I awoke this morning and it was a different morning than every morning for the past 10 1/2 years. As promised on Facebook and Twitter this morning, I thought I would share some thoughts on not being in the Army for the first time in around 3,836 days, or ten years and six months. To be honest, it hasn’t really hit me yet. I’ve been prepping for this day for a few months, so it’s not totally a surprise, but I think if I start missing the Army, I will feel a bit more impact.
In my “This Army Life” posts (yet another series of posts that has to be finished), I only placed myself “downrange” at basic training. Part of this is because I hated basic training, so many of my experiences have been repressed, though I think that I can still write a pretty decent post about my experiences at Fort Benning for basic training and the 3 months spent at Fort Jackson for AIT. However, one of my hesitations about completing said series is that after AIT, nothing really happened in my military career until I was deployed at the end of it.
I am a Reservist after all; “One weekend a month and two weeks a year” doesn’t really lend itself well to all sorts of exciting stories. Had I written years ago, upon my return from AIT, I’m sure my impression would have been that the Reserves sucks and I am never going to use all the great “paralegal” skills that I learned at AIT. I may have posted something about the struggle for a full-time college student, full-time employee and part-time Soldier to keep them in shape, a struggle that ultimately led to me having to leave the military. I would have posted about all my great plans for the military, how I wanted to go to OCS and retire as a colonel and stay in the Army forever, or later posting how I was getting out at the first opportunity after 20 years was up. Towards the end, leading up to and during the deployment, I would have talked about how I was fed up with the military and I was getting out in February, which is where we are today.
All things considered, I probably would have stayed in the Army. I think I burned myself out by working as a civilian for the military in conjunction with my service. Since I didn’t reach the point I wanted on the military side, my civilian side struggled. I thought that I was important, always being told that I was a stellar performer, my opinions valued as I seemed to know what I was talking about (most times). But I still feel that I was discriminated against due to my low-ranking status on the Reserve side of things. Though unsaid, it was often “if Mr. Eberhard says something that I don’t like, I will make it hard for him as SPC Eberhard this weekend.” I feel that many senior leaders had this opinion of me, and it was a struggle almost constantly, watching my tongue as I tried to do the best job that I could.
I do not blame others for this fully. It was well within my ability to advance my military career. All it would have taken was losing a few pounds before it became terribly difficult and working a bit more on the physical training to meet those standards. While in Iraq, I worked at it and did things that I hadn’t done in years stateside. Had my attitude not soured right before the deployment, due to the treatment of one particular senior leader, I probably would have tried hard the entire deployment to lose the weight and meet the APFT standards. At that point, however, I just wanted to make it through the next 16 months and go on my merry way, and begin my life away from the Army.
As I leave the Army, perhaps for the last time, I will always value the friendships that I have gained over the past ten or so years. The Army has been my life for ten years and even more so for the past six as I worked to support many of the Soldiers that grew and developed into my second family. My Army family began growing at AIT when I met some of the best classmates a young Soldier could have. I wish I could have kept in better touch with some of them, like my “battle,” Mike Yopp. To this day, though, I still value the friendship, even remotely, of Jessica Huls. After moving to Connecticut after AIT, with no family or friends, the Army embraced me. People like Chuck Moulton and Paul Mozzicato have known me from the first day I walked in the door at the 334th QM BN back in 2001. Other “family” members began to show up, like Shawn Ertel, Barry McManus, Cesar Santini, Corey Mange, Maya Amaker, Sarah Rudner (nee Nunes) and Albert Gilbert, who is now probably my best friend (and Iraq CHU-mate).
Others came along after them, the Next Generation, “kids” like Joe Dean, Tom Dillon, Pat Faulkner, and Dave An. Jose Rivera arrived here fresh off a deployment with unique perspective and ready smile. Same goes for Anthony Fusco, though with less smiles. Alberto Cadiz came in and for the first time, my direct supervisor took an interest in my physical well-being, and tried his damndest to get me to pass standards. Stephanie Bushey shared my frustrations with “the system” and was always available to talk about the ridiculousness of some of the requirements often placed on us civilians due to the lack of participation from Reserve leadership. Towards the end of it all, Franko Antolovich arrived and truly gave me, and all others, a true model to strive for in a senior non-commissioned officer. Finally, the “cross-levels” for the deployment helped keep me sane for those 18 months of predeployment and actual deployment, people like Rock Hudson, Mark Wyatt, Adam Breindell, Chris Cheslosky, Steve Gantzer, and Mike Eggett. Others came and went, and their omission here does not mean they are forgotten. All Soldiers, with few exceptions, have touched my life in ways that truly changed me.
Through weddings and divorces, struggles with weight and physical training, personal crises and everything else, I truly thank you all from the bottom of my heart. For those lazy, no good people who made me work harder because they either have no work ethic or think they are too important to do their own work, I hope soon that you will find that karma is a bitch.
Until next time…