Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 in Review

Every year, when most people are thinking about their new year resolutions, I like to add a few minutes to reflect on my past year. The adventures I've had, the people I've met, and the life lessons I've learned.

First off, I would like to say that I should have probably looked at my list from 2014 more throughout 2015. Last year, I learned the following 6 things.

1) College is a lie. < - I still find this unbearably true.
2) Enjoy being single. Few men are worth a power-walk. < - Also unbearably true.
3) Free time. It's a rare commodity. Use it. Love it. < - It doesn't feel so rare right now. But these are words I desperately find myself needing at this particular time in my life.
4) Some things are better with a buzz. < - I'm honestly upset that I don't have any alcohol right now...
5) Regular adventures are important to your overall happiness. < - So. Many. Adventures!
6) Having a purpose is equally important. < - Acutely and painfully aware of this one.

2015, for me, has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years I can remember. I've gone from gainfully employed to happily unemployed to backpack. I've left the U.S.A. for the first time, traveling to four different nations on two different continents. I hiked my first portion of the Appalachian Trail, camped in the Catskill mountains, fell in love with New York City, moved across the country to live in Colorado, worked as a mechanic's apprentice and a police dispatcher. I've fallen in love, learned new hobbies, lived on my own, lost my job, and struggled with unemployment. Through it all, these are the biggest lessons I feel I've learned over the past year.

1) Traveling solo is the best cure. For anything.
2) Never take your friends and family for granted.
3) Get a dog.
4) When you find a man worth power-walking for - jog.
5) If you don't know anything else about who you are, know the purpose you want to serve.

#1 - Traveling solo is the best cure. For anything. - Seriously. Heartbreak, mid-life crisis, ignorance, you name it, I'm willing to bet there's a valuable lesson to be learned when you visit another country. Perhaps even a new city or state. When you find yourself alone in another country playing charades so you can order a piece of pizza, you discover something about yourself. You find out that you're resourceful. You learn how to be calm and kind in frustrating situations (you really don't want to piss off the only person on the train who speaks English, but if they find you pleasant and sweet, they may become your new tour guide!). These are just a couple of the ways I grew as a person on my entirely too short trip. The most important thing I learned had to do with relationships. The first time you ever found yourself in an unfortunate situation at home you likely knew with almost certainty that you could call someone to come help. If you were far from home, you could likely communicate with a stranger to help you. When you're in another country where you don't know even know the word for help, you realize the roles people play in your life. There are some old friends you've stayed in contact with for years that you wouldn't want with you, but people you've known for mere days that would unquestionably have your back in a sticky situation.

#2 - Never take your friends and family for granted. - I'll put it this way. When you find yourself unexpectedly and suddenly unemployed, your friends, your siblings, and your parents will know exactly what to say. Some corny jokes, some venting, good advice, and a roof to sleep under are more than enough sometimes. Your friends and family will be there for you when you need them. It's your job to get back at it so you can be there for them when they need you.

#3 - Get a dog. - I really don't feel like this needs much explaining. When you feel sad, your dog will cheer you up. When you really just want to lay down and cuddle with something, your dog will tolerate you. When you feel like you're pretty much worthless, your dog needs you to feed it, water it, and take it for runs.

#4 - When you find a man worth power-walking for - jog. - I won't delve into my past relationships or my current one. I'll just say this. Last year's advice was great. Being single is pretty awesome. You have no one to think about but you and your four-legged friend - and your dog will forgive you for anything. You go where you want when you want with who you want and you do what you want. It's awesome. Then someone comes along and they make you want to become a better person. Suddenly, you have another two-legged friend that's always there for you. Whether you think you need it or not. Moral of the story is; first, make sure he's worth it. Second; Make sure you're not just being blind and stupid - do this by introducing him to friends and family and then asking them, "can I keep it, or do I need to throw it back?" If they tell you something along the lines of "dogs are better than men," do the hard but inevitable thing and dump him before you get to attached. But if they say you can keep him, well, any man worth keeping is worth delivering the world on a silver platter for.

#5 - If you don't know anything else about who you are, know the purpose you want to serve. - When you find yourself on an adventure most would kill to have the courage to go on, and you feel empty about it, it's nice to know why. Fortunately, for me, it didn't take much to figure it out. I've always known what purpose I want to serve in the world, I just thought I could ignore it and have a little fun for a while without it tugging me back. Unfortunately for me, I'm not allowed to pursue that specific meaningful purpose in my life for another seven months and eight days (no, I'm not counting. Why do you ask?). Is it torture, sitting here waiting around for that day to arrive? Yes. But I can only imagine what my mental state would look like if I didn't have a clue what I was looking for in life. Luckily for me, there are things everywhere that remind me of the purpose I want to serve. I know exactly how to arrive at that goal, it's only a matter of time.

While you're thinking about your New Years resolutions and the kind of person you want to become, stop for a few minutes and think about the person you were this same time last year. Think about the lessons you've learned and the things that have made you the person you are. Losing 10 pounds probably won't change your life drastically, but deciding how to make the change from the person you are to the person you want to become, and actually acting on it? That will change your life for the better.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Women in Combat Arms

I've been sitting at home the last few weeks with little more to do than workout, read, clean, and play video games. So entirely too much of my attention has been turned toward facebook. I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is. The recent hub-ub on facebook is all about women going into combat arms. While I've never been in combat arms or even the military, I'm still going to chime in on this. Because it's my blog and I'll do what I want on my blog. You don't have to read it.

Firstly, a huge majority of the complaints about this on facebook have been coming from my male military friends saying how the dynamics of their units will have to change. They won't be able to be as harsh, vulgar, and crude as they're used to for fear of SHARP (basically sexual harassment) complaints. I have one thing to say to that. GET OVER IT. The decision has already been made and just like every other stupid rule the military has come up with, you're just going to have to make the best of it. You have had the privilege of working in what is likely the ONLY job (or genre of jobs) in the United States where you don't have to worry about offending a thin skinned female. Everyone else in recent history has had to deal with that. And you know what? I am genuinely sorry. I've had the privilege of observing some of you in your unnatural, womanless environment and I think it's absolutely hilarious. Of course, my sense of humor is completely off-color and is 100% of the reason I have a first-class ticket to hell when I die, and I'm not even the infantry type. Most of the women who want to go into combat arms have something to prove. These aren't the women who joined the military because they want to marry a man in uniform, they're probably the women who like watching things explode, curse at least as much as you do, and are probably not going to bitch and moan much more than you when they have to go without a shower while they're in the field. They won't even be able to sign up for combat arms MOSs until January (if the timeline doesn't change), then they have to either reclass or go to basic and AIT, or OSUT, depending on the job. So realistically, you have until at least March or April to get your head around this. Honestly though, I can imagine how much that's going to change the dynamics of your units and for those of you hard nosing this, it's going to suck. But this is the real world, and the real world has to deal with women... Unless you live in a Muslim community that actively practices Pashtunwali and Namus. And from what I know, exactly zero of you are all about that.

The second huge complaint I'm seeing is how women are scientifically not as physically capable as most men. I've also seen a photo floating around of a small unit doing a ruck march where two of the men are carrying a woman's rucks for her. There's two problems here. First, the attrition rate for someone actually going through SFAS and SFQC to become a Green Beret is said to be about 95%. That means most MEN aren't capable of doing this job. Hell, even if a man makes it through all the physical challenges, they can still not be selected because the instructors have determined they wouldn't be a good fit for the unit. If a woman is held to the same standard as the men in these courses, and is determined to be a good fit for the unit, then I see no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to serve in those roles. And if you've had your head in anywhere that's not the sand you might realize that women have been serving in "support" roles with SF and SOF units for several years. And that's not including the women who where a part of Delta long before the Cultural Support Teams began. If you don't believe me, read Ashley's War by Gayle Lemmon.

Now to address the photo. Whoever the hell thinks it's ok to have anyone carry anyone else's ruck during any form of training is wrong. Someone suggested the woman in the photo may have been on profile. It's my civilian opinion, that if you're on profile (meaning you have a medical note preventing you from doing a portion of the training), you shouldn't be doing the training to begin with. And if you're not on profile, don't be a bitch and carry your own ruck. And men, honestly, if there's someone in your unit, male or female, who will fail if they have to carry their own ruck, LET THEM FAIL. No one wants someone on their team who isn't capable of pulling their own weight and doing their job. We are currently at war and anyone who can't or won't pass the tests is a liability on the battlefield and may get you killed. I know that with the shape I'm in right now I wouldn't be able to even think about holding a ranger pace with a ruck on. Hell, I probably couldn't even do it without one. 98% of the SF, SOF, Infantry, Scouts, and other combat arms men I've met are total beasts. But that means that if I were ever going to try it, I would make sure I could do it and then some before I went.

Now that I've had a word with the men of combat arms, I'd like to have a word with the women. I'm certain a large majority of the women who want to go into combat arms are going to take this next piece as a no-brainer, but I'm going to say it anyway. The military is a man's world. Combat arms is even more of a man's world. Now I'm not saying to let go of serious sexual harassment complaints, and there is no world in which a woman should not report a rape; but if you walk into a combat arms unit and can't take a little rape joke, you seriously need to reconsider the dynamic of the unit you're considering joining. Vulgar, inappropriate and even rape jokes are a pretty regular thing tossed around in these kinds of unit and if you can't laugh at them, get up and leave the room. Filing a complaint because of a joke and ruining the career of one of your teammates is not the way to go. The women who will be going into combat arms in the next year or two are going to be considered pioneers and will set the standard for all other women who follow. Women in the military today already know, or should know (especially new Lieutenants), they have to prove themselves. In support jobs where your job doesn't get any more physical than morning PT, it's probably ok if you don't make above a 270 on the PT test. But if you're going into combat arms where the average PT score is a 281, do not give anyone the satisfaction of being able to say you're the reason the average is 281 instead of 282. Beat the average. You have something to prove and an example to set. So do it.

And anyone who is of the mindset that women should serve in combat arms but shouldn't have to sign up for the draft can excuse themselves from any sort of argument about equality. We are currently an all-volunteer military and likely will be for the very distant future, but with tensions between Turkey and Russia being what they are, who knows? It's my personal opinion that women should have had to sign up for the draft before they were allowed into combat arms. But I don't make the rules.