Saturday, May 03, 2008

It's A Small World After All...

As I've stated below I'm in Alabama attending an Army school. This is the place it really all started for me (although I went to basic training at Ft. Sill, OK). Every time I come back here, I get this queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I drive past the buildings I lived in for about a year, I think of the things we did...endured really...for the goal of my wings. I drive down the same street we ran down in the pre-dawn darkness, on my way to class and pass the chow hall DFAC, were the smell of greasy bacon assaulted us on what was usually mile four of some death march for our aerobic benefit. In the end it was worth it, and I truly felt I had earned something when I left here for my first asignment...but I hold no fond memories of this place, and I for the most part do not like to come back here.

Which all brings me to this...

As part of our staff course that I am compelled to attend, we are asked to attend a mentor-ship dinner where us, the grizzled old guys, are supposed to give advise and council to the Warrant Officer Candidates who are about to earn their bar and go on to flight school or whatever other MOS (military occupational specialty) they are there for. As it turns out the morale boost goes both ways.

We were asked to arrive at a certain time and we were segregated by MOS at tables in the same DFAC I swore I would never eat in again, when I left this place almost 20 years ago. Sitting there I wondered, since they had told us all of these soldiers had prior military experience, what did they really want from us...other than to be left alone, and get on with their version of the flight school experience.

As they sat down, it turns out they had a lot of the same concerns and feeling i had when I went through all those years ago. But then here's the catch, as looked around at these guys who had careers in the Army already, combat veterans, wearing patches, CABs and CIBs...these were their credentials. Something made them want to go to flight school. I asked the guy across from me wearing an 82nd airborne combat patch, "where did you serve?" He told me, "Baghdad" during the same time I was there. "Did you ever talk on the radio?", I asked. He answered in the affirmative and I then asked him if he recognized the call-sign, "Crazyhorse" (my unit call-sign). This opened up the floodgates of something I was not prepared for...immediately three out of the four candidates around me stated that "Crazyhorse" had saved them or their unit at one time or another. One soldier told me that our aircraft had saved him personally three times. To be honest I didn't know what to say. I was honored to sit there on behalf of all the pilots who used that call-sign and hear those expressions of gratitude. I was humbled to be in the presence of heroes who wanted to now join us. It's hard not to become a little cynical from time to time but after spending a few minutes with these soldiers, I think I got more out of this mentor-ship than they did from me.

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