Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Glad to be back from the field

Photos: Upper left- the tent that housed my platoon, upper right- me in front of our tent, left- me and Chaplain Pina.

This was a great week! I would have posted sooner, but I’ve just been tired and recovering.

It’s hard to summarize a week, but I’ll try and give a few highlights. The week began with about a five mile road march, with all of our gear. Almost everybody made it, though I saw some chaplains who had to fall out and couldn’t make it. We arrived completely soaked in sweat, and set up our camp. Our tent was home to my platoon (24 of us), and we slept on the ground.

The days consisted of various training and simulation. For example, one afternoon, we had a simulated mass casualty situation, where everyone was given a role- either a victim, a medic, a chaplain, etc. We simulated a mortar attack, with loud explosives and smoke, and then had to treat and evacuate the casualties. It was intense and was great for us to go through.

Each night I got about 2-3 hours of sleep. Part of this was due to mortar attacks, in which loud explosives woke us up, and we had to don our gas masks and all of our gear and head into a bunker until we were given the all clear. I’m not alone in saying that I’m not a huge fan of the protective gas masks. You sweat like crazy in them, and there is the feeling that you can’t breathe while you wear them. Obviously you can; it’s just psychological.

Food was actually decent. We had warm chow in the mornings and at night, and MREs for lunch. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to get the crackers with jalapeno cheese sauce in your MRE. At least it feels that way at the time.

Overall the training was a good preparation for our work as chaplains, and it brought a lot of the whole course work together for me. It also reminded me of the reality of possibly being deployed. Simulated mortars attacks sometimes were startling, but they were not frightening because you knew they were fake. I wonder what it would feel like if it were real. I would bet there is a different level of urgency.

The other thing that sticks in my mind from Capstone is being sweaty for four days straight. Literally. The weather was much better than it could have been- thank God- but I sweat easily and for these four days it was sweat and no shower. I was happy to get a shower Friday night. It’s also been nice trying to catch up on sleep!


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