27 June 2010

The Loudest Quiet Place in the Army

I found myself camping out in the "ALOC" ("Administrative-Logistics Operations Center") the other day, just to hear myself think. Even with the back-and-forth bustle and bicker of the S1 (Personnel), S4 (Logistics), and other "support" sections, it was good to get away from the constrant drone of the generators that light and air-condition the "TOC"--the "Tactical Operations Center."

Normally, the S1 and S4 and others would be working out of the TOC tents. Given the requirement for some regular, non-classified computer connections, however, they took over a refurbished-but-still-rustic dining facility. Cinder block walls, with single-pane windows, and no weather strip around the peeling-paint doors. Inside, the ceiling is open to the rafters. It's not difficult to imagine being off "at camp," which, I guess, is what some of us old timers still call Annual Training anyway.

As an Army communications guy, I've always found the constant white noise of a generator strangely lulling. When my wife wants to knock me out for a nap, she knows that all she has to do is start the dishwasher.

Dishwashers and Army generators make me sleepy.

I wanted to clear my head and organize some thoughts, so I stopped by my ALOC cloister with a stack of note cards and a cup of coffee. Inside, I had a picnic table all to myself for a few blissful minutes. My whole world was: coffee, quiet, table.

The S6 (Communications) tent connects to the TOC circus tent. If the Army were a business, that tent would be a combination information technology "help desk," a server room, and a retail tech-shop counter. There are lots of laptops laying around, and it's crowded with data cables. The big green-box servers are high-pitched and loud--louder than the generators outside the tent. You can hear the computers think, but not yourself.

"This is the loudest quiet place in the Army," one of the commo guys told me, as we tried to have a trouble-shooting conversation in the S6 tent. "No one talks all that much in here."

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