Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A World Without Fences

I am, by no means, a poor soldier.

I have a GT score of 128. I received an ARCOM for my service in Iraq. I have served in a variety of different positions, from engineering reconnaissance specialist to tax advisor, and during that time my counselings have been outstanding. I have no disciplinary actions on my record. So by most counts, though I may be a poor fit for my MOS, I am, for the most part, an exemplary soldier.

So why shouldn't the Army want to aid me in my career.

I spent most of my deployment searching for ways to change my career path within the Army. I find my duty specialty to be dull and unfulfilling, but all the same I wanted to spend a little more time in the service. So for months, I was in and out of Retention offices, trying to see what they could get me. Time and time again, I was told that either schools were closed out, that there weren't enough openings, or that I lacked the sufficient security clearances.

So when, after 15 months of trying, I place a call to the Retention offices in Heidelberg, do I expect to hear more of the same? Stupidly, I didn't.

The latest: I am in an MOS listed as critically understrength. The Army calls this a "Priority Two." I have been advised to reclass into everything from Military Intelligence to Legal to Journalism. All of the above are listed as "Priority Four." This means that, as long as I am in the Army, I will be forced to accept a job that is below my qualifications.

A great soldier, with a promising future. And the Army would rather see me leave than give me what I want.

I worked for the better part of two years, for this.

The end of my enlistment is approaching. My current unit is planning to rebase stateside. My leadership, seeing that I am so close to my ETS, is planning to cancel my orders for movement, so that I can be attached to a unit remaining behind, long enough for me to finish out and clear from Germany. After three years, 15 months of which were spent in a war zone, I have finally come to see that the Army life is a path that I am no longer willing to follow. I have a wife. I have a degree that needs finished. I have a book that I want to see published. I have a whole series of goals for my life, and the Army has just informed me, in no uncertain terms, that it isn't willing to help me achieve them.

It's hard to describe the feelings of bitterness I now harbor. What was all of this for? I endured loneliness, depression, spiritual conflict, and marital strain, and after all that I have borne in silence, the Army can only tell me that they want to give me more of the same.

It took me nearly two years to see the clear path, but finally Fate has laid her cards upon the table. Though my last six months will now be a mess of paperwork, planning, and endless phone calls, I feel strangely relieved. I feel lighter now, knowing that in a year's time, I will be out of this uniform, out of this way of life, back to making a real living.

The way laid before is a difficult one, make no mistake. There will be sacrifices. But for the first time in years, I can look forward to a world where my choices are my own, where I can look outside and not have my view obstructed by walls or gates. My way is the way of self-determination, my world is to be a world without fences.

And with all of the hardship that such a world promises to bring, I nevertheless feel exuberant.

My time with the Army is ending. I'm going home.


Blogger Lynn said...


I've been reading this blog forever, and, from the first time I saw it, I hoped you would come to this conclusion. The world needs good, smart, open-minded people like you to have the freedom to exercise their potential, not be stuck in a boring, unfulfilling career.

Infinitely glad you are home safe!!


6:25 PM  
Blogger Seven of Six said...

Perhaps your commanders have seen that you lean a little to the left politically.

Milo, I've been through the same crap. There is no rhyme or reason to the Army's logic.

I had one 'Top' tell me, "We want you smart men in the front, working your tails off, teaching the kids how to work, but I'll play hell if I'll let you get an education while you're on my watch. You're too valuable to my unit."

Really made sense to me. *heavy sigh*

Then I got hurt, things went downhill from there.

Whatever you do, make sure you have your original medical records when you ETS. They will try and come up with excuses on why they are not ready. As soon as you get them, make five copies, send a couple home for safe keeping.
It will also help if you write down names of men or women from your Unit and where they can be located stateside.
If you ever have a case before the VA, you'll need witnesses and written statements.
The situation could be recipricol.

I'm surprised they haven't tried to stop-loss your ass.

Take care my brother in arms, PEACE to you and Anne!

Looking forward to hearing more.

5:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, I was going to say what a loss your intelligence would be to say, military intelligence,but then I read Seven of six and agree that your politics might have worked against you. Wow. I know that's wrong...I'm so sorry about your frustration, but the civilian world will be a richer place for your contributions.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

I'm sorry for your bitter disappointment, but can't help thinking you will better serve both world and military with your voice and vision completely unmuted. We need good men who understand the inside - and who are outside. Without that, our leaders are free to lie.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Milo, I totally understand what you are going through. I went through it as well. I finally had enough of hearing "mission critical" or my favorite "the mission comes first." I bailed after close to 10 years because I could not get time home long enough to finish school. You'll find it a bit challenging at first, but in the long run, having the freedom to do what you want is far more rewarding that sitting by for the next 20 years in a job you hate waiting to retire.

Good luck to you!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Long-time RN said...

Ugghh, the military wishes to increase their numbers, floods the world with pro-Army advertising, and yet refuses to treat those within the ranks decently to retain men and women currently serving. Very sorry the Army will not recognize and accommodate your talents. Sorry for the bitterness. Sounds as if the big 'thank you' from military will be endless hassles and headaches throughout the ETS process. Thank you for your service. May your new path bring inner peace, productivity, and joy.
Cathy B

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read you since you shipped out, and I am so very glad you made it home safe, and moreover that you're not going back. If the army can't see a way to use you to your full potential: their loss. The only sorry I feel is for you and your hopes, but civilian life will soon make you forget all of that. The world needs people with your views that have actually been through what you've seen.
Best of luck for the continuation, and I hope to read you again soon.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

Their loss. Your gain.

3:07 PM  

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