26 October 2010

Building Character

I need to reveal a little more of my personal and professional history, to help put some upcoming Red Bull Rising posts in context.

First, however, I apologize that I continue to use a pseudonym. Given that both Army and unit policy toward blogging has become more clear and more concrete since I started Red Bull Rising, I maintain the pseudonym less now for privacy reasons, and more to help maintain a bright line between my civilian activities and my soldierly duties.

That, and some readers think it's sexy--I'll get to that in a minute.

Although I am no longer deploying with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division to Afghanistan, I continue to have an active uniformed role in its mobilization. It's not a big role, but I try to do my part--it is, after all, the life of a Sherpa.

Despite occasional bouts of doubt and despair, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity to keep current with my Red Bull buddies, even if it has only been for a few extra weeks following Mobilization-Day.

In the past couple of months, I've encountered readers who prefer not knowing exactly who or what Sherpa is. ("I'm really disappointed that you're not really a romance novelist," one blogger colleague told me, upon learning my true identity and occupation. "Either that, or a spy.") Despite my best intentions--that Red Bull Rising would finally fuse together my civilian and military lives, to explain 20 years of "citizen-soldier" duality to friends and family--Sherpa has become a character in his own play.

In this, I suppose, Sherpa finds himself in the cartoonish company of Willie and Joe, Sad Sack, and Beetle Bailey. Of Delta Bravo Sierra, Private Murphy, and the Red Rascal. He's in the wrong places at the right times, or the right places at the wrong times. He has enough rank to not get messed with too much, but not enough to be dangerous to himself or others. He's a student of history, but is mostly self-taught.

Obviously, he still writes about himself in the third-person.

Because he's retiring from the Iowa National Guard in December, Sherpa needs to find himself a new job. If he's going to continue to write the current history of the Red Bull, he needs a different role. In short, he needs a new perspective. So here goes:

My name is Charlie Sherpa. Not only am I a proud citizen-soldier, I'm also a journalist.

As such, I plan to do more writing on the Red Bull past and present, even as I transition out of uniformed service.

"Have pen, will travel."


  1. Being a journalist, perhaps you can get your boss (remember boss spelled backwards is double SOB)to give you an assignment as an imbedded reporter covering your Red Bull units. Being with them, not having to do the military stuff and making a shit-pot more money than them, would be a good way to keep us informed of the shenanigans over there.

  2. hehehe.... romance novelist? Really? But a journalist shouldn't surprise anyone. You're able to write and make it interesting. However you continue your profession, keep us in the loop. I, for one, am proud to follow you! Thanks!

  3. @ Coffeypot: As a freelancer, I alternate between thinking my boss is a genius, and thinking that he's a despot.

    A recent trip to the California desert (while still in uniform) proved to me the utility of what you're talking about--eyes on the target, without having to carry a weapon--while also illuminating some of the hidden costs. "Have pen, will travel" also means purchasing your own equipment!

    No, that wasn't a commercial for funding. Just an observation.

    @ Ria: Thanks for the good words! I'm hope I can continue to educate and entertain, and maybe indirectly serve a greater good!

  4. Sherpa - Here's a new mission that I imagine has already crossed your expansive journalistic mind...

    You possess a unique combination of skills, experience and perspective to prove that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword.

    Go forth & prosper. (But don't forget to write!)

    (on behalf of myself, Jeff Courter, and Jeff's entire "Afghan Journal" Tribe)

  5. Charlie, I understand how it feels to be left behind. I have always pined for that "do-over", at least one last deployment. I made three with the Navy before getting injured and ending up on the street. Hated to see the squadron leaving without me. Still hurts.

    But you write exceptionally well, and by being home, you can also speak for those not there, those overseas. You've been there. You speak the soldier's language and you can translate their world for those who haven't seen it, who could never comprehend some things.

    You aren't a Sherpa, Charlie. You are a bard, and it's up to you now to sing the songs, the sagas, of the 34th. Your task is to tell their story(s) as best you can. The unit historian(s) will tell the big tale, the unit histories. You will tell the stories of the men themselves. The view from the foxhole, as it were.

    It's an important job, and probably as much a curse as a blessing. Good tales, and sad tales, but tales of citizen soldiers. Those good men and women will be well served by you, and I look forward to hearing you tell their stories.


  6. @ Tim: "Bard?" I like it! Your "curse and blessing" even presages an upcoming post. What manner of man are you that can summon up fire without flint or tinder?

  7. Some call me Tim! But you may call me..... Tim!


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