The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Guest Blogger: SGT. Danger’s Final Post From Stateside

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Nathan Geist is currently serving as a Chaplain Assistant in the Army. He is a 2005 graduate of Zion-Benton Township High School, has studied for 3 years at Southern Illinois University, and recently appeared in the film The Promotion. Sgt. Geist will appear as a periodic contributor to The Seeker throughout the next year as he fulfills a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Hey everybody.

A quick FYI, I haven’t been able to read any emails since Thursday, so if you’ve sent one, please be patient with me getting back to you, as our Internet access is extremely limited now. I am able to send emails, but not see what I’ve gotten.

As I write to you, my training is completely done. My weapon has been turned in already until I get back from Thanksgiving pass, and it feels great. What I know now is everything that I will be taking into Afghanistan with me. From November 10th to the 19th, we had our final Mission Readiness Exercise (MRX), which is the capstone of our training that tests our abilities for what we will face in Afghanistan. For instance, most nights between the hours of 1 AM and 4 AM, we would be woken up to dummy mortar rockets coming down, and we had to react appropriately. The Standing Operating Procedure (SOP) for us chaplain assistants was to run and get to the officers’ makeshift bunkers to account for our chaplains. Even though it was all simulation, it’s a pretty intense sensation to feel a mortar go off right by you (albeit a dummy rocket), because the blast hits you like a strong wall of wind and you can feel your clothes smack against your skin, even when it’s 100 meters away. I can’t imagine what a real mortar attack will feel like.

One night, while we were getting notionally attacked, I went to go account for my chaplain, and he was nowhere to be found. I went to his tent (which happened to be the tent for everyone with the rank of Captain), and found that everyone was asleep in that tent, including my chaplain. I turned on the lights and told all the Captains to get outside to the bunkers. I didn’t stick around for them to find out who just woke them up at 4 AM, but from what I heard from another chaplain, they were annoyed. Okay, I know that seems like a dull story, but anyone who has previous military experience can appreciate a buck sergeant like myself waking up 10 officers to basically tell them that they’re lazy.

Lately, it’s been freezing outside. I’ve had to spend a few nights sleeping outside in the past two weeks, and they were miserable, miserable nights. About a month ago, we packed all our cold weather gear and shipped them off to Afghanistan by boat, which was really unfortunate for when we were sleeping outside, because it was freeeeeeeeeeeeeeezing. (On top of that, one of the nights I was out in the field, Mike Ditka and Ryan Kittle stopped by F.O.B. Patriot, and I completely missed it because I was busy growing icicles on my nipples.) One night, I slept out in 20-degree weather in a very thin tent that retained absolutely no heat with just a thin sleeping bag covering me. I woke up about every hour that night. In the past week, it’s been so cold here at F.O.B. Patriot that in the mornings, all our water supply is frozen. We don’t have any water to shower, brush our teeth, or shave. We’ve learned (or at least, those of us who know how to adapt have learned) to fill up our own personal water supply in our canteens or camelbaks between mid-afternoon and midnight when the supply isn’t frozen. I heard a soldier make a comment this morning, “I can’t wait to get to a third world country, where our living conditions will be better.”

So, that’s about it. Yesterday, we turned in our weapons (until we get back from Thanksgiving pass) as well as our humvees. Actually, funny story. In order to turn in our humvees, they had to be completely washed at a military vehicle washing site. I had just taken a shower for the first time in a few days and was about to get my laundry done. I was then told that they needed help cleaning one of the vehicles, and so I volunteered to help clean one. Boy, was that a stupid move. How the Army cleans vehicles is like this: they have two soldiers spraying your vehicle with a hose as you drive up, then you slowly drive into a huge pool of water, and at the end of the pool is another two soldiers spraying your car again. Well, someone failed to inform me that humvees’ doors don’t close airtight. So, as I drove up to the first two soldiers, their hoses went straight through the cracks of the door and flooded the inside of the vehicle that I was in, completely drenching me. I put my foot down on the gas, sped through the pool, and as I approached the final two soldiers, I waved to them to tell them to stop firing their hose as I blasted through the cleaning facility. When it was all done, my shower had been wasted, and I regretted putting on a clean uniform that morning. Later, the Lieutenant who was in charge told us that he knew that was going to happen, but thought it would be best if he didn’t tell us. Moral of the story: don’t volunteer to help in the military. Though, you’d think I would have figured that out after spending 5 years in already.

I’ve been able to make a few friends here, but unfortunately none of them are going to the same place as me. There are about two soldiers that I can see myself hanging out with after this deployment, and coincidentally enough, both of them are named Nathan. One is SPC Nathan Hastings, and he’s a public affairs soldier from Edwardsville (I attend SIUEdwardsville for those of you that don’t know). The other guy is SPC Nathanial Gish from Buffalo Grove who is a bodyguard for our General who just got attached to our Urbana unit for the deployment. Funny story about him: the first time we ever had a roll call together, the First Sergeant called out my name, and Gish got really confused, because when you’re in an armory with a bunch of echo, “SGT Nathaniel Geist” sounds a whole lot like “SPC Nathanial Gish.” Since then, the people in his platoon had been calling him Geist instead of Gish to make fun of the situation, and so Gish had been determined to find who this Geist guy was. After all, a 24 year-old soldier named Gish from Buffalo Grove and a 22 year-old soldier named Geist formerly of Buffalo Grove must have some kind of galactic connection, right? So eventually, we crossed paths and got to meet each other, and as we shook hands, bolts of lightning shot through the skies and a booming voice from the heavens said “it is complete,” and the galaxies all collapsed. Okay, so it wasn’t that dramatic, but ever since we met, I’ve been hanging out with his platoon because they’re a great group of guys. When I first walked into their platoon area, everyone was like “Oh my gosh! It’s GEIST! The real Geist!” They treated me like a celebrity because they had been calling Gish by my name, so it just kind of came with the territory, because even though they were calling Gish by my name, they hadn’t ever actually seen me. Like I said, when we get back from deployment, I’m fairly certain I’ll be hanging out with a few of those guys, but certainly Gish. Like me, Gish is a firm Christian. He is also a great soldier; in fact, he is one of the three best soldiers I have ever met. I put him in for an award yesterday because of his outstanding performance, and my hope is that the award will give him enough promotion points to give him the edge over the next guy to get him his Sergeant stripes at the next promotion board. He already is as professional and responsible as a Sergeant, so I’d love to see him promoted.

That’s about it for now. I will be going home for a few days in the next week, then will return to Fort Bragg the day after Thanksgiving. About a week or two after that, I will jump on a 22-hour flight to start the “big adventure.” I will try to email once before I leave for Afghanistan if I can, and then will email again as soon as I can when I get to Afghanistan. But, worst case scenario, I’ll send out a short email after I get to Afghanistan to let you know that I’ve arrived.The prayer that I am requesting right now is that the Lord prepares the way ahead of my brigade. In much less than a month, I will be in a combat zone where death will continually surround me. But I also know that the Lord will surround me, and He is bigger than death. He is whispering to me to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I can’t imagine going to war without having God to rely on… they say that there’s no atheist in a foxhole.

I’ve attached a few things. One is a picture of me with Gish. The second is a picture of me jumping out of a helicopter in mid-flight (ignore the fact that I’m only 10 inches off the ground).

Thank you, and God bless!

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Written by seeker70

November 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Nathan Geist

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