretty fast changing place.  No one can say with total certainty where we will be in the next few years.

It's a short week though, and I have good things to look forward to!  There are exciting pictures and blogs to come in the near future!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Real Deal

I'm in the real thing now, the "real" Army, an actual post, an actual job.  I've been out of college for almost nine months, and finally I get to Warner Barracks in Bamberg only to hear they might be closing this base in a couple years.  I will still get to stay in Germany (fingers crossed) but apparently in a different area.

I will not be enjoying Germany this summer though if approval goes through because my unit is trying to deploy me with a company that is already in Afghanistan. I obviously can't write much about this, just enough to say that this would all be happening pretty fast for me.  How do I feel about it?  Well, it is what I signed up for in the Army.  I didn't sign up in war time thinking I would avoid it.  It's also a great opportunity for me to get tons of on the job training, and an opportunity for me to hurry up and get a platoon - which is a key leader position for someone of my rank.  It's also a transportation position which is awesome because often junior officers are lumped together as logistics if they are transpo, ordnance, or quartermaster.  That's only supposed to happen at the captain level and above.  But it's not uncommon for someone like me (a transportation officer) to get put into a quartermaster or other 'loggy' related position that's not my actual branch.

Anyway, a lot of people (Soldiers here, and the family I've told) are asking me if I feel ready.  Honest?  I don't feel ready!  How could I?  However, I am more than willing.  If someone asked me if I wanted to do this, my answer would be absolutely.  But ready?  I wish I had studied Pashtun with more concentration, I wish I had more experience in my job, I wish the training at BOLC made me feel more confident than I do now.

I do have a lot of great resources of experience available to me though.  I have a friend who deployed in a similar situation to me, and so I can ask her how it worked for her.  The Army has been doing this for a while now, so I would be crazy to think I was facing a unique challenge - well at the general level anyway.  I know even if I got all the preparation I wanted, there would still be suprise challenges along the way and that's why the Army has been leaning towards leaders who are critical thinkers.

I think that everyone pauses and hopes they are prepared for this.  It all seems so fast, I do know that I am willing, it's my job on top of it all.  Is there someone else?  If there was, and leadership deemed it better, they would send that person.  I've got to remember I've been trained up for this.  No one said it would be simple.  I may have to take a break from the blogging for a while, but I'll keep a journal downrange, and I'll still write until I get deployed - about everything, the whole moving to Germany experience.

Which reminds me, I don't have an apartment yet, hopefully will do some looking this week.  I would like to have my own place before I leave.  I do have a phone though which I have been looking forward to endlessly!  I got a plan with O2, a German phone company, it's the cheapest plan, although the phones are full price (which is expensive here, I shudder every time I do the euro-dollar conversion).  I still haven't finished inprocessing, there are hours of online training I still have to do.  I have had a full week though.  My sponsor has been nice, but my unit has been busy because they have a range (shooting range) next week.  My commander is actually a Military Intelligence officer but he requested a command position and he interviewed for and got it.  It just goes to show there's a million and one different ways to do a career in the Army.  I went to two different Italian restaurants in Bamberg already, and the food is pretty good.  I also finally saw my friend who graduated in 2009 and has been stationed here the whole time.  She is awesome and doing Pathfinder school, so good for her!  Tonight is the Super Bowl and I was invited by another West Point grad to a party - which is cool, since otherwise I wouldn't really have a thing to do tonight.  Somehow it's another move to a new place in which I've somehow managed to have something to do from the very first weekend on.  How do these things happen to me?  I am most certainly grateful!