Thursday, March 11, 2004


In the military the term "short" refers to having very little time remaining on your current assignment or deployment. So, in Army speak we can say that CPT Patti and her unit are "getting short", meaning, they are due to end their deployment soon.

But being short doesn't mean being out of harms way...and the leaders are stressing no lapses in vigilance.

Good article.
Soldiers washed Humvee windshields, loaded up the last pieces of cargo and checked to make sure they left no wrench or weapon behind.

The next day would be the first leg in their journey home after spending a year in Iraq. But before they reach a relatively safe, dusty camp across the border in Kuwait, their convoy must travel through areas known for roadside bombs, ambushes and mortar attacks.

Spc. Christopher Watson, 23, of Houston, scowls when asked about the risks. In the past 12 months, he has faced more than his fair share of danger, and he said he is not about to allow anything to happen to him or anyone in his unit — the Fort Still, Okla.-based 2nd Battalion, 5th Field Artillery — especially this close to being home.

“I feel sorry for anyone who gets in our way,” Watson said.

Commanders want soldiers to treat their final days in Iraq with the same vigilance and attention to detail as their first few days last spring, when they stormed across the Kuwaiti border and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime. But they are concerned that some soldiers might already be thinking about home, distracting them from the threats they face while still in Iraq...

“I’m actually hoping Murphy doesn’t kick me in my ass,” Bernard said, referring to Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong, it will. “Once we’re finished, when we’re leaving and it’s all over, and I’m not flying, I’m sitting in the back letting them take me home, you think, ‘What if?’”

A few weeks ago, regiment commanders met to talk about the trip home. They did a “risk assessment,” ticking off all the hazards of the upcoming trip home, from Humvee accidents to roadside bombs. After the meeting, they put the word out to soldiers to not let their guard down.

The dilemma is that some soldiers have a tremendous amount of anxiety about the day they step foot on American soil again, especially those who know they are facing financial problems or divorce papers. Sergeants major and other noncommissioned officers are trying to identify those soldiers who are considered “high risk.”

Soldiers go through a series of briefings to help them reintegrate with their families, but those expecting to deal with marital or financial problems when they get home get extra attention. Troops who have angst about what awaits them when they return go through counseling before they leave.

“It’s maddening for our soldiers to try and keep their mind on the mission when they know their whole life is crumbling underneath him,” regiment Chaplain (Capt.) David Deppmeier said.

Suicide is one of the biggest fears...

Soldiers nervous about going home have a ton of time to worry about things during the final several weeks. Some units wrapped up their mission in Iraq, are packed up and just waiting for transportation.

Soldiers are counting the minutes.

Spc. Pedro Gonzalez, 22, of Miami, a flight operations specialist with the 571st, said the last week has been among “the most boring and longest days” of his life...

Staff Sgt. Joseph Peca, 28, of Philadelphia, who is married and has a 1-year-old son, said people are getting tired of seeing the same people and hearing the same stories over and over again.

“You know you’ve been in Iraq too long when you run out of things to talk about,” Peca said.

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