Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reserve Life

In my own failings as a blog reader I haven’t seen any military blogs written by reservists. The ones that I do occasionally read are from active duty soldiers and marines. Incase you didn’t know, there is, at least what we (military people) perceive there to be, a big difference in the mentality of reserve and active duty soldiers. Maybe this difference isn’t really that big of a deal but maybe just maybe it allows you to see a different side of Iraq in my blog then you would in other blogs. Maybe I am just trying to drum up some support for my blog by trying to convince everyone out there that I can tell you something that others cannot. Oh well I might as well jump right in and start stepping on people’s toes.

The base in Iraq that I am at currently is made up primarily of active duty soldiers thus making my reserve unit one of the redheaded stepchildren. We are the ones who constantly need to be reminded how to properly wear the right uniform, cut our hair, and fill out paperwork the right way. We are also the ones who have a hard time following all of the seemingly insane rules placed upon us. It is almost as if we have a set of parents that we cannot disobey for fear of grave punishment. Not that we want to disobey our new parents, it is just that we have a hard time switching from civilian life where we make our own decisions, cook our own food, and walk with our hands in our pockets without feeling like we are sinning. Now we are in a world where we really don’t have to make very many decisions and this is kind of shocking to us. I can only eat at certain times, I only have one outfit to wear so I don’t have a hard time choosing what to put on, and I cant really go anywhere so I don’t have a hard time figuring out what to do on the weekends either. Making the change from civilian life to military life is a tough thing to do for most of us and we try to stay “civilianized” as much as we can.

The thing about reservists though is that we have a completely different set of skills then active duty soldiers do. Not only can we do our military job but we also have the skills from our jobs back home, however, some more than others. We have welders, teachers, nurses, businessmen, construction workers, firemen, policemen, students etc. We bring things to the table that active duty soldiers cannot at no fault of their own. We often joke back to active duty soldiers who make fun of us for being “ate up” that we can not only do their job but also another one at home, and also that we often come to do their job for less money then we would make in our civilian jobs. Not that we are complaining about that because after all we volunteered for service just the same as they did.

A perfect example of reserve life in the desert comes from my experiences in living arrangements. The first time I was deployed I lived on top of an old dump in the middle of the desert in southern Iraq. When my unit first arrived there were no bathrooms, showers, running water, or dining hall. Instead of just dealing with it like the other soldiers were doing on the base we decided to change it. We built two walk-in showers with “running” water from a 500-gallon tank we propped up in the air. We built three separate stalls to a latrine and we began to build a walkway around our tents among many other improvements we made. This deployment I am living in an old Iraqi building which, before we got here, was empty. Some of our guys that came to Iraq early built rooms inside the building so we could have privacy. Since then we have installed cable and internet to every room, built a breezeway and tool shed and are in the works of building our own recreation area while most other units rely upon the services already provided.

I do not mean to say that reservists are better then active duty soldiers by any means, I merely want to highlight the differences between the two and show why we have something valid to contribute. Of course I did not talk about how we do our job but that will be following in another blog. I am trying to erase the perception of reserve soldiers as slackers so stay tuned and we will see if I succeed.


Gypsy said...

t.f. my cousin is also a reservist (Marine). My thoughts are that it takes folks from all walks of life to make our Armed Forces. Sure there are differences, and I hope they will see what great skills and experience that our Reservists and NG Troops can bring to the table on a variety of matters.

It really must be "culture shock" to go back and forth from civvie life to Military rules in country. Seems to me that you and your Soldiers are taking the bull by the horns and getting things done. My bet is when they see your initiative and creativity they won't consider you "ate up" any more.

I look forward to more of your thoughts and posts! Be safe.

Gypsy said...

PS! You said: Maybe I am just trying to drum up some support for my blog by trying to convince everyone out there that I can tell you something that others cannot.

To me everyone that blogs tells something that another cannot. You're unique, and so are your experiences and perspectives..and I thank you for sharing them.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing with us. Men working hard to establish running water and civilization in the middle of a desert? You.Are.My.Heroes! ;) Hang in there and keep writing, we support you daily in prayer.

Scott Crowell said...

Dude, thanks for the good words to read, it has definitely given me some good stuff to do while I've been sitting around being bored waiting to fly. I hope that you are enjoying life to some degree over there. My email is - drop me a line sometime brother.

Anonymous said...

Hey Boggs! I've been offline for weeks and was happy to read your new blogs. You are doing great! Keep up all the great work!
Texas Lilly

t.h. snure said...

I got to see the regular vs reserve thing from both sides, starting as a regular and going to the reserves after almost 11 years. You are definitely correct about the biases each brings. When I was a young Ltjg (1st lt equivalent) I worked with some reserves to put together a disaster preparedness plan and a very nice commander (ltcol) had her insignia on wrong. I mulled it over most of the week and finally mentioned it when no one else was around. She was so embarrased and asked me why I hadn't said anything sooner. The thing was that I would have had a hard time doing the plan without the expertise she and the others brought from their civilian jobs.

Then on the other side I did some teaching in the reserves that came from my experience teaching at Delgado. Like you say, everyone contributes (if they choose to).

Of course it sounds like some of the stuff you reserve guys do grows from your civilian mentality of "needing" some creature comforts. Regular army folks are more used to doing without.

T. F. Boggs said...

Yeah I guess we reservists like to live as comfortably as we can. Whether that involves bringing our own generator to the field so we can watch football on the weekend or installing internet in our rooms so we don't have to put our boots on and walk 5 minutes to use it. That is the civilian in us taking over. As far as our uniforms go: for some reason we haven't figured that one out.

aandn said...

You are doing a great job Boggs getting us the news from Iraq. We like it when you end us your private thoughts too. Please accept our thanks for all you do and don't give those regular army folks too hard a time. You are funny Boggs. A&N