Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Stress Levels

This may sound funny, but I often prefer the stress of being “in the box” to that of being home. Some of this may be because I have been a soldier since I turned seventeen. Allow me to elaborate.

When deployed there is a massive amount of stress in day-to-day life, but it is a different kind of stress. Yes, the prospect of death or dismemberment is stressful, but I always felt like I was trained to deal with it. I’m sure many of you have heard this analogy: combat for a soldier is much like a professional athlete finally getting called off the bench to get into the big game. BTW, the left would have you believe that we are ‘children’ that have been duped by an evil administration… however, we call ourselves ‘professionals’ (the Silent Professionals in the case of SF). A soldier may worry and fret (read fear), but that is what keeps you alive. It is hard work. It is really damn hard. It is also exceedingly rewarding. I believe that we in the military (especially the special operations community) are wired differently. We are adrenaline junkies. We are dedicated. We are (largely) selfless in our sacrifices. I don’t worry that I will get hurt or die, I worry about my buddies to my left and right. I won’t let them down.

Another source of stress is caused by just being away from home and missing your friends and family. Eventually, you use this ache to get through a tough day. There is also the stress of Hysterical Idiots of Generally Higher Rank (HIGHeR)… even the idiots think that there are idiots above them. For example, once I was at Camp Victory in Baghdad - back when it was first named. I was headed to find some chow when some REMF numbskull called me out for having my ball-cap hat on (I replied that it was my uniform) and kicked back on my head (revealing my roguishly long hair). This dude then heatedly explained that I was setting a poor example for Joe… and why wasn’t I wearing any rank (I only was in uniform because I had to be at this Camp). This may sound petty, but I don’t need this particular flavor of discipline. Ah well, I just said “Roger that” and kept moving on (without adjusting anything).

Another stressor is purely the lack of privacy. Sure you get a little, but it really wore on me as time went on. Of course, I didn’t have it as bad as all the dudes in tent-city, but it was bad enough at the time. You really get close to your buddies. It is awesome, but you are with them ALL THE TIME… for months at a time. It is hard. Add to this elixir the extreme heat, perpetual dust, and body armor… and you can start to feel the fun!

So, those are just some of the stressors, but it is still okay because it is your job. You are getting a great paycheck (relatively as you don’t pay federal income tax), you get to eat three times a day (some guys get KBR chow and have steak and lobster tail once a week), you don’t have to worry what you’ll wear each day, you have sporadic phone and internet access (some more than others), and you are with some of the very best friends you will ever have!

Now you get home. In my case, back to the civilian job and life. Now I seem to have less control over my life than I did before. Here is a short list: shopping; laundry; cooking; paying bills; making time for the gym; traveling all over the country to visit family (which is awesome, but tiring); getting all your benefits started up at work; driving without looking for snipers and bombers; explaining what it was like ‘over there’ to everyone who asks, constant contact with everyone and anyone due to land-line, cell, and blackberry; not utilizing profanity at every opportunity; watching the MSM and (what seems like) half the country inexplicably get it all wrong; etc.

Sure, this is all stuff that we all deal with day-to-day here in the world, but it is some of the reasons why I didn’t completely mind being gone. The bottom line is that I feel like I have more control and can better focus on my job when I’m abroad. Sorry. The thing that I really miss the most is being surrounded by people who are just like me. *sniff*

Mudville Gazette