Friday, September 24, 2010

Why We Do This

As I sit at the airport USO waiting for my flight to Fort Benning, I am reminded of why a person would join the Army Reserves.  I can think of several reasons, including patriotism, glory, source of income, funding for college, adventure, and career training, to name a few.  I'm sure that there are many other reasons, but that will do for now.  In my case, there was slight patriotism (which has grown over the years), and some guilt, I guess, that I hadn't been drafted during the Viet Nam war.  I had a few friends who returned from that conflict with a variety of injuries and mental problems.  I remember watching the TV with my mother when the draft numbers were drawn.  I was anxious.  I didn't want to go.  My mom was a basket case!  My number was a high one, and we both sighed with relief. 

Over the years, as I began my nursing training and graduate anesthesia training, I was frequently contacted by recruiters from each of the services.  I listened to what they had to say, but wasn't convinced that it was for me.  My guilt grew, and so did my patriotism.  I was 38 when I finally decided to join.  The recruiter assured me that nobody had been called to active duty since Viet Nam!  It takes months for a medical provider to become credentialed in the military, and I was finally offered my commission in September, 1990.  Iraq had invaded Kuwait, and my unit was already on active duty.  I considered (briefly) turning down the commission, but knew that I couldn't live with myself, so I took the oath and became a citizen-soldier.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I took that oath on September 25, 1990.  That was 20 years ago and this is my seventh activation.  Technically, tomorrow, I should be eligible to retire!  How ironic.  Actually, I wouldn't give up this deployment for anything.  I love the Army.  For me, it isn't the money.  It isn't the glory.  I love the adventure, but that isn't it, either.  I do it because of the soldiers that I have the privilege to care for.  It isn't that I don't love caring for my civilian patients, but this is totally different.  There is no way to describe the emotions you feel when you see a seriously wounded soldier.  You will do anything to help him survive.  He is usually in his teens with his whole life ahead of him.  Fortunately, most are very healthy, and our medical care is the best.  Most survive and live out full, fruitful lives.  When that happens, I can say that I had the honor and privilege to be there to render the care that helped them live to see another day.  Talk about job satisfaction!  Not that I'm any great nurse anesthetist - anybody with my training could do what I do.  I am just the guy who God placed there at that moment.   

I really appreciate the people who have taken the time to subscribe to this blog and send me their well wishes.  Please note that I am not doing this to get kudos.  My intent is to give the reader a feel for what deployment is like, without putting the focus on me.  Please feel free to comment and ask questions.  If you have a topic that you wish me to write about, let me know.

Got to go, I have a plane to catch...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here We Go!

For those who don't know me, my name is Bill Giles, and I'm about to deploy to Afghanistan.  I'm a nurse anesthetist assigned to the 909th FST (Forward Surgical Team) currently located at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Shank.  I am a Colonel in the US Army Reserves.

I've never blogged before, but I know that many folks want to know what it's like to live "downrange" in "the theater" (theater of war).  I'll try to post something every few days, as time permits.  I'll post pictures and tell stories as the Department of Defense permits!

My last day of work was yesterday, and the good folks at Carolinas Medical Center - University, my civilian employer, were kind enough to give me a send off complete with a delicious cake!  I'm very fortunate to have a patriotic employer - they supplement my income so that there is no net loss during my deployment.  They also allow us to continue our health insurance and other benefits as we desire.  Employers are not required to do this, and most do not.  it is greatly appreciated!

I am currently tying up loose ends at home.  I will arrive at Fort Benning, Ga, on Friday, to spend a week at the CRC (CONUS Replacement Center).  I'll live in barracks and have medical exams, dental checkup, shots, equipment issue, weapons qualification, and lots of briefings.  I've been through it twice before, and it's not fun!  I think the Army just wants you to have a miserable experience so that you can't wait to go to war!

If all goes as planned, I'll leave the following Friday and arrive at the FOB several days later.

Well, that's all for now - hopefully this will be much more interesting as time goes by.  Thanks for reading, and be sure to give me feedback on subjects you would like to know more about.  Please understand if I must be vague due to security restrictions.