Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sand for Work and Play

I hope y'all had a lovely champagne/sangria/beer/margarita/flavored water Friday and an even better long weekend. And for those of you who had to work yesterday, that is so un-American. Please let your boss know that an Army wife in middle Georgia is giving them the stink-eye rightthisminute.

I just returned from a 4-day trip to Jacksonville to visit my sister, The Queen, and the rest of her Royal Family. My nieces, Repunzerella and Sleeping Booty, kept it exciting with tennis, pool time, a trip to the beach, and a classmate's birthday party at the 7th Layer of Hell (suddenly, I realize why I had to beg long and hard for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese when I was a weeAlly. Because they don't serve alcohol there. But they should. Preferably pure grain.)

A couple of states over, the 352 is completing their field training in a very Iraq-esque environment...also known as the Texas desert. The second half of the deployment train-up is mostly field work, including convoy and IED training, and learning how to do "presence patrols". During Neal's first deployment, he was the convoy commander for many missions from the southern area of Iraq, up to Baghdad, and back. He knows how to run a convoy. And he knows a thing or two about IEDs...seeing as he had to build a model a few years ago for some training exercises in his old unit. I was sweating like an Eskimo in the Sahara until he took his homemade IED, created with some pretty rainbow-colored wires and one of my old Nokia cell phones, to drill weekend. I just knew something ridiculous was bound to happen with a device in the house that could easily be mistaken for a terrorist masterpiece. Neal doesn't half-ass anything.

So, without further ado, a few pictures from our weekend in the sand:

Mickler's Beach is fairly close to The Queen's house, so Saturday afternoon we loaded up the brood and headed to the sand and surf. We look somewhat bundled, but there were plenty of tweens flaunting their tanning bed bodies in skimpy 2-pieces. If it's possible to get hypothermia in 70-degree temperatures, I'm sure someone got it that day.

The 352 focused on IED and tripwire training over the weekend. Same sun, same sand, completely different experience. In this photo, a Soldier locates an "IED" and the rest spread out to secure the area and ensure the safety of everyone close by.

The Royal Family plays a little football on the beach. Sir Murph, the family dog, looks on and wonders how he will fit that ball into his mouth.

During a "presence patrol"...named so because they are intended to demonstrate the unit's presence in an area, Soldiers walk carefully, scanning for IEDs, tripwires, and other gifts that insurgents have left for them in the field.

On the beaches of Florida, the sand stays where it is supposed to be...on the ground, waiting for children to come and build sandcastles or bury one another. Mickler's is all-inclusive, open to families, dogs, and horses, it appears. (These are actually hoof-prints. We saw several horses with riders strolling up and down the waterfront.)

In Texas, however, sometimes the sand blows and swirls, and causes a great deal of discomfort. A sandstorm blew in over the weekend and gave the 352 their first experiences with the exfoliated esophagus. The first of many. This photo also prompted the following conversation between me and Neal:

Neal: Yeah, we got a sandstorm today.
Me: Oh, that's cool. How did they do that?
Neal: What do you mean?
Me: Well, that's just so much like Iraq. How did they get all that sand there?
Neal: They imported it.
Me: silence
Neal: suppressed laughter
Me: You're messing with me, aren't you?
Neal: It's the desert. How do you think they got it there?
Me: You're an ass.

His last 2 train-ups were in the North American arctic. I think all units deploying to the Middle East should complete deployment training at Ft. Bliss....especially since they went through the trouble of importing the sand and all.


  1. Great post, Ally - the juxtaposition (look at me using, like, big words and stuff) of a "normal" holiday weekend against how the 352 (among other units) spent the holiday.
    And personally, I think that sand is an effective use military budget to accurately simulate desert conditions for the soldiers!
    Wait...how was Neal messing with you?

  2. That picture of you and your sister is so cute! Y'all look rather alike. =) Are you pretty close?

  3. The complete differences between the fun sand and the work sand are amazing.
    Great post, friend.

  4. Well, this is just really lovely, Ally. I like the differences between your world and his right now. I don't know if you deleted your Twitter or not -- but I'm going to go Tweet this out for the world to see :)

  5. I love the compare and contrast - and that you got a chance to go to the beach with the Royal Family and play catch up. Seeing all that must make what Neal does rewarding for him. oxox

  6. Sounds like your sandbox was more fun! I'm glad Neal is able to talk to you!!! Communication = a total must have!!!!

  7. Somehow the play sand seems a lot nicer than the work sand, but good training is what it's all about "over there". xoxo

  8. this is an awesome post! really liked the compare and contrast!


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