Saturday, August 29, 2009

All in a day's work

I spent more than four hours in the Troop Medical Clinic (TMC), making sure my incipient sore throat wasn't strep (it wasn't, but it's going around) and then having the MRI on my left knee interpreted by the rather gruff Medical Director of the place.

It turns out I have a ruptured popliteal cyst in the knee, which should self-correct, I'm told, but in the meantime has caused some inflammation. I also have some pretty awesome patellar tendonitis. Lucky me.

Fortunately, though, none of it is a show-stopper, so word of my being cleared for deployment (medically, at least) spread rapidly through the task force, and I had people I don't even know coming up to me in the chow hall to express their relief that I'll deploy with them.

Guess I've managed to pull the wool over their eyes, eh?

I hobbled on over to our Unit Ministry Team (UMT) training, where they were continuing their focus on combatives. I'd missed the first day of that instruction because I was off getting the MRI in the morning and visiting the podiatrist in the afternoon.

The other Chaplains (two) and Chaplain Assistants (four, total) had had a great time doing combatives (basically high-end wrestling and grappling; think "Chaplain ultimate fighting championship"), and were attacking and parrying and rolling around on the grass when I arrived. Given my rather less-than-robust musculoskeletal condition, I didn't go "all out" in that training!

After lunch, we had some PowerPoint slides to sit through, but I received word that one of our Soldiers had received a Red Cross message, so the trainers allowed me to return to the Battalion Headquarters. A loved one was hospitalized and near death, so I was present as this news was delivered to the Soldier.

He and I stayed and talked for quite a while afterward, and I slipped him some cash for his journey home (thanks, Dorothy B!), because he's just a Private, and hasn't got two cents to rub together. I called his cell phone from mine, so he'd have my number, and asked him to let me know what happens.

I went back to training, and was only in class for about an hour when I received another call that there was a situation requiring a Chaplain. I think the trainers were getting a bit annoyed, but off I went, again. The others went to the pugil pit to do more combatives, this time in full battle-rattle.

The second situation wound up keeping me busy for the better part of three hours. I spoke with the Soldier for a long time, and then asked if it would be OK if I asked the Soldier's Platoon Leader (PL) if we could have a meeting with all the parties involved, just to make sure everyone was on the same page. I told the Soldier I'd be there as support, and to do my best to make sure the Soldier didn't say or do anything unfortunate.

What started out as a very tense and confrontational situation eventually calmed down and became rather productive as people relaxed and misunderstandings were cleared up. The Soldier had felt that everyone else had prejudged the situation without finding out from the horse's mouth what had really happened. It became clear that what had seemed to be harshness and vindictiveness actually had been an attempt by the Chain of Command to help the Soldier succeed.

The Soldier recognized the areas that need improvement, and agreed to meet with someone regularly who can help bring about the changes that are necessary. I saw the Soldier the next day at the chow hall, smiling and cheery.

Nothing really had changed; the Soldier will have to endure the consequences of the behavior in question. And yet something significant and positive had taken place. I saw the Soldier's PL at the chow hall, too, who expressed his gratitude that the situation had turned out as it had.

All in a day's work.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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