Monday, September 26, 2011


Below is the most concise and not boring description of my Airborne saga that I could compose. Tell me if you notice any recurring themes or characters.

D-40: I embark upon my ambitious and irregular campaign to find someone to give me an Airborne physical.

D-28: After a dozen trips to an unspecified side of post, I get the physical. It's Friday morning, and the Holding Company platoon sergeant texts me (the man refuses to communicate otherwise, for financial reasons or perhaps a fondness for the telegraph) that the IBOLC liaison could still be at the Airborne School and I should try and catch him. Instead of staying for a friend's Ranger graduation*, I race across post to discover that the liaison isn't there anymore. The PSG promises to put me as a priority for the next class two weeks later.

D-25: I get to PT and the PSG announces that the IBOLC class beginning that day has several extra spots for 2LTs who'd like to move into an earlier class. He tells me and a few others to go. I race home to grab all of my paperwork, then get to IBOLC inprocessing. The IBOLC cadre say there are no extra spots for us.

D-14: After PT, the PSG informs me that there actually will not be any room for me at Airborne School today. I decide to roll in anyway, and while there is indeed no room for me, I learn from Airborne cadre that the next week's class should have tons of openings and I should try again then.

D-10: The PSG texts me asking if I want the class Friday of next week, which should be a sure thing. The good-natured, honest idiot that I should try harder to suppress* texted him back asking (asking!) if I could try and get in Friday of this week, just in case, seeing as how an Airborne instructor told me they'd have a lot of openings. The PSG adamantly refused, because the company was already trying to send 30 guys.

D-7: Thinking I can't really disobey a direct "order," (or whatever it's called when a sergeant tells an officer what to do) I don't go to the Airborne School that Friday.

D DAY: After PT, I join the sizable IBOLC group heading to the Airborne School. The liaison mentions that there will only be 10 spots total, to be filled (with good reason) by Ranger grads. "Where were you last week?" he asked, "we got everybody in."

At this point, if the ghost of
Osama bin Laden had materialized and asked me to kick a puppy, I would have have happily complied. Rage having reduced my thought process to that of a vengeful adolescent girl, I was considering skipping out on the Maneuver Center ceremony we were required to attend that afternoon. A friend even let me know that there was nobody there recording our attendance. I attempted to clear my head, and decided that this was exactly the kind of test of duty and resilience that an officer should endeavor to pass, and made my way to the Center. Fortunately, I was still so furious that I was barely fazed when a Sergeant Major backed into my car in the parking lot.

D+3: See a 2LT with an 11th ACR patch, remember that I have it pretty good.

*I recalled the Spring Break at Hebrew University when I passed up an amazing trip to Egypt with my friends because I'd agreed to spend Passover with my elderly great aunt twice-removed, and reflected that not all memories last forever, and that some good deeds are totally not worth it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Modern Army Combatives Program

After the requisite 40 hours of intensive instruction and training, I am now officially Army Combatives Level 1 certified. Actually, it was closer to 16 hours (seriously), but with all those two-hour lunch breaks and pressing afternoon engagements (and possible head traumas), who's counting? I was surprised to discover that I'm not a completely ineffective wrestler, as long as the other guy has absolutely no experience either. It also helps if he turns out to be 20 pounds lighter than me, but hey, I didn't know that when I chose him to grapple with, right?

In other news, my six-week campaign (perhaps better described as an insurgency) to get to Airborne school comes to a head this Friday. Among numerous other indignities, I gave up my spot in Combatives Level 2 (and with it, the opportunity to get punched in the face by other lieutenants instead of just by NCOs like in Level 1) in the hope that I get to inprocess Friday. I'll let you this weekend if I spent Friday night in a loud club, knocking back Vodka Red Bulls in an effort forget the emotional and bureaucratic trauma I've endured, or in a loud club, knocking back Vodka Red Bulls in an effort to forget the emotional and bureaucratic trauma I've endured (with an Airborne slot).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What's a lifetime of intellectual curiosity worth?

3600 dollars. That's the bonus (paid over the course of a year) that I just earned by taking the Arabic Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT):

The test is scored on a scale of 0 to 3, so my 2+/2+ is like a A-. Or a B+. Or maybe a check plus with a smiley face. Whatever my score means, I do know that it was hard won during the longest test I've ever taken in my life (unless you count LDAC. Which I refuse to do on an ideological basis).

According to the first screen of the test, I will go to military prison forever if I tell anybody, including my mother, anything about the test. I
can tell you it was by far the hardest test I've taken (perhaps that exists?) in the Army, with the exception of the sling-load inspection at Pathfinder.

Think the LSAT, but in Arabic, and half of it only read out loud.

You're allotted three hours each for a listening and reading portion (you can only take a
speaking test under very special arrangement, because that requires an interviewer instead of a computer, and under what circumstances would a soldier ever actually need to speak a second language anyway?). The whole thing took me close to five hours - I needed almost all of the time on the reading test. Did I mention it was hard? Rapid-fire radio reports and sprawling essays on subjects way outside of my comfortable vocabulary. I read Al Jazeera articles on politics/conflict/war/etc., not technology, medicine, and the arts! And, as I'd read online, the multiple-choice answers could be deviously subtle or ambiguous: "What did the speaker imply about the problem? A) The government's slow reaction was to blame. B) The government has the ability to speed up its response in the future."

My brain is totally fried and my thoughts are haunted by snatches of BBC Arabic news broadcasts filled with mysterious vocabulary about medical equipment, but I'm proud, especially for doing well on the listening section, which I did not think would be my strong suit. It didn't hurt when a West Pointer in formation complained "I took four years of Arabic and studied abroad in Morocco and I only got a 1/1!" Now, I may have only taken two-and-a-half, but kids, let me tell you - when it comes to the Arabic language, only serious applicants need apply.