Thursday, August 5, 2010

I'm Going to Jackson

Fort Jackson, that is! In a few weeks I'll be driving down to South Carolina for BOLC—the Army’s Basic Officer Leadership Course. It's about time. I got pinned as a second lieutenant on 7 September 2008, nearly two years ago. Upon joining the Army I had planned to become an NCO; once I made sergeant, however, I decided to pursue a direct commission. Enlisted and officers alike had advised me in this direction given my education, bearing, and age. (Broadly speaking, NCOs handle operations and commissioned officers are involved in planning.) It's a good fit so far, but I've had to wait too long to attend officer school. I didn’t know it would take this long, what with the Army allegedly hurting for officers.

The training will last for three months; I’ll be home by Thanksgiving. I’ve trained in humid summer weather before, so spending the autumn months at Fort Jackson should be a better situation for me. Moreover, I’m in good physical shape presently and unlike five-plus years ago when I went to basic training as an enlisted soldier I had little knowledge of Army culture and jargon. I generally don’t like surprises. What will I be doing there? The Army just restructured BOLC, but I think I’ll still be training in military tactics. A great emphasis, I should think, will be physical fitness; in fact, I’m already scheduled for the initial APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) for September 2. For the most part, though, I’ll receive classroom instruction. As an enlisted soldier I was an intelligence analyst. I wanted to go into intelligence as an officer as well, but I wouldn’t have received a bonus if I did. For this reason I opted to go into a different branch of the Army: Adjutant General, which is basically administration. I suspect I’ll cross over into a different branch—intelligence, engineering or transportation—once I’ve received my bonus pay.  AG training will give me a good grounding in the duties that all officers should know.

People often ask me whether the Army will deploy me overseas upon my completion of school. I have no clue. In accordance with the Bush administration’s policy, President Obama promised to reduce troops in Iraq to 50,000 by the end of this month. Supposedly a complete withdrawal of our forces will occur this time next year. As far as Afghanistan goes, the war against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will be a long drawn-out fight for some years to come. Eventually, the U.S. and NATO will do what the Taliban are waiting for us to do: leave. Until that fateful day comes, I don’t think we’ll increase troop strength there, for good or ill. Our greater interest is in Iraq in terms of geostrategic importance and the prospect for ultimate success. If and when we pull out of Iraq, though, the chances of Shiite and Sunni militia going at each other full throttle again, as they did back in 2006, are high, and we shouldn’t rule out another Iraq-Iran war on the dark horizon. Sending troops back to Iraq someday is not out of the question, as far as I see it. Incidentally, if we’re still in Germany and Japan almost seventy years after World War II, and given the huge embassy we’ve built in Baghdad, we are not leaving Iraq. If you think we are, you’re sorely misguided. I’ve got about 15 years military service left in me. I will neither shrink from deployment nor chomp at the bit for it. If I have to go, so be it. That’s in the job description.

I hope to spend some time with my family before I go to South Carolina, but these next couple of weeks will be fairly busy for my wife and kids as they prepare for school. Monika will be trying out for tennis and soccer. Jessi will be starting swimming soon. Meanwhile I have a number of issues to take care of before I leave. And that’s your latest Der Viator update!