Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What Some People Will Never Understand

You may remember that last time I tried to explain that Brats understand the need to be vigilant in our daily lives. We are raised knowing that the world, while a happy place, is full of dark things and people who don't wish us well. Almost every brat you meet has at least one story of encountering terrorists in someway.
Today we saw evidence of terrorism in its most brutal form when Taliban gunmen stormed a Pakistan school and killed 145 people, mostly children. They created a diversion, distracted the security guards, scaled the walls to the school and killed 132 children and 9 adults. Those children were Brats. And as sobering as it is to think that their lives were cut short in this brutal way, it is also sobering to think that this is a reality of life for Brats everywhere. Because evil doesn't care if you are 12 and struggling with Algebra or 29, giving humanitarian aid or 25 and a trained soldier. Evil doesn't care that you are 10 and haven't got a clue about politics or religious ideology. Evil wants to be heard, it wants to send a message to your government and the world at large and if it takes you, well you are just so much collateral damage.

Some people may want to believe that before 9/11 terrorism didn't really touch American soil. They would have you believe that terrorism belonged to the Middle East or some other foreign country. A Brat can tell you that is far from the truth. Every Brat has a story about a bomb threat made to a military installation where they lived or an actual bombing that happened while they were with their parents overseas. We know that our personal papers, ID cards and other documents must be kept safe and that their loss is cause for distress, not just because we are without identification but because if those documents fall into the wrong hands, the consequences could be dire.

There are people who want us to believe that this knowledge is psychologically damaging to children. That children somehow need to think they live in some kind of utopia where good and bad are divided by a bright light and shades of gray don't exist. I think that most Brats would differ with that opinion. Certainly children don't need to be bombarded with gruesome images of people maimed by terrorist attacks. But they do need to know that the undertow of evil is out there and that their parents and the parents of their friends have the duty to stand between the rest of us and evil. Between them and evil. Knowing that the strength of their parents and other members of the military stand between them and evil allows them to go about their lives, going to school, playing with friends and getting about the business of growing up.

Until evil breeches the wall. Even though we know that it shouldn't ever happen. Each of us knows that it could happen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

OpSec and Painting Billy Goats

Most of us know the definition of OpSec these days, even civilian companies with no ties to the military have coined the phrase to indicate the need for security regarding personal information, intellectual property and dozens of other applications. Recently, threats to our military by terrorists groups have put the need for security in the headlines.
For the military family, the need to maintain OpSec is not new.

One of my earliest memories is being awake early in the morning while my father got ready for work. We lived on the economy in Ludenscheid, Germany. There were one or two military families in our building but most of our neighbors were German citizens. My father had one of those jobs that he couldn't speak about. Not wouldn't. Couldn't. And the threat of someone trying to gain information about the Army through family members was quite real.

So my father, both from a need to protect his children and maintain OpSec created a "job" for himself: Painting Billy Goats. It seemed that in Post War Germany, there was a need to color goats so that local goat keepers could keep their herds separate. Our Army helped by painting goats so they could be identified by the proper owners.

Fifty four years later that seems a bit silly but at the time is served a purpose. If anyone asked me what my father did for the Army, three year old me would answer "He paints billy goats. He painted me some blue ones today." I cant tell you when I realized that dad didn't paint goats. And I still cant tell you definitively what he did during his 20+ years with the Army. That was on a need to know basis and I didn't need to know. I can tell you that years later when the Baader Meinhof gang made threats against the military in Germany, specifically our tiny Kaserne, I was well aware of the need to maintain OpSec.

Did growing up with the awareness that there is a very real threat out there taint me in some way? Absolutely, resoundingly NO. What I didn't have was a false sense of security. A feeling that because we are the United States we are somehow impervious to the dangers in the world. When the twin towers came down I wept like everyone else. But unlike everyone else around me I didn't lose my blind faith that it could never happen here. Because I knew it could.
I have Brat friends who also have fathers with security clearances, and good friends who still serve.

Long before maintaining the safety of our military and their families became a sound bite on CNN, we were aware. We were vigilant and alert because we knew the stakes all too well.

A Beginning...

 My life moves to the sound of cadence. As a child, driving from one duty station to another, my father entertained us with "Jody" songs. He also taught us, much to my gently raised mother's chagrin, a song about paratroopers with the refrain "Gory, gory what a hell of a way to die."  Mother would roll her eyes, daddy would sing at the top of his lungs and my brothers and I would drift off to sleep. Dad was driving us to the next duty station, all was right with the world.  When I was older, my workout music was a cassette of Airborne Rangers running to cadence. Even now, as a middle aged mother of two, I find myself listening to cadence while I do house work and "Blood On the Risers" is on all of my playlists.

I'm an Army Brat. I don't remember a time when the Army was not a part of my life. My earliest memories are of  the sound of "Taps" wafting into my window as after my father tucked me in and closed the door. That sound, and the sound of my father's laughter as he and my mother settled in for the night has always made me feel secure. 

I'm an Army Brat and there are some things I will never understand. Simple things like how it feels to live in the same house, on the same street for your entire childhood. Sometimes I think about the people who grow up not making a PCS every two or three years and I wonder what that would feel like. Then I consider that those people might never get the chance to deep sea dive in the Marianas Trench, explore caves on Guam where the Japanese hid munitions during World War II, or have any of the experiences I share with a million other Brats and I wonder how they ever develop a sense of the world.

I am an Army Brat. My dress up toy of choice was an old helmet liner that my dad gave me. Just the liner, the I couldn't hold the whole helmet up. My first "job" was unlacing a pair of combat boots when my dad came home at night. I can spit shine a pair of boots that would make the toughest SFC weep with pride, and we won't even talk about my skills with a can of Brasso and an old diaper.

Lately, I am hearing that there are some people who think that we Brats are in need of outside intervention to make us feel "accepted" by our civilian peers. I take issue with that if anyone needs the intervention it would the public.

I am an Army Brat. I didn't choose to become Army Strong. I grew up Army Strong. My "hometown" is countless military installations. It doesn't matter the location, just stepping onto the soil of a base, post, fort makes me feel "at home".  I cant retire from my Bratdom, it defines me.

So I've begun to scribble a few lines here. Read them if you will but I offer one caveat. This is MY Brat life, I don't pretend that I speak for all my peers. We're like snowflakes, none of us are quite the same.