All my faithful fans following my blog out there (all three of you) know that I’m on the verge of deploying yet again, this time to Afghanistan. What you don’t know is that the Department of Defense recently changed their procedures on how this is done for civilian contract personnel. Now all civilians have to process through the Joint Maneuver Training Center in Camp Atterbury. Camp where? Yeah, no one’s ever heard of it because it’s in <Insert Name Here> Indiana. Seriously, the place looks like a stereotype… what Hollywood set designers dress their stages in when the director yells “give me more American breadbasket!” I swear, I think these guys are still getting glass bottles of milk delivered to their doors by clean shaven men in white suits.
Fear this place.
I’ve been here for close to a week. On Monday, it felt like I had been here for a solid week. Today, it feels like it’s been all my life. And it’s not just me; people from all over the United States and a few foreign countries unanimously agree that this place is the creme de la grim. Another guy working the process put it best when he said, “I haven’t been this excited to see something in my rearview mirror in years.”
I hardly know where to begin with my list of grievances. The first day in processing none of the soldiers showed up… one of the contractors finally called the number on their in-processing sheet and wound up waking the duty soldier up. When she arrives she proceeds to tell the three dozen of us who were on time that the in-processing brief wouldn’t start until 10:00 am but we should wait in line because if we come back later we’ll find the line wrapped around the building and it’ll take hours to get through it. So we stayed in line for three hours like we were Star Wars fans naively trying to catch Episode One on its first theatrical run… and when the time came they called us all into the briefing room, whether we were the first ones in line or the last.
That was the first day, and since then it hasn’t gotten any better. Everything since has been routinely mismanaged, miscommunicated, mishandled, misshapen, and altogether missing. It’s a misogyny of mistakes.
On top of their “no vaseline” processing technique, they took me back to the most traumatic parts of military basic training. Here’s where I’m staying. It’s one wing of an 80 man open bay barracks. It’s full to capacity. We have to share 5 showers, 4 toilets and 3 urinals. They gave us a pillowcase, a thin green wool blanket and two standard sheets for linen… standard sheets as in no fitted sheet, so I had to regress in my mind to basic training and remember how to fold hospital corners.
And even trying to go off base for comfort isn’t any real comfort. There’s nothing out there in Nowhere, Indiana. The wind doesn’t even blow here because hell, even the wind doesn’t want no parts of this place.
I’m sure you guys are tired of me griping. Believe me, this is the short version. I have a hundred horror stories about this place. Eventually, maybe they’ll work their way into my fiction. Only then will I say that this place paid off. Until then I will mourn for my time, forever lost and unrecoverable no matter how many milk cartons I post that time on. No one in Atterbury will see those milk cartons, for here clean shaven men in white bring them their milk in glass jugs.