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Open Letter to TPR


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Chris –

 

Good luck – it’s a very tough situation you’re faced with, and I hope it all works out for you and your family. I was faced with a similar situation, and have a good idea of what you must be going through.

 

I was in the Navy for almost 12 years – 4 active, 8 reserves. While in the reserves I became engaged and was starting a new civilian job. As an officer, I was doing a lot of work in between drill weekends, and the reserves stopped being a one weekend a month, two weeks a year gig – it became a second full-time job.

 

I was ready to leave when my commanding officer had a suggestion – take a six month leave of absence starting the month of my wedding. The Lieutenant Commander selection boards were due out the month before my wedding, and my CO wanted me to also take this into consideration. But just in case I didn’t change my mind, my CO started my separation paperwork.

 

My leave of absence started September 1st, 2001. We all know what happened ten days later.

 

Prior to taking the leave of absence, I was at the top of the recall list. But the leave of absence put me at the bottom of the list. Had I not taken the leave of absence, I would have been recalled within days of 9/11, and my wedding would have been canceled.

 

I was left with a very tough decision.

 

I finally decided to put my family first, and left the Navy. It was the hardest choice I have ever had to make, and I hope I never have to be in that situation again. The worst part was the friends/family/peers who kept asking me, “Why are you doing this? Our country has just been attacked and you’re running away?” To which I responded, “I served my country for 12 years. How long have you served?” Very few people respected my decision, and it’s taken many years to heal that wound.

 

In the end I was able to leave, but only because my paperwork had been initiated four months prior to 9/11. I was selected for Lieutenant Commander, and my separation papers reflect a rank I never physically wore. My final papers arrived in the mail the day I brought my newborn son home from the hospital – one of those little ironies in life. One chapter was closed, another one started.

 

As for my fellow reservists who stayed behind? Within a month of 9/11, 80% of my unit was deployed overseas for two years, and about 50% of them went on to do another two year tour to support Iraq. Four years overseas, and nearly all of them lost their civilian jobs, and their families were left trying to support themselves with half an income.

 

For the record, I do not agree with our presence in Iraq. I believe the war was started under false pretenses, and we should not be there. As is a common theme, I support the troops 100% (even my current job supports the war effort), but not the war.

 

The best part about living in this country is that we are free to make our own decisions, and say what’s on our mind freely. And thanks to all the men and women serving in our armed forces, we will continue to have these rights. I for one appreciate the sacrifices being made daily so that I can freely make my own choices.

 

Thank you for your continued service.

 

 

John

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Rollermonkey

 

I apologize for my hasty remarks.

 

That does suck. I really don't know what to say to that, other than I've been hearing quite a few of these same kind of stories lately.

 

I know very well how soldiers/officers are thrown into slots where they have no training in. I saw a lot of that in Afghanistan, especially with the Guard, and believe me, it caused a lot more problems.

 

I believe we did the right thing by going into Iraq. My only complaint has been mismanagement.

 

Good luck to you. I hope everything turns out for the best.

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I recieved some information about where I'll be going.

 

There's an airbase about 70 miles North-northwest of Iraq called Balad. From what I understand it's one of the largest military facilities in the country.

 

It doesn't sound horrible, and if I end up going, it shouldn't be as bad as I originally thought.

 

The job is apparently related to prisoner detention, with the lofty title of "Sergeant-of-the-Guard," whatever that means. I'm a Petty Officer not a Sergeant!

 

Still not happy!

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Sergeant of the Guard (or SOG) is the on-duty NCO for the security detail of a post. Pretty much entails making sure the grunts are doing what they're suppose to be doing and taking care of any issues that comes up. He is often the middle man between the security force and the operations center. That is about as much as I know, based on my observations and a couple of brief chats I had with the SOG while I was at Camp Phoenix. We didn't have a SOG when I was doing security at Umatilla Chemical Depot in Hermiston, Oregon (security was primarily DOD, we were just there for extra security). Being the SOG can be a cush job, especially if your with a good group of soldiers.

 

I've heard of Balad, but don't know anything about it.

 

My best advice for your situation is to read my signature block. You'd be surprise how effect that can be.

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I recieved word yesterday that I have been selected to go back to Iraq, this time as an Individual Augmentee on the ground.

 

I'm not thrilled by this, but it has certainly given me a new perspective on a lot of things.

 

Earlier this year, I had a private disagreement with Robb that got out of hand, and I 'left' this site.

 

I was angry, and made several negative comments at other sites. For that I'm sorry. I've held no ill feelings towards anbody else at TPR, and I hope no one thought I did.

 

There's a chance that I may not be medically cleared to go back due to my asthma, so please wish me luck in that. If I do end up going, I'll keep my head down and try to get back in one piece.

 

Christopher Belson

QM1(SW) USN

 

Hey Chris, great to hear from you and one of my dad's friends came back 3 wks ago and he's fine.

 

But you'll be in my prayers and good luck out there. Make our country proud, and be safe.

 

EDIT: I just realized in my dad's friend case. He was deployed to Kuwait City and he's a Warrant Officer. So he didn't see very much action but he saw his fair share of stuff and could hear the Navy firing their guns every now and then.

 

I'm stilling wishing you the best over there.

 

Take Care and be safe!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Well, thanks everyone for the positive wishes.

 

After recieving my orders, I began the overseas screening process.

 

I had another pulmonary function test, and in the end, the doctors begrudgingly agreed that I am not fit for duty at Balad, Iraq.

 

They recommended that I be placed on limited duty, which could lead to my being processed out of the Navy. That sucks, but since I should be fit for shipboard duty, I should be OK to finish up my 20 years in the Navy. (I have 4 years and 4 months to go.)

 

Tomorrow, me and the wife are due to recieve another little piece of news.

 

Is she pregnant?

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Well, we're not pregnant.

 

We have to see the doctor again, and we'll discuss when we can begin another IVF cycle.

 

Sorry to hear that dude. On the bright side. The trying to get prego part is a ton of fun.

 

Keep tha faith. And don't stop trying. Even after the bun is cooking. Contrary to popular belief. You wont dent them, or poke an eye out. Look at my kids. They turned out fine.

 

 

So far...

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