Commentary: It's all business for Soldiers in 'the field'
October 17, 2008
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - For the last two weeks, my husband has been in the field.
When Matt first used that term a few months into our marriage, it conjured up images in my mind of grassy plains and nighttime campfires - of Army guys buddying around, drinking beer, sharing ghost stories and camping and hiking as they made merry for nights on end without wives around to complain about the mess, or the belching.
But even though I accuse him often of using the "field" as an excuse to go camp with his mistress (AKA the Army), my husband assures me that there are indeed no beer, s'mores or fun in this "field." It's all business.
And after coming home repeatedly with gashed gear, aching ankles and black circles under empty-looking eyes, I now believe him.
Even though I tease my husband that his job amounts to playing Big Boy G.I. Joe all day while I attempt to run the rest of our lives, I've realized after four and a half years of military life that being in the Army is hard work - and not just during deployment.
In order to prepare for the now regular deployments of Army life, Soldiers train harder than ever before in their 12- and 18-month dwell times between deployments. They only have that precious year or two to prepare for another yearlong battle that means life or death for many of their members, and they can't afford to take that training time lightly.
Hence the multiple TDY trips and field problems.
What I didn't understand that meant for me, however, was that, even when Matt was "home," it didn't necessarily mean that he would be home.
When my husband redeployed from his 16-month tour in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, I assumed that I'd actually get to see the man I'd been missing like crazy for a year and a half. By the time he'd returned from his second deployment just a few months later, my son and I had seen him for exactly four months (off and on) in two years.
And I thanked my God that I was one of the the lucky ones.
I have friends whose husbands have returned from deployments, only to ship out immediately for Ranger School or some other long course that allows for zero communication between Soldier and spouse.
I have friends who've returned from yearlong deployments, PCSed and then, three months later, traveled to the field for a month to prepare for an upcoming yearlong deployment.
It's easy on the home front to resent these field problems, because on the surface, they seem to take away that precious time that is so rare between Soldier and spouse.
And because they return Soldiers who are hungry, tired and really just need to sleep for a week before becoming regular, polite, functioning members of society once again.
But when I look at the big picture, I realize that these field problems are really blessings in disguise. They are times for my husband to participate in the Army he really loves, do the things he joined the Army to do, and to not be targeted by terrorists while doing them - and to better equip himself for those times where he will be.
During those times, though he might not be sleeping in my bed, I take comfort in knowing that he is at least sleeping on the ground within my same state - with his Army mistress, who, though she takes up a whole lot of his time and energy, will never feel more loved than his family.
I can handle that.
Army Wife Michelle Cuthrell is the author of "Behind the Blue-Star Banner: A Memoir from the Home Front" (www.behindthebluestarbanner.com). She is a regular contributor to Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.