13 July 2010

Packing It Up

I have way too much Army gear. Even Uncle Sam says so.

I'm conducting an informal "100 percent showdown inventory" on my driveway this past Sunday afternoon. Lena, 5, and Rain, 3, are sitting in their Daffy Duck folding chairs, watching me. I've opened the hatchback of my station wagon--the recently re-nicknamed "rolling wall-locker--and a good portion of concrete is now covered in olive-drab and camouflage fabric.

While I'm checking off each item of the $3,196.22 of stuff that U.S. taxpayers have bought for me over the years, the kids occasionally kick or pick up an item or two. There's a lot old stuff--stuff that will get turned it because it's out-of-date, obsolete, the wrong color, or broken and "unserviceable."
"Daddy, what's that?"
"That's what the Army calls an 'In-trench-ing Tool,'" I reply, overemphasizing the first syllable to make fun of the Army spelling. I am feeling very clever in front of my 5-year-old.
"Just looks like a shovel to me."

"That, Lena, is a 'Balaclava.'"
"Daddy, what's a Balaclava?"
"It's ... like a sock ... for your head."
And, my favorite:
"Daddy, something smells like stinky cheese ..."
I don't tell her that's the smell of old canvas straps and rotten waterproofing, probably mixed with sweat and DDT. That's the smell of the National Guard, circa the early 1990s--when we were considered a "strategic reserve," not an "operational" one.

That smell, Lena, is the smell of freedom. And my youth.

The next day, I'm supposed to duffel-bag drag my stuff to the Central Issuing Facility (C.I.F.) on Camp Dodge, here in Iowa, so the Army can issue make sure I've only got what I need for deployment. The Army giveth, the Army taketh away.

The day after that, I'm supposed to put my four duffel bags on a truck that will head to Camp Shelby, Miss. To date, the Army has only issued me three duffel bags, however, so this could get interesting. Each bag is like an overstuffed olive-drab sausage. I should probably label them with "Warning: Contents Under Pressure."

When we get to Camp Shelby, we'll all go through another CIF. That's supposedly when we'll get all kitted-out in MultiCam pattern gear. More stuff, more stuffing.

Somewhere in the weeks (week?) between Camp Dodge and Camp Shelby, I'm also slated to travel to Fort Irwin, Calif. for some pre-mobilization training. That means living out of a rucksack; it also means cutting rapidly diminishing time with our families even shorter.

All this change is an Army routine, and it's going to be great training. Still, it's tough sometimes for both soldiers and family to see the desert for the trees.

Remember that old World War I music hall ditty? "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile." We've got plenty of bags, but the smiles? We're going to have to ask our supply sergeant for a few more of those.

1 comment:

  1. The Mojave in summer. I suppose this will be your first blast of the weather downrange!


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