Yesterday it was announced that the deployment of the 1st Brigade of the 34th Infantry Division will be extended to support President Bush’s “surge” plan. It’s a terrible blow to the soldiers and their families; worst of all is that some of the brigade’s advance party has already returned, and now may have to return.
I work at brigade headquarters now; with most of the brigade still in Iraq, my workload is obviously light. This morning, PFC Chemlight and I were sitting around, bullshitting as usual, when a man in a wool overcoat and a short, nerdy-looking guy walked in. They made a beeline for us; since Chemlight and I are at the first desk inside the first office at the armory, we’re the de facto receptionists.
“Hello,” the overcoated one said, “I’m so-and-so from CNN. Could you direct me to someone who’s in charge here? I’m looking for comments on a couple of stories.” Of course, this week all of the senior staff is out for various reasons, so the staff sergeant sitting a couple of desks away from me was pretty much the ranking guy in the building. To wit, I looked over at him, and we exchanged a look that could be best described as, “what the fuck?”
After a moment of thought, I suggested that he try the division staff or the public affairs office. Naturally, I didn’t have the phone number for the PAO handy, and the phone directory was so miserable that it would’ve taken me all day to figure it out. Thankfully, the other sergeant had the number, so he managed to get the state’s chief public affairs guy on the line (after a brief explanation to a snippy captain – “what? the guy from CNN is standing in your office? Oh, let me get the colonel”). The lieutenant colonel answered in the cheery, practiced manner of a deft public speaker, saying, “Well hello, Mr. so-and-so! What brings you to flyover country?,” which sent me into a fit of suppressed laughter.
They arranged an interview and the CNN operative (and his diminutive assistant) went on their way, thanking us for the help.
Anyway, I guess this means that the surge has begun. Once again, though, I feel the faint tug of duty, like there should be something I can do, something to share the burden of my fellow Red Bulls…