The Army makes elegant promises to take you around the world. I was thrilled to have traveled to…
Wendover, Nevada (whomp whomp whooooomp).
News broke out about our mission at Wendover our first night of A.T. I, and one other fueler, were the two soldiers that would be responsible for fueling operations along a team of maintenance soldiers incase we have issues with our HEMTT.
The drive out was…uneventful, as Wendover leaves much to be desired in terms of scenery. I had began to learn just a taste of the sacrifices that military families taste. Our travel date fell on the same day as my partner and I’s first ultrasound, where we would discover the gender of our child. I received the imagery later. It was a Boy, I immediately felt a surge of emotion as I saw him for the first time in the form of ultrasound. Hearing his heartbeat continues to beat loud for me today.
Gambling is outlawed in Utah, however it’s welcomed in its neighboring state, Nevada. Wendover is the closest gambling town to Utah. In the middle of the desert, lies a pocket of casinos, some gas stations, some run down homes, and an abandoned airfield. This airfield would be our FARP site to “hot fuel” Blackhawks.
We set up our FARP and I quickly learned that the privileges of enlisted soldiers greatly differ from that of officers. As I looked down at my MRE with obvious disdain, I noticed aircraft flying in. I grabbed my hot-fuel PPE and manned my fueling station. When the aircraft touched down and I ran out to fuel, I observed the boxes of pizza within the compartment. They had flown into town to pick up a pizza to eat prior to taking flight back to SLC. Must be nice, as I was ingesting nothing but preservatives.
Wendover had other excitements. I, the novice fueler, was changing hoses on a reel and failed to depressurize the lines. Doing so left me bathed in fuel, hello carcinogens and hello no sleep. Obviously unable to shower, my skin remained exposed to the toxicities found within fuel. Surprisingly I didn’t mutate into Godzilla overnight.
I slept (tossed and turned) outside the tent that night due to the extreme July heat and the body odor of one particular troop who wasn’t fond of personal hygiene. The following day I topped of two aircraft then set off back to the Armory. We rested that night and prepped for another FTX, this time to Camp Williams, Utah’s training ground. This time around, the focus of training would be around Soldier tasks.
We arrived the following morning and set up cots in a FOB-like scenario designed to mimic that of a outpost overseas. Cornering the barbwire fences were various security posts to be manned 24/7. Lucky for one of few privates, such as myself, I was immediately assigned to one of these posts. Such is the life of a private. I didn’t necessarily mind, however. As a novice Soldier, I genuinely wanted to contribute because I felt I hadn’t much to offer other than a willingness to be trained.
The rest of A.T. we executed various Soldier tasks at the firing range, assaulted targets, operated a FOB, and others. We exited Camp Williams four days later to wrap up A.T. at the Armory where we completed administrative tasks and continued to fuel aircraft. We also spent two days recovering from the FTX by cleaning our equipment. 18 days came on gone, and A.T. had come to a close and we were given time off until next September, which was Governor’s Day.
I seemingly couldn’t get enough of orders. A fourth of the battalion had been mobilized for deployment to Afghanistan and had requested Soldiers to guard their helicopters while they trained. I volunteered, which wreaked havoc for my employer (Sorry, Brad). The following week, I took flight to Fort Hood, Texas.
I’ll say this and probably offend 1/5 of the country. I just don’t get Texas — it blows. Mind you, I was confined to the arm pit of North Fort Hood, where I was lucky to find a bar of cell service. The bulls are cool, I suppose. I was on post for 30 days where I performed 12 hour shifts watching helicopters. In hindsight, I wish I had brought something to kill the time, as boredom reared it’s ugly head on a regular basis. Sweating in a guard shack with body armor and armed with a 240b was an exciting way to make a few bucks. We did have a bull that would constantly try to sneak on the airfield that we would have to ward off, so that made for good use of our time.
Our next drill was “Governors Day” The National Guard differs from other branches as you commit to your state, but still can be “federalized” to perform federal duties, such as deployment. When a Guardsman enlists, they commit to serving their state under the command of the Governor. Once a year, the entire National Guard gathers for a show of power in front of the Governor, who also speaks to the entire fighting force. Governor Herbert reigns over Utah and as a prior Artillery Guardsman, is quick to appreciate the service members.
At the end of my first contract year I was honored to receive some surprising news. I had been selected as the Soldier of the Year, and I was to immediately prepare for the “Soldier of the Year Board.” I was both ecstatic and overwhelmed. Soldier’s of the Year are typically selected based of their individual merit and their projected capability to win the competitive board. I was to compete against other nominees from varying companies.
Then at the end of December, my son was born. Words don’t due justice to becoming a Father.
All in all, it was an absolutely eventful first year.
Here’s to the next year.