Friday, October 10, 2014

As a Veteran

No grand, terrifying secrets shall be revealed in this blog post, so don't get your hopes up. With that said, it's amazing what random little shit sticks with ya, being a veteran.

I honestly don't consider myself a real veteran, because I never saw combat, I never deployed, I never even served a base mission. I was stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, under the 1st Combat Communications squadron; and as a combat com squadron, our entire job was to wait around on stand-by until we were called on to deploy and set up communications for some new little base in the sandbox. The stand-by was filled with makework (I've bored numerous aquaintences about my rants about fucking re-organizing our bay full of equipment every three months)... Like helping other people pack their shit for their deployments while they ran around getting their paperwork done, packing new boxes of shit to send to deployed people because they forgot something or leadership decided to add something to the requirements, or when leadership was feeling too overwhelmed with the paperwork to brainstorm make-work for us we would literally sit around in the office and bullshit (or sitting around outside in the smoke pit bullshitting). But all of that was fucking make-work, practically useless or completely useless shit to do while we waited to be able to do our real jobs, and I feel highly inadequate because I never actually got to go and do my real job before I got kicked out.

And no, I didn't do anything particularly naughty and troublesome to earn the boot. I just painted a big red target on my forehead due to paperwork (of the "failing a test summarizing everything I'm supposed to know about my job by five questions, because if you put a radio in my hands I can make it work but fuck if I can memorize the frequencies of each specific outdated radio the air force has ever had in the past 50 years" kind). And since Congress came down and said "kick out airmen, we need to save money", that put my commander in the position of saying "Well, I like ya, I think you're a good airman, but I can't justify waivering that test requirement when I'm going to have to kick out a bunch of deserving people who haven't failed that test"... So, that's the story.

But it's the little shit that sticks with ya, after you're out. Like the fact that you self-medicate with ibuprofin and water no matter what ails ya. Seriously, you know the saying "you get what you pay for"? Yeah, if it isn't serious enough to land you in the emergency room, you get a bottle of ibuprofin (a cute little perscription bottle of ibuprofin pills that are twice the size of what you get in over-the-counter bottles) and told you're not drinking enough water. And because you've scheduled that appointment to get that cute little perscription of ibuprofin, you've pissed off leadership for skipping out on work, so you learn it's not worth it and stop going (unless you're a dirtbag). Or if you're feeling bored, sad, want to party, the answer is always the same: alcohol! Alcohol is good for any emotional state. And then you get soooo confused when one of your civilian friends calls another one of your civilian friends an alcoholic for drinking multiple beers or a bunch of shots or mixed drinks every day, because for 3/4 of the people you know that aren't married that's their normal "get home from work" activity and you were probably like that yourself. Oh, and you've forgotten how to cook because you're used to eating out (or going to the dining facility if you were cheap) for every meal because as an unmarried person, you were stuck in a dorm with two kitchens for 150 people and it just wasn't worth the bother.

After a couple weeks of civilian life roll around, you start laughing because you haven't had to spend three hours listening to the weekly briefing of different levels of leadership repeating "Don't drink and drive, have a plan, have a back-up plan, and if your plans fail call AADD (airmen against drunk driving), call us, don't call the level of leadership above us you have our number and don't bother them, but seriously call us, or call a wingman because you should have your recall rosters on you; rah rah warm fuzzies about morale and how great we as a squadron and we as an air force are; you should volunteer because volunteering is awesome and looks good on your EPR, here are all these volunteer opportunities going on around this time; and seriously don't drink and drive, have a plan!" Yep, every fucking week we had three hours of listening to that. Then, after a month, it starts to sink in that "holy shit, I can actually unglue myself from my phone!". That recall roster I mentioned a few lines above? It had the names, phone numbers, and addresses of everybody in your shop; you were literally required to carry that and your cellphone on you at all times in case one of your wingmen had to get ahold of you for any reason, in case leadership decided to spread a message, or just call everybody into work.

No, I don't remember half of the cool shit we were taught in Basic training, like how to dismantle and rebuild a M16 in two minutes. But if there's every an accident, I will always treat you for shock (elevate legs, keep warm, keep awake) no matter if you seem to display symptoms or not, and if you ever get a sucking chest wound I know just what to do (cover the wound with a piece of plastic so it creates suction). I know how to bandage a wound, when and how to apply a tourniquet (and afterwards I will find a sharpie or something so I can write a big T on your forehead along with the time I applied said tourniquet), and I could probably improvise a splint out of anything. I was also taught the symptoms and remedies for heatstroke (and the two other illnesses leading up to heatstroke) and frostbite, but fuck if I remember that. However, I still remember how to roll and fold articles of clothing precisely and make perfect corners while making a bed (not that I ever would, because fuck that shit). And drill, I will probably never forget how to do facing movements and marching movements.

Eh, no more word vomit about the military experience comes to mind. I'm glad I did it, I might even do it again if I felt myself severely in need of a job, and I'm grateful for what the Air Force has done for me and the fun times I've had with the people I got to meet... But I am so fucking glad to be out.

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