Wednesday, November 23, 2005

An opportunity knocks?

Yesterday, my first sergeant called me to his office at company headquarters to give me some news. Apparently, a tasking is coming down for two 46Qs (that's the Army's designation for soldiers whose occupational specialty is journalist -- i.e., me) to spend six months in "the desert."

Whether that means a deployment for me is as yet uncertain, and my feelings about the possibility are mixed. The idea of going to Iraq is at once terrifying and exciting, and my perspective on it is perhaps a little different than it might be if I was in a different Army career field.

The negatives are apparent at once: it means going to the warzone. I don't care what you may have heard from others -- anyone who says he "can't wait to go and fight" isn't telling you the whole truth. A man who claims to have no trepidation about going to a place where instant death lurks around every corner and in every pile of refuse on the highway needs to have his head examined.

But as one point in the entire spectrum of possibilities for the rest of my time in the Army, this particular deployment might be an incredible opportunity, and here's why.

First, the tasking is specifically for journalists. That means they're looking for someone to shoot pictures and write stories, not drive trucks or pull security (although those tasks will most likely figure into it at least in a tertiary way). The experience I'd undoubtedly get from being in theater and reporting on the war would definitely serve me well when it came time to show potential employers my resume.

Second, the tasking is for six months. There's a huge difference between six months and a year. I'd leave from Fort Knox, return to Fort Knox, then finish out my time (currently, that's about 20 months, minus leave).

Finally, when all of this is over and is left for the history book writers, I'll have felt better about my own little contribution for having gone. It's not a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with the war -- I'd just rather not remember my time in the Army as a prolonged period of hanging out "in the rear," safely at home in the United States.

At the same time, it feels as if I'd be catching the tail-end of the war. Soft, fat politicians are crowing on Capitol Hill about "exit strategies" and troop withdrawls. Will we be there long enough to be able to leave with any honor? Will we get a chance to leave Iraq a different and better place than when we found it?

I suppose that, in and of itself, is story enough to tell.

Note to relatives and friends: Please don't freak out yet. This is by no means certain yet, my first sergeant just let me know that the tasking is out there. I don't know how many other soldiers in the region are jockeying for or trying to avoid this assignment. I'll let you all know when I hear any more news on this.


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville!