Tuesday, February 15, 2011

72 Hours in the Desert

I have put off blogging about this because I was terribly afraid that I was going to jinx myself. I still am, actually. But I'm saving pictures of Neal's new home, sweet, home until tomorrow. So, here goes...

When Soldiers deploy for a Middle East mission, usually they have a train-up period somewhere in the states (I say "Soldiers" because that is how the Army rolls. I have no idea how the other branches do it). Neal's first deployment took him to Ft. Drum, NY, then on to Iraq. His second deploying unit trained at Camp Atterbury, IN before leaving for Kuwait. This time they are at Ft. Bliss, TX. The biggest difference, though, between this deployment and the previous two, is that they did a significant amount of training prior to the mobilization. That month he spent at Ft. Hunter-Liggett, CA in June and the month at Ft. McCoy, WI in October were all part of deployment training. So, the unit actually spends less time in the states before heading overseas than previous units. Because these troops only train stateside for about 6 weeks instead of the typical 8-12 weeks, they have started eliminating the 4-day pass that is given between stateside training and the flight overseas. I understand why, but I do not agree with it. Those last 4 days before shipping out are integral to maintaining high morale and strong bonds within the family. Small benefits like the 4-day pass actually lead to a higher retention rate within the Army. High retention means a larger Army and a larger Army means a less exhausted Army when the government insists on keeping us in battle for decades at a time. Of course, some Soldiers should go ahead and make a graceful exit...larger Army does not always equal a competent Army and that's where wasteful military spending comes into play. Let the Soldiers have a pool in Balad, but don't continue to employ individuals who are clearly unfit for duty. The PT test is required for a reason...

OK...sorry...that was a total tangent....

Anyway, the 4 day pass....Neal's unit will get one but they are one of the last units to do so. And, of course, the Army reserves the right to change anything and everything, usually at the very last moment. So, by talking about it, I'm terrified someone somewhere is going to say "oh the 352 is getting a 4-day? I don't think so. Send out a memo..." And that would be the end of the 4 day. I'm basically holding my breath until we drive out of the Ft. Bliss gate. It's not logical thinking, but it's a behavior you learn when Uncle Sam owns you. However, I'm quite excited about the trip that we have planned, so I'm taking a risk and sharing it with you. Then I will be crossing all of my fingers and all of toes, hoping this doesn't come back and bite me hard right on the ass.

Since I failed to blog about the last deployment, here are a few pictures from the last 4-day, April 2008:

It started with my trip to Camp Atterbury to punch his Captain's patch on him. Goodbye Lieutenant rank!

Then on to Portabella's for lunch. This restaurant no longer exists and I have to say it makes me more than a little sad. They had the most amazing grilled vegetable pizza....

Neal loves Sam's like a 5-year old loves the toy aisle at Target. I may have told him that they had just come out with a line of the most fantastic patio furniture...

He kind of thought so, too. So, we rented a U-Haul to get fabulous patio furniture home. Then he assembled it while I oversaw the process. And maybe drank a lot of Bud Light Lime...y'know, to stay warm.

Lunch on the new fabulous patio furniture. Spring arrives in KY much too late for me.

I did sort of insist that he do the taxes while he was home. I can't do our taxes. There is a lot of itemizing and math. Me doing taxes would pretty much guarantee an audit.

Our new deployment tradition...Graeter's. Or Coldstone Creamery this time because Graeter's somehow never made it to Georgia. I would trade our Cracker Barrel for a Graeter's in a NY minute.

The last hour. We got a hotel room for the last couple of hours because he wanted to sleep. I can only imagine the jokes made by the desk staff...

This time we are renting a car and heading north of Ft. Bliss (because there's not much to the east or west and driving south is completely out of the question. You know what's directly south of Ft. Bliss? Juarez. Mexico. They kill people there. No thanks. I'd prefer not to be murdered before I become a jewelry designing sensation.).

So, our first couple nights will be at the very vanilla Hampton Inn in Las Cruces, NM. Although that particular Hampton Inn got very high marks on TripAdvisor, so I'll let you know. For me it's a roof, a bed, and a free breakfast, but sometimes Hamptons go above and beyond.

Then it's exploring around White Sands National Park, which looks a little like this:

via Google 
You can hike around the park, sled down the dunes, or picnic within the park. It seems a little cruel to play in desert sands for an entire day before Neal ships out to Iraq, but he assures me that he's OK with it.

Then, we are heading north to Truth or Consequences, NM. I initially started researching this desert town because I loved the name. But then I discovered Riverbend Hot Springs and the attached lodge. The springs are, according to the lodge website, the only outdoor hot springs in the area and they overlook the Rio Grande. And that all supposedly looks something like this:

via Google 
I think that looks like heaven on a stick. If you stay in the lodge, you get to soak for free in the public springs and you receive deep discounts on the private baths. Nothing says "4-day pass" like a private hot spring.

And then we haul it back down I-85 to Fort Bliss for an 1800 check-in. And I catch the first flight back to Atlanta the next morning. Everyone who is flying out to El Paso to be with their Soldier for these last 4 days has different plans. Some are driving to Tucson, others are flying on to Vegas, but I like our trip the best. Private hot springs, anyone?

And for the record...I realize that "72 hours" is not 4 days...but the first day and last day are always half ours, half the Army's. 72 full, uninterrupted hours. From Bliss to bliss and back again.


  1. I will have all my fingers and toes crossed for you both!!! Thank you for sharing it sounds like a great 72 hours!!! oxoxo

  2. Ooooh keeping EVERYTHING crossed that you get your 72 hours of bliss.
    Geez louise, you guys really are THE cutest couple!

  3. Enjoy every single second. I know you will!

  4. They better keep things as is. Or else they'll have the whole blogiverse to deal with. ;)

    Enjoy each other, friend!

  5. You have a fabulous trip planned. I know you'll enjoy it! Repeat with me: this will happen, no problem. Now repeat about 32 times daily.

  6. It certainly does look like heaven on a stick. Enjoy every second of it.

  7. I am crazy superstitious too...I'll even cross my eyes if it helps you out!
    Have a wonderful time (I know you will) in your private hot springs and your Hampton Inn alike!

  8. You guys are TOO adorable. I hope he gets his 4 days and they don't change their mind. I LOVE like puffy heart love that picture of you guys in the hotel. It needs to be framed. The look you are giving him is priceless.

  9. Ditto everyone. Hoping for an early release day for you both!

  10. Fingers and toes and eyes crossed for you too!!!

    Gawd, this sucks. I'm here for you - remember that, k??

  11. I think getting rid of the 4-day is such a terrible idea, and such a perfect example of how out of touch the decision-makers-that-be are. A more terrible deployment schedule that any military generation before has ever had to deal with? Historically high divorce and domestic violence rates in every branch? Let's do our best to make it even worse!

    The people who make these calls make me so angry.

  12. I have fingers and toes crossed that this all goes as planned!! I know EXACTLY how you feel about not wanting to jinx it! Enjoy your time with him. :)

    My understanding is that soldiers are Army, Marines are Marines, sailors are Navy and airmen are AF. I know my hubs gets all bent out of shape (in good humor) if we call him a soldier, lol, "I am a MARINE!" haha. Silly boys, aren't we all on the same team? ;)

  13. This sounds like pure perfections! Sledding without bundling up in snow gear? Sign me up!


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