I'm attending some predeployment training right now in Maryland. I won't get into the specifics of the training but so far it has proven very useful. Being a cynic, initially I was skeptical...but so far the information is excellent and the staff are super-professional. Our group is an interesting study in demographics. There are a few aviators, alot of surface warfare officers and a smattering of other related jobs from the enlisted side. The training itself is very interesting but I'm finding the interaction within my group even more so. It's pretty cool to talk to various folks within the group and find out what their jobs entail, where they are stationed, so on so forth. The most discussed issue is the "unknown". No one is really sure what we'll be doing in Iraq on a daily basis or where in Iraq we'll be located. I guess there is an air of apprehension mostly. Since we are all in this together, the apprehension isn't too bad...at least not from my point of view.
Another interesting topic of discussion in our group is whether folks want to be attached to an Army unit or a Marine unit. Some folks are very pressing about wanting to be with one or the other. Others just don't really care. Having not worked much with the Army in my career; my preference is to be with the Marines (the former Marine in me speaking). For me it's a known entity. I'm well versed in how Marines operate and function. With that being said, right now the Marines operate in the "wild, wild west" of Iraq. Their operating area is the Anbar province, which encompasses most of western Iraq, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area. That area has quite a strong insurgent presence. Not that any other part of Iraq is any better. So I'm not sure which is the best choice or the lesser of two evils....Operate with the Marines, who I'm familiar with, in a hot bed insurgent area OR Operate with the Army, who I'm completely unfamiliar with, in a "not so bad" insurgent area. Who knows....just be careful what you wish for.
In either case, it's hard to remember that I'm just a small cog in a giant machine. Personal preference doesn't usually make a difference in Navy operational decisions and I venture to guess this issue is no different. I do know that what I'll be doing in Iraq will make a difference in the safety and combat readiness of the troops there. That is job satisfaction at its finest. The next few weeks will answer alot of questions.
By the way, that's George Patton and Chesty Puller in the pictures above.