Deployment, week one.

Greetings from the Middle East.

It took nearly six years before I was sent here after enlisting, but I’m here.

Throughout my years of service, I’ve heard all the horror stories about this particular airbase.  I even came here for three days on temporary duty about four years ago.  It was in the late spring, and it was HOT, but not as hot as if could be.  It was humid, too, about the most humid place I’ve ever been.  I got caught in a sandstorm while changing a tire(a labor-intensive process that requires at least two people and involves maneuvering a 550-lb wheel and tire assembly), and by the time I left, was about to get caught in another sandstorm and didn’t wish to ever see the place again.

Supposedly quality assurance is downright carnivorous, the work schedule and load is insane, the living conditions are less than ideal, so on, so forth.  I’ve found most of these things to be untrue so far.  The work load is relatively light so far(although I am working 12 hour grave shifts), the heat is pretty much non-existent(it’s winter, after all), and while it’s hard to keep my living quarters clean from mud, I’ve managed to improve things.

I was supposed to come here in the summer, but things being what they are, I was offered an opportunity to come in the winter instead.  I jumped at it.  140+ degree weather did not appeal to me.

An 18-hour flight was a rough start.  Once we arrived, I was put in a tent instead of a dormitory, which I thought was a raw deal until I found a section of the tent that was reasonably large enough for me. Once it was cleaned and all of my possessions were organized, my little space was pretty nice.  I’ve put up a number of WWII posters up and the 48-star flag that’s usually over my headboard at home.  I’ve made a few little clever changes to the space, such as double walls(which are made of blankets hung from para cord) to keep the light from disturbing my neighbor, and a cord attached to the light switch extending over to the entry, so I can switch it on when I come in.

Showering and using the toilet is a challenge as it’s about a 1/4 mile trot to the temporary buildings that house each.  It’s best to make sure you’ve evacuated all fluid possible before going to bed.  The facilities themselves aren’t primitive, they’re actually fairly nice, but just about everything is made of plastic.

The chow hall is 24/7.  You can gorge yourself to death if you want.  It’s FREE.  Vegas only offers a higher quality of service and surroundings.  The coffee, sadly, is horrible.  I found myself wondering if the locals defecated into the grounds.  Supposedly Fridays are lobster tail and steak day, but I’ve yet to see it.

The Learning and Resource Center has a massive DVD collection which I’ve been taking advantage of. Today’s movie is Midnight In Paris, which has been highly recommended to me by a number of people.  I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan, but I hear this one’s exceptional.

The strange tendency of servicemen to draw penii on bathroom stall walls has been aptly demonstrated by individuals visiting the latrine next to the flightline fire station.  There is a drawing, nay, a veritable mural, of all manner of different and cleverly named renditions of phallus along one wall.  Sections of bathroom wall have been painted black to prevent artistry rendered in Sharpie pen, and the result is renditions in negative; made by etching the black surface with a sharp object to reveal the white plastic beneath.  NYMOMA may pay $500,000+ for one of these panels in 20 years.

The dirt, dust, and mud is inescapable.  That which is insulated from dust becomes dirty from mud tracked in, which becomes dirt once it dries, which becomes dust once it is dislodged.  There is a fine layer of grit on everything.  Getting rid of it requires constant vigilance. Once I moved into my tent, I made an effort to remove the layer of caked-on dirt from the floor(thick beige plastic sheeting over wooden underflooring).  I managed to get the worst of it while darkening the best of it with water made dirty from scrubbing at the mud. The overall effect is a cleaner floor, but still with a fine layer of dirt on it, such that I don’t walk barefoot, or even with socks.  The cast-off Swiffer broom someone left behind proved to be insufficient in removing the dirt.  Perhaps further scrubbings will serve to remove the remainder.

Sleep is a precious commodity.  I sleep like a log when I put in earplugs, but neither of my alarms are loud enough to get through them due to the additional background noise.  I almost ended up being late to work earlier in the week when I discovered this.  The air conditioning is always on in the tent, it’s impossible to turn off.  It’s a 100% duty military air conditioner hooked up to a 18″ diameter tube running down the center top of the tent, with 2″ diameter holes punched in to the tube, which can be shut off by a velcro-lined flap.  The more of these holes you seal off, the higher the velocity of the air coming out of the remaining holes, blowing the blanket walls around like the ghost bad guy’s sheets in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  The more of them you open up, the less effective the AC becomes. Finding a happy medium between the two is difficult.  The background noise masks most outside noises (and the walls, though insulated, are thin), but the background noise also has a tendency to keep one awake. God help you if you’re in bed when the fighters are outbound or inbound.  It’s all screaming intakes and roaring afterburners.  I get the inbound part, which is more intake than afterburner, thankfully, but it’s still next to impossible to sleep through.

The laundry is also free, and it’s not a bad place to escape to.  The AC is effective and there are fans all over that move the stale air out.  There’s an airport-style seat in most of them, and provided you’re close enough to a wireless hotspot, you can surf the web while you wait for your clothes.  I did a load yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at what a little escape the place seemed to be.

I’ve yet to start a workout regimen, and I need to, or I’m going to feel as if I wasted an opportunity.  A lot of guys use their deployments to work out like maniacs and get huge.  I figure I just need to do it for my mental health more than anything else.  I don’t have any illusions of turning into a greek god. I’m pretty sure that my Jack Russell terrier metabolism and light eating habits will conspire to keep me looking like a teenager for quite some time to come, no matter how much I pound the weights.

Overall, it’s not bad so far. I can see myself getting bored easily, and that will likely be the primary battle I fight out here.  I definitely will be ready to come home once the time comes. I find myself missing my favorite chair and the pleasant lighting of my living room.

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Marketing blunder #249

If you’re going to have a individual or firm create your public image, simply tell them who you are, what you do, and how you do it.  Give them free rein from there and if you’ve got a good marketing consultant, they’ll usually give you something right off the bat that works and works well with very little further tinkering.

So many people do not  grasp this basic concept and have already created their public image by the time they decide to hire someone to refine it – which is fine to a limited extent.  If what you’ve selected actually fits you / your company / what you do, a marketer can run from there and give it that final polish that it needs.

This is usually not the case, however.  I’ve seen so many cases in which the marketer will receive some sort of clip art or stock imagery – sometimes even another company’s logo – and be told, ‘Make us a logo and public image based on this.’  They’ve already gone out, grabbed something that wasn’t necessarily designed for what they’re using it for, and they’re further fiddling with it to meet their needs.

Something as specific as a public presence should start with a clean slate.  Handing a graphic artist or marketer someone else’s art and telling them to alter it to suit you creates more work for them, not less.  The end result is usually contrived or completely vague as to its meaning, requiring further work down the road to define or explain it away.

This is such a common occurrence that it’s almost a cliché .  You’d think people would recognize it and avoid it.

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