Want an update on the last month? Sit down, strap in, and hold on; it's going to come at you fast and furious.
The end of April brought me to the awe-inspiring Ft. Dix, New Jersey. Which, as we all know, is world famous for.... uhh..... ?? Anyway, moving right along... the purpose of my visit there was to become qualified as a Psychological Operations soldier in today's illustrious Army Reserves. Sound high-speed? If it did, then my first job as a PsyOp'er is successful because that means I got you to believe some wickedly inaccurate propaganda. Well, unless of course your idea of "high-speed" is ten-hour sessions of Power Point, seven days a week. If that be the case, then there was no need to PsyOp you because you have already been PsyOped by someone whose Kung Fu is way stronger than mine.
To put it bluntly: I never been so bored in my entire life. High school went by quicker. At one point an instructor asked a friend of mine a question. As opposed to most people in the same situation who would try to fake an answer and make it sound as if they were paying attention, he responded with a confident "oh I have no idea," and promptly went back to his happy place. When we asked him later about it he said "seriously, I had no idea what the question even was; I was thinking about boobs." That about sums up where most of our minds went just to pass the time.
In all honesty I have no idea what half of the classes were about. I have a pretty good handle on what it is that PsyOp does -- a tactical, strategic version of a marketing campaign -- but most of the classes ran together so badly that I'm pretty sure I actually designed several space stations in my brain while trying to stay awake. Heaven forbid that the Army uses examples from businesses who make billions convincing people to buy things they don't need -- Nike, Budweiser, seat-belt makers -- they feel that reading and re-reading manuals first developed in the 1950's is just progressive enough, thank you very much. I tell you this, if the leaflets we dropped on the North Koreans aren't lesson enough for the future, then I guess this job is just not the place for you.
Where the real comedy came was when we all went out in to the woods for a "Field Training Exercise." I use the quotations because, well, it was only the "field" in a sense that we weren't at the barracks, but rather about ten minutes from them staying in a prison camp. Added on to that the fact that a large portion of the 69 students came from jobs like "legal assistant" or "graphic artist." Really? They have graphic artists in the Army? News to me, but here we are. And seeing people like that in the "field" is nothing but a good time. If you can't laugh in those situations, you're not human. One day I ended up with a guy who was a Military Intelligence specialist -- who also had a PhD in Biological Chemistry, go figure -- as my driver. Upon giving him direction on which way to turn, his response was to turn, look at me, and say "are you sure, sergeant?" No man, it was just a suggestion. We can ponder it and analyze it for a while, if you would like? Maybe do some research? Yeah, we've got time. Maybe even put it before a committee? Wow. To his credit, however, the guy was pretty smart and I have no doubt that he is exceptional at what he does. As long as split-second decision making is nowhere near his job description.
As with nearly every military school, this one seemed to be more about checking the block rather than providing quality training. During the FTX we would be handed a new mission and a change of leadership in each team 4 times a day. After running a couple of missions, one of the instructors criticized us for our lack of security and basic tactical awareness. So our next mission, those of us who had been in the infantry changed things around. At the end of the day, the head instructor told us "you guys are not infantry. You need to worry about the PsyOp mission only." Mixed signals much? Yes please, I'll take two servings. Where the funny comes is in seeing how rattled some soldiers get by this; getting all worked up because of conflicting guidance given. The simple fact is, there is no need to worry about it if the instructors aren't even on the same page (a fact that a couple of them freely admitted to us while in private).
By the end of the course I was truly wondering if I had made the right decision in terms of job choice when coming in to the Reserves. Were it not for some very high quality individuals that I met and will be working with, I'm really not sure what I would do. Just like everything else in life, however, those you are with can make or break it. And I can say that I am truly honored -- and humored beyond belief -- to be working with some of these people.
Since returning I have been doing a lot of PsyOp work on my own brain. It's a complicated story and involves one of those "moments of clarity" that would take digging deep into my brain, and that's kind of a scary place to be honest. Let's just say that things are much clearer now up in the ol' noggin and leave it at that for now. After all, there can be only so much psychologizing in one sitting. So excuse me, I'm gonna go zone out for a bit and think about boobs.