The first of five tests went off without a hitch yesterday – unsurprising considering the format (multiple choice and open book) and the foot-stomping nature of the instruction (THIS MIGHT BE ON THE TEST! *stomp stomp*).
A few of us went into town for dinner, and ran into our company first sergeant and his family – a total random encounter, since he doesn’t live up here, nor was he on duty. Just passing through and stopped for pizza.
Over dinner, the topic of deployments came up. Of the four of us, three had been to Iraq, and the fourth had deployed to Kosovo. She related that she had experienced what amounted to prejudice in the Army, based on the fact that she hadn’t deployed to a true war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan. Her point was that she was away from her family just as long and was also serving a legitimate military mission, so why the treatment as a sort of second-class citizen?
As she described her feelings, I knew exactly what she meant – because I had thought the very thing about her. She’s talked freely about her experiences during her Kosovo deployment, and all the while I felt a twinge of resentment – as if, indeed, her deployment was of a lesser order than mine. After all, her right shoulder is bare – no combat patch – so how much of a deployment could it be?
Her point is well-taken, though – a Kosovo deployment does get you hostile fire pay, and it is indeed a year-long separation from home and family, just as any other. For the most part, you don’t choose your deployment – the Army says “go” and you go. If the Army sends you somewhere, it’s a mission, just like any other.
But at the same time, I can see why people have such a discriminatory attitude. Look at it from the perspective of a soldier driving a truck, or doing convoy security in Iraq during 2006 and 2007: you faced death literally every day on the roads, and probably know friends and comrades who have been killed or injured in our longest war since Vietnam. It surely rankles to hear someone to equate your Iraq tour to a (relatively) safe and boring Kosovo tour. The two are different, and to say otherwise is naive, to say the least.
Tomorrow…the second test!