27 FEB 2010
Sand Hill, Ft. Benning, GA, the birthplace of every Infantryman. There are few institutions in the world, where a man can be taught to live by violence of action; that driving sense of purpose to follow the path of least resistance, to move-move-move, regardless of what waits for you on the other side. The Infantry lives by violence of action, whether you’re assaulting a beachhead or making your bunk. Typically, it’s something similar to the latter. The life of the soldier is not an hour and a half, action packed adventure, starring Joe Hollywood all dressed up for blood, guts and glory. The Drill Sergeants on Sand Hill inspire hard charging, let’s get it done, hurried movements; practically pushing you out of the barracks or foxhole or whatever, and then what?
The and then what will be the vast majority of every soldier’s career. I imagine, of my eight years in service, I owe seven of them to and then what. Sure, I played a moderate role in the invasion, but I can tell you, for every ambush I went on that ended by bombs and bullets, there were twenty more where the only opposition found were chilly nights, the want for sleep and giant spiders. And the same can be said for every kicked in door or convoy patrol or any other soldier stuff. The Army calls the and then what moments ‘hurry up and wait’.
This is where I find myself now, at hurry up and wait. I am on the second chalk to Kuwait; we fly out tomorrow. I have already packed my bags and cleaned the barracks and called my list of loved ones. And I did all of this with such a sense of urgency, such violence of action, that the Brown Rounds from Sand Hill would smile with pride at their good little soldier. Why proud, if all my scurrying around accomplished was a day or two of and then what, of hurry up and wait? It’s conditioning, for that one time of twenty, where your target walks into the ambush or an armed silhouette appears in the doorway or the convoy takes fire.
With the current US operations in Iraq, and our assigned task, I imagine, I hope, the odds of one in twenty are actually far less. I’d rather not relive 2003, and I cannot expect we will. But still, the conditioning is there. My father gave me sass a few years back, at some family gathering. “Calm down”, he told me, “You would think that the Army would have taught you patience.” I replied with, “No, the Army taught me the importance of meeting your time hacks.”
- The Exodus