I had hoped to complete my first term of enlistment without completing a single two-week annual training period, but alas, it was not to be. Despite a tour in Iraq (and the pre-deployment jaunt around the nation’s military facilities), I had never spent two weeks at the fabled Camp Ripley. This year, however, I could not escape my destiny – on my sixth year in the Guard, my first AT.

Of course, in order to be eligible for my little vacation to Sacramento this spring, I had to extend my enlistment – but I only did so for a year, betting (probably correctly) that I will be deployed again before it comes time to sign on the dotted line once more. This is, of course, a shrewd play to get a fat tax-free bonus while in the “sandbox;” if I’m going to go anyway, I might as well work the system to my advantage.

It has been the best weather of the summer here at Ripley; usually (judging from my limited experience up here) it’s either raining or hotter than hell or both. Instead, it’s been in the 70’s and low 80’s, with sunny skies, white puffy clouds floating overhead, gentle breezes, and beautiful sunsets. Naturally, this is the AT where we do nothing in the field; this is strictly a garrison training period, concentrating on administrative tasks and the brigade’s command post exercise (or CPX). I don’t necessarily want to go live in a tent and poop in a hole in the ground, but if I had to, this would be the week to do it.

Cliff swallows are plentiful here; their dried-mud nests crowd under the eaves of most of the buildings, at least where metal spikes haven’t been installed to discourage their construction. There aren’t any Barn Swallows, which seems odd, since they are so numerous elsewhere in the state; maybe there are some sort of competitive pressures at work that made Cliff Swallows more successful? At any rate, they’re not as entertaining as Barn Swallows – they don’t fly as low, their calls are more squawking and less liquid, and they don’t seem to be as good at scooping up bugs (judging by the rash of mosquito bites on my legs).

Some sort of no-fun mentality seems to be permeating the Army these days – the latest example is our command’s directive that there will be no drinking and no civilian clothes will be worn during this AT period, not even off duty or even in your own bed! The no-drinking rule is an obvious one, and not entirely ludicrous – the boozing of soldiers is legendary and the Guard is no different – but clothing? Not even a pair of gym shorts while lounging in the bay before lights-out? Give me a break. As Mrs. Melobi said when I told her about these rules: “But you’re in the National Guard!” Even she gets it!