As I sat at dinner tonight I got to thinking about how things are around here and how they contribute to a feeling of normalcy. The enlisted folks who are in charge of the Excursions and do the briefings are all in civilian clothes. They’ve got Polo’s with their name and rank embroidered on the shirt and that’s their uniform. They look like “cruise directors” and I’m sure that’s the image they’re supposed to project. It would certainly have a different feel had they been in their military uniforms. What a great job this must be.
At dinner as I was eating off real plates and using real silverware, it too helped create that feeling of normalcy. Now realize, the chow hall here is not normal. They have “real” milk, they have ice and fountain sodas. Something you do NOT see in Afghanistan. Also, there’s a Baskin Robbins stand with about 8-9 flavors and you can eat all you want. They also pass out candy bars – two per customer and other goodies. So in that respect, chow here is not normal, but it was the little things; the plates and silverware that made me think of the lengths the command goes to here to make us feel like we’re not in a war zone.
When we checked in they issued us linen for the beds; mattress cover (that blew me away that we’d actually get a mattress cover) sheets, blankets, pillows as well as a towel. Most places tell you to bring your sleeping bag but here they want you to get away from that feeling. However, the sheets are true military sheets. They’re both the same size and they’re both flat sheets. That means you have to try and make one of the flat sheets serve to cover the mattress. I wish I could say that that was a possible feat but alas it’s not. They barely wrap around the mattress across the width and there’s no way they wrap length wise. If you’re like me and thrash around at night, your bed looks like it’s been through a war zone in the morning. Oh well, at least they’re real sheets!
Then of course there’s the pool. It’s a beautiful pool surrounded by lounge chairs WITH cushions. They even have sunscreen available to use. I wish I would have known this before I spent a whopping ninety-seven cents on No-Ad #30 sunblock. Now those of you who know me know that I don’t like to wear sunscreen. I don’t like the sticky feel plus I’m in the “skin cancer/sun worshipper” club. I know, I know, skin cancer is a real and dangerous thing, but I just enjoy being out in the sun. And I know, I can still be in the sun, just wear the sunblock. Well this time I decided that I’d better wear it. I figure that if I got burned it would be quite uncomfortable going back to “work” wearing my heavy body armor on top of a sunburn. So I did it. I put on sunblock. Of course that patch on your back where your arms are physically incapable of reaching got a little pink but it was either that or ask the tattooed soldier next to me to put some on. I opted for the self-application.
Did I tell you that there’s a Chili’s right there on the pool? I had fajita nachos for lunch the other day as I lay by the pool. It was great and very relaxing.
I love not wearing my uniform and boots. I had just about forgotten how great it was to wear shorts and t-shirts every day. Excursions require long pants and while I enjoyed wearing my Levi’s, it wasn’t quite as good as wearing shorts all day, every day.
What else makes it great to be here? Not having to get up if I don’t want to. Being able to take a nap and not feel guilty about it. Not worrying (too much) about being attacked. Not worrying about where my pistol and rifle are every moment of every day. Not worrying about what my ANA counterparts are doing. (OK, I still think about them, wondering what’s happening and I imagine I’ll still do that even after I get home.) Wearing sandals and tennis shoes. Not wearing Army tan underwear every day. Just not worrying about the Taliban and being in a war zone.
I guess that’s why the Army has the “rest and relaxation” program. It’s definitely one program the Army got right.