Some people hear stories and others have lived them in the moments they look back on in their lives to be pivotal.
This year in a bittersweet revelation, I am living one.
August marked my last stand for a two-week Annual Training with the Wyoming Army National Guard. I have been wearing this uniform for eight years, six months and eight days.
This uniform is not the first, but it will be the last.
I began my journey learning to “embrace the suck” at Fort Jackson in South Carolina in February 2012 with a group of mismatched individuals all headed on different journeys with a common goal – to serve their country. I will finish mine in February 2021 with a different group.
Embracing the suck simply means that no matter how bad it gets, we are in it together and at the end of the day we are still part of something more. And we will come out on top.
The life we have led has been filled with pain, joy, purpose and a whole lot of heart.
In the midst of all that is happening in the outside world this is the place we can be to just be soldiers.
And in the life of a soldier, we may at times be bored, but it is never dull.
They give us a training schedule and we receive our mission to carry out, but we have been trained that everything is fluid. Like a well-oiled machine, our wheels keep turning and keep traveling down the road. Also, like any machine we sometimes break down. Our Army family is the mechanic when that happens.
As of day two of this Annual Training, I have seen my company already band together to make things happen, and as a mechanic I have watched my fellow mechanics solve the problems we have been faced with.
Our mobile tool shop contains a generator that provides us with electricity for power tools as well as our beloved coffee pot. Last year it went down the long, winding road of mortality, so off to the shop it went. Ready to put our new generator to the test, we loaded it up and took it into the wilderness of the Laramie Peak mountain range.
The generator worked, but the outlets did not. So, here is where we improvise. Our mobile shop would still work as a large tool storage, but R.I.P. to the thought of having coffee in the brisk morning time. Lucky for us, another platoon was willing to give us a generator to run (our coffee) tools.
The tragedy? This one also let us fire it up but had no electrical output. The outcome? We have a Specialist who is trained as a generator mechanic and he was able to turn this tragedy around.
I tell you, there is not a weekend drill or an Annual Training that I have been able to say I’m unimpressed by this group of mismatched individuals.
Am I going to miss the early morning physical training sessions with what seems to never be enough time to shower after? Surely not. Am I going to miss not knowing when my next shower is coming when we are in Nowhere, Wyoming, playing in the dirt for 12-hour days? Also, no.
What I am going to miss is the teamwork that never fails us, the love between people who normally might never have crossed paths and the way that no matter how long the hours or the dirt and blisters, and the feeling that cannot be shaken of doing something that has given me so much.
I will be finishing this training with the knowledge that I have left with the guidance of some and having provided guidance to others. I will also be finishing with the love of knowing and having been one of the finest American Soldiers.