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My week at NTC

POSTED: October 12, 2009 9:26 a.m.
When Public Affairs Officer Maj. Vince Porter invited me to be the 1st Brigade’s “guest” at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., last month, I jumped at the chance.
I knew it would be a challenge. I’ve never been “embedded” before. In fact, it’s been 30 years since I’ve even been camping. Everyone here has been kind and helpful.
Etric Smith with Fort Irwin’s PAO picked me up at the airport and drove me one and a half hours to the post. I was delayed getting in, so he had a long wait. Etric still greeted me with a smile. He made sure all my questions were answered and needs met. He also bought me dinner at the Fort Irwin Burger King. He laughed when I ordered a hamburger kids meal.
Sgt. Jennifer Menger of the 1st Brigade, who is small but feisty, loaned me a pair of boots. Dust is everywhere and army boots work better than sneakers.
Second Lt. Kristen Kelleher of the 1st Brigade’s 3rd Brigade Support Battalion, spent all morning with me, and part of the afternoon. Only 23, she’s extremely focused and organized. She’s also cute as a button, if that’s something I can say about an Army officer.
Fort Irwin is a city unto itself in Southern California’s Mohave Desert. It’s warm during the day and cool at night. This place is arid and starkly beautiful with slate gray mountains bordering miles of sandy flatland. The climate and landscape is a complete departure from Coastal Georgia.
Now that I’m here, I am gaining a better insight into what our men and women in uniform do. They often work through exhaustion in extreme conditions. And the overflow tent I’m sharing with young women my daughter’s age is cushy compared to some of the conditions our soldiers will face once they deploy to Iraq. I have a cot and sleeping bag in the best corner of the tent, next to the heating vents.
Getting here on Monday was an adventure in itself. I drove from Hinesville to Jacksonville. From there, I flew on Southwest Airlines to Baltimore. After a two-hour layover, we flew on to Nashville for a quick stop. Well, we circled for an extra hour due to a storm. Then, we flew on to Ontario, Calif. That trip was another hour late due to a 150 mph headwind. The flight was turbulent, but our pilot graced us with a soft landing.
The elderly couple who sat next to me on the plane was sweet. The old country gent swore he knew how I could get my house in North Georgia sold quickly.
“You get a statue of St. Joseph and bury him face down in your front yard, about 200 feet from the house,” he advised me. “St. Joe’s head should be pointed toward your house. If it’s pointed the wrong way the house across the street could sell before yours. Now, for this to work you also have to have a Catholic pray for you. My wife’s aunt was Catholic and when we sold our house she got the prayer line warmed up for us.”
The adventure was to continue Friday. I’m scheduled to go out on the live fire range with the 141 Field Artillery. I’ll be up by 5:30, as I was this morning. And tomorrow, I’ll be wearing a helmet and protective vest. My husband, kids and co-workers should get a kick out of that photo. Hoo’ah!
 

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