For most, you will think of February 2nd and the groundhog peeking his head out of his hole to see if we have four or six weeks left of winter. Well, I can assure you that there are no groundhogs in Afghanistan – and even if there were, the last thing they would want to do would be to peek their heads out of their hole lest some sort of desert snake eat them.
For others, when they think of Groundhog Day, they think back to the Bill Murray movie where he is forced to relive the same day over and over. This is the nature of deployments in the military and the fitting title to this week’s installment.
Life while on deployment is about routine and each day is a carbon copy of the day before. At first you need to find your niche but once you do you begin to settle down into a routine that will see you through your days. In fact, it happens to such a pronounced degree, that there are no longer days of the week. Whether a day is Monday or Thursday is of little consequence. What matters is the countdown. How many days until I go on my 3-week leave? How many days until I go home?
It is true that time flies for most while on deployment. There is never a thing as time-off and although each Friday has a somewhat different flavor to it, since I do not mentor the Afghans on that day, each day still has the same feel as the one before. However, the key to making the time go fast is keeping busy. Nothing makes time go so slow as when you have nothing to do.
There are many different names for it but in the end, they are all the same. Most commonly it is referred to as the Motivator. But what is it? It is a simple Microsoft PowerPoint slide programmed to track how many days you have been in theatre, how many days you have left to go and the all important breakdown of how much money you have made since you have been here. There are some who look at this once in a while, once a week but mostly once or twice, or three times per day. I have opted not to have such a reminder at these early stages of how much time I have left before I step back on Canadian soil. You need to focus your attention elsewhere during the first couple of months, otherwise the Motivator can all too quickly turn into the De-Motivator.
And so that is how life goes for most – breaking your time up into small blocks to make it seem like there is not so much time left before you go home. I have been here for 35 days, I have 35 to go before my mid-tour break – but the final countdown still remains at well over 150. It is a game for most as we joke about how much time we have done and how much time we have left. But, until I am boarding a plane to return to Canada, I look forward to tomorrow so I can do the same things that I just did today.