27 October 2007

27 OCT 2007 Rise and boom

27 OCT 2007 Rise and boom


I have specifically avoided the topic of indirect fire, for several reasons. However, today was notable. I was peacefully racking at (redacted) this morning when the insurgents sent a wake up call in the form of a volley of three mortars. How kind of them to make sure that I got up in time for work. Honestly, guys, I have alarms in my pager and a battery-powered clock that is immune to our power outages, so you need not trouble your pretty little heads about it.


I choose not to talk about mortars and rockets, except for this blather of course, because there is no reason to give anyone at home a false impression that I'm in some kind of danger. Secondly, our defenses are extensive, but I have no wish to aid the enemy with any information that might give them a workaround. Suffice to say that we utilize numerous procedures along classic military doctrine to deny the enemy from the capability to attack, reduce the effectiveness of any attack, and maximize recovery and control damage after any successful attack. It's frustrating that I can't speak more specifically, because some of the tricks are really amazing technology.


The impacts were (redacted) from me, so I heard them, but didn't feel them much. The announcements came over the giant voice system directing our response. It is a recording of a woman's voice, and she sounds so serious! Her voice is pleasant , but monotone as she drones on "(redacted)." I didn't have far to go from bed to floor, and I began calculating if the attack would get me to work earlier or later. Many factors were involved. The insurgents had woken me before my alarm would have, which might get me in earlier. On the other hand, the recovery would interrupt the morning ritual, so if I wanted to smell acceptable and not have whiskers, I would head in later. Would the excuse "I'm late because I was mortared." work? Ah no. No excuses ever work. Our excuses are our own. There is no such thing as early, only on time, or late. I shaved quickly and postponed the shower.


It may seem that I'm taking the attack lightly, but I'm not. We are equipped and trained for this. Like my colleagues, I followed procedure, and we all arrived safely. I'm not claiming that I was safe because I watched the "duck and cover" video. I'm safe because the enemy does not have the freedom of maneuver or the materiel to aim straight. That's not by accident. We troops are a hard target, especially "Fobbits" like me. (The term refers to denizens of Forward Operating Bases. We Fobbits stay safe in the rear with the gear.) The unfortunate reality is that civilians are a much softer target and are suffering far greater misery at the hands of insurgents.


The attack did worry me slightly. I think I'll move my bunk to the floor. It's mainly a mental security blanket, when considered against the other defenses in place. At least I won't have to move when the klaxxons go off! It was a little stressful thinking what could happen on the extreme of probability. When I'm stressed, I have my itty bitty Buddha on my bedside table, thanks to B.! He's still laughing. And if I ever feel confused about the whys and how comes, It's a comforting perspective to know that at least Siddhartha would tell me that wherever I am at that moment in time is exactly where I'm supposed to be at that moment in time. Or as one of my first spiritual advisers, Alfred E. Neuman, would say, "What me worry?" (Illustration CR EC publications)


I suppose there must be a Buddhist or two on the base, be cause I see a column of incense continually rising from the dump to the (redacted) of us. It often wafts a perfume of burning vinyl, cardboard, and body parts over the hospital which perfectly sets the mood. When I am outdoors, I often take time to reflect on my station, and what the fumes must be doing to all of our lungs. I don't have to wonder long, because the government has provided a memo assuring us that the burn pit fumes are not dangerous to us, because we are exposed to them for less than a year.


It might seem like I'm joking about serious matters, and you are right! But what else can I do? No one could claim I don't understand the damage a mortar can do. I didn't choose this war, but I have chosen to keep the promise I made to serve. There were no conditions on that promise such as "unless they are launching mortars" or "unless the air is stinky." Once the war is over, we will go home and we won't be exposed to indirect fire or the burn pit. The main drive should not be to make war better, but to make war over. Nothing feels better than finishing.

Stay safe, friends, I miss you.

Chris

7 comments:

StudentMD said...

You're braver than I. I chickened out of enrolling at USUHS for med school 2 years ago. Told myself and others it was because I was afraid I would have restricted options for residency...but I'm pretty certain I was just terrified of war.

Please be safe. Keep doing your good work. You are changing lives every day; there's no way of telling how the lives you save will impact the world. This is true for us all--we are undeniably connected, in some tenuous way, on this planet--but it seems even more poignant for healthcare workers and especially for surgeons.

Keep doing whatever you're doing that keeps you sane and safe.

Chris said...

Hi StudentMD, thanks for stopping by! Hmm, I would not say that I am any braver. What's the word I'm searching for, maybe dumber!? Keep in mind that when I accepted my commission in 1990 it was peacetime and the National Security doctrine didn't include a policy of preemptive war. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to serve and I do feel that I'm meeting my goal of giving back something to our wonderful country. However, I don't think I would take the same course if I had it to do over. Civilian doctors have the same potential to save lives as I do. I would just challenge citizens to live up to their duty which includes voting and exercising the right to free speech and expression. Take care and love life!

C

ChefSara said...

Thanks for writing and letting us know you are safe!

Chris said...

Ah well, I feel like driving around the highways back home are probably more dangerous than what I face, so you stay safe! :)

C

Anonymous said...

Sorry I came across this searching for images of buddha, and although I'm not buddhist it angers me how the image of the real buddha Siddhartha has been distorted. Siddhartha was indian and a very thin man. The guy in your picture is Hotei or otherwise known by the chinese as the smiling buddha, but he's not siddhartha.

Chris said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you very much for your comments. What I have pictured in my blog is actually marketed and sold as the "itty bitty Buddha", and that is why I used that name.

See here:
http://gifts.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?r=1&EAN=9780762413645&ourl=Home%2Dgift%2FItty%2DBitty%2DBuddha%2DKit

I have been impressed with the representations of the emaciated Siddhartha, there is not much like it in western art; perhaps some paintings of St. Sebastian or Picasso's Guernica.

(Scroll down on this page for some representative emaciated Buddhas:
http://mszendo.org/historical_buddha.htm )

Personally I prefer the fat smiling Buddha! As the late great George Carlin stated, if Christ could see the effigys we worship, he would say, "What's going on here: Buddha's smiling, I'm on the cross!"

Chris said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you very much for your comments. What I have pictured in my blog is actually marketed and sold as the "itty bitty Buddha", and that is why I used that name.

See here:
http://gifts.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?r=1&EAN=9780762413645&ourl=Home%2Dgift%2FItty%2DBitty%2DBuddha%2DKit

I have been impressed with the representations of the emaciated Siddhartha, there is not much like it in western art; perhaps some paintings of St. Sebastian or Picasso's Guernica.

(Scroll down on this page for some representative emaciated Buddhas:
http://mszendo.org/historical_buddha.htm )

Personally I prefer the fat smiling Buddha! As the late great George Carlin stated, if Christ could see the effigys we worship, he would say, "What's going on here: Buddha's smiling, I'm on the cross!"