The sun is setting on one of the last pleasant evenings I’ll see for a year. The skies here are thick with gnats and also with cliff swallows; I’ve watched them since May when they were just starting to build their little mud houses. Now the young are all fledged and flitting about all day long, scooping up bugs by the bucketful (or so I hope) on jaunts across the grass, stopping now and then to preen their rough new feathers while perched on the wires overhead. Soon they’ll pack up and fly south for the winter, only to return next spring and repeat the whole process.

We too are almost ready to fly away for a year; indeed, our schedule closely mimics that of the little swallows. Our perspective, too, is just as businesslike – I don’t know that there’s much excitement or fear for the year ahead, just the rhythm of Army life in an age of war, familiar and imperative like the change of seasons.

Some of our people are already in Kuwait, and send back reports, most of them of them unsurprising. It’s hot, there are many fine facilities for our use, sand everywhere, and we anxiously await the epic yard sale of the departing unit. One surprise though: CRT televisions are everywhere. I asked if they were left over from Desert Storm or from the start of OIF in 2003, but no – they can be bought, new in the box, at the PX. I haven’t looked lately, but it seems as if CRTs have all but disappeared from domestic electronics stores. Where did these come from? A small mystery, then, for me to investigate soon. A tantalizing glimpse of the excitement that awaits upon the burning sands!