Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait!

Photo: Soldiers waiting to board a bus to begin a 12-month deployment to Iraq.

In the Army world, waiting is a part of the basic way of life, the standard operating procedures (SOP), if you will. Soldiers joke about the “hurry up and wait” aspect of reporting at “O-Dark-Thirty” only to have to wait for hours to accomplish whatever task for which they were sent.

Waiting is a real part of a spouse’s life, too. One favorite is waiting for your Soldier’s orders. Now, there are orders, requests-for-orders (RFOs … you know the Army abbreviates almost everything), and then there are the waiting-until-I-am-sure-they-have-completely-forgotten-about-us-please-please-PLEASE-give-us-orders orders. Even better, sometimes you have the good ole change of orders! It’s all part of the sometimes-unpredictable way of Army life.

In my time as an Army wife, I feel like I’ve spent countless days/weeks/months waiting … waiting for something from the Army. Every permanent change of station (PCS) move is preceded by weeks of waiting for the assignment. Are we moving to Georgia? Alaska? Washington State? Korea?

At one time, I would spend hours researching every possibility … on-post housing, local real estate and homes, schools, neighborhoods, crime rates, medical facilities, sports programs (the list is never-ending but you get the point) … only to find out that our assignment was not even on the list of possibilities. Arg! Now I try to be a little more relaxed and engage in what my husband calls “tactical patience.” Get the official information first, and then research away.

We’ve waited for information on promotion board results, slates for next job assignments, and most recently, command selection results (um, still waiting on that one!). I’m also still waiting on redeployment information … and that one’s got to be the toughest. It’s such a zany mix of emotions at this point of the deployment – exhaustion and exhilaration, pride and impatience, joy and anxiety … all of these conflicting emotions crazily mixed up in my mind and accompanying me wherever I go.

Lest you think I’m a total nutcase … I think this is pretty normal. We’re on our third deployment -- and it seems consistent at least -- and I have talked to lots of friends and peers (fellow nutcases?) who experience much the same thing. This “deployment brain” is eerily reminiscent of my “pregnancy brain” … those days that I spent searching for my hairbrush (that never was found again – really!) and placing the milk in the cabinet and the cereal box in the refrigerator while putting groceries away; you know, the normal all-my-brain-cells-are-being-sucked-up-by-this-baby-who-surely-will-be-a-genius-one-day syndrome. It’s just like now … only now I can’t ‘blame’ the baby so I ‘blame’ the deployment – and the waiting.

At my best, I understand the Army way of life well enough to know that waiting is a necessary part of it. A “necessary evil” some might say … but I get it. In an organization of half-a-million people (over a million including Guard and Reserve), decisions cannot be instantaneous. I am glad that the Army has defined protocol and procedures for selecting Soldiers for promotions, commands, and the like. I believe in the system and whole-heartedly believe that ours is the most advanced, professional, and effective military on the planet. I got it.

At my less-than-best, though, I just want to know where we’ll be living in 6 months, what schools my kids will attend, and what continent our families should plan to visit … and surely this is not too much to ask?

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