We finished our final training exercise: over 500 Soldiers went out to the field and followed orders to put into use some of the tactics and techniques we have been taught, in a simulated Afghan environment. The Army even brought in Afghan National Army Soldiers to work with us, as well as actual interpreters to emulate what we will encounter as much as possible. The exercise lasted for three days of nasty winter weather in a pretty Spartan living environment.
We did fairly well, and I spent most of my time in a heated tent, working to keep radio links up and running. I spent a lot of time simply waiting for something to break. In fact, I was bored at times. While others searched “villages” and got attacked by roadside “bombs,” I sat in a chair, listening to a radio, recording any significant event which was reported to us.
I see this as perhaps being a precursor of what I will be doing over there.
To tell the truth, I have mixed feelings about this - there is both a feeling of relief at the likelihood of not being on the front lines, yet there is the feeling I am somehow doing less than my teammates. They may face dangers that I will not share. This would make me feel bad, perhaps even a bit guilty, even though I realize my job is important, and their lives may depend on my properly maintaining their communications networks.
I will find out later what part I will play when I get over there and get my assignment. For now, I can relax, knowing our training is complete.
At the end of this week we will have a graduation ceremony. My wife is working on arranging transportation for herself and our kids. It will be expensive, but as she puts it, she wants to see me another time before I leave, since it will be a long time until we see each other again. Of course, I’d love to see my wife and family again, but I told her that I would understand if she can’t afford it (the bills don’t go away just because I do!). She said the bills will wait - they’ll be there, they’ll get paid sooner or later. She’s a good influence on me - she reminds me at times of what’s important.
Now is the time we attend to the details of getting ourselves out of here. We are anxious to get on with what we have been training to do, and get this business over. It’s time to make the training count.
Tonight, I get some time to relax. I had a long shower for the first time in three days, and we ordered some pizza delivered. It was wonderful, just sitting back, doing nothing but stuffing myself, closing my eyes and thinking of nothing but nothing.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.