Saturday, June 17, 2006

First Days

Ever been to Mississippi in the summer? Do the words “hot” and “humid” mean anything to you? They are beginning to sink in for us. Actually, it hasn’t been that hot yet, only the low 90’s and the humidity has only be in the 60% range so I shouldn’t be complaining. Maybe next week.

Camp Shelby is quite beautiful. It’s green…something we don’t see a lot of at Camp Williams. As you travel throughout the camp, you can still see signs of Katrina’s wrath. Pieces of roofs are still missing or have been covered with tarps. Trees that were knocked over still have not been cleaned up. One can only imagine the fury with which Mother Nature descended upon this location.

Well we got here without any problems and jumped right into a “busy” schedule. PT was first thing Saturday morning. Because some of us did not strictly follow the packing list, our PT shoes were still in transit. Consequently, a trip the to PX to purchase PT shoes was required. For some, (like the JAG – not to mention any names), shoes were not available so PT was accomplished in PT uniform and combat boots. Hooah!!

Sunday was filled with our required briefings. The memories of that day still fill me with, uh, excitement. It was held in the base theater. The lighting system had been damaged during the hurricane and you could still see where part of the roof had been torn off. Since they were going to renovate the building anyway, not a lot of money was spent fixing the problems. Consequently, the briefings were conducted in near total darkness. Perfect conditions for conducting inspections on the back of one’s eyelids without being noticed.

The SRP (Soldier Readiness Processing) followed upon the heels of the briefings. Monday morning we arose before the sun, literally, got on busses and went to get the blood drained from us, our bodies injected with anthrax, our files checked and our patience tested. Actually, the whole process went fairly smoothly and what was expected to take a couple of days was able to be completed in one day. Our thanks to the staff at Camp Shelby for being so efficient and our thanks to the folks from Utah who traveled here to assist in the process.

Our protective masks have now been fitted and deemed safe and ready to be used. We’ve been issued our IBA (individual body armor) as well as our pistols. We are becoming a combat force.

We are becoming versed in “Dari” as well as the customs of the Afghan people. As anyone who has traveled to another country knows, the best way to win the hearts of the people is to try and speak their language and adapt to their culture. So, “salaam” and “subh ba Khayr.” “ma daree yaad nadaarum.” You’ll have to ask your soldier for a translation. For some of us, this is the first foreign language ever learned. (That is if you don’t count “southern” as a foreign language.) Hopefully by the time we get in-country, we’ll be able to converse with the people enough to at least ask where the bathroom is.

Another first – battered, deep-fried pork chops. Ah, the finer things in life.

As the training schedule continues to evolve so will the experiences. But for now, “shumaa baamaane Khudaa” from Camp Shelby.

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