Thursday, January 27, 2011

Learning from the Past

This is not Neal's unit. Thank you, Google Images.

Very little in the way of actual progress has been happening around here lately. A little bit of laundry, a tiny bit of cooking, and a fair amount of work...but nothing like what the 352 is getting done at Ft. Bliss right now. In the past 48 hours, they have been issued additional uniforms. duffles, and ballistics vests (which, according to Neal, fit and perform much better than the gear from his previous deployments) and visited the "secret" training site where they will be in the coming days. Secret training sites are vital to the mission, but seriously inconvenient for me. Upon entering the building, Soldiers must hand over all electronic devices and they are not just turned to the "vibrate" position, they are turned off. Incommunicado. They are an island and I...well, I lost my "Regis, can I phone a friend?" option (fantastic preparation for the Iraq months, though, when I must wait for my friend to phone me). We experienced some of this while we were on temporary duty at Ft. Lee last November. Within the 2 days that he was in the secret room, I needed to know: where to go to get my flat tired fixed on post
            how to get to Verizon
            why I couldn't use the first gate after 2 PM
            how to find the airport to pick up the commander

If you are not a naturally independent and self-reliant person when you marry into the military, you will become one. Sink or swim. Or get divorced.

So, the 352 has been very busy...with the first morning's formation at 0400 and subsequent mornings at 0600. I have very little sympathy for Neal, though, because 0600 is actually 0800 his time and he rises with the roosters. This is almost sleeping in for him.

Today, however, brought an interesting new task...the ANAM (Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metrics)....basically a brain scan. In the wake of fighting a war that introduced the Improvised Explosive Device and a seemingly unending supply of suicide bombers, the military is finally beginning to understand the need to diagnose and treat traumatic brain injuries accurately and efficiently. ANAM promises to do just that. All deploying troops are required to complete the baseline scan prior to mobilization. Should, God forbid, something turn them or their vehicle upside down, the baseline will then be used to determine if a traumatic brain injury has occurred, to what extent, and help doctors provide the best possible treatment quickly.

This reminds me of the question we were asked during the interview Neal and I did for the local news. The question (and our answers) never aired, but the reporter asked us, "Have you all discussed what will happen if, Heaven forbid, he doesn't come back?" We stared at each blankly, which silently answered her, we had not. Neal, quick with a response, said "Well, we have discussed what will happen financially. She will be provided for with the life insurance policy...but nothing beyond that." Would that have been the appropriate time for me to say, "Well, if he doesn't come home, I think I will become a nun." or "If he doesn't return, I will just go ahead and commit myself to a mental institute for the rest of my days."? Because that is how I feel. No, we haven't had that conversation, but it is part of being prepared. Just as the ANAM is meant to prepare our troops and the doctors who treat them for one of the worst possible scenarios (not the worst, but certainly not one that anyone looks forward to).

Neal just texted me to say they are finished with the ANAM and I'm sure he will tell me all about it tonight. In the meantime, I applaud the Department of Defense for learning from the past. IED's and suicide bombers don't seem to be fading away into the sunset. The ANAM looks to be another tool in the DoD's toolbox used to prepare for them.


  1. I remember when Steve came home with the pre-deployment paperwork and we had to write a will and plan his funeral. That was the most depressing night, ever. I've said it before, you're quite a woman if you can deal with the military lifestyle. Granted, your husband is a stand up man and mine wasn't, but you truly are amazing.

    Good on the DoD for finally recognizing that mental illness isn't "all in their heads".

  2. I'm not sure if you know this, but my husband was in the military for about three years almost 10 years ago. He actually signed up for ROTC and they pulled him out of bootcamp because of his ASVAB score. They placed him in the Intelligence Corp where is specialization was Korea. There are many, many things he can't tell me about until 2018, but the the scariest part is that the military would come get him when they needed him. His family and girlfriend at the time weren't allowed to know where he was, wouldn't hear from him at all while he was gone, and didn't know when he would be back. I can't imagine how this would feel and every time I hear something about Korea on the news, my stomach gets knots in it because the military will call him back until he is in his 50s if they need him. Sean is a man of honor and gladly serves his country when they need him, but I'm probably not prepared if the does come.

  3. I'm very sad for you.

    That's why i think Military wives are almost as brave as the servicemen they love.

    No other words, just that I'm glad they are trying to make things better, and I'm thinking about you guys and praying for his safe return...even before he's "officially" gone.

  4. I like reading your insight on what all is happening and what you and Neal are going through. It brings me closer to understanding Military wives and their lives, maybe not completely but closer is better right? *big hugs*


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