Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Archive for September 2011

Toward Clarity

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So, last night was the first night back for my Regiment (sometimes called “Stand-To”), and my first opportunity to discuss tour issues face-to-face with the Commanding Officer. I feel a lot better about things on the basis of that conversation.

They’re working to find an alternate position for me and using some great connections to do it. So it may work out alright.

Written by Nick

September 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

Posted in The Beginning

On The Bus, Off The Bus…

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One of the common maxims in the Army is “on the bus, off the bus” – a reference to the sensation on gets of being constantly in some sort of holding pattern during periods of indecisiveness. For an organization that prides itself on a rigid command structure and associated efficiency, it seems like this happens a lot – or at least, we joke like it does.

That’s the sensation I have now. What’s happened isn’t totally simple to explain, but I’ll see how I can put it, at least what I understand. When my orderly room got the call that I could take a position on Op ATTENTION Roto 1, no one apparently told the Commanding Officer of my Regiment, who was on leave. I think that’s because they assumed that if a position came up, and my name was on the “standby list” of sorts, then all was well. But, that’s not quite the case it seems.

So, here’s how it works: when the Canadian Forces gets assigned a job, they build a structure for who and what is going, it’s called a TO&E (don’t ask, I don’t know what it means, just what it is – I think it’s Table of Organizations and Equipment), including all of the positions. From this, they can then create positions in something called the CFTPO, which is sort of a master list of positions. That’s how everything gets planned and accounted for – who (which organization) owns who and what. Once that’s done, the positions get sent to mounting units and every job position has to be filled. Each CFTPO position has a job title, a rank level, and a description of positions. Most of the positions I’d expect to have been considered for are ranked as Lieutenant/Captain – meaning that they can be filled with an officer of either rank. The position I’m filling is called a “Hard” Captain position – meaning that without a special waiver, only a Captain can fill the position. I’m presently a Lieutenant, but I’m eligible to be promoted to Captain now, and the process to do so has apparently been started already.

The implication of the difference is fairly simple to grasp – a hard Captain position would probably be expected to go to a more experienced person who’s been in the rank longer, suggesting that it is a more difficult position, one with higher responsibility level. When my OC and I were talking about the position, he seemed a little concerned by this, and I highlighted to him that I have a great network of mentors and resources willing to help me if I needed it, and that I have a lot of civilian career experience with which they aren’t really conversant. In short, I’m not really that worried about the challenge.

Then the CO came back from leave, and learned I had a position, because he hadn’t been informed, and during conversation the “hard Captain” issue came up. The concern that emerged, and it’s not unreasonable, is that I might be getting set up for failure. Not only would that look bad on me, but it’d look bad on the the entire unit, so he wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea unless they could get more information, like the more formal job description. This, of course, is based upon a job title alone, which could have a variety of meanings, but now there are people busily trying to figure out what the job is, and what the incumbent, the person in the position on Roto 0, is doing. Until that comes in, or one of those “Lt-Capt” positions opens up, it turns out that I’m “off the bus”.

And of course, this happened after I told work, my family, my friends… It’s frustrating, but I understand. I just wish no one had told me about the position until it was all approved. But no one was trying to do me wrong, it’s just how it worked out.

Written by Nick

September 8, 2011 at 12:43 am

Posted in The Beginning

It Starts So Simply

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As happens with anyone serves in the Reserve, the opportunity to deploy has been put in front of me a couple of times. The first time in 2009, when TF 1-10 of Op ATHENA was mounted by LFCA, Canada’s Army in Ontario. I put my name forward and thought I was going to be headed off on work up training in September 2009, but at the last minute it all fell through, and I just carried on with life. Then, last summer, as Canada’s combat mission in Kandahar ended, we shifted to Op ATTENTION, a training mission based in Kabul, and LFAA, the Army of the Atlantic Provinces where I now live was tasked to put together a contingent for the second rotation (Roto 1, as it’s called – the first is always Roto 0) and again, I offered my name up as is expected.

This summer, the initial positions were allocated, and I got a call from my OC (Officer Commanding – my Company Commander) telling me that my unit was given two positions, and I was not one of the people chosen. I accepted that and figured that eventually my time would come, but not this time. I knew that there are always other positions that come up so I figured I’d see what happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch when my phone rang. Not wanting to interrupt my delicious pho, and seeing it was a military number, I let it go to voicemail. When I checked the message, it was the Chief Clerk of my unit, calling to inform me that my Personal Readiness Verification checklist was ready to be picked up for my tour. I was a little shocked, since I didn’t know I was going anywhere, but apparently, a position had come through for me. I headed down and got the paperwork and started a process we call “the DAG”. DAG stands for “Departure Assistance Group”, and actually refers to the clerks one is shuffled through just before heading off on a deployment of some sort. As you’ll come to learn following this blog, we use a lot of acronyms in a lot of odd ways, and I’ll try to decode it all for you as best I can as we go along.

In order to deploy, you need to “DAG Green” – each item on the PRV checklist can be coded Red (i.e, you’re not going anywhere), Yellow (i.e., in process, or no info), or Green (i.e., good to go). To be deployable everything must be green, and when that’s done, you’re said to have “DAGged Green”. [grammatical sidenote: in addition to massive numbers of acronyms, we turn some of them into verbs] I’m green for most things, all I needed was a social worker appointment, a dentist appointment, a medical appointment, and a visit to the immunization clinic. Nothing difficult. First up was the social worker, who signed me off after a humourous discussion of about 20 minutes. Next up, the dentist, and after a series of X-rays and so on, he too signed me off, with a warning that I probably grind my teeth and should look into getting some kind of mouthguard. The medical is booked for next month (!!!), and I just have to drop in on the needle parade, which shouldn’t actually require much since I went through the process in 2009 and got all the shots and tests needed for a deployment to Afghanistan.

I also informed my civilian employer, and was very, very happy to get a positive, supportive response to my leave request. That’s certainly better than previous experiences I’ve had. I was more than a little nervous about informing them, but it really was nothing.

Now I just need to get confirmation everything’s good to go for sure, and come November I start work up training. But I can’t say I’m sure it’ll all be that simple.

So that’s how it started, what happens next we’ll just have to see.

Written by Nick

September 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Posted in The Beginning