Snippets From My Recent Time as a “Guardian of Freedom”

This is a guest post by Emily Ozer.  Since becoming a MOT Emily strives and struggles to merge academics with real life to end up with authentic observations. Most of her time is spent working towards her Nursing degree, blogging at, and being Army Strong. She is blessed to be married to her beshert, who (grudgingly) agreed to naming their rescued Boxer Gracie Lou Freebush.  This article was first published on on May 14, 2012.
About 3 packing lists were distributed before annual training.  My unit only had enough money to pay me for 5 days of training, so I didn’t pack everything on the list. I used to bring extra things like pajamas, laptop, books, all kinds of bathroom supplies – headbands, tweezers, blow dryer, flat iron, nail polish, etc.  Since I wasn’t going for a full two weeks, I didn’t bring much extra.  I decided I’d be “that soldier” and sleep in my PTs like we had to during bootcamp.  I only brought one pair of civilian clothes for the drive home, no laptop (iPhone lets me watch Netflix).  I was just going to play Army for 120 hours.

The drive was much easier and shorter than I anticipated, which resulted in my arriving 30 minutes early for formation.  My darling husband had called my twice on the ride to make sure my directions were going to get me where I needed to go.  Camp Ripley is much easier to navigate than other Army bases and I made it to my company’s building without having to turn around once.  I checked in with my Commander, who was a little surprised to see me so early. He suggested that I get settled in and then head over to the clinic with 1SG.
There were only 3 of us in the entire bay.  NCO’s (E-5 and above) were in one bay and E-4 and under were in another.  I was pretty happy that we wouldn’t have to be in tents like we were during FTX at Camp Bullis.  Our unit was going to be running sick call all AT.  It was a nice set up, fully stocked clinic with all kinds of over the counter drugs.  We have 5 MDs and 1 DPT ready to see all the ill and unhappy soldiers who didn’t want to take their PT tests.  A lot of soldiers don’t have health insurance in their civilian lives so they wait until AT to be seen by a doctor and get any and all ailments taken care of.
We ended the first day with a 2 mile ruck march.  It ended up being closer to 3 miles since the SPC in charge isn’t keen on math.

Welcome Blisters!

The next morning at 0′dark-thirty our day started. I was sent over to the TMC to help keep stock of the pharmacy.  I ended up having some quality time to study for my physiology final.  After sick call was over for the first time (we run 2 a day 0700-1100 and 1300-1600) 1SG had a task for me.  There are required trainings every year so 1SG asked me to figure out who needed what and how could we get them the training.  Easy enough. I conquered excel by 0900.  Husband was impressed.
After returning to head quarters I was informed that “Jews don’t eat fish.”  Apparently one of our SPCs is confused on keeping kosher.  I explained that we could in fact eat fish, so long as it had a spine and scales. It’s always fun to be the token.
That night we had real Army play time.  I was to be in charge of the night convoy.  I was nervous since I’d never been in charge of such an event.  We had a mission scenario, 3 Humvees, 2 LMTVs, 45 soldiers, and it was all to start when it got dark.  I went over the “intel” that had been prepared for us as well as the mission protocols including the military maneuvers we might have to do. We finished around 130am.
Lessons learned: 1. When packing your ruck for missions put pillows in it, not actual gear.  I’m pretty sure my kidneys were bruised from all the weight as we moved around all stealth-like. 2. Snacks are necessary. 3. Yelling is also necessary – as is repeating yourself.  Otherwise a game of telephone ends up happening. 4. 4 hours of sleep makes for a really long next day.

I felt like I should have Frontlined myself before heading up there.  The grass was tall and lots of soldiers came into the TMC with ticks.  We had to send them all out for lyme disease testing.  One night right before bed SSG F came up to request tweezers from SSG J because someone had a tick embedded in their groin area.  I spent most of that night awake because anytime time skin twitched I was convinced there was a tick burrowing under it.  Talk about heebe-jeebies.  Ugh.
I killed some time over at the Education center’s computer lab working on some of my own required training.  It took me 4 hours to complete one that was supposed to only take 60 minutes.  The connection was incredibly slow, but I managed to print out the certificate and get my name crossed off the hit list.
Even though I had my teeth cleaned by Dr. M last week, the Army still required me to go again.  Apparently a lot can happen to your teeth in 7 days.  It killed some time and they were nice enough.  It bothers me though that the Army is contracting dentists out to civilians though.  The military is actually becoming more and more civilianized.  There are pros and cons to it I suppose.
On the next ruck march it was 75 degrees, so we were all hot and sweaty even before the first mile.  The Chaplain, who had been hanging around our unit since it was Florence Nightingale Day, joined us too. She was a bit weird, blessing our “healing hands” and all.  I had met her assistant the previous day when he came in for a blood draw.  I’m usually not very good with first impressions.  I tend to give people a lot more credit than I should, or I think they’re horrible when they really aren’t.  I don’t do “middle road” very well.  I was trying though, so even though this soldier didn’t come across as high speed or anything, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

4.5 Mile Ruck

While chatting with SPC C who is an amazing person and soldier as well as one of the smartest people I know, his upcoming trip to Israel became the topic of discussion.  The Chaplain’s assistant asked if SPC C was Jewish.  He is not, his mother converted to Christianity before marrying his father. (Though I think The Tribe would still consider him to be Jewish ).  Our conversation wandered around, and eventually SPC’s girlfriend was mentioned as was the fact that she is Jewish.   The Chaplain’s Assistant didn’t even pause before asking “So she’s Jewish?  Can she do my taxes for me?”
I sucked in my breath and wiped my face, suddenly cold even though I was quite sweaty. “Why did you say that?”  He just looked at me, though I could tell he was uncomfortable with my tone.  He didn’t say anything for a bit.  SPC C stepped up.
“He was playing on a stereotype, Sergeant.”  SPC C now looked uncomfortable too.
“I know that. Why would you say it?”  The Chaplains assistant shrugged. “So, do you normally not know why you say what you’re saying? Do you think it’s appropriate to ‘play on stereotypes’?  Don’t.  It’s offensive and ignorant.”  Of all the people to be anti-Semetic!
I spoke to the actual Chaplain the next day and she said I was being overly sensitive.  I’m sure that belief will be reinforced when I file an EO (equal opportunity) complaint against her.  I wasn’t expecting her to give him an Article 15 or anything, but I was expecting her to side with me and to educate him a bit more as he is clearly in desperate need of it. The following day when I saw SPC C again he thanked me for stepping up and setting the assistant straight.  It’s nice to be appreciated.
Before leaving the NH National Guard I had to turn in all my gear, so I was pretty pumped when they sent me over to the CIF to collect all my new stuff.  I was issued $3,500.00 worth of brand new gear.  A ruck sack that I can adjust and has the waist strap still attached, a footlocker to store all this stuff, cold weather gear, sleeping bag, polypros, kevlar helmet and chest plates, grenade pouches, a green fleece, and all kinds of other things.  Most of it I’ll never use but it’s nice to have it.
That night I had CQ (no idea what it stands for) watch.  At 1845 I reported to headquarters and was to stay there until 0645 the next morning.  The watch was long and boring.  The soldier who was also on watch with me was a bit of a drag.  Something my sister has implemented which I find to be a great help is asking people “Do you just want to vent or are you looking for solutions?”  This was perfect for the other soldier.  All she wanted to do was complain/vent.  After I realized that it was much easier to tune her out. Once watch was complete I got to go back over to the TMC to take vitals.  By the time I went to bed I had been up for close to 30 hours.  We all know it’s easy to fall asleep when it’s 80 and sunny outside, right? Of course right.

PT Makes Me Sexy

Once I woke up, 4 hours later, I had to go take a AFPT.  I was completely dreading it and my head was fuzzy from lack of sleep. I kicked ass on it though.  I was worried since I haven’t been running with any type of consistency. Apparently biking and walking to and from the U has helped.  Minimum required pushups: 17, I did 25.  Minimum required sit ups: 45, I did 55.  Maximum run time for 2 miles 20:30, My time 16:35.  That’s almost a 4 minute buffer! Noproblem going off to AIT.  My time at Camp Ripley was over after the completion of the PT test.  Hoooooo-ah.
It’s good to be home.