Green Ramp; Update 4-17-06

It’s not an actual ramp and it’s not green. Rather “green ramp” a reference to the location on the airfield from which we will embark on the plane that begins our deployment overseas. While I’m not at liberty to tell you when I’m leaving I suspect I’ll become closely acquainted with green ramp in the near-term.

On that note, the pace here has picked up substantially – and with the exception of this last weekend where I had four final days off to spend with my family – we haven’t had a day off in the last month or so. We’ve been issued gear, spent time on the weapons ranges, conducted offensive and defensive convoy drills, drawn more gear, have attended hours and hours of briefings and…drawn still more gear.

In speeding gear out to deploying troops the Army has implemented what’s called RFI for Rapid Fielding Initiative. Essentially, this process cuts some of the red tape in order to get new gear out to troops rather than send them out with nothing. Body armor, boots, fire resistant gloves, vastly improved first aid kits and to the pleasure of many bona fide Oakley sunglasses, which the Army sees fit to provide ballistic eye protection.

To date my team is made up of three people including myself – I hope to add a fourth very shortly. As for now, my team sergeant is 42-year-old gentleman from Oregon. Staff Sergeant Gray’s soft-spoken and easy going manner belies his ability to shoot, which I was especially pleased to learn is something he does regularly for recreation. Like me, he was called from the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR) for this tour, and to my satisfaction he arrived with a positive attitude and in decent physical shape.

My other soldier is a young fellow – battle-hardened, motivated and a volunteer. For Specialist Avery, this will be his second tour in Iraq. His first tour was spent as part of the assault force – the 3rd Infantry Division – that made history by seizing Baghdad in such a short time. Avery is a soldier’s soldier and there’s no doubt he’s the guy we all want manning the machinegun.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the line up. We’ve worked hard together, running through drills and scenarios over and over again – will move quickly to integrate our fourth person as soon as he arrives. We’ll never be perfect and we’ll never be done practicing – the key is improvement is constant.

As for a mission assignment, again I can’t say where I’ll be just yet. And that’s just as well since where I’m headed today is different then where I was headed a few weeks ago. Where I go tomorrow may indeed be still different. Regardless, it is my take that the change is good and I’ll be afforded a greater degree of autonomy.