I am home from my boomerang trips between Camp Shelby, Miss. and Camp Dodge, Iowa.
In the months following news of my non-deployment, I've been on temporary active duty doing my small part to help the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34 BCT) hopscotch from Camp Ripley, Minn.; to Camp Shelby, Miss.; to Fort Irwin, Calif, to Afghanistan.
To my team leader, I float the idea of using some accrued vacation time to go out to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. I figure that, on my own time and my own dime, I can continue some of the work I've been doing on lessons-learned and unit history.
My supervisor asks, a little shocked: "Why would you do that?!"
I am surprised at his surprise. I stumble around for an answer that doesn't sound crazier than the idea itself. No one, apparently, has ever requested or volunteered to go to Fort Irwin.
"Well, I don't know ... Maybe I can help out the brigade Public Affairs Officer, by writing newsletter copy or role-playing as embedded media," I say. "And, while I'm at it, maybe I'll work on a biography the brigade commander." I am being more sincere than sarcastic.
He's quiet for a minute, then says that he'll work it up the chain of command. From his fazed and dazed reaction I'm pretty sure the idea isn't going anywhere.
A day later, my supervisor tells me that he's pitched the idea to the boss. "He doesn't think we can let you do what you were talking about," my supervisor says. My turn to be shocked. I didn't think the answer would be so quick. Or definitive.
"Why not? It's my own time, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It's just that he'd feel more comfortable, in terms of insurance and travel, if you were covered by official orders. Write up a budget justification for him, but you're being ordered to go to Fort Irwin."
Uncle Sam works in strange and mysterious ways. And, once again, I'm along for the ride.