And so it was that TPT 1277 (that’s us, by the way) took its first trip to JBB (Joint Base Balad, formerly known as Anaconda). JBB is the second biggest base in Iraq, only slightly smaller than Camp Victory in Baghdad. We were looking forward to going, as here at FOB Paliwoda the amenities are pretty scarce. The word was that the PX at JBB is pretty big, so thoughts of movies, music, coffee makers and DVD players were on our minds. What greeted us was what I will refer to simply as absurd. JBB is in no way reflective of the country it is in; it is bigger than most Army posts I have ever been on, with more luxuries than I ever had at places like 6th Ranger Training Battalion or Ft. Benning. Two PXs, both containing more crap than one would know what to do with, and two Recreation Centers, each of which having a nicer gym and movie room than any base or military facility I’ve ever seen are at each end of the base. There is also a movie theater, food courts at each PX, and dining facilities capable of feeding gourmet meals to thousands a day. Because, you see, JBB is home to somewhere around 35,000 military personnel as well as many more civilians and TCNs (Third Country Nationals). But here’s the kicker: only 6,000 of those ever leave the wire. This means essentially that the rest of those people’s “deployment” consists of living a life of luxury, collecting a tax-free paycheck, and only enduring inconvenience in that they are away from their families for a year. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I am grateful that these people are there doing what they do. It is a great service to their country and they should be proud of what they do. However (and this is where it becomes difficult to describe to those outside the military), what is incredibly aggravating for those of us who live without the basic luxuries and go out in to the cities and towns (where there are quite possibly a good number of people trying to hurt us) on a regular basis, is to see these people who work 6 hours a day in an air conditioned room, going to movies and having every luxury of home talk about being in a “combat” zone. And what is even worse is how many high-ranking people there are at places like that whose sole purpose in life is to go around and correct people on their uniforms. Because that is what I want to have after riding around in a machine-gun turret all day, is some fat, out of shape sergeant major who sips coffee all day telling me I should put my cover on. Hey Sgt. Major, would you like to go for a ride? Yeah, I thought not. Suffice to say, we hated JBB and couldn’t wait to come back to our little corner of the world where it takes less time to walk to the dining facility than it does drive to the one at JBB; where it takes longer to put on a pair of boots than it does to walk to the Post Office – which is only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Probably because the guys who run it are out on patrol the other days of the week. My kind of place, I say.
But in between our driving to JBB and coming home, apparently our country elected a new President. I had heard something about them doing that… Heh. Seriously though, it has been interesting seeing the reactions from people in the military. I have been slightly surprised by how many have been Obama supporters, to be honest. Then again, as I have come to realize in the last few months, my entire time on active duty was spent at a very unique place; the rest of the Army in no way reflects what I experienced there (most of which is not for the better), political stance being no exception. I came from a place where about 98% of the soldiers were staunchly conservative. I am learning that this is not at all the case in the rest of the Army. As for myself, I have become rather ambivalent about the subject since coming here. No, the guy who won did not get my vote and I would rather have seen the other guy win (even though I am not a big supporter of him, either), but I’m just not too excited about caring right now. Personally I think Obama is a whole lot of fluff and not a lot of substance. However, a lot of what a President is – as I am learning even more so being over here – is the face of a nation. And for the last 8 years we have had a hyper-active cowboy who takes no grief from anyone driving this monster. Maybe putting a different face out there is an ok thing, even if it is just for show. Perception is, without a doubt in my mind, about 90% of reality. The world has viewed America for the last few years as sort of war-mongering. I don’t believe that this is true, and I could argue endlessly why I believe that it isn’t. But if most of the rest of the world believes it, then for better or worse it is perceived as being the truth. Possibly having a complete sissy-pants as President for a while will change that. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: everyone will think that Americans are a bunch of sissy-pants by proxy. One, I believe that the American soldier, not the president, has proven recently that to be untrue. Part of the reason we are doing well over here is because the Iraqis finally figured out that Soldiers aren’t going to give up just because they don’t have air-conditioning and Playstation (joke’s on them, we have both!). Two, if that perception does become reality, then we will then elect, by landslide, the next Ronald Reagan just as we have elected the next Jimmy Carter this time. Now, aren’t you glad you stopped by this blog for a super-keen explanation of how things are going? I bet you are. I know I’m excited. Let’s go raise some taxes, I’m psyched.