How did a narcissist like me go this long without a selfie?
I spent the following month physically and mentally preparing for the board. The material was cumbersome. Going through every military policy, tactics, history, and others, was difficult to memorize. The difficulty compounded as I was managing a full-time job, full-time school in psychology, and prepping for the birth of our child. Needless to say, I was underprepared for the board.
The following drill I entered the board room donned in my “dress blues”. It was apparent that I was the most novice of the other competitors. I, a PFC, had nothing to show for my military career other than the three ribbons I earned in IET & AIT. None others were privates, none others were limited to three ribbons. Disadvantage: Cam.
“Ashdown!” bellowed one of the judges. I walked in with apparent competence, trying my best to conceal my lack of preparation. Participants are graded on both professionalism and correctness. Though I didn’t know all the answers, I did know how to answer with a sense of professionalism. I looked disciplined as hell when I bellowed “I don’t know the answer to that question, Sergeant Major” on repeat. I marched, sang the Army Song, canted the Soldier’s Creed, then excited the room. Sweating through my blues, I got out just in time as I could only embarrass myself so much.
The results were revealed later that night in formation. “Ashdown, you came in second” reported the First Sergeant with a look of displeasure. I, on the other hand, was more than pleased. I wasn’t the absolute worst, works for me. “You lost by .5 of a point” 1SG Stewart mentioned. I wasn’t sure how to make sense of that, but I was that close to taking first place amongst soldiers much more seasoned than I. This was met with a sense of positivity. Later that formation the Commander presented me with a challenge coin for my efforts. I grew to appreciate these coins and this was the first of a vast collection I showcase today. Additionally, I had gotten news that I’d be promoted to Specialist. This is a big deal as no one wants to be referred to as “Private”.
Remember the blurb on exciting A.T.’s? This year we get to go to Ferron, Utah! If I were to make a guess as to their population, I’d go for around 1,300 as evidenced by the nothingness the town offers aside from a gas station.
A.T. was similar to the prior year, spending the first week at the Armory prepping for the movement while performing MOS duties. We moved out to Ferron where I, the driver, almost lost my trailer while navigating through a canyon. The battalion set up their camp around the Lake at Ferron. Fuelers weren’t afforded such pleasantries. We drove 20 minutes south into a dust bowl to set up our FARP. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as we were away from the leadership. Aside from the occasional aircraft that rolled in, we had all the time to hangout. I had become enamored with body building and created a an outdoor fitness program called “Body by HEMTT”, which I employed with my Soldiers as a NCO.
The week in the field dragged on, as the boredom set in. Fueling in the dirt has its complications. When aircraft touch down, their rotor wash blows dirt everywhere. We were constantly treated for eye irritation from the rotor wash. Additionally we sweating through our uniforms (a common theme I’m noticing), as our tent had little ventilation and no A/C. With boredom comes shenanigans. There were dirt hills everywhere and I had a HMMWV. I spent a good minute off-roading.
We left after 5 sweaty days. I probably should apologize to the shower I used when I got home as a I was a resembled a 5 year old air filter. We had a few more days of A.T. to clean up from our FTX, then we were off for the next month to recover.
The year was relatively easy, as I had another P.T. test, more shooting, more fueling, and other administrative actions. The unit had returned from their deployment and some had reintegrated back to their sections. Going from a few fuelers to several a welcomed change as we were able to spread the workload.
Later in the year the unit had gotten another deployment order (we are typically warned a year in advance). This time, HHC would be going to Kosovo. For some odd reason, I had a feeling I would be going on this one despite being assigned to E. Co. Sure enough, our commander pulled aside the fuelers and mentioned that there was “a chance” we’d be assigned for this deployment. This makes planning life incredibly difficult when there’s a chance of over a year’s amount of military orders coming your way.