Life has an interesting way of taking your plans and throwing them out the window. I remember the exact day, June 26th , I had a business meeting in the morning and an hour later I was back at the office and received a call from my battalion executive officer saying that I was being transferred to another unit, and the unit would be deploying in September.
The next call I made was to my 8-month pregnant wife, Julie. Talk about a difficult call. With my mind scattered I left work and went for a 6-mile run. All the dreams and aspirations of the next year of bonding with my future daughter went out the window. But I always knew this was a possibility when I enlisted in the Army Guard.
August 3rd, my daughter Jane is born. I get 8 days with her and my wife, before I must leave for two weeks for annual training with my new unit, the 637th Chemical company. I am meeting most of these people for the first time, and I will be spending most of the next year with these soldiers.
After two weeks, I am back home for the next month before I leave. The next month I spent as much time with my wife and daughter. We go on lots of mini trips and even have a holiday party for all the holidays that I am going to miss.
After that month was up, I went to Fort Hood for pre-mobilization training. That was the toughest day of my life leaving Julie and Jane. A day I would not want to live again.
The mission of the 637th is to be the only chemical response company for the entire Central Command. Basically, we are like firefighters, except instead of responding to fires, we respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear events (CBRN).
My role in this mission is that I am a team leader (I have two soldiers in my command) of an Initial Entry Team (IET). After a CBRN event my team is the first team to make entry into a building to provide a site characterization. I have to be the eyes and ears for the Command Post (CP) to provide meticulous details about what I see. It sounds easy enough but talking into a radio while wearing a level A suit with 2 layers of gloves, SCBA unit with a full face mask can be difficult. The whole site characterization at minimum takes an hour. The most difficult thing is the shield fogging up. It’s hard to do a site characterization when you can’t see. You have to remember to bring a towel to wipe down the face shield.
After the site characterization my team goes through the decontamination line and go to the medics. Next I brief the CP and they make decisions on next steps. Which is either sending another IET or send the sampling team into the site.
Day-to-day we have PT at 0600 and then eat and shower and start our workday at 0900. We do various training event: practical exercises, equipment training, SCBA training, and various army warrior task. The day is usually over between 1600-1800.
The hardest part is being away from friends and family. My only connection to my daughter is the 3-4 times that I can Facetime with her and my wife, the 8-hour time difference makes it challenging to align schedules. It’s hard to see her grow up and not be there with her and experience everything that she is experiencing. She is almost 6 months old now and rolling over and smiling all the time.
But I am taking it day by day. I’m using the experience to learn more about my army job and grow physically and mentally. Everyday is a new challenge, but I look forward to completing our mission and eventually coming home.