To lighten things up a little from my last post, I made a note to walk around today and note anything that would seem really weird to any of my friends and family that aren’t really familiar with the military. Part of the reason to start this blog was to give some of my non-military associated friends a taste of what life is actually like in the military. Lord knows I had all sorts of crazy ideas about what military life was like (some of which are true). Joining the military was truly a lifestyle change; one that I have been happy with for the most part. That said, for virtually everything below, there is an adjustment period before it becomes normal. Even now while it is normal, I sometimes reflect and realize just how much of this would seem really weird to my friends from law school or college. The best way to organize this is to walk through my daily routine down here.
Waking up – I live in a tent with 10 people. My personal space is essentially the top and bottom of a bunk bed, and a wall locker next to it. Most of my old friends have since shed their roommates (unless of course they are married). Here, even married couples have the same setup, each living apart from each other in a 10 or even twenty man tent. While some are prone to complain, I don’t really find too much of an issue with it. The guy next to me is on night shift anyway, so I never actually see him. Basically, as long as some [expletive] doesn’t hit snooze fifty times on his alarm this morning (good luck so far on that), I’ve never been bothered by the arrangement.
The Gym – Down here, my workload is a little lighter, and I get to work out more consistently. They’ve managed to set up what is more or less a normalish gym here, which is good because I’ve tried running outside, and it sucks royally to run on rocks. However, from the outsiders perspective, I realized it can be a little weird that going to the gym is actually part of my job description. I don’t know too many lawyers who would be fired if they couldn’t run two miles fast enough or do enough pushups. In many regards, this oddity has been to my great benefit. I was slightly on the heavy side throughout law school, and now I’m in perhaps the best shape of my life. Given my complete lack of will power, being under orders to hit the gym repeatedly or else does wonders for my motivation.
Showering – As I mentioned earlier, there are shower stalls in the “Life Support” trailers. For the most part, it’s not very odd, except for the part where you have to brush your teeth with bottled water. I hear in some places in the states, bottled water is beginning to be frowned upon due to its environmentally suspect nature, but here, it’s our lifeblood. Given that any trips to the restroom during work hours involves a porta john (see my previous post on Toilets), I’m not taking any chances in that regard.
Changing – Every day, I wear a uniform. The same [type of] uniform. Down here, there’s not even civilian clothes after hours. It’s Multicam (the camo pattern you’ll see Soldiers in Afghanistan wearing), or PT (workout) clothes. No exception. I actually like this part of the job. I have no dry cleaning bill to speak of (not true in my civilian law jobs), my clothes are comfortable, and everyone is wearing a name tag. Once you forget you’re carrying a live firearm at all times, it becomes pretty normal pretty fast. One odd side effect since joining the military is that I am required to wear headgear of some sort whenever outside in uniform. Despite never really wearing a hat as a civilian, I now feel really bizarre walking around outside without a hat.
Breakfast – For anyone who went to college, it’s pretty much like that. No food in your living tent, all meals at a place suspiciously like a dorm cafeteria. The food isn’t bad though.
Walking to work – I will not drive a vehicle for the foreseeable future. I walk about a mile to work. During that time, I walk past a large number of Soldiers who feel the need to salute me and call me Sir. Due to the intricacies of the Army ranks, there are 30 year veterans that nonetheless salute me and call me Sir. As someone trained to call my elders Sir, it can be extremely difficult to avoid calling a Senior Enlisted Soldier Sir. I’ve gotten used to the saluting by now, but for a long time, the idea that Soldiers would stop what they were doing, stand at attention, and salute was odd to say the least. Given my rank and the time I spend indoors, I am usually only in the position of saluting someone a few times a day.
This post is flowing faster than I thought, and getting a little long, so I’ll save Part II for later.