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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Warning: Exercise Can Be Habit-Forming

When I was in my twenties (a long time ago), I recall being able to skimp on physical training right up to the moment of taking a PT test and still pass with flying colors.  Those days are long over, and it was never very wise to simply show up on test day and expect to avoid injury while embarking on a two-mile run as well as a push-up and sit-up bonanza.

But how can exercise be formed into a habit?  Guilt doesn't work, and peer pressure is equally ineffective.  The answer is simply to pair the activity with a recognizable reward and allow enough time for the link to sink in.  For me, the reward that worked the best was pairing my exercise with listening to my iPod.  There isn't generally enough time in my day/night to sit down and listen to music, so when I bought a bunch of tunes to load on my device, it was a real treat to be able to hear them shuffle through.

At first, I didn't make the connection between the desire to hear music and the desire to make daily exercise an ingrained habit.  But when my iPod ran out of charge one day in the middle of my 4-mile run, I felt cheated and was very tempted to just quit the exercise for the day.  There is definite power in the link between the reward and the habit that you want to form.  The key is to figure out what makes you happy, and pair one of those things with an exercise activity, and before long, you will be in the habit!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thank You For Your Service

A famous American writer and poet, Maya Angelou, is credited as saying "How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"  How right she is...recently, I took note of what it means to me personally when someone, a stranger, stops me to thank me for my service.

I was in a local grocery store parking lot loading up my trunk with the bags when I noticed a pick-up truck parked a few feet away.  There was a middle-aged man sitting at the wheel watching me as I slammed the trunk shut.  He was clearly hoping to catch my eye to speak to me, so I made it easier by looking his way and smiling...he simply said, "thank you for your service."  It took me a second to realize that he was clued in to my military connections because I was wearing a combat support hospital logo shirt that day.  That was my only "uniform," but he knew that it represented service to this Nation.

"You're so welcome and so worth it," I replied as I climbed into my car.  He took an extra second to ask me if I was a doctor...not sure how he figured that out, but I let him know that he had guessed correctly.  

It was at that moment, that I truly felt amazed at the mutual good feeling that passed between two strangers in a parking lot in these United States of America - he felt good about saying thanks, and I felt good about letting him know that his gratitude was appreciated.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Women in the Military

Every now and then, the issues of the roles of women serving in the military come to the attention of the general public, and opinions abound on whether or not they should have equal ability to serve in specific combat roles.  The subject is touchy, and it isn't surprising that there are good arguments on both sides of the issue.

Historically speaking, women have always served in roles that bring them quite close to combat and mortal danger including the Revolutionary War where women had roles ranging from nurses to spies.  Dr. Mary Walker received the Medal of Honor for her efforts in the Civil War, and she was frequently to be found in the thick of the action.  But some argue that women should still not serve on the "front lines of battle" for a variety of reasons, and those people will readily defend that position in spite of historical examples of women who have been there and done that.

The question of what exactly constitutes a "front line of battle" is blurred in the modern era.  The battlefield may now be a city center or a forward combat support medical facility where women are already doing their jobs in the direct line of fire, and arguably, they are already well-trained to fire back.  There are still some traditional battle environments where men are perhaps more physically capable to engage in combat as compared with the average female warrior, and that is an argument against routinely placing women in those roles.  But there are also many women who are just as physically fit as some of their male counterparts including ability to bear a fighting load, engage in evasive maneuvers and defend their fellow soldiers without compromise.  Some of those women will not be afforded the opportunity to showcase their abilities simply because they are prohibited from serving in a combat job.

At this time, women continue to be restricted from serving in the Army's infantry, armor, special forces, combat engineering and air defense artillery; the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps each have similar restrictions on jobs.  Only the Coast Guard has no specific barriers for women who wish to serve in all the available positions for that service branch.  As the fields of battle continue to evolve in the modern world, the question of how women can or will serve in direct combat environments must continually be revisited and debated.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What to do after a deployment?

What do you do when you haven't seen your spouse for a while because of deployment separation?  Go to Disney World?  Nahhhhhhh....Disney is great for a family vacation, but I had a different plan in mind.  I went looking for an affordable, relaxing, intimate getaway just for my spouse and I that was relatively close to home - I didn't want my teenage daughter to worry about her parents being far away.  With the help of my favorite travel agent, I found just the place.

Nestled in the rolling hills of the central portion of North Carolina, the Fearrington House Inn met all my post-deployment "pamper-me" criteria.  From the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom to the unexpectedly wonderful turn-down service with port wine and chocolates, the Fearrington staff really put together an amazing, romantic weekend that I will never forget.

The grounds reflected the history of the Fearrington farm, and the Tennessee Bandit "fainting" goats along with the Belted Galloway cows nearby added an air of country authenticity.  Gardens were literally everywhere, and even though I visited the area in winter, there was no lack for natural beauty.  My husband and I enjoyed long walks on the grounds when we weren't cuddling by the cozy fireplace in our room.

No matter what the length of separation due to deployment, it is important to have a time to wind-down and rediscover married life...I am just grateful that I found the perfect place to do that before getting back into the daily grind.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kuwait Chronicle X

A Farewell to Arms....sort of

Time flies away, and in the twinkling of a leftover Christmas light, it's time to pack up the 90 days worth of accumulated 5K fun run t-shirts and head back many t-shirts and so many miles run.   I have my favorite (Marine Corps Birthday Run) that will already be well worn-in by the time it makes it back to North Carolina, and most of the others might make it into a memorial quilt at some point.  The part I hate is having to leave people behind - people who had my back and would give me their last rubbery pork chop at the DFAC if I needed it...the thought makes me teary.

Of course, there are always those end-of-tour awards to give and commemorative coins to plant in someone's palm - a sort of farewell to arms, or at least, a farewell to battle buddies.  If I could, I would take them all back home with me...they will be with me in my heart for a long time.

We did our jobs here as 90-day boggers (boots on the ground) medical assets, but as with other mobilizations/deployment, I am always left with the wish that I could have done more.  Still, we get over that thought quickly with the realization that there will very likely be yet another opportunity to serve in some foreign land in the future....give me a minute to think....yep, I'm over it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kuwait Chronicle IX

A Tribute to Battle Buddies

I really didn't understand the significance of the "Battle Buddy" concept prior to my 2008 tour in Iraq.  That was when it hit me that everyone needs someone to look out for their well-being, at least in a general know, make sure that they aren't getting overly depressed, can cope with the situations that inevitably arise, can eat, sleep and perform the military duties expected on a daily basis...a "best friend" on an interim basis at a minimum.  Some battle buddies remain friends for life, and others move on once the deployment/situation is over...doesn't matter...what matters is to have someone there in that moment of need.

The history of the battle buddy concept is sketchy, but it is probably as old as the concept of war and warriors.  Shield-bearers of ancient Greek warriors and those squires that accompanied the knights probably qualified as Battle Buddies.  Sherlock Holmes had Watson, and Charlie Brown had Snoopie (in my opinion, Snoopie was just a little too self-absorbed to really be a great Battle Buddy).  With this in mind, the idea behind the Battle Buddy is to form a bond with a person whom you trust.  Likability is a plus for the relationship, but really, confidence that this person will come to your aid in a variety of situations is the most compelling factor when choosing someone. The commitment is a serious one, and it requires a high degree of trust.  Usually, but not always, the choice of a Battle is same gender if only for logistical reasons.

I have been fortunate in all my mobilizations/deployments to find a special person to call my Battle Buddy, and I hope to keep them as friends for life.  The collective memories of a military tour, especially one involving separation from family and familiar surroundings, are an important emotional link.  I might not actually have a conversation with or actually see that BB in person again once a deployment ends...but the bond will always be there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kuwait Chronicle VIII

Random Photos From Across the Camp

Scooby Bus/Van

I walk a lot....literally all the time....I don't use any of the "Scooby Buses" (so called because of the uncanny similarity to the Scooby-Doo cartoon van), and I seldom accept a ride in someone's Prado (common Toyota SUV).  So, I have a lot of opportunities to take in the surroundings and snap a photo here and there.  I have compiled a few whimsical ones to share with those who will not likely visit Kuwait as well as those destined to come here for an Army, Air Force or Navy rotation in the sandbox.  

Not every form of plant life, regardless of reputation for survival in the desert clime, will do well here:

What is a desert bank office without a camel on the sign?

Frisbee golf is quite a popular sport here...

But who knew there would be a desert country club complete with an almost real golf course?

JAG Officer takes a swing

There are lots of choices for places to eat out...if you like fast food..

Starbucks, Taco Bell, Burger King, Pizza Inn, Subway, Nathan's...there isn't enough room on my blog (and there isn't enough Maalox at the PX) to talk about ALL the fast food you can get here...probably not really a good thing, but it makes everyone feel closer to home.

But really, the DFAC is the place Scooby would probably hang out to eat more than anywhere else...not really because it's good, but more importantly, it's FREE...Wow, Scooby snacks for free?  Check out the "Oasis" - an oxymoron on a grand scale.

If you need glasses in a hurry, it's just like at the mall...ready in an hour while you shop!

There's even a feeling that Disney World and Epcot Center are just around the corner...

And also just around the corner...
Another Scooby Bus to take you to Zone 2, Zone 4, Zone 6 or wherever you choose to go...not sure if there's a Zone 3 or's a mystery to be solved by someone else.
Scooby-Doo, where are you?

And at the end of the day, the best part is hearing retreat and watching the sun sink down over the day closer to going home.