I won’t miss Fort Benning. The soldiers of Alpha Company, CONUS Replacement Center made the best of a challenging job, and in doing so were professional and extraordinarily helpful. The civilians and contractors working the various clearance points were sometimes less so, interested more in what they were having for lunch than in rendering assistance; clerks rather than professionals whose definition of service was limited to getting your name off their lists.
My initial impulse would have been to characterize the accomodations at the CRC as spartan.
That would have been inadequate, and that impulse reminds me how much I’ve forgotten of my time in the Army.
Here (where I can’t take pictures outside), there are about 150 16-person tents given over to housing us transients and occasional administrative functions, and not much thought is given to making information clear or accessible.
I’m hoping to be out of here within the next three or four days, but that depends largely on the pace of the planes departing.
That pace is slow but steady, with few planes so far and few spaces on each plane. The dining facility is open 24 hours, and there’s the omnipresent hum of generators, the regular crackle of the public address system summoning travelers — mostly soldiers, though there are plenty of us government civilians and contractors as well — to the manifest line or the briefing tent. This dusty place isn’t really quotidian or even diurnal; night and day don’t matter much, the playoff games are always on replay, and the only times that are important are the roll-call times for flights and the posting of the new passenger priority lists and flight lists at 1900.
It feels like administrative limbo, days between stations, in a way that leaving Fort Benning didn’t. The commander of Alpha Company gave us a farewell speech as we sat on those wooden gymnasium-style bleachers in the ready room; one that was about service and the good that we were setting out to do. That felt meaningful, and we shuffled out to the flight line, each of the soldiers of Alpha Company shaking each of our 300-or-so hands as we passed and walked up the steps and onto the plane and settled into our seats, the soldiers being reminded to rest their weapons with muzzles pointing toward the skin of the plane, and then we buckled in and settled in and the plane began its taxi toward the runway, and as it turned we could see out the window below us the commander of Alpha Company and her soldiers facing us in formation, and they saluted us and held that salute as the plane began to turn away.
I hadn’t ever been a part of a group that had been saluted before. It felt important, like we were doing something, that we were serving something. Today, on this day especially, I’m eager to start moving again toward that goal, toward doing what I set out to do.