Saturday, January 10, 2009

Random conversation

So there I was on my way to the East Coast to visit the Army buddies I knew from their days in ROTC back in the midwest a number of years back, and my good friend CPT L. The night before my trip, I was on the phone with one of them, CPT J, who was chatting away after a long day at law school. It was a delight to have the luxury of having *him* call me for a change, since where I am Down Range my cell phone doesn't work, and there's no way for someone without a DSN to contact me by phone.

Anyway, we wound up blabbing until after midnight his time, which meant I was going to get somewhat less than six hours of sleep before I had to be up at 0300 in order to make it to the airport with my parents, turn in their car, get through security, etc. Being able to talk like that was definitely worth it.

At the airport I asked whether there might be an exit row aisle seat available. The agent at the counter was very helpful, but managed only a wan smile after checking her computer, saying, "I have one, but it doesn't recline." Oh well, I've had seats like that for much longer flights. Not a problem. At least there'd be some measure of leg room. The flights back from Kuwait, through Shannon, had me in the fetal position, the rows were so close together. (See an earlier blog post for more on that trip....)

Mom and Dad bade me adieu at the gate, seeing as their gate was right next to mine (that was certainly a first!), and I was able to board with the "elite" passengers because I'd done so much flying before this deployment. (Many thanks to Delta Airlines for extending my status for the duration of my deployment; I'm obviously not able to do much civilian flying while I'm Down Range!)

The airport we flew out of still has the hint of "Hooterville" about it -- we used "sky stairs" to get from the tarmac up into the plane (no jetway). A woman in front of me was obviously having trouble negotiating the stairs, so I offered to carry her luggage up the stairs for her, and then wound up putting it in the overhead compartment before she took her seat. Turns out, she had had both knees replaced, and so sky stairs are a real challenge.

I got settled in to my seat, and much to my surprise eventually found myself sitting in the same row with the Commanding General of an Army Division, and more to my surprise, he and I had met in June before I mobilized. We remembered each other, and he wasn't even upset about the memory. Who knew? (I think that's a first.) 

There was no one between us, and we wound up chatting for quite some time at the beginning and end of the flight. As a Major General in the Reserve, he is very concerned about the situation of Reserve Component Soldiers who are deployed as "fillers" -- not with their own units. We discussed the challenges faced by Family Readiness Groups for Reserve and Guard units, whose deployed Soldiers might live at great distances from one another.

I was surprised to learn from the General that families of Reserve Component Soldiers who are deployed with units not their own are supposed to receive phone calls on a regular basis from Family Readiness Group people. To the best of my knowledge, no one in my family has received a single one of those calls, let alone calls on a regular basis. 

The General said our families should have been receiving these contacts. Perhaps it's because SFC McG and I have deployed as our own unit, or perhaps we've just fallen through the cracks. Despite being our own unit, we're not deployed with the Guard, so it would seem we *ought* to fall under this rule. I'll look into it to find out what is going on.

One surprising aspect of this interaction with a General Officer, is that this time I managed *not* to annoy, vex, irk, incense, or otherwise bother the man (unlike what happened within six months of my joining the Guard, for example -- but that's another story....). To the contrary, the General gave me his coin before we exited the plane.

Go figure.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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