Today was the best day I’ve had in the real Army, since graduating Advanced Individual Training. And while not also the worst day, it did have stark contrast with prior events.
So, we’re in a Field Training Exercise, and today I’m told to shadow soldiers in the signal company, who are Satellite Communcations Operators/Maintainers, like myself. Forgive me for not saying so much earlier, but since I got to my first real-Army unit, this being my elevendy first days since then, I have not touched a satellite antenna. I have likely done no more than two hours of satellite related work. Wtf.
The brigade needs me to have an E-5’s level of experience in my field when I, although am an E-4—thanks to my degree—have the experience of an E-1. Somehow, I was slotted here. Thus, I am tasked with the said modicum of relevant work, and then am available for manual labor with whomever else needs it. On an optimistic note, I have cross-trained often.
But, in assisting the soldiers of my own Military Occupational Speciality, the starved synapses in my brain fired off in a spectacular rate. I was even able to generate ideas that even a section leader hadn’t thought. “How’d you know to do that?” ‘That’s all I did for eight months at AIT.’ I guess a forced reading of every word in the Technical Manual helped.
The soldiers I was with were MOS 25s, and Sierras—as they are called—are very particular breed. They typify as being book smart, into Dungeons & Dragons and anime, socially awkward, but never boring. Nerds. Interestingly so, I met many pagans and Wiccans in AIT. Few cultural or historical references go above their heads. When I got to AIT, I was struck by how similar these people were to me! While not sharing every interest (I actually had to get more nerdy to find a common pastime—Magic: The Gathering), I enjoyed finding myself in similar company. I can further that point by saying I’ve never met a more vulgar crowd than the kids I was with at Basic. Few of them I would want to meet my wife. Having said all that, being in the company of Sierras today was a huge nostalgic thrill. I even realized that antenna equipment puts off a certain scent that I’d forgot about in its absence.
After finishing my training with them, I went back to my unit at brigade. Having remembered sweet, I could more accurately define saltiness, and homie, did it make me salty. I realized that I am a soldier without an MOS; that I am purposeless; that I know enough about another MOS to get by, but not enough to be certified; that I am wasting my unit’s time since they need someone more experienced and likewise my own time is wasted since I’m not using my vocational skills. Also, I’ve found that not many soldiers have the patience for a noob. Learning only through experience without the ability to ask questions is a painful and frustrating thing. I regret coming into the military as an E-4 since everyone expects me to have two or more years of time under my belt. (But I can’t complain about the pay.) I can tell some soldiers think I’m being disrespectful but the fact is that I don’t even know enough about Army culture to pass off as an E-4. I don’t recommend my route to anyone joining the military.
The purpose of this is that finding purpose makes all the difference. (Cliché, I know, but principles hit harder when you discover them yourself.) I’m told that before the year is out, I’ll move to the signal company and again get to be a Sierra. Halle-freaking-lujah! My people! It’s been a rough period, and I couldn’t do it without some fatherly leaders, but I’m chalking this up to “learning.” The past year and change has been categorized that way, and I think fortune is coming my way.