December 3, 2012
The one thing that never changes during a deployment is the ability to sleep deep. Other than my last deployment that helped contribute to a sleeping problems, when deployed you work so hard during the day/night that when you finally fall asleep, you are in a coma like state. And adding to my sleeping comfort is some ninja like pillow that we purchased when buying our new bed. This thing is killer! It’s slightly contoured and filled with memory foam. It cost a few dollars, but is worth every penny. You can be sure that the pillow made it into my packing list! I slept some of the deepest sleep that I have had in years last night. The kind of sleep that you wake up stuck to your pillow from the dried up drool and in the same exact position that you feel asleep in.
I don’t foresee having the same problems that I had last deployment when it comes to sleep. I don’t think it’s much of a surprise anymore that when I returned from my last deployment, I was a little messed up in the head. One of the problems that I faced was that I couldn’t sleep all the way through the night without the help of prescription sleep aids. After seeking professional help (thank you Katrin for pushing me to get it) we discussed in depth my inability to sleep. It wasn’t nightmares, it was that I would wake up at least twice an hour, look around, and then fall back asleep. The lack of good REM sleep was helping contribute to my irritability, along with the PTSD and severe adjustment order.
What it boiled down to was that my platoon’s bread and butter missions, called SKT’s or Small Kill Teams, had a long lasting effect on my ability to sleep. SKT’s are nothing more than a fancy name for establishing an ambush with a small element to over-watch a suspected or known Improvised Explosive Device (IED) site. When the enemy was in the process of emplacing an IED we would engage and kill the enemy. The problem was that this was in Ramadi Iraq, a known hot-spot for car bombs. The fear was that once you engage the enemy, your position is now compromised and the enemy knows where you are. You feared that a car bomb would soon follow and blow up your position.
Emplacement of the SKTs was crucial as you didn’t want to be seen while you got into position. We got sexy with some of the ways that we did it, but the scary part was that we had to convince the enemy that our forces have left the area. That meant that we would drive miles away back to base or to a hide position far enough away that the enemy would feel safe emplacing the IED. As the Platoon Sergeant it was my job to command the support element as the Platoon Leader was normally with the SKT. Having your Soldiers out in sector with no immediate support was scary and communication was vital. Radio checks were conducted once every 15 to 30 minutes. Those radio checks had two purposes. One was to ensure that the guy on the radio was awake as some of these SKTs lasted days, and the second was to provide any situation reports.
The element that inserted the SKT and became the support element would do nothing but wait and stay prepared to react had the SKT come into contact. That meant sleeping in the trucks. As you can imagine, EVERY TIME a radio check was conducted I would immediately wake up thinking that the unit had come into contact and needed support. I essentially had become one of Pavlov’s dogs, trained to wake up every 15-30 minutes. After returning from deployment, I couldn’t shake the habit. Only after some counseling and time was I able to sleep completely through the night. I thank my wife, and the Army’s changing view on mental health on a daily basis.
I think I will cover how the Army has changed for tomorrow! I am going to get back to work nugging on some evaluation reports. Stay Frosty!