Jan 8 - met with two members of the MPAD to discuss and put to bed the horrorshow of their MRX. They were both very polite, professional, and willing to listen to my perspective of the exercise. They had a few questions for me, offered some explanation for some of the things that had happened (much of it turned out to be misunderstanding/miscommunication), and gave suggestions for MRXs in the future.
It felt good to talk face to face, in a neutral setting (vs the AAR), and get everything out. I even got a cookie and a coke out of the deal. (Thanks again!) Hopefully we can all put this behind us and meet again in peace someday.
Jan 10-11 - traveled back to Massachusetts for Nibbey's birthday and Tree's drill. Nibbey's party was a hilariously great time at Sakura Tokyo (the waitstaff now hates us) with a table full of crazy, amazing people. It was the definition of what I miss about being at home. :(
My unit also had drill that weekend and even though I don't have to attend them (as I'm on Title 10 orders), I went up there to see everyone and remember what Guard life is like. It actually went pretty well; I was part of a group of 5 who went to Camp Curtis Guild for driver's training / PMCS classes. Kinda boring but ok. It was just great to catch up with V and remind the unit what my face looks like, ya know?
One small rotten spot on the day:
When we first arrived in morning, we all spent a few minutes shooting the shit in the lobby area of the armory. Signal R (you may remember him?) walked over, surprised to see me, and shook my hand with the usual "Hey how ya been?" Then he turned to the SGM and said, "Why is she here?" (Mind you, I'm not more than 4 feet away.) He launched into this whole speech about Soldiers getting confused about their chain of command [I currently have two: one in NJ and one in MA] and "playing" the leadership. He told the SGM (I'm still standing. right. there.) that if a Soldier is on Title 10, he or she should just stay put and not mess things up.
The SGM (bless him) kind of rolled his eyes and told Signal R that this tour is not unlike a tour with counterdrug or anything else: you aren't expected to come back for drill, but you are encouraged. Signal R was all "Really?" and the SGM kept on having my back. It was the weirdest thing.
Since there was a(nother) massive storm predicted for Sunday, the SGM told everyone not to come in and to instead make up the day some other time. Safety first, right?
Before I left, I stood in his office and talked about my future. I explained to him how much I'd like to go back for the PAOC mission in Baghdad, and he questioned whether that really was the best thing for my career right now. After all, he reasoned, since First Army is willing to send me to schools that would otherwise be difficult to attend, why not ride it out another year and set myself up to fast track (in promotions)?
It was a great, great conversation. I thought a lot about it as I drove back to Tree's father's house, thought about it some more on the ride back to NJ, thought about it all the following week...
Jan 12-15 - MRX for another MPAD, this one from Texas I believe. We got off on the right foot by having the entire unit and all of the training staff present for the welcome brief, which we rewrote to head off any similar problems we'd had in the past.
They gave us some great suggestions/improvements in the AAR:
- Provide graphics/music for the units to use in their newsreel. (this unit didn't have any, so finishing up the newsreel was difficult for them)
- Provide actual news stories to accompany the scenarios. (good idea; I'm going to write some this week)
- Draft new scenarios. (any officer who has attended PAOQC has already seen our scenarios as First Army had to purchase them from DINFOS, but the LT and I are going to make up some new ones for the next MRX)
- Provide opportunities for radio training (the Rs don't get this at our MRX, mostly because it is difficult to replicate here without a studio... but I'll look into it at least)
I also made note of a few more things to include in the mission brief: What specific training/help do you need from us? Does all of your equipment work? Are there any programs you are unfamiliar with?
It just seems that the unit always has a problem with something but it is never brought to our attention until the AAR, when it's too late to do anything. You only know how to edit using Avid software but your unit laptops have Adobe Premier? We can help with that. Your laptop sucks (1 Beyond is TERRIBLE) and the USB ports don't work? We can get you another laptop. You can't export to tape? Well, obviously you won't be expected to do a DVIDS transmission.
The MRX mission is secondary to getting the unit prepared to deploy. If at any time there is an issue, especially a technical one that is out of the journalist's control, we can pause the exercise and work something out. But we can't help if we don't know we're needed. It's frustrating... I hate that feeling of Trainer vs. Unit. Even though this last MRX went much smoother than the last one, there were still things that came up in the AAR that should have been addressed way sooner. Why does this happen?
One thing is for sure: working here is no good for my self esteem. :/
And now, time for a (stiff) drink.
"as if it happening wasn't enough
I got to go and write a song
to remind myself how bad it sucked"
- Brand New "Seventy Times 7" -