Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where to Begin?

So mid-February.  That's the last time I posted, huh?  Dang.  I've had more to say since then, for sure.  This might get rambly.

Fort Gordon continues to be...well...Fort Gordon.  It's still "Better Than Basic!(tm)" but that only carries a place so far after nearly 12 weeks.  I still haven't passed the run portion of a PT test.  I've had a couple of weeks of no running not helping due to really bad shin splint in my right leg.  That following a week of no PT thanks to my wisdom teeth finally being removed.  It adds up to most of the last month being a no run time.  That has...not...helped my run time.  But them's the breaks.  I took a diag test last week and I know I can crank out the pushups and situps to a passing (or better) standard no problem.  But the run.  Oy the run.  the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I continue to crush my classes.  And I continue to do so with one of the highest grade averages in my graduating class.  We're currently about a week away from the toughest block of instruction here.  And the schoolhouse threw my classroom-class a bit of a curve ball.  My classroom-class (really, there should be less cumbersome means of distinguishing between the soldiers currently in my graduating class and those that share the same classroom) was always kinda small.  And we've shaved off a soldier with each block of instruction so far.  But with this new block, they split us up and shunted us into the other two classes in my graduating class.  We are none too happy about the arrangement.  We had a sort of system running, a level of camaraderie, that kept us up and motivated.  It's not helping that the new block is back in the older schoolhouse with the barely-running AC.  With 19 of us crammed into the room instead of 10.  It makes a difference.  But I'll pass.  With high marks.  Ever on and on.

The PT is an effort and a hurdle, but it's quantifiable and counterable.  I'm slow on my run.  So I need to run more, and push harder when I run.  So I do.  I've started running on weekends now.  Not, y'know, really fast, but a couple of miles or an hour of interval running.  Something.  It'll get there.  The real hurdles are motivation and socialization.  And they're one and the same, really.  Time passes and I miss home.  And I haven't really made a lot of connections here with people.  Shallow circles at best, really.  And due to the nature of TRADOC (soldiers in training, the rules that govern them) I can't go, say, hang out with people I'm better connected to, like Hyde, without a willing battle buddy AND synchronized schedules.  It's a logistical nightmare on a good day.  I'm 29.  I'm responsible.  I want to do nothing to endanger my chances of getting Distinguished Honor Grad.  I just want to go hit the gym or another company's break area for a few hours and be back.  Nope.  And because I'm still struggling with PT, I'm stuck at Phase IV, so I have to do morning details on weekends, when I'd really much rather sleep.  And we have two hour time limits on on-post passes.  Sigh.  Whine.  Etc.  There are things I like.  And I'll count AIT as an enjoyable experience, overall.  Whereas Basic was...not.  But still, it's hard to keep the motivation to excel and exceed.  There are too many examples and opportunities to put for the minimum and lazy my way through.  And I could do it, too.  The system is easily worked, and I've more or less seen and/or figured out exactly how much effort to put forth to look just right and succeed by failing.  It's a temptation.  But I won't give in.  I just miss all you guys and independence.  Game night, the Salty Caper, St. James and Vintage21.  I miss drink and smokes.  I miss waking up on my own without an alarm or disturbance.  I know these things, and more, wait for me to get out of here.  I just gotta get there.

I try not to worry about the mild malaise that's kinda settled in of late.  Worrying overmuch will be a distraction I don't need.  But the mix is just right at the moment for a slip into something like depression.  And really, who needs that?  Not me, not here.  But I see warning signs.  So I work through and around the problems.  Facebook, the tool that lets me stay in touch with everyone back home, and by extension keep me motivated, is a two-edged sword by way of people I still stay in touch with that are friends (or family) with people I...don't want to.  Too much time for introspection and memory here sometimes, I guess.  But I still find myself up at 4AM.  I still push myself.  Sometimes I don't know why, like waking up in the middle of a run and asking myself "When the hell did this happen?  Why on EARTH am I running?  Where is the sun?!"  But the days end and there's mail-call.  Oh right.  That's why I do this.  I wake up to messages from far away left for me on my phone.  Yes.  This.  This makes my day before I even start.  These are my reasons.  You.  Your support.  I can't do this on my own, and I haven't had to.  You've been there with me the whole way.  From day one at Ft. Benning until graduation this June.  Your pictures are taped up in my locker, so every day I see you and I remind myself of why I'm here.  So please, keep on keeping me going.  I'm strong, but I am stronger because of you than I could have ever been by myself or for myself.  The letters and the messages and texts lift me up and keep me smiling.

Thank you.

I'm going to go listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin now.

if the sun refused to shine

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Defies Titles

Man. It's been a crazy 6 weeks (give or take) since my last entry. I graduated out of BCT (no matter how near a thing it was) and have moved on to Ft. Gordon for my AIT. As you can see, we get internets here, though I don't have continuous access. But some is more than none, yes?

I've been here for a couple of weeks and we're just about finished with our first class, an A+ course. It's...not so challenging for me. But then, I've been doing A+ type stuff for the better part of the last 13 years. It's an interesting environment here. It's loads more relaxed and independent here than BCT (especially compared to Ft. Benning), but there's still some walls that my head butts up against from time-to-time. But not hard enough that any of the Cadre or instructors here have noticed or found reason to take me to task for it.

The food here in the dining facilities isn't quite as good as the food at Benning. And the availability of junk (like Domino's) makes this an easy place to get kinda fat in. But I've been watching my intake of junk and I make a habit of lots of fruit and a salad or two with every meal. PT is tougher, but better. And we do get some free time in the evenings, so I can get some gym time in while I'm here to improve my run. Which I NEED like WHOA. I'll make it, but it's just a matter of how fast. I can't phase up to more privileges until I pass my PT, and the run is killing me there. But then, running has ever been my bane. I'll figure it out.

I am excited, though, that I could very well be the Distinguished Honor Graduate here (unlike at Benning, where PT counted a whole lot more). If I keep my nose clean and I pass my End of Course PT test on the first attempt. The only other requirement is having the highest academic average (bwahaha). I really hate feeling like an arrogant dutch-bag about it, but I am one of (if not the) smartest person in my graduating class. Now, time will tell if my bad study habits will rear up again, or if I'll buckle down and get it right. I have an affinity for technology, but unlike the A+ course, I'll actually be learning a whole lot of new stuff with the rest of my coursework while I'm here. But the classes will translate into education enough to get a few certifications and 18-36 credit hours of college credit (that I could easily turn into nearly an AS in Information Technology at the right school.) and that will be awesome. The rest of the plan is in place, just waiting on me to finish all this up in mid-late June.

A slog, this will be before it's all said and done. I miss home and the people that live there. And the ones currently wandering out and abroad, I miss also and especially.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow might actually pass by with little to note it. And that will (sadly) be a delightful first. I'm used to having generally bad days on the 14th of February. Singles Awareness Day, indeed. But when I have not been single, they have often involved arguments or similar unpleasantness. But this time around, I'll be busy in class or concurrent training or working out. I will not, however, turn down any pleasant messages left on Facebook or email or text, from any of you, my dear friends and family. And please, please write. It's easy to feel disconnected here. I have a phone, but during the day it stays locked up and I'm running about most of the evening trying to fit in a life of sorts. We get mail-call far more often, and I'm not getting drowned in letters like I was at Benning. Sadness!

So here's me:
PFC Johnson, Justin
B Co 447 Bn 15 Sig Bde
Ft. Gordon, GA 30905

And to you, especially, I hope your day is fantastic in every ordinary and awesome way. We'll talk/chat/write soon enough.

live, laugh, dare to love

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Work in Progress, Shows Promise


It's been a good break. And I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to going back to Ft. Benning. It's not as though it's over-hard. Basic has been challenging, for sure, but never at a level that I have found myself incapable of completing the task at hand. But while there have been enjoyable moments (such as making Sharpshooter, by hitting 32 of 40 targets, on my first try), BCT is not what I could call enjoyable as a whole. I'm looking forward to the end of it. But there's only 21 days left, starting on the 5th. So down to bidness.

PFC Johnson, Justin
D Co. 3-47 In 3rd Plt
Bld 3210
Ft. Benning, GA 31905

That's my mailing address for those of you who don't have it. It's still going to be a good address to write to until about the 13th-16th of January. It's only a short time, but I love getting letters. So write!

Second: I graduate from BCT on the 26th of January at Ft. Benning in Sand Hill. All of you. Come and see me walk around in my Army blue monkey suit! Crowd the bleachers with my people!

Christmas this year was, delightfully, low key. For me it was so great just to be home and see everyone, friends and family alike. And oh man. So much food. So much GOOD and TERRIBLE food. After months of Army nutritious food, getting a little Cheerwine and BBQ was divine. Army food was, surprisingly, tasty most of the time. It was a little plain, but healthy. And it's surprisingly easy to eat healthy at BCT, given the selections. But nothing fried. No pizza. Water forever, too much Powerade, and one glass of milk and OJ on any given day. So no Cheerwine.

It's interesting being who I am and how old I am being in BCT. It's a lot easier for me to just go along and play the game than it seems to be for the 18-20 year olds. But while I can just do what I'm told and say "Yes, Drill Sergeant," I don't really make a permanent change to Army (Hooah!) Mode. It's a switch I can flip (and did), but then I can come home and turn it off. There are some changes, internal discipline, stability, confidence, that are permanent, but most of it is just a hat I put on and take off. I didn't come home and roll my laundry (unless I was packing a bag, but I did that anyway), or make my bed with hospital corners. I don't wake up at 4AM every day and do PT (though I did do some). So there's good things being done in my general direction thanks to the Army and Basic Training. Mostly it's the 25lbs. I left back on the sandy PT field.

There's still some things I doubt I'll ever get used to. Like when I was waiting to go home. I was in line getting my boarding pass. And people came up and thanked me for my service, shook my hand. I get home and find my inbox is full, not the least of which was friends thanking me on Facebook on Veteran's Day. That choked me up just a bit.

Segue: the amount of support I have received from my friends and family has been...overwhelming. I mean, I never expected that I wouldn't get absolutely 100% support from everyone. But the way you have all gotten behind me on this, and the amount of thought and love. It's humbling and at the same time it fills me with strength, confidence. All the more reason for you all to be there on the 26th. You've all been there behind me this whole time, and I want you all to see me bring this to fruition.

I was able to ring in the New Year amongst good friends around a hookah. I had drink and food and fellowship. I'm looking forward to what 2012 will bring me. Graduate from BCT, go on to AIT, making some decent money along the way. Get in shape. Find work through my National Guard unit or go to school full time. Take SOME classes in either case. CRF 2012.

And tonight was just an excellent cap to it all. Thank you.

i know it ain't easy

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tuesday's Gone

Zero hour approaches hard on my heels.

Yesterday was my last day at CRF for the season. It was an awesome day. If felt like someone turned on the "What are they gonna do, fire us?" sign, so thick were the jokes of...questionable content. Thanks, Lord Mayor. The weather was great (to my tastes, at least), the crowd wasn't overwhelming, the jousts were hilarious. Mandi and Sarah stuck out, with each of them playing their characters (Lady Luck and Lady Jillian, respectively) playing each other's character. So Lady Luck was dressed and acting as Lady Jillian and vice versa. This came to a head at the jousts, as each lady has a favorite knight, so each required themselves to cheer for the other's favorite. With pained expressions and forced enthusiasm. To people only there for that day, it was just two ladies being goofy (and awesomely so), but to the regulars and the cast, there were times it was hard to breath we were all laughing so hard. And that kind of levity carried over to the rest of the day.

The Royal Court this year is amazing. It reminds me of the court we had many years ago, but somehow better. We're a more cohesive group, we work well with and off of each other. The "core" I think is the trio of Mandi, Sarah, and Julie. Cin and Rick are certainly coming into their own, as well as our other new members. It's great to have Jeremy back as Bishop John Ringo, too. And Chris is really settling in as the King to Bettina's Queen. I cannot express how much I'm going to miss all of you guys. I hate I'm not going to be able to be with you guys for the rest of the season. But I'm looking forward to next season.

There's just not enough time to speak or write to all the people I want to before I ship out on Tuesday. For some there's just no words I can bring together ; letters started and deleted or thrown away or sitting, unsent. It's going to be a very trying time at Basic and AIT. I'll be able to write and (eventually) email/IM, but it's not the same and being able to attend a weekly game night or go to church with my friends and family. I will, at least, be able to go home for Christmas, but even then, there's a lot of people I don't imagine I'll get to see or speak with. There are a couple of cases where that leaves my heart heavy, but I imagine (hope, really) that I will be too busy (or tired more likely) to spend too much time in rumination.

I have no illusions that the next several weeks will be anything but extremely...challenging. You can spin it to more positive wording all you like, but Basic is going to open with me getting my ass handed to me, and hard. This is going to be grueling. I will persevere (it's kinda what I do), but I have accepted and come to terms with the fact that, at least for the first couple of weeks or so, my flabby weakness is going to be painfully obvious.

So write to me. Give me pages and pages to read. Keep me up to date with the day-to-day goings on back home. Send stamps. Lots of stamps. Pray for me(to what- or whomsoever you feel is best to send such an appeal to), sends positive thoughts, and/or think of me, so that I will get strong enough and tough enough not just to pass, but to excel. Because I will accept nothing less of myself in this endeavor but excellence. I want to come out of this in January as an Honors Graduate. I will have nothing less than a distinguished career in the Army, and I have to start from the very beginning.

Why do I set such high goals for myself? It is because of the inspiration provided by ALL those in my life who serve or have served. Chris, Justin, Harold, Kyle, Rayne, Phil, Shaun, Fox, Shane, Nathan, Ben, James. Two grandfathers, two step-grandfathers. Even (especially) one SPC Eckerd. I didn't set the bar, all of you did. Thank you.

I love you all. I'm going to miss all of you. Yes, even you. Especially you. I look forward to seeing some of you at Christmas. And I hope a whole mess of you will be able to see me graduate from Basic.

i am immortal, i have inside me blood of kings

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Gypsy Marie (rough draft)

I knew my heart would ne'er be free
the day I met her, the Gypsy Marie.

Oh, her name haunts me, my days, my nights, my dreams
the enchanting Gypsy Marie.

Her laugh is full and genuine, true and hearty
the raucous Gypsy Marie.

Dancing and prancing and chancing with me
the whirlwind Gypsy Marie.

She touched my heart with unintentional glee
the accidental Gypsy Marie.

She flees from pursit, that love, claimed, cannot be
the elusive, effusive Gypsy Marie.

Still, I cannot forget those moments so sweet
with the beautiful Gypsy Marie.

Oh the nights spent under the stars and the trees
kissing the lovely Gypsy Marie.

Her kisses so hungry, shy, but bold secretly
the contradictory Gypsy Marie.

Her skin dark in the night, to mine so white, caressed so softly
the mysterious Gypsy Marie.

Her words and glances and touches for me,
the touching Gypsy Marie.

Such wonders with her have I seen
with the Gypsy Marie.

Such splendors and pleasures and ecstacies
hinted at by the Gypsy Marie.

Yet Romani she is, ever swept by the breeze
my wandress the Gypsy Marie.

So my heart aches in her absence, waiting to see
the return of my love, the Gypsy Marie.

I knew that my heart would ne'er again be free
the day I met her, the Gypsy Marie.

all your life you've never seen a woman taken by the wind

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Bad is Swift; the Good So Very Slow

The weekend was average. And by average, I mean that, from my perspective, the good things and the underwhelming or disappointing things all evened out to naught. Today was equal parts, too, but that seems to be the order of the day. But the squabbles and frustrations are small. Sharing a bathroom, a friend's actions are entirely in character but just strike a nerve, these aren't really all that important. It's hard to remember that, despite my best efforts. It was good to go to church again, especially on a communion weekend. I got my transcripts, I picked them up today and got them scanned, moving forward.

Trying to clear up my credit report is...interesting. Creditors are very, very quick to report negatively. But good reporting takes, and I quote, "thirty to sixty days" which I think is really fair. Argh.

I tried to run today, but the combination of my general out-of-shapeness, near 100 degree heat, and oppressive humidity made even one mile of walking/running an absolutely awful experience. I had hoped to get at least two miles in, but that was a no-go. I managed some pool time. At least I ate healthy today, drinking a lot of water and keeping my carbs and calories down. Same weather tomorrow, but I'm going to try and get out at some point.

There are private struggles and frustrations that weigh on my mind and heart. Even writing here about it (what with no one really reading this blog and all) is difficult. Trying to explain the issue and remain generic enough to keep privacy is difficult. Relationships are often more difficult than they have to be or need to be. Fears, both general and specific, hobble us. These fears are understandable. The words run through my mind, the words I want to say, the poetics or the direct speech. Arguments swim and tumble back and forth. Sentences get typed, then deleted. Conversations almost get started, then vanish into the ether.

Am I confused? Frustrated? Yes.

But I am also...hopeful, in specific and at large. I'm not chased off so easily.

"And these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. And the greatest of these is Love."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The More Things Change

Over the last few years I have learned to make about four or five plans for any large effort I am going to attempt. Why? The first one is going to fail before it gets off the runway. Every time. Without fail. Then the next few get shot down shortly after take off. I have learned to live on Plan Not-A.

So my original idea of directly enlisting to go to OCS, well, it flopped about like a fish on the deck of a ship and died before really even starting. So the plan became something else, involving a short AIT in an MOS that didn't require a security clearance. That, realistically, meant a much long delay on OCS, despite the reassuring words of recruiters involved. So I planned in a manner to minimize the hurt for a year long delay in getting into OCS.

And then, out of nowhere, I could get my transcripts after all. So I didn't go to MEPS today, like the previous plan. Why? Because I have to wait 48 hours (for some reason) to get my official transcripts. But. I was able to view my transcript online and it turns out that I have more credit hours than I thought. Not, y'know, a lot. Just the one more class. But that's enough to get me, for sure, into OCS.

Paperwork in. Maverick bound.

i am the very model of a modern major-general