Preparations continued apace today. We started the morning with CIF, which somehow is the new acronym for the quartermaster. After breakfast, and with the sun barely edging over the horizon, we trooped over to a big warehouse and lined up to receive our all of our gear. Well, most did, but I didn't. My company already issued me all my gear--which is MUCH better quality than the government-issue stuff--and kindly shipped it over ahead of me, along with some personal items like a pillow, sheets, underwear, etc. So I didn't have to get fitted for all that stuff today; I just had to show the clerk my manifest of what A-TS provided, and she sent me on my way. After remarking, I should add, about how amazingly high quality my company's gear was. She sees several hundred deployments a week, but she was clearly impressed by our stuff.
I should also mention that the staff we have now, back at the A-TS office in Fredericksburg, has done such an outstanding job of preparing us for these deployments. My handler insisted that I finish all my online training, and get all my medical stuff done, before I ever set foot inside Camp Atterbury. Turns out you can, in theory, get all that stuff done here, but in reality the low bandwidth and scarcity of computers and wifi makes getting screen time to do the training very precious; and the docs and dentists here are so swamped with just signing the paperwork for all the deployers that they really don't have time to give shots and dental exams to more than a handful of guys (plus, this IS an active National Guard base, so they also have to take care of the people who actually live and work here).
So naturally most folks who come here for CRC, as the preparation for deployment is called, have at least some, if not most, of those online courses and medical exams done by the time they get here; but no one is as well prepared as I was. My handler made sure that in addition to a fresh passport and visa, I had a packet with all my training certificates and medical papers, sorted into various folders ready to hand directly to the functionaries at each step of the project. In fact she made me two copies of everything, one to keep in a master folder and one to give to the folks here. Our armor and helmet are much simpler than than the Army-issue stuff (I think it's the Marine Corps version), which earned me many envious glares this morning during the armor briefing when everyone was expected to disassemble and reassemble their armor--no easy feat, believe me, with all the flaps and snaps and everything needing to be arranged just so. It's a great feeling of reassurance that so much thought has been put into our equipment and prep by some very smart colleagues who know the process, and needs of the deployer, so intimately. I'm really proud to be representing A-T Solutions overseas, among all those thousands of contractors from dozens or even hundreds of other contractors.
Since tomorrow is our last day of prep, and the big hurdle was actually all the medical stuff that had most people worried, why am I calling today Hump Day? Because by this time tomorrow (Thursday) I should know whether I'm actually flying to Kuwait on Saturday, or being sent home.
See, for those of you who don't know, I had a "medical event" back in July 2009--at the time they called it an acute abdominal aortic aneurysm, although later they scaled it back to just an enlarged aorta. Google the details if you like, but the bottom line was it happened, I went to the hospital, they figured since I wasn't already dead from it, it was unlikely to cause me any further harm, so they sent me home but said let's keep an eye on it. And I have, because I like living. The cardiac surgeon who cared for me in the hospital had me come in every six months, and later once a year, to take an MRI and an EKG to monitor it. Up until I left for Idaho last year, there was no change (and as I said, the more he looked at it, the more he revised downward his opinion of the severity of it). When we got to Boise I located another cardiologist because I wanted to keep tabs on it. The one I found gave me an exam, ironically, on the day I found out that I was chosen for deployment. He also gave me a clean bill of health. And finally, the doc in Fredericksburg who gave me a thorough exam before I came to Atterbury said that everything looked fine to him.
One of the doctors here, a young guy who has his own practice in town when he's not doing his National Guard gig, has decided to make a federal case out of it. He wants to see all manner of records from those other doctors before he'll decide whether to clear me. So, of course, on Monday afternoon I called all those doctors, and got the two cardiologists' offices to fax all pertinent records to this guy. All the faxes for stuff like this go to a central fax number, and it's up to the Atterbury staff to process all the faxes and put them into the right folders and make sure the "providers" see them. (You can see where this is going.) By Tuesday midday, I was assured that the faxes had all been sent and apparently had gone through OK, but my name was still not on the "cleared" list. OK, I figured, the new documents just have to make their way through the system, and the doc has to sign off, and someone has to change my status on the spreadsheet, so events just haven't caught up with the list yet.
By early afternoon today (Wednesday), though, the List was still showing that I needed to get these documents to the doctor here. Protesting to the sergeants in charge of shepherding us through this week is like cursing the sky for the rain, so I got back on the phone with the heart doctors in Virginia and Idaho and requested that they fax the records again. I also asked that the email the records to the secure email address the Army has set up for just such a thing. Clerks in both offices called me back, as I asked, to confirm that the records have been sent a second time. If they haven't gotten to the doctor by tomorrow, it will be warpath time.
And if this camp doctor decides, against the opinions of two heart specialists and another doctor, to not clear me, and I have to go home in disappointment and shame... well, I don't know what I'll do. Getting his medical license revoked might just be the start.
Especially since I just heard on the news that that soldier in Afghanistan who supposedly shot all those civilians last weekend had suffered brain damage in an accident in Iraq, and had other mental issues, and yet the Army STILL made him go to Afghanistan for his 4th deployment... well hell, if they have no problem sending someone like HIM, why should they turn me down?