Well, it appears my time has finally come. As of 30 Sep 13 I will have 17 years, 8 months and 24 days of active and Guard service. Unfortunately, my 3 years of ROTC don’t count towards retirement, but hey, I got a free education, so no complaints here. I have been wearing the uniform, in one way or another, since I enlisted on 30 Oct 1993. In that time I have gone from being a Military Police Private to a cadet to an Ordnance Lieutenant to an Armor officer up to my current rank of Major. I have deployed 3 times for a total of 3.5 years away from my family, twice to Diyala, Iraq and once to Kabul, Afghanistan. I deployed as a Cavalry Platoon Leader, Armor Company Commander and staff flunky. I have missed more birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays than I have made during that time, but hey, I was there to help deliver all 4 of my kids, so no complaints!
During that time, I have never not struggled with maintaining the Army’s height/weight standards. I have never not had to be taped. At Advanced Camp as a cadet I was sent home my junior year because I failed a PT test (principally because I pulled a muscle in my back the day before, but that is how the ball bounces). As a new butter bar down at Ft. Jackson I had the same problem and only pulled out of it by a hair. It cost me a satisfactory rating at my first job, which led me to not be selected for Captain my first look, the kiss of death to my career and why I eventually left active duty for the Guard. Every 6 months for the last 20 years it has been the same stress and the same struggle. In 2007 during my second trip to Iraq I tore the tendon on the outside of my right ankle, and I had to have replacement surgery while I was at Monterey in 2009. The long delay in getting it repaired and the long recovery time after the surgery left me badly out of shape. I’m not complaining or making excuses, my weight gain lies directly on my shoulders, but the last couple of years worth of struggle have been exacerbated by extenuating circumstances I never faced before and added a complicating element to a life-long struggle. But I never quit trying.
The funny thing is, despite this one, major, flaw, I seem to do what I do pretty well. I judge that on 2 things. I have never had a rater or senior rater tell me that my staff work or my leadership or tactical skills or communication skills are anything less than among the very best they have ever seen. I have never had a job where I did not provide much more than what was expected and routinely was asked to mentor my peers to help them learn what I seem to know. And the second is I have had dozens of NCO’s, all of whom I consider consummate professionals, seek me out to maintain contact with me long after I can help their careers. They have sought my council and, long after I have left their commands, thanked me for allowing them to flourish as NCOs and really do their job as it is supposed to be done. So, I guess I do this officer thing pretty well, despite being big-boned.
But, the time for all that is past. While on my third deployment, the powers that be decided that, of all the fat staff officers in Kabul (if you have been there, you know what I mean) I was the single one that needed to be put out of the Army. I am going to refrain at this point from naming names, because the simple fact of the matter is that regardless of the personal, unprofessional animosity of a particular O-6, when it comes to weight; mae culpa, mae culpa, mae culpa. So, based on my own faults, the Army is doing what is within its legal rights and best interest and I will be honorably discharged no later than 15 Oct 2013. The characterization of the discharge is honorable, so I will retain my Post 9/11 GI Bill and VA benefits, but no retirement for me and the personnel code I will receive will prohibit me from re-joining the Guard to finish out my 20. Of course, I can appeal that and likely get it changed and, assuming I get my fat ass in shape, get into the Kansas Guard.
But, with so much that is good and positive opening up before me, I’m not sure I want to.
We just bought 12 acres here near Leavenworth. I finished my Permaculture design course and am now a licensed Permaculture Designer. I have applied to Kansas State for their Masters of Science in Horticulture program with an emphasis on Urban Agriculture. Angela is going bangers with her music at the post chapel and homeschool. I am applying for a part-time, on call job with Northrup-Gruman here at Leavenworth working during staff training exercises as OP-FOR at the staff level. My buddy says they are desperate for guys willing to work part-time and, depending on how much time I want to commit, I can plan to clear between 30 and 60K a year. Of course, that time is a sunk cost that takes me away from developing our farm into a Permaculture showcase and teaching laboratory and developing my own Micro-Ag consulting and design business.
I will actually get to be home and watch my kids grow up. I will get to be one of their homeschool teachers and help with the local homeschool co-op. I can get involved with the outdoor and father-son ministries I have been feeling called toward. I will get to work every day with my best friend.
So, no sour grapes here. I had a great run, got to do things I never thought I would get to do in places I never thought I would get to go. I got to live in Europe, travel all over the Middle East and SW Asia, lead some of the finest warriors ever and earn their respect doing it, and met some of the finest humans alive, anywhere. I will miss it. I will miss the smell of JP-8 running through a tank. I will miss being part of something much bigger than myself but so very visible. I will miss the brotherhood of arms. It isn’t the way I wanted to go out, but it is what it is. I continue to learn about myself and to improve my fighting position every day.
In the coming weeks I will be launching some new endeavors. I need to get a website set up for our Permaculture stuff and a new blog dedicated to that. I need to flesh out my ideas for the farm and begin to develop both local and virtual communities of folks who are interested in what we are doing. My first love has always been teaching, and it has helped me be a great mentor and leader, but I am very excited at the prospects of doing it more directly and in areas I am only just learning myself. It is a great and noble challenge before me and I am as excited as I have ever been.
I can never thank my family and my friends and, particularly, Angela and the kids enough for putting up with and supporting my career.
Onward and Upward!